Sunday, July 03, 2022

 

Wish You Were Here, from Charles Dana Gibson

 

Although they forgot to take credit on this C.D. Gibson postcard, the maker is James Henderson & Sons, a British imprint. The drawn out explanation on the back of this card is as follows: 

"SNAP SHOTS" Post Cards -- C.D. Gibson's Drawings: "Heads" -- 18

As noted on the front, this and other Gibson images for this series are taken from the magazine Pictorial Comedy, a British publication that, as best I can tell, is more than likely to be the American Life magazine under different wraps.

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Saturday, July 02, 2022

 

Herriman Saturday: April 11 1910


 April 11 1910 -- Everyone, and I mean everyone, wants to know how Jim Jeffries is getting on at his wilderness training camp, Rowardennan.

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Friday, July 01, 2022

 

Jeffrey Lindenblatt's Paper Trends - The 300 for 1989: Overall Results

For this 1989 survey we lost 6 more papers that printed their last editions. These were the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune (MS), Longview Morning Journal (TX), Miami News (FL), Millville Daily (NJ), Morning News (Wilmington, DE) and the St. Joseph Gazette (MO). The total papers for this survey were 270 papers.

In the Top 30 the biggest mover was Calvin and Hobbes which moved up 9 spots from 20 to 11 and became the 16th member of the 100 papers club. Also, Mother Goose and Grimm entered the Top 30 while both Tank McNamara and Berry’s World fell out of it.

 

The Far Side passed The Family Circus to take the crown of the most popular daily panel strip.

Here is the Top 30:

Title

Place

Movement

Plus or Minus

Total Papers

Peanuts

1

Same

1

217

Blondie

2

Same

1

208

Garfield

3

Same

0

206

Beetle Bailey

4

Same

-1

191

Hagar The Horrible

5

Same

0

155

Doonesbury

6

Same

1

147

Far Side

7

Up 1

11

144

Family Circus

8

Down 1

2

141

Bloom County

9

Same

6

133

Wizard of Id

10

Same

0

124

Calvin and Hobbes

11

Up 9

36

118

Shoe

12

Down 1

-2

115

For Better or For Worse

13

Up 2

6

110

Frank & Ernest

14

Down 1

-1

109

B.C.

15

Down 3

-3

108

Hi and Lois

16

Down 2

1

107

Born Loser

17

Down 1

-2

92

Cathy

18

Down 1

3

91

Dennis The Menace

19

Down 1

0

87

Andy Capp

20

Down 1

-7

79

Marmaduke

21

Same

0

66

Mary Worth

22

Same

0

63

Barney Google and Snuffy Smith

23

Same

0

59

Herman

23

Up 1

5

59

Ziggy

25

Same

1

54

Rex Morgan

26

Same

0

50

Marvin

27

Same

-1

47

Gasoline Alley

28

Same

-2

43

Mother Goose and Grimm

29

Entering

2

42

Winthrop

29

Same

0

42

 

The popularity of The Universal Comic Section continues to grow:

 Top 2 – 179 (Up 1)

Top 3 – 156 (0)

Top 4 – 130 (Down 1)

Top 5 – 88 (Up 3)

Top 6 – 62 (Up 5)

Top 7 – 50 (Up 13)

Top 8 – 36 (Up 3)

Top 9 – 28 (Up 1)

Top 10 – 18 (0)

Top 11 – 16 (Up 3)

Top 12 – 12 (Up 2)

Top 13 – 11 (Up 9)

Top 14 – 1 (0)

Top 15 – 0 (Down 1)

 

The prize for most Universal Comic Section for 1989 goes to the Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, NJ).

Here are the remaining strips that appeared in the Top 300 papers, ranked by newspaper count and increase/decrease:

41 – Funky Winkerbean (+1)

39 – Berry’s World (-2), Sally Forth (+3)

37 – Eek and Meek (+3), Tank McNamara (-4)

36 - Arlo And Janis (+5)

35 - Alley Oop (-1)

34 – Lockhorns (+1)

33 – Heathcliff (-3)

31 - Judge Parker (-1)

28 – Nancy (-1)

27 - Bugs Bunny (-2)

25 - L'il Abner (R)

24 – Geech (+1), Grizzwells (+2), Kit N’ Carlyle (+2)

23 - Amazing Spider-Man (-4), Dick Tracy (0), Tiger (-1)

22 - Apartment 3-G (-2), Snafu (+5)

21 – Tumbleweeds (0)

19 – Phantom (-4)

18 - In The Bleachers (+5), Luann (+1), Mark Trail (0)

16 - Broom Hilda (-2)

15 – Ernie (R), Fred Basset (+2), Rose is Rose (+1)

14 – Archie (-2)

13 - Buz Sawyer (-1), Steve Roper and Mike Nomad (0)

12 - Brenda Starr (+1), Crock (+1), Neighborhood (+5)

11 – Adam (+1), Drabble (0), Dunagin's People (0), Gil Thorp (0), Kudzu (-2), Redeye (0), Small Society (0), Willie N Ethel (+2)

10 – Bizarro (+3), Donald Duck (0), Fox Trot (R), Hazel (0), Mr. Boffo (-1), On The Fastrack (-1), That’s Jake (0), They’ll Do It Every Time (-1), U.S. Acres (-6)

9 – Crankshaft (+3), Little Orphan Annie (-1), Middletons (-1)

8 - Grin and Bear It (0), Momma (-2), Our Fascinating Earth (+1), What A Guy (-6)

7 – Curtis (R), Francie (-1), Zippy (-3)

6 - Animal Crackers (-2), Bent Offerings (R), Elwood (+1), Motley’s Crew (-2), Pop’s Place (0), Robotman (-1)

5 – Grammy (R), Heart of Juliet Jones (-1), Hocus Focus (0), Long Overdue (R), Love Is (0), Simple Beasts (R), Sylvia (0)

4 - Better Half, Flash Gordon, Gummi Bears, Miss Peach, Moose Miller, Off the Leash, One Big Happy, Pavlov, Quigmans, Rip Kirby, Ryatts

3 - Agatha Crumm, Amy, Belvedere, Ben Wicks, Catfish, Chubb & Chauncey, Flintstones, Hartland, Henry, Outcasts, Out of Bounds, Professor Doodle, Safe Havens, Smith Family, Trudy, Winnie Winkle, Wit

2 - Boner’s Ark, Boomers Song, Bringing Up Father, Caldwell, Captain Vincible, Charlie, Counter Culture, Ferd’nand, Graffiti, John Darling, King Baloo, Laff-A-Day, Mickey Mouse, Miss Featherbee, Moon Mullins, Ophelia & Jake, Poor Arnold’s Almanac, Popeye, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Sam & Silo, Single Slices, Tales of Hans Christian Anderson, Wild Life, Wright Angles

1 – Briefcase, Ching Chow, Diary of Rock & Pop, Duffy, Eureka!, Eyebeam, Furtree High, Harley, Horrorscope, Joe Palooka, Kaleb, Laffbreak, Modesty Blaise, Play Better Golf with Jack Nicklaus, Pot Shots, Rivets, Salt Chuck, Sniglets, Yecch Is

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Thursday, June 30, 2022

 

Jeffrey Lindenblatt's Paper Trends -- The 300 for 1989: Biggest Gainers and Losers

The two biggest gainers of 1989 were the same as for the year before. Calvin and Hobbies gained a massive 36 papers this year and The Far Side gained 11 papers. Not as big as last year’s advancements of  48 and 27, respectively. Coming in third, it’s a tie between For Better Or For Worse and Bloom County with 6 papers each. This will be Bloom County’s last year as a daily strip. It would have been interesting to see how high Bloom County would have gone if it remained in syndication. Next year we will see which strips will be chosen by editors to replace Bloom County – that’s a lot of spots to fill. The rest of the big gainers are:

 Herman – 5

Arlo and Janis – 5

Snafu – 5

In The Bleachers – 5

The Neighborhood - 5

 The biggest loser of 1989 was a long running strip, Andy Capp, which lost 7 papers. The next two were also the biggest losers of last year: U.S. Acres and Gummi Bears, losing 6 papers each. Also losing 6 papers was last year’s rookie, What A Guy! The rest of the losers were all shedding under 5 papers.

This year the adventure strips took a huge drop. This was  mainly because two classic long-running adventure strips, Steve Canyon and Captain Easy, ended. The drop this time was a massive 18.5%. Here’s the full list:

 Alley Oop – 35 (-1)

Amazing Spider-Man – 23 (-4)

Dick Tracy – 23 (0)

Phantom – 19 (-4)

Mark Trail – 18 (0)

Buz Sawyer – 13 (-1)

Steve Roper and Mike Nomad – 13 (0)

Brenda Starr – 12 (1)

Little Orphan Annie – 9 (-1)

Flash Gordon – 4 (0)

Rip Kirby – 4 (0)

Popeye – 2 (0)

Joe Palooka – 1 (1)

Modesty Blaise – 1 (0)

Secret Agent Corrigan, Mandrake The Magician, Tim Tyler’s Luck – 0

 

Ended

Captain Easy – 17

Steve Canyon – 14

 

The soap opera strips didn’t do nearly as bad, losing only a collective 4 papers:

 Mary Worth – 63 (0)

Rex Morgan – 50 (0)

Judge Parker – 31 (-1)

Apartment 3-G – 22 (-2)

Gil Thorp – 11 (0)

Heart of Juliet Jones – 5 (-1)

Winnie Winkle – 3 (0)

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

 

Jeffrey Lindenblatt's Paper Trends -- The 300 For 1989: 1988 Rookies

 We have been talking about comic editors getting more conservative as time goes on and there is no clearer example as in our top rookie of 1988. Again, it is a replacement strip from the NEA package. It replaced the long running strip Captain Easy which in the last survey had only 17 papers. It increased that number by over 50% with a nice opening of 25 papers. The only thing is that the strip is not an original strip, it is reprints from 40 years earlier! That strip is L’il Abner. What make this even more interesting is that in the latter part of Li’l Abner’s original run, papers were dropping the strip constantly because of its political viewpoint. Li’l Abner’s reprint version paper count is almost like the strip never left the papers 11 years earlier. In its last year, 1977, it had 53 papers which would it put at number 24 of the top strips for that year. Even though this 'new' Li’l Abner had a good start it would last only one year in syndication.

That is not true of the remaining top rookies. Coming in second was a strip that would last 30 years in newspapers and have a name change during its run. That strip was Ernie (later The Piranha Club) with a debut count of 15 papers. Coming in third was a strip that would become very popular, Fox Trot, with 10 papers. Coming in fourth was the recent Reuben Award winner for best cartoonist, Ray Billingsley, for his strip Curtis which started with 7 papers.

The rest of the rookie strips are as follow:

Bent Offering – 6

Grammy – 5

Long Overdue – 5

Simple Beasts – 5

One Big Happy – 4

Chubb and Chauncey – 3

Safe Havens – 3

Wit of the World – 3

Counter Culture – 2

King Baloo – 2

Miss Featherbee – 2

Ophelia & Jake – 2

Wild Life – 2

 These features started with only one paper: Diary of Rock & Pop, Eureka!, Harley, Joe Palooka*.

 

Top five strips this year that began since The 300 survey began, 1977:

Garfield (1978) – 206

Far Side (1979) – 144

Bloom County (1980) – 133

Calvin and Hobbes (1985) – 118

Shoe (1977) – 115

 

Top five strips that began in the 1980s:

 Bloom County (1980) – 133

Calvin and Hobbes (1985) – 118

Marvin (1982) – 47

Mother Goose and Grimm (1984) – 42

Sally Forth (1982) – 39

 

* 1960s era Joe Palooka strips ran for about a year in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader during a campaign to have a monument to the fictional boxer moved from along a highway outside of town to keep it from being constantly vandalized. No word on whether they succeeded.

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Monday, June 27, 2022

 

A Long-Awaited Discovery -- Socko the Seadog and Other Lincoln Features Rarities!

 An offhand remark by friend of the blog Mark Johnson sent me down the rabbit hole, searching once again for a long-sought obscurity, Socko the Seadog. If you're not familiar with it, that was a strip that Jack Kirby supposedly penned for the hole-in-the-wall syndicate Lincoln Features in 1937. 

I've been searching for appearances of the strip ever since Greg Theakston uncovered a set of proofs of the strip from the King himself, Jack Kirby, way back in the 1990s, I think. Or maybe it was even earlier. I can't remember, and I cannot find my copies of Theakston's publications right now. (Hey, anyone want to come organize my books so I can find the one I want once in a while?). 

Anyhow, Lincoln Features was a syndicate run by H.T. Elmo in the mid-1930s to early '40s, and it produced material for weekly newspapers. While Elmo was quite the hustler, he could never seem to get a decent number of paying clients for his wares. In fact, the majority of Lincoln Features material that you do find actually printed in weekly papers of the 1930s are the freebies he sent out to try to court subscribers. 

Some of the Lincoln Features material did manage to sell, and since it was all numbered, not dated, Elmo could keep hawking the same material year after year after year. In fact some of the material produced in the 1930s he was still selling to newspapers under his Elmo Features imprint into the 1970s! 

But back to Socko. Although Theakston had definite proof that some strips were produced, in all the weeklies I checked (and there were a lot, even back in the pre-digital age) I never found one that took the feature. Even papers that took other Lincoln material didn't run poor neglected Socko

I have to admit, by the 2010s I wasn't even thinking to check for Socko in the burgeoning online archives for years at a time. I'd pretty well managed to convince myself that it was a white whale, probably produced but never successfully syndicated. And then, Mark Johnson casually mentioned while discussing something else that he saw a paper in which Socko was advertised to start the next week. Wow!!

So as soon as I could stuff the eyeballs back in my head, I jumped on newspapers.com (Mark had found it in a paper on that Fulton Postcards website, which I avoid like a covid variant) and glory be, a search on "Socko The Seadog" offers up not one, not two, but more like a half-dozen papers that ran it at various times!

The feature began in two papers on the same first week of April 1937, so that would presumably mean that these were takers from Lincoln's original promotion. And the really exciting thing is that Lincoln was offering not just one new feature, but SEVEN! In other words, they were trying to sell an all-new full page of weekly strips. On that first week all the strips were unnumbered, and here they are, as they appeared in the Crescent (OK) Times:


 

So let's discuss each of these. Up top we have Dolly In Hollywood, a strip about a beautiful young would-be starlet. This sort of strip was riding on the coattails of Dixie Dugan, Ella Cinders and others. The art is obviously trying to emulate (a nicer word than swipe) Alex Raymond. As is typical for Lincoln Features, it is credited to a nonentity, Bill Hughes. The middle panel on the first strip looks like Kirby could have had a hand in it, but I see not much more of his influence in this or later strips. 

We'll pass by Socko for a moment and next look at Lefty Wright, a gag strip about an All-American kid. This was credited to Robert Gerald, and based on that pen-name and the look of the strip, I wondered if we had a Bob Kane production here. But looking at further strips, and the lettering style, I believe we are actually looking at the work of M.E. Brady, who is known to have done some other work for Lincoln. In fact, while I was researching this material I stumbled upon another short-lived Lincoln strip, Farmyard Follies, which I'm 99% sure is reprints of the daily-style years of Brady's Dip and Duck

Next we have Cyclone Burke by Bob Brown. Aviator Burke is transported to the lair of a futuristic mad scientist guy, who has an army of robots to do his evil bidding. This exciting sci-fi strip that moves along at lightning pace seems pretty obviously the work of Jack Kirby. 

Next is The Black Buccaneer, a muddled seagoing pirate adventure. While the first episode offers art I find tough to identify, later strips seem to be the work of Jack Kirby. Which is a good thing, because the supposed creator, Jack Curtiss, is a known pen-name of Kirby. 

Next we have The Cloud Busters, one more in the seemingly endless list of 1930s aviation strips. This strip is supposed to be by George Newman. What we're actually doing is bookending the new comics page with slavish Alex Raymond swipes; the art is just like Dolly in Hollywood. I'm guessing the same unknown copycat is responsible for both strips. 

Counting Socko the Seadog, which we're still saving for last, that makes six new features. But I said seven, so what's up? Well, for some reason the Crescent Times decided not to run our last strip, but thankfully the Oklahoma State Register, the other pioneer subscriber to the page, did. The digitized microfilm is in awful shape, but here is Curious Customs and Oddities:


Lincoln Features absolutely loved Believe It or Not clones, and their new page offered yet another one in that line. This one was by "Barton", which of course is yet another pen name. The condition of this first page is so bad I wouldn't be caught dead trying to ID the art, but the second installment is in much better shape:


From this strip I can definitely say that this is by H.T. Elmo himself. And, thanks to help from Alex Jay, who awhile back took on the Herculean task of documenting Facts You Never Knew, Lincoln's long-running curiosities strip, we know that these are just retitled episodes from that series. For some reason only two of these strips were run -- odd since it is recycled material -- so you see here the entire run, or at least what the Oklahoma State Register was willing to run of it. The Crescent Times never ran it at all. 

Before we finally discuss Socko the Seadog, I have some bad news about the whole page of new Lincoln strips. The whole megillah seems to have run for a grand total of eight episodes; the first episodes were unnumbered, and the rest take each series from #101 to #107. Both papers ran it exactly that long. Now that could just mean that Lincoln sent these papers the first eight episodes as promos, and that's all they ran, and the series went on elsewhere. Unfortunately, we have no 'elsewhere' to look for more. So for now, we have to, by default, assume that the grand long run of these strips was a whopping two months. Maybe after I've been searching for another thirty years or so, I'll stumble across a paper that ran these longer. But I'm not holding my breath. My guess is that they didn't get enough takers to bother continuing the series.

But that's NOT the case with Socko The Seadog, and that's why I had to save it for last. Let's start, though, by covering the first eight installments of Socko, credited to "Teddy". The bad news is that these strips are absolutely, positively NOT the work of Jack Kirby. I understand that Theakston found them in Kirby's papers, and maybe Kirby even took credit for them -- The King wasn't lying, but we'll get to that. What I can say is that the Socko strips #nn-107 are absolutely, definitely the work of our good buddy H.T. Elmo. Back when these were brought to my attention decades ago, I seem to recall there was some palaver about how Kirby was employing animation techniques so that these strips would not look like his usual fare. Sorry, no. These are as obviously Elmo as the nose on Durante's face. Granted, it's Elmo desperately trying to evoke a faint whiff of the Segar genius out of his pen (and failing miserably), but it's Elmo. 

The thing about Socko the Seadog is that he was too darn tough to die after a mere eight episodes. Searching for later appearances, I found that over two years later, in August 1939, Socko was resurrected, popping up in at least five papers: the Scottsbluff Farm Journal, Cherokee Messenger, McIntosh County Democrat, and lagging a month behind, the Rutland Times and Lathrop Optimist. After a few strips from the old series, still bearing their numbers up to 107, all of a sudden the numbering jumps to #136 and then continues. 

Were numbers #108-135 even produced? I tend to doubt it, unless they were so bad that Lincoln deep sixed them. Once again, Alex Jay's work on Facts You Never Knew is instructive, because there are definite gaps in the numbering of that series as well. In any case, with #136 we get a new artist (though still, of course, "Teddy"). The new person has a pretty nice style, when they're not rushed, characterized by a tendency to draw elongated heads and no chins. Here's an early sample, #138:

Socko the Seadog #138

 Once again, I see no obvious trace of Kirby, unless he was really, really committing to a different style here. But sometimes Kirby's style does peek through, like in this strip, #165:


 So is this new artist actually Kirby committing all-in to a bigfoot style? The traces of Kirby definitely come and go, but the character designs remain pretty consistent, so maybe he just pencilled a lot of these strips?

Only the Cherokee and McIntosh County papers stuck with the Socko strip for the long haul. By 1941 the two papers were running Socko strips into the #220s; that means that even if we assume that strips #108-135 weren't produced, enough weekly Socko strips were created for a solid year and a half run. What's also interesting is that until they got into the #200s, Lincoln was affixing a 1937 copyright stamp on them, which likely means that the whole run was produced in one great gush of ink-slinging in 1937. But why, then, did Lincoln not try to sell them until August 1939? Once we get into the #200s, though, the copyrights change to 1941, indicating most likely that they had finally got around to updated the slugs so as to appear current for client papers. I certainly doubt that they returned to the series four years later to add more material. 

Here are some additional strips from the run, for your art-spotting pleasure (the last one seems to bear the most obvious marks of Kirby, in my estimation):

Socko the Seadog #153

Socko the Seadog #183

Socko the Seadog #198

Socko the Seadog #209

Socko the Seadog #214

And then there is one final mystery for a strip that was rife with them. The last client I have running the strip, the McIntosh County Democrat, runs the strips up through the #220s in mid-1941, but then all of a sudden they jumped numbers and ran #254 and 258 before reverting back to earlier numbers and then dumping the feature entirely.  That's a second jump of 30-odd strip numbers in the series. And odder still, I find on this website that someone has evidently found a strip numbered what looks like 278, another jump of 20. In this strip, obviously by Kirby, the tone has definitely taken a turn for the grim, and it seems to be in the middle of a semi-serious continuing adventure story. And down about 2/3 the way through this page you'll find another serious looking Socko strip -- though too small to say for sure what the number is (267 maybe?) it also looks like semi-serious Kirby work. Both these samples look like they are from digitized microfilm, but from what papers?

So that's the end of my report on Socko the Seadog, and obviously there are lots of unanswered questions. As always, if you have more information, I'd love to hear from you!

 


 





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Sunday, June 26, 2022

 

Wish You Were Here, from Albert Carmichael

 

Here's another of Albert Carmichael's "I Love My Wife But Oh You Kid" cards, less glamorously known as Taylor & Pratt Series 565. One starts by wondering why the missus would allow her roving eye mister to put up a theatre poster in their parlour, with or without the example of glorious femininity to attract the eye. 

But once you tire of that riddle, you look around and see two other points of interest. First, Mr. Carmichael has inserted a little Easter egg, a landscape painting by fellow New York cartoonist Walt Kuhn. Mr. Kuhn at this time (1910) was in the processing of becoming a Big Name in the fine art world. 

Second, and fascinating to me, is the portrait in which the fellow's whiskers break the bounds of the picture. This is a gag that would be extensively and famously used by George McManus in Bringing Up Father, but I'm pretty sure that he didn't really start putting his 'living pictures' on Jiggs' walls until the 1930s (1920s maybe?). I certainly can't imagine that Carmichael invented the gag here, but what a bit of kismet that McManus' acolyte, Carmichael, seems to have beaten George to the punch in this regard.

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Saturday, June 25, 2022

 

Herriman Saturday: April 9 1910

 

April 9 1910 -- Justice Ling of California has become the go-to guy regarding the freshness of chicken eggs. A short while before this cartoon ran there was a lawsuit between a grocer and an egg supplier regarding the freshness of the eggs they were offering. The shipment of eggs in question, dubbed "fancy fresh eggs", were found to have been laid over two months before in South Dakota before being shipped to California and arriving at the grocer's business. 

So is a 2+ month old, very well traveled, but always chilled, egg fresh? That was the question put to Justice Ling. After a great deal of research and expert opinions sought, Ling decided to throw the suit out of court, even though he agreed that the supplier was surely stretching the bounds of "fresh". He decided that candling the eggs is the most foolproof method of determining freshness, and that's what the grocer should have done before accepting the shipment. Solomonic? Pretty darn close, I'd say. 

So I had to say all that to explain this cartoon, which is a follow-up to that legal drama. An inventor is now seeking Justice Ling's attention, because he claims to have a method for keeping eggs fresh almost indefinitely. He proclaims that the wonder of the age, electricity, is the key. An electric shock to the egg, to kill the forming chick inside, will keep the contents of the egg from degrading. 

Unfortunately, neither Justice Ling nor common sense will propel our inventor to hobnob with the likes of Edison and Marconi. It seems not to have occurred to him that the vast majority of hen fruit are unfertilized because wholesale egg producers don't keep roosters around, considering them a waste of space and feed. And yet, those eggs still degrade, don't they? And even if they are fertilized, the chicken inside will not develop unless the temperature is kept at about 100 degrees Fahrenheit, a very unlikely temperature at which eggs will be stored.

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Friday, June 24, 2022

 

Obscurity of the Day: Some Monkey Fun from Jungle Jinks

 

Bert Cobb was a wonderful illustrator/artist/cartoonist, so I bet that's why he rarely took the time to establish a long-running series -- he was always getting offers of work and off he went, hopping from job to job. Out of seven known newspaper series the longest-running one he did, Ambitious Teddy, ran a paltry eight months; it was also his last.

Cobb spent a short time penning material for the McClure Syndicate's newly minted color comics section in 1901. One of his two continuing series was Some Monkey Fun from Jungle Jinks, another one of those jungle animal series. In the first decade of the newspaper color comics section, these things were ubiquitous, easily rivalling the prank-pulling kid strips for popularity. 

This ungainly titled series ran from August 25 to October 13 1901*, appearing just four times in that period.

* Source: New York Press

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

 

Toppers: Bughouse Fables

 

At the beginning of 1926, when the Hearst syndicates decreed that all their Sunday pages would add topper strips, almost all the cartoonists started off with a topper series that was short-lived, and then, after a few months, they came up with series that would run for years. I have no idea why that was, but you can pick pretty much any Hearst Sunday page and you'll see the pattern.

Barney Google is a perfect exemplar of that pattern. Before he settled on the long-running classic topper Parlor, Bedroom and Sink (later Bunky), DeBeck began with a one-shot on January 10 1926 titled Useless. The next week DeBeck decided to inaugurate a Sunday version of his daily panel Bughouse Fables, a feature he'd been doing since 1920. I can certainly imagine DeBeck had a store of ideas for the feature that couldn't really work in the panel format, so a strip version allowed him to use up those otherwise unworkable ideas.

Bughouse Fables was a delightfully wacky feature in which people would react in unexpected ways to situations. The topper strip above is a perfect example. We're all ready for the cop to go ballistic, and the gag is that he goes the opposite way.  

Although adapting Bughouse Fables as a topper seems like a great solution to needing an extra feature, DeBeck, like most of the Hearst cartoonists, didn't stick with his first series. The Bughouse Fables topper ended on May 9 1926, replaced by Parlor, Bedroom and Sink.

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Monday, June 20, 2022

 

Obscurity of the Day: Cy!

 


Alfred G. Alblitzer simplified his cartooning nom de plume to Al Zere, but I have to say, I really like the alliteration in his given name. I wonder if, in the way that a flap of a butterfly's wing can change history, could a cartoonist named Alfred Alblitzer have had a different biography just because of his name. 

Well, we'll never know the answer to that one. But we do have an answer to the burning question, "What did Al Zere produce at the Brooklyn Eagle from August 30 1908 to December 19 1909?" The answer is today's obscurity, called Cy! (don't forget the exclamation point!!)

The Brooklyn Eagle offered only one Sunday comic each week during this early era, and Al Zere created Cy! as his second attempt to take up permanent residence on that very exclusive stage. It would be on his third try that he'd stick the landing with Buttons and Fatty, which he penned for nine years before being called off to visit Europe's finest trenches, rifle and Army boots provided gratis. 

Zere's Cy! fails to live up the exclamation point, offering serviceable but unmemorable gags about a kid named (wait for it) Cy. I think he's supposed to be a country bumpkin -- those big clodhopper shoes and patched jeans are telltales -- but the gags don't often seem to have much to do with that. I don't see it as emblematic of the country bumpkin type that our young man goes camping and to fancy restaurants as seen above. Don't bumpkins chase pigs and smoke corn silk behind the barn? Maybe Al Zere, a Brooklynite born and bred, had a little trouble visulaizing country life, but jeez, he could have stolen gags from only about a million other similar features.

Anyhow, the good citizens of Brooklyn would have to suffer through Cy! (don't forget the exclamation point!) for almost a year and a half before Zere put him out to pasture. Or, to keep in the spirit of things, perhaps in the harbour wearing concrete overshoes? 

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Sunday, June 19, 2022

 

Wish You Were Here, from Dwig

 

Here's another Dwig "School Days" card, issued by Raphael Tuck. The oddity with this one is that it is marked as Series 49 on the reverse, while my other cards of this type are from Series 110. Thank goodness I don't really care to delve too far into postcard history, or I'd be off on a research expedition now!

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Saturday, June 18, 2022

 

Herriman Saturday: April 8 1910

 

April 8 1910 -- Herriman both reports and cartoons about an actors' benefit performance at the Mason Opera House. Leading lights in the show include singer-actress Winona Winter, comedian Walter Kelly and actor Henry (Harry) Woodruff.


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Thursday, June 16, 2022

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Fay King


Image found at eBay

A profile of Fay King appeared here almost ten years ago. This updated profile incorporates “new” information from census records, books and other graphic material. Extensive research has finally uncovered King’s exact birth date and the month and year of her death. 

Fay Barbara King was born on March 11, 1889, in Seattle, Washington. Her full name was published in The San Francisco Call, January 24, 1913. According to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, the King family was counted twice. The first enumeration was on June 1, 1900 and “Fay B.”, born May 1889, was the only child of John and Ella. They lived in Portland, Oregon at 323 Alder Street. Her father was in the baths trade. His business partner, John Compton, was the head of the household. The second enumeration was on June 6, 1900 (below) and “Effie B.”, born March 1889, was the only child of John and Ella. They lived in Portland, Oregon at 590 Front Street. Her father was a Turkish bath employee. The Call, March 1, 1913, reported that Battling Nelson, King’s husband, was planning to attend her March birthday. In Women and the Comics (1985), Trina Robbins wrote, “Fay King was born in Seattle to a trainer of athletes and grew up surrounded by sportsmen and pugilists….”


The earliest notice of King may have been in the Oregonian, August 7, 1901, which reported the contests on Woodmen’s Day. She won second prize, one dollar, in the 50 yard dash. Her artistic abilities were praised in the December 4, 1904 Oregonian:
Young Artist Cheers Miss Angus
Miss Fay King Presents Her With Sketches of Columbia Players

In Little Fay King, of 830 Raleigh street, Miss Edith Angus has an ardent friend and admirer, and one who does not forget her in her loneliness. When her benefit was given at the Columbia Theater, Miss King, who has marked artistic ability, thoughtfully made color sketches of the various people who participated in the program and sent them to Miss Angus. The note which accompanied it follows:

“I thought perhaps you would like to see how some of the people who helped to entertain looked and how they were dressed, and I hope you will like and accept my sketches.”

Miss Angus was so much pleased with the little girl’s thoughtfulness that she asked The Oregonian to reproduce some of the drawings. Besides those given here there were sketches of Mrs. Rose Bloch-Bauer, Mr. William Bernard, Dot Bernard, Mr. Baume and other, all of them being splendid likenesses.

Miss King is a winsome girl of 14, whose great ambition is to be “a good, all-around artist—like Mr. Murphy.” She has [illegible] had but one month's instruction in drawing, but her ability to reproduce likenesses is great, and with proper [illegible] she will have a future in the art world.

“The first drawing I ever did was drawing pictures of paper dolls and [illegible] of nonsensical things when I was [illegible] bit of a girl. Hilda Garrett and I [illegible] to be great friends and play together [illegible] I was with her when I first [illegible] people. It just seemed to come [illegible] and I liked it so much that I have [illegible] wanted to do any other kind of [illegible] since then,” is her modest explanation of her work. When asked what her [illegible] is she said:

“Oh, if I can just be like Mr. Murphy [illegible] will be entirely satisfied. I would [illegible] newspaper work, though. I’d rather [illegible] draw for people to admire my [illegible] vate. It’s lots harder to [illegible] ing people than others, but I [illegible] want to be a cartoonist. If you [illegible] to put anything in the paper, [illegible] forget to say how much I think of Miss Angus—will you? I think she is [illegible] lovely, and everybody wishes she [illegible] get well.”
The 1910 census recorded the Kings in Portland at 826 Raleigh Street. She was an artist and cartoonist. 


Her education continued at Seattle University (SU). The Oregonian, July 2, 1911, published an article and photo of King in her new car, a gift from her father: “The latest recruit to the ranks of Portland's feminine motorists is Miss Fay King, the clever cartoonist and dramatic writer of the Spectator’s staff….” The Spectator was the newspaper of SU. Her plan to travel in a hot air balloon was cancelled by her parents, as reported in the August 12, 1911, Oregonian.
Fay King Not To Soar
Young Woman's Parents Forbid Her Proposed Balloon Trip.
Fay King, whose intention to make a balloon ascension with Tiny Broadwick was announced is not going to soar. Several important reasons have developed which make such a feat on the part of the young woman impossible.

In the first place the advance story spoiled it all. It called the attention of the young artist’s parents to the feat contemplated by their daughter, and both father and mother emphatically set their parental feet down and announced that no such action would be permitted. Miss Fay is an only daughter.
The Oregonian 8/10/1911

King illustrated Battling Nelson’s The Wonders of the Yellowstone National Park which was self-published in 1911. Almost two pages were devoted to King in the preface. Below are excerpts: 
Miss Fay King, a very dear friend of Bat’s, has helped to amuse the readers of this book by her extraordinary, amusing caricatures of the Park wonders. …

… Such wonderful artists as Tad (T. A. Dorgan) of New York Journal, Bob Edgren of New York World, and one of the highest salaried artists in the world, Homer Davenport, have commented very favorably on her work which speaks heaps of praise for her talent.

The artist is but a mite of a girl standing only 5 feet tall, weighing 123 pounds—fully clothed. Was born in Seattle, Wash., March 11, 1889, has black hair and eyes, in all she is a stunning little brunette.

Miss King’s folks moved to Portland when she was 6 months old—incidentally she had to go too. She lived there all her life except two years when she was about 8 or 10 years old. She spent them in San Francisco and San Jose, Cal.

… Her full name is Fay Barbara King. At present Fay is doing “Special Cartoons” and interviews for a theatrical paper in Portland, Ore.
A profile in Ladies of the Press (1936) explained how King met Nelson and got her job at the Denver Post.
She did a sketch of Battling Nelson at Hot Springs, Arkansas, that caught the pugilist’s fancy. A romance later developed between them but their marriage did not last. When Nelson showed the sketch to Bonfils he sent for Miss King at once. She wrote telling him what she would look like when she arrived in Denver. She drew a sketch of herself with a bundle of papers under her arm. On the train Miss King told her fellow passengers that she was on her way to make her fortune. She said that Mr. Bonfils would be meeting her at the station. They were all sympathetic but slightly incredulous. However, when she got to Cheyenne she found that her letter and her sketch had been published in the Post. And when she got to Denver Mr. Bonfils actually was at the station to meet her.
In April 1912, she moved to Colorado to join the Denver Post, which had published, about six years earlier, illustrations by Denver-native Nell Brinkley. Her impending arrival was reported in the Post, April 18, 1912:
Fay King’s Coming; Sends a Picture So Denver’ll Know Her

Fay King is coming to Denver.

Know her? Well, if you do not, you will mighty soon, for she is to join The Post staff on Saturday of this week.

Fay King is the greatest woman cartoonist, caricaturist and “kidder” in the world today, and she’s just bubbling over with fun of the most contagious, infectious kind.

You’ll laugh with her, for you just can’t help yourself.

Fay King is young—very young, in fact—but the hats of veterans in the comic art world are off to her. She comes to Denver from the Pacific northwest, where she had made a tremendous hit.

She not only makes pictures, but she writes and writes well.

She’s a writer, a critic and a cartoonist in one, and good in each and every line.

Here’s the letter she sent to F.G. Bonfils of The Post, in response to his telegram inviting her to join The Post family:

“Portland, Ore., April 14, ’12.

“Mr. F.G. Bonfils, The Post, 
Denver Colo.

“Dr. Mr. Bonfils—Your telegram received. I bought my ticket today and will leave here Thursday (April 18) at 10 a.m., and will arrive in Denver Saturday (April 20) at 10 a.m.

“You are very kind to come to the depot and meet me. You don’t know how much I will appreciate it. That you may know me I will be dressed like the inclosed sketch and will carry a Denver Post.

“Sincerely, 
“FAY KING.”

And the sketch that she inclosed—well, just look at it and see if you can keep from laughing.
“Here’s Fay King, The Post’s new girl writer
and cartoonist, sketched by herself for purposes
of identification upon her arrival in Denver.”
Denver Post 4/18/1912

For an assignment in July, she interviewed boxing champion Oscar “Battling” Nelson; excerpts from her July 29, 1912 interview, “Battling Nelson, Capitalist, Author, Mayor of Hegewisch and Greatest of Ring Champions, Is Visiting in Denver”:

Denver Post 7/29/1912
…“But—how about this latest rumor about your marriage to Miss Irma Kilgallen, the beautiful Chicago heiress? You admit you were sweet on her—won't you tell me all about it?”

“Well, I think it was a case of love at first sight when Irma and I first met, seven years ago in Chicago, and it was mutual. Somehow we both looked forward to love in a cottage—but, then came her fateful trip to Europe, when she married that bum, ‘Count No Account,’ to please her mother….

…“Do you think you’ll ever marry, Bat?” I asked, remembering it was leap year.

“Well, if I believed in dreams, I should say NOT—because the other night I dreamed (you see, this matrimonial publicity has been on my mind so), I was married, and presented my country with five young lightweights all at one time! I remember that I named them—Battling Jr., ‘T.R.,’ William Jennings Bryan, Julian Eltinge and Carter H. I was just opening congratulatory telegrams from all the dignitaries of the U.S.A., when I awoke. Do you wonder I hesitate yo enter a (wedding) ring career after a jolt like that. Can you beat it.”

“Battling Nelson and Fay King Attend the Ball Game”
Denver Post 7/30/1912

“Battling Nelson Becomes ‘Kid’ for a Day and Goes to Circus”
Denver Post 8/3/1912
…Oh, it all intoxicated us! We were in a whirl of pure joy every minute. When it was over—and Bat and I tired, tramped hand in hand, from the lot, we slowly came back from “kid land” to reality; but it was some trip, Steve, and it takes a circus to cast that spell.
The Call covered, on August 5, 1912, their attempted marriage.
Nelson Sidesteps Undertaker As His Life’s Matchmaker
Pikes Peak Summit, Colo., Aug 4. Battling Nelson and Fay King, a Denver newspaper artist, were balked here this afternoon in an attempt to get married.

The former champion and Miss King took the trip of 14,147 feet up Pikes Peak for the start of their honeymoon. To their surprise and consternation they found out that the minister had grown tired waiting for them and had left. Only a telegraph operator and an undertaker were on hand. The undertaker was willing to be substituted, but Nelson decided to postpone the ceremony.

Nelson and Miss King returned to Denver and Bat will there make arrangements for the wedding. After a trip to Chicago and Hegeswich he plans a honeymoon to Australia.
The Call published a follow-up article September 29, 1912. 
’Ware the Women, Says Battling Dane
St. Joseph. Mo., Sept. 28.—For the first time in his life Battling Nelson has declined to be interviewed. This time the subject of the proposed interview was matrimonial, not pugilism. “Is it true that your rumored engagement with Miss Fay King of Denver is all off?” Nelson was asked.

“The only match I know about is the one my Chicago representative is trying to clinch with Packey McFarland,” replied Nelson, “and he is pretty slow about it, too.”

“Miss King says she loves you like a brother, but that she has not considered you for a husband,” Nelson was informed.

“If McFarland thinks he can lick me, now is his chance,” replied Bat.

“Didn’t you and Miss King go up on Pikes Peak and engage a minister to marry you? And didn’t the minister fail to show up?” were the next questions.

“I’m not going to talk about marriage,” said Bat. “I am leaving the matter up to her. What she says is right, no matter if she’s wrong.” Then Nelson got serious.

“There’s no use in my talking marriage,” he said. “Any man who says he’s going to marry a woman is crazy, unless he has her right at the altar—and even then he’s liable to be fooled. She may not like the color of his necktie and call off the match. Miss King is a fine cartoonist, and she’d make a fine wife for anybody. If I’m the lucky fellow at the finish I’ll be tickled to death, that’s all. But I’m not saying a word one way or the other on the time, the place or the girl.”
The Denver Post, January 22, 1913, may have been the first paper to report their upcoming marriage.
Miss Fay King, Cartoonist, to Be Battling Nelson’s Bride
Fay King, the clever cartoonist and artist, who has been a member of The Post staff of artists for several months, and Battling Nelson, former lightweight pugilist champion, are to be married at Nelson’s home in Hegewisch, Ill., tomorrow. They left Denver last night, informing only a few close friends of their departure. They will return to Denver the first of next week and may reside here.

Personal friends of the couple have known for some time that Fay King and Battling Nelson were in love with each other. But there was no intimation on the part of either that an early marriage was contemplated.

Miss King had not anticipated any such quick move on the part of her fiance, but after his arrival she decided with him that there wasn’t any use in delaying the marriage, so she obtained a leave of absence and joined in with his plans.

Nelson’s winning of the clever artist, though it had its inception long ago, was really a matter of a four-days’ campaign, conducted with whirlwind speed. The former champion arrived in the city on Monday, determined that when he left he would take Miss King along with him. He was not prepared for any long stay, and he wasted no time in completing his conquest, for on Tuesday evening the young artist had yielded to his forceful wooing and agreed to accompany him back to Illinois. They are on their way now and by Thursday night will have been married and have held their wedding reception in Hegewisch.
The Call, January 24, 1913, published an account of wedding. 
Nelson Succumbs to God of Love
Brass Band Plays as Minister Unites Bat and Miss Fay King

Chicago, Jan. 23.—Oscar Matthew Nelson, once famed as the lightweight champion pugilist, and Miss Fay Barbara King, a Denver cartoonist, were married today at the fighter's home in Hegewisch. The ceremony was brief, but as the final words fell from the minister's lips the bride, overcome by the nervous strain, swayed and toppled over into her husband’s arms, sobbing violently. “Bat” soothed his bride, and pretty soon she smiled and said, “I feel much better after my cry.”

Rev. W.E. Pearson, a Lutheran clergyman of Moline, performed the ceremony. “Jack” Robinson, manager of the fighter, was best man, and Miss Ida Nelson, sister of the groom, was maid of honor.

Outside a brass band burst forth into “Moonlight Bay.” A report said there was to be a double wedding. Miss Ida Nelson, it was said, was to have been married to a young man of the town immediately after her brother's marriage. The story run that at the last minute the young man, fearing bad luck if he married on the twenty-third, insisted upon a postponement. Miss Nelson denied the story.

“I'm the happiest guy in the world.” Bat said. Asked about his wife’s future, the groom said:

“She’ll probably devote her time to illustrating my map. But I’ll stay in the ring. I’ve got to, as that’s the only way I have of making a living.”

The couple came to Chicago after the ceremony and a wedding breakfast was served at the Wellington hotel.

The trip downtown to “Bat’s” home was a gala affair. A special car on the Illinois Central was chartered and a band hired.

On the train Miss King drew a cartoon of the pugilist. The moving picture men were clamoring for some pictures and set up their machines before, the happy pair. The band played and “Bat” leaned over and (kissed his bride to be twice, and the picture machines got it all.

A big crowd turned out at Hegewisch to greet “Bat” and his fiancee. There were vigorous cheers as the party stepped from the train. The band played as the long line of friends, townsmen. newspaper men, moving picture operators and photographers started for the Nelson home behind the bridal party in a big automobile.

Tonight the couple entertained friends at a theater.
The Day Book (Chicago) 1/25/1913

Their marriage was turbulent and on February 28, 1913, The Call detailed the problem: 
Nelson’s Wife Says Pugilist Kidnapped Her
Former Lightweight Champion Will Be Met at Denver by Summons in Divorce Suit
Denver, Feb. 28.—Battling Nelson, financier of Hegewiseh and erstwhile champion lightweight prize fighter, will be met with a summons in a suit for divorce when he arrives in Denver March 5.

This announcement was made tonight by friends of Mrs. Nelson, better known in Denver as Fay King, a cartoonist on the Post.

That she was kidnaped by Battling Nelson on the night of January 20 for her marriage three days later at the fighter's home will be the charge which the suit will be based.

Fay King remained three days as Nelson’s wife. She left for Denver on the Sunday night following the marriage and then went on to Portland. Ore., to visit her parents before resuming her work on the Post.

“Nelson heard of my reported engagement to a Denver man and ho stopped his fighting engagements to come here for me.” said Miss King tonight. "He took me by storm after I was weak and a nervous wreck from resisting him and his proposals he forced me into a taxicab and rushed me off to the station.

“I realized that I had made a mistake the day of the wedding and the first opportunity I got I hurried back to Denver. I will go right on working on the Post as though the affair had never happened.

“The marriage must not and will not stand.”
Another account of the marriage appeared in the Omaha Sunday Bee (Nebraska), on March 16, 1913. 

The Call, May 6, 1913, said the couple was back together. 
Fay Has the Say and Battler Will Retire
Chicago, May 5.—Battling Nelson, hero of many ring battles, the receiver of many a lacing, “…and former lightweight champion of the world, today announced the date of his retirement from the ring. Bat is going to quit. There’s no idle boast connected with the announcement. It may not be the wish of the once durable Dane to put the gloves on the shelf, but it is the request Mrs. Battling Nelson, Fay King, and Fay has the say. Labor day will be the Dane’s last fight—this because it will be the eighteenth anniversary of his fighting career. He would quit now but for that. There will be no fights between now and September, however. Nelson and his wife are now in Bedford, Va., resting up. Bat plans on settling in the far west.
Years later Nelson sued King for divorce as reported in Cartoons Magazine, March 1916. A divorce was granted later that year.

The Colorado School of Mines Magazine, November 1914, published an account of King's visit. The March 1917 issue of Motion Picture Magazine had two lines about King: “William S. Hart has recently been cleverly cartooned by Fay King, the famous Denver sketch-artist. She concluded a letter to him by averring: ‘You get ’em—from the seminary to the cemetery!’ ” 

Federal Schools Inc. circa 1918

Cartoons Magazine, January 1918, noted her move to the art staff of the San Francisco Examiner. Later that year she moved to New York City.

Evening Telegram 11/20/1918

In the 1920 census, King lived in Manhattan, New York City at the Hotel Pennsylvania. She gave her age as 26 and was a newspaper feature writer. 


Editor & Publisher, January 29, 1921, noted her whereabouts: “Fay King, cartoonist and feature writer for the New York Evening Journal, just spent a week visiting ‘home folks’ in Kansas City. Miss King was employed on the Kansas City Post and Denver Post before going to New York.”

The New York Times 12/30/1923


King wrote about her strip Girls Will Be Girls in the publication, Circulation, February 1925. In the book, Nell Brinkley and the New Woman in the Early 20th Century (2001), Trina Robbins talks about King's work. King was one of several cartoonists featured in an advertisement for the Federal School of Illustrating, which was published on page 33 in Popular Mechanics, December 1928. 

The Courier (Brookfield, NY) 8/6/1930




In the 1930 census, King’s age was misrepresented as 35. She lived in Manhattan at the Commodore Hotel, 109 East 42nd Street. Her occupation was journalist and cartoonist. 


In O.O. McIntyre’s column, “New York Day by Day”, in the Reno Evening Gazette, October 25, 1934, it said: 
Fay King is, so far as I know, America’s only lady newspaper cartoonist. And the most pronounced recluse among the limners. Vivacious and sparkling, she is sought wherever crowds gather but rarely responds. I have yet to see her at any of the whirligigs of literary folk. She resides at a sedate midtown hotel, is an indefatigable walker, devoted to a canary and a frequent loiterer in the galleries. But is—and that’s unusual for a Manhattan celebrity—a strictly no-party girl.
She was one of the celebrities named in the July 11, 1936 Joe Palooka comic strip (below).

Joe Palooka detail

King’s residence was the Commodore Hotel according to the 1940 census. She was a newspaper cartoonist who earned four-thousand dollars in 1939. (Cartoonist Charles McManus, brother of George McManus, is on line 57.) 


In the 1950 census, King’s name was recorded as Barbara F. King who continued to reside at the Commodore Hotel. Information about her occupation was blank. 


King’s former husband Battling Nelson passed away February 7, 1954. The Oregonian, February 9, 1954, reported that the funeral expenses were to be paid by King. 

King may have moved out of the Commodore Hotel. The 1959 Manhattan, New York City directory had listings for two women who might have been King. 


Apparently King was the woman mentioned in the June 27, 1967, New York Times article about dog owners and the accessories they buy:
…Dog coats of mink, chinchilla and Brazilian jaguar fur are featured in the Bow-Tique (as in bow wow) at Dogs of Distinction, Inc., 1449 First Avenue (near 75th Street) a posh avocado green salon opened this spring by Estyne del Rio, a former dancer, and Fay King, free-lance writer. “Now here is a coat that is really versatile,’ Miss King said recently, picking up a $250 mink dog coat and tossing it around her neck. ‘It doubles as a dickey for a woman.’
King passed away in April 1972. The Social Security Death Index birth date matches the date mentioned in The Wonders of the Yellowstone National Park. The Zip Code of King’s last residence covered the Commodore Hotel. An obituary or death notice for Barbara King has not been found. 



Further Reading and Viewing
Cartoonist Profiles #60, December 1983
Villanova University, Falvey Memorial Library, Fay King’s scrapbook
Who Was Fay King
Poster Auctions International, Fay King / Daily Mirror

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Comments:
I remember Gene Fowler, a former Denver Post reporter, recalling King in his books, either TIMBER LINE (fun book on the Post's publishers Bonfils and Tammen) or his last memoir, SKYLINE.

 
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