Thursday, September 03, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: McGonigle of the Chronicle

When Garry Trudeau put Doonesbury on a long hiatus starting in January 1983, it started an all-out war at the syndicates to see how many of Trudeau's newspaper spots they could poach. Some existing strips got catapulted into the national conscience, like Bloom County, and at other syndicates new strips were developed that they thought would fit comfortably in a Doonesbury-shaped newspaper spot.

Editorial cartoonist Jeff Danziger and impresario Lew Little got together to enter the sweepstakes, and Danziger came up with what seemed like a natural. Set a strip in a newspaper office, where politics could be on center stage at all times. Populate the strip with a long list of characters, just like Doonesbury. When you want to comment most directly on current events, have characters sitting around watching the TV news.

The strip seemed like a natural for the Doonesbury-starved newspaper reading public. Lew Little presented the strip to the Field Newspaper Syndicate, and they evidently agreed that McGonigle of the Chronicle was a winner. The strip debuted on August 1 1983 in a modest but decent number of client papers.

My thinking is that Danziger's strip was a little too scattershot out of the gate. With a list of recurring characters numbering over a dozen, readers needed a scorecard to keep them all straight. Whereas Doonesbury's cast had grown organically over time, Danziger was presenting the whole first, second and third strings all at once. It also certainly didn't help that the Field syndicate was bought out by Rupert Murdoch in 1984, putting the strip's distribution and marketing in flux.

When Trudeau brought Doonesbury back in September 1984, there was an inevitable culling of the herd. Although McGonigle survived the initial attack, the wounds eventually proved to be fatal. The strip was ended on November 24 1985.

PS: while researching this post, I came across information that Danziger also has two local strips to his credit -- Out In The Sticks and The Teeds. If anyone has some definitive info on these (where they appeared, running dates) I'd sure like to hear from you. I have ordered a copy of what I gather is a Teeds reprint book ("Teed Stories") and hope that might shed some light.


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Wednesday, September 02, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Splinters

William Steinigans' favorite cartooning subject -- dogs -- is the subject of this simple and lively Sunday strip series, Splinters. Splinters the clown and his two pups were a regular feature of Pulitzer's Funny Side color sections from April 23 1911 to October 27 1912. The strip was also a semi-regular feature in the New York World's Fun magazine -- unfortunately there is no complete set of those magazines available as far as I know, so I can't offer running dates.

After a wonderful start as a mostly pantomime strip, Steinigans soon found himself at a loss for wordless gags, so dialogue became the norm. That's a shame because these early examples above are a real joy to behold. Later strips are more ho-hum run-of-the-mill productions. You can see lots more of these over at Barnacle Press.


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Tuesday, September 01, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Frontiers of Science

During the great space race of the 1960s, Americans suddenly took a much greater than normal interest in the wonders of science and technology. Naturally this explosion of interest paved the way for a number of factual comic strips about science. The most popular was probably the excellent Our New Age, but there were others.

One unlikely entry was Frontiers of Science, which was produced in Australia, initially for the Sydney Morning Herald. A daily strip that ran five days per week, it spent exactly one week discussing each given subject (like hurricanes in the above samples) and then went on to another. The strip was created and written by the team of Professor Stuart Butler, a theoretical physicist with a lifelong interest in making science accessible to the man in the street, and journalist Bob Raymond. Cartoonist Andrea Bresciani handled the art chores until sometime around 1970, when David Emerson took over those duties. Since the artists did not sign their work, and there are a lot of conflicting versions of the timeline, don't bet too much on that 1970 switch date.

After its Australian debut in 1961, the strip was soon offered for international syndication. It was snapped up by a number of international syndicates, and for US distribution by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. The LA Times-syndicated version was offered here starting January 1 1962, where it met with modest success. Worldwide, however, it was claimed that the strip ran in anywhere from 200 to 600 newspapers, depending on whose version of the history you believe. Either of those numbers, if true, are impressive for a comic strip of this type.

As with most pop entertainment about technology, Frontiers of Science tended to overstate reality a little in order to impress the audience. It wasn't unusual for the strip to claim that important technological advances were right around the corner, like the 'hurricane collapser' discussed above. That minor quibble aside, the strips were apparently considered worthy of being used in schools, as a series of four books of the strips were published in the 1974 Doubleday Illustrated Popular Science series.

The series seems to have ended in the US on April 27 1979. Histories of the strip around the web contend that the worldwide end date is anywhere from 1979 to 1988. There's even one that says the strip was revamped a little and ended up running well into the 1990s.

The University of Sydney website has an extensive archive of the Frontiers of Science strip, along with bios of the creators and a history of the strip.


I have one of those Doubleday books - never knew where the strips came from, now I do! Thanks for the information.
Here's a military obscurity - Foxhole by Robert Woodcock. There's another link to more information about him too.
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Monday, August 31, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Bertie the Lamb

Here's a daily strip that only lasted a month, and a short month at that, back in 1910. Bertie the Lamb, about a poor sap who is constantly taken in by sharpies of various sorts, was penned by C.H. Wellington as sort of a 'flavor of the month' in the New York Evening Journal. The strip began on the first day of February and ended on the last. This sample is actually taken from an appearance in a rare July 1910 issue of American Weekly, which ran a few strips on its back cover in those early days. I presume they were all reprints getting a second run.


Interesting.. "Bertie the Lamb" was the name of Buster Keaton's hapless dupe in his first feature, "The Saphead" (1920), based on the Broadway play that starred Douglas Fairbanks in the role. A common slang nickname for easy marks, perhaps?
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Saturday, August 29, 2015


Herriman Saturday

Saturday, October 10 1908 -- Today is the first game of the World Series, and it will turn out to be quite a barn-burner. Of course Herriman had no way to know that when he penned this cartoon, but he made a good prediction that it would be quite the fight.


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Friday, August 28, 2015


Sci-Friday starring Connie

Connie January 29 1939
Courtesy of Cole Johnson


I can't believe it! Some actual action, and shown to us instead of us just hearing about it! This is usually the talkiest strip in history. Don't get me wrong — I do like Connie. It is quite imaginative, and of course looks wonderful. But no one could accuse it of being all two-fisted action. It's not even one-fisted! Sometimes it's very hard to follow, since all that has happened is talk and more talk. And, of course, being locked in back rooms (or in grottos), and then finding a chink in the wall that either (a) lets Connie escape, or (b) lets her spy on the bad guys. But this week — an explosion! I think I had better go lie down, to recover.
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Thursday, August 27, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Ask Professor Noodle

On January 15 1923, the Public Ledger syndicate of Philadelphia came out with a new panel feature titled Ask Professor Noodle - All Questions Answered by Hy Steinlauf. This was Mr. Steinlauf's only syndicated feature as far as I know, and it sank without a trace after little more than half a year on August 18, and what a shame that was. Steinlauf had a delightful acerbic sense of humor, and his cartooning, though not Art by any means, was a perfect complement to his writing. To gauge how much I like the man's work, I say this even though Steinlauf has a tendency to write in verse, and you know how much I just love that! Steinlauf's work reminds me a bit of Rube Goldberg, though I don't mean that he copied his style at all. He didn't. They just had a similar kooky yet well-grounded sense of irony and the absurdities of life.

Whether the Ledger Syndicate's ineffective salesmanship was the feature's downfall, or newspaper editors just didn't share my high opinion, the fact is that Steinlauf's feature was an abject failure, and seems to be Steinlauf's only foray into syndication. What a shame. I hope that whatever else he put his hand to that it was also an outlet for his delightful sense of humor.


I also remember a Professor Noodle in the LITTLE GUY back up stories of the Henry comic book published by Dell and later King/Charlton.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Mystery Strips: Navajo Canyons

I picked up a set of 1972 proof sheets on eBay awhile back for a strip called Navajo Canyons. I received the first two two Sunday strips, which tell traditional Navajo folk tales, and the first week of a daily strip about a Native American named Johnny Navajo who has been educated in a white school and is now returning to his family out west.

There is nothing particularly mysterious about a set of tryout strips that never got published, but there is one aspect of these that piqued my interest. Note that the Sunday strip above includes an NEA copyright slug in the final panel. That would seem to indicate that the strip was, at the least, picked up by the syndicate and marketed to their clients. Is that as far as it got?

Credited creators are Jason Chee and G. Johnson. I find several Jason Chees in a Google search, including a Native American-inspired artist, but no current contact info. If Jason happens to read this, how about telling us what happened to your Navajo Canyons?


Love the art.
I remember talking about this strip with writer Glen Johnson. At the time it was created Johnson was a teacher at the Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City, Utah. (In those days young Navajo children were shipped to Utah and boarded at the school. The practice was dropped and the school was closed sometime in the early seventies.)

Glen, who collected comic books, was working with several creators, Will Eisner among them, to create work books featuring the comic strips. The children would read the strip on one page, and on the facing page would answer questions about what they read.

Glen had written to the NEA Syndicate looking for permission to use an Alley Oop sequence as a workbook, and the Syndicate thought a strip about the Navajos would be interesting. Glen got a friend, Jason Chee, to draw it, but the Syndicate rejected his art. I remember seeing some other versions of the strip done by Creig Flessel. That version didn't sell to newspapers either.

This all happened about 1970. I haven't talked to Johnson in years, but I believe my memories of the events to be substantially correct.
You've got quite the memory, Pappy! Thanks for filling us in about Navajo Canyons.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: James. J. Maginnis

James Joseph Maginnis was born in Glendermot, Derry, Ireland, on November 8, 1870. His birthplace was found at, and his birth date came from his naturalization index card, also at The names of his parents, Charles Maginnis and Bridget McDonagh, were recorded on the marriage certificate of his architect brother, Charles Donagh Maginnis (1867–1955).

Charles emigrated to the United States in 1885 and studied architecture in Boston. Church design was his specialty. Charles’s name was listed in many Massachusetts city directories. has several Boston directories which list Charles including the years 1886, 1890 and 1892. James’s name also appeared in the 1892 directory, so he may have emigrated in 1890 or 1891. James and Charles resided at 267 St. Botolph and their occupation was draughtsman. Apparently, James had a similar education or training as his brother. James’s occupation in the 1894 directory said “Draughtsman Architect’s Office” In the next available Boston directory, 1897, architect James resided at 708 Huntington.

James J. Maginnis” was mentioned in the Boston Globe newspaper from 1899 to 1917. The spelling as “James J. Maguinnis” was also found.

The 1901 and 1902 Brookline, Massachusetts city directories listed James as an illustrator at 5 Park Vale. Clark’s Boston Blue Book (1902) included James who was an active member of the Boston Press Club. His surname was spelled Maguinnis.

James contributed several comic strips to the Boston Globe. According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), the earliest one was The Loves of Artless Harry which ran from August 18 to October 27, 1901. A week after Artless Harry was Fuss and Gruff which ended in 1905. In 1902 James produced The Bully Boys and the Willie Boy, The Foxy Copper, and Hummer the Drummer. The following year he started Alec McSmarter, and Grandma and her Little Black Blossoms. Artful Alice, Little Fritzy, Little Rube, and Wisewinkers appeared in 1905. Fatty and Bunion aka Fatty the Fire Fiend began in 1910.

In the Philadelphia Press, James’s Herr Professor ran in 1906. James’s earliest comics contribution was for The Kaleidoscope, which was published the summer of 1897 in the New York Evening Journal.

The 1910 U.S. Federal Census recorded cartoonist James in Winthrop, Maine.

The Boston Globe wrote about James enlisting in the Canadian army during World War I. The article, “Former Globe Artist Confident That the War Will End Right” was published December 23, 1917. That article, or a version of it, was printed in Our Paper, December 29, 1917.

Confident War Will End Right.

James J. Maginnis. formerly a Globe artist, recently joined the 110th Royal Irish Regiment, and is now serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. His age disqualifying for active military service on this side of the line, he crossed to Canada to join the Infantry Corps.

“Many of the medical and other services,” he writes, “are quite interesting, and indeed would have suited me at one time during the war, but not now. Having passed out of the neutral state, I wanted, as the song says, to ‘express myself’!”

Later, in more serious vein, he writes: “I hope that the war may continue until it is ended right, no matter how many years it takes, Even then, it may not be the end of all wars, but the world will have learned a memorable lesson.

We know from individual experience that the only deeds that gives us happiness are good deeds. Nations are like individuals and they build their happiness on the ruins of their neighbors, and find no happiness. They will find it, however, eventually—all of them.

“I can see mankind, out of pure selfishness, humbly recognizing the truth of the command, ‘Love one another,’ and just as sure as we all know that this is the eternal truth which will never change, just so sure am I that the German gospel of hate will be beaten and swept entirely from the earth.—Boston Globe.’s U.S., Residents Serving in Canadian Expeditionary Forces, 1917–1918 had James’s birth year as 1873 and birthplace as Ireland. He was single and a New York City resident as of August 13, 1917.

1925 New York State Census recorded James at 75 Madison Avenue in New York City. The census said the cartoonist was naturalized in 1900 at Boston.

There was a James J. Maginnis, age 74, listed in the 1940 census. He resided at the Stratford House, 11 East 32nd Street, New York City. In 1935 he lived in Summerville, New Jersey. Apparently he was retired because the space for his occupation was blank and he had no income because he did not work in 1939.

James‘s brother Charles passed away February 15, 1955, in Brookline, Massachusetts. The Boston Herald, February 16, 1955, published the death notice:

In Brookline, February 15, Charles D. Maginnis beloved husband of the late Amy (Brooks) Maginnis, father of Alice M. Elizabeth, Paul F. and the Charles D. Maginnis, Jr.; brother of James J. Maginnis of New York City. Funeral from his home, 219 Dean rd, on Friday, February 18, at 9:15 A.M. Solemn Mass of Requiem at St. Lawrence Church, Chestnut Hill, at 10 o’clock. Relatives and friends are invited. Calling hours Wednesday 7 to 9 P.M. Thursday, 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 P.M. Kindly omit flowers.
The date of James’s passing is not known.

—Alex Jay


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Monday, August 24, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Fatty the Fire Fiend

These days we gripe about drivers who slow down and gawk at traffic accidents. Back before the reign of the automobile, how did these annoying rubberneckers get their jollies? Why one way was that they went to see fires. Back when most homes were lit by gas and building codes were lax, fires were really common and people loved to watch the spectacles.

James J. Maguinnis created a strip about the phenomenon for the Boston Globe, making gags out of Fatty the Fire Fiend's willingness to drop everything to go watch a fire. The strip debuted on August 7 1910, which oddly enough was just a few days before a major fire in Boston wiped out twenty downtown buildings.

When the fire gag started to wear thin, the strip was renamed Fatty and Bunion. The series ended on September 29 1912


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Saturday, August 22, 2015


Herriman Saturday

Saturday, October 10 1908 -- William Randolph Hearst is touring the country giving speeches in support for his Independence Party. As Hearst tours, he continues to produce further letters in which high government officials are implicated as collaborators with Standard Oil.

In a San Francisco appearance, a new letter is read by Hearst in which former senator John McLaurin and former congressman Joseph Sibley are exposed.


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Friday, August 21, 2015


Sci-Friday starring Connie

Connie January 22 1939
Courtesy of Cole Johnson


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Thursday, August 20, 2015


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Harry Lutke

Harry R. Lutke was born in Wisconsin on December 10, 1920. His birth date was found in a public record at The 1920 U.S. Federal Census, which was enumerated in January, listed Lutke’s parents, Arthur and Laura, and six-month-old sister, Alice, at 410 7th Street in Merrill, Wisconsin. His father was a collector for the newspaper.

In the 1930 census, Ripon, Wisconsin was the home of the Lutke family which added another son, John. They resided at 215 State Street. Lutke attended Ripon High School and was on the basketball and playground baseball teams. The school yearbook was called The Tiger.

Lutke in the middle, 1935

Lutke has not yet been found in the 1940 census. According to the Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, at, Lutke married singer, Virginia “Ginger” Dinning, on September 19, 1942. Their marriage was mentioned in the Milwaukee Journal. Ginger was in a well-known trio, the Dinning Sisters. The New Jersey Herald, October 14, 2013 said:

…The Dinnings were a very musical family of nine children, all of whom started singing harmony in their local church on Sundays. Afterward they would continue to sing some more when they got home. Ginger, her identical twin Jean and older sister Lou, started to win amateur singing contests before the age of 10, and later would perform with their older brother Ace's orchestra. With little experience but a lot of ambition, The Dinning Sisters were born. From that point forward they knew what they wanted to do. So they left at the age of 16 and headed to the big city of Chicago and auditioned for a radio show and got the job and a contract with NBC radio. From there they went on to get a recording contract and make several records, which did very well. Their biggest hit was the song “Buttons and Bows,” which went to No. 1 on the charts.
Lutke lived in Chicago when he married Ginger. He may have attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Art or the Art Institute of Chicago for his art training.

Lutke was drafted during World War II. His service was reported in the Sherbrooke Telegram, April 20, 1945:

National Barn Dance Over Local Station

The Dinning sisters, tuneful trio of radio’s National Barn Dance, have received reams of fan mail from G.I.’s overseas since the Paramount musical “National Barn Dance” has reached the fighting fronts. However, the most prized comment on their appearance in the movie, from Ginger Dinning's husband, Sgt. Harry Lutke, who has been serving overseas for more than fifteen months with the Signal Corps. Sgt. Lutke writes that one of the rare bright spots in his life on Germany’s Western Fronts, was the recent surprise showing of “National Barn Dance” in an impromptu theatre not far behind the firing lines. Appropriately enough, the Army’s Special Services officer chose an abandoned German barn in which to run the film story of the popular air show of the same name.
Lutke continued to live in Chicago where his son was born, as noted in The Billboard, July 30, 1949: “A son to Mr. and Mrs. Harry Lutke, July 15 in Chicago. Mother is the former Ginger Dinning, of the Dinning Sisters trio.”

Lutke and Bob Schless produced Addled-Ads which began October 3, 1949. One of the newspapers that carried it was the Pittsburgh Press. The panel ended in late 1951.

The Chicago newspaper, Daily Herald, March 16, 1951, wrote about the upcoming St. Patrick's Day Dance program with the Dinning Sisters as headliners. In addition to the variety of entertainment, Lutke also appeared.
To supplement the program, the committee also is featuring Harry Lutke of Palanois Park, husband of “Ginger” of the Dinning Sisters in a “Chalk Talk.” Mr. Lutke is a cartoonist of note and will present an unusual type of cartooning with audience participation. Prizes will be awarded for those in the audience who participate. It is fascinating amusement and sure to delight those present. Mr. Lutke was formerly Assistant Artist to Frank Willard, the creator of the well-known comic strip, “Moon Mullins.” Mr. Lutke at present is engaged in newspaper cartoon work. He is the creator of the syndicated cartoon “Addled,” a combined cartoon and advertising arrangement. “Addled” is presently running in twenty-two newspapers, mostly in the East, and will soon run in a Chicago daily.
The article also mentioned his home address, “46 N. Forest ave., Palanois Park”.

Lutke’s new home was in Ridgewood, New Jersey. A 1954 city directory said his address was 89 Glenwood Road. In 1956 he resided at 221 Beechwood Road. Two years later found him at 307 Heights Road. The 1960 directory noted his move to Saddle River, New Jersey., October 18, 2013, which reported Virginia’s passing, said “…Lutke had a construction contracting business and Virginia was busy raising their seven children….Mrs. Lutke is survived by her husband, of Oakland [New Jersey], and their children: Gary Lutke of Lake Lure, N.C., Steven Lutke of Highland Lakes, Janice Lutke of Oakland, Mark Lutke of West End, N.C., and Joan Hillman and Kevin Lutke, both of West Milford. She also is survived by a sister, Dolores Edgin, of Nashville.”

—Alex Jay


I wonder how many other comic strip creators have married people who were famous in their own right (for reasons other than comics). The only one I can think of is Garry Trudeau.
Cartoonist Fay King married boxer “Battling” Nelson in 1913.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Addled-Ads

In their never-ending quest for sales, syndicates will offer editors a cartoon feature designed to complement just about any page of their newspaper, except maybe the obituaries. Addled-Ads, whose utterly superfluous hyphen was thankfully dropped by the time of the samples above, was offered by the Chicago Sun-Times' Field Syndicate for classified ad pages. The feature was drawn by Harry Lutke and the humorously mis-worded classified ads collected by Bob Schless.

The feature debuted on October 3 1949, and found few takers in newspaperdom. Addled-Ads limped along for a few years, but was put to bed sometime around November 1951.


I like the premise, too bad the gags aren't funny.
These are great! So much funnier than most strips today. And they're well drawn.
Looking for some more, I found that it was syndicated as well by the Chicago Sun and Times Co. I found at least one (with hyphen) on Oct 24 1949 in the Moberly Monitor-Index.
And more in the Gridgeport Telegram. The scope of the jokes seems hindered by the fcat they are using real ads.
Moberly has the first one as well, oct 3, 1949: "For Sale - A fine large dog. Will eat anything. Is very fond of children."
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: G.F. Kaber

George Frederick Kaber was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 15, 1860, according to a 1924 passport application.

The 1870 U.S. Federal Census recorded Kaber, his Wurtemburg-born parents, George and Mary, and younger sister, Julia, in Philadelphia. His father was a cabinetmaker. A 1870 city directory listed the Kaber’s address as 407 South 5th Street.

Information regarding Kaber’s education and art training has not been found.

Kaber’s occupation was draughtsman in the 1880 census. He lived with his parents in Philadelphia on Orleans Street. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates Index, at, said Kaber’s father passed away November 13, 1881.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (Pennsylvania), September 29, 1882, published the following report:
Carrie Smith, twenty years old, living at No. 265 South Third street, was murderously attacked by Charles Volka, a German barber, whose attentions, it is said, she declined to receive. After walking together on Wednesday evening, and when at her door, Volka stabbed her in the left breast, inflicting a serious wound. After throwing the knife in the ball of the house Volka fled, and induced Frank Forner to ascertain her condition. Forner was arrested and Volka was captured soon after. Both had a hearing before Magistrate Martin yesterday, when Mrs. Anna Errickson, who keeps the house, and Rebecca Russell. a boarder, testified that Forner, who told the magistrate that his correct name was G. Frederick Kaber, had said: “I know all about it. I am responsible for it.” The blood-stained weapon was produced by Officer Burns, of the Third district, who picked it up, and Volka told the magistrate that it belonged to him. “That’s enough evidence for me,” remarked Magistrate Martin. “I will commit you both without bail to await the result of the girl’s injuries.”
At some point Kaber moved to Chicago. The 1887 Chicago city directory said he resided at 52 Pine Street. In 1888, Kaber’s address was 246 Ohio Street.

A family tree at said Kaber married Nellie Robie on February 14, 1893 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. According to the 1910 census, this was his second marriage.
The couple moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Kaber’s talent and income were noted in Brooklyn Life, June 22, 1895:
It is all very well to talk about artists and illustrators, and the high price they command, but there is a modest little man on the Park Slope whose income oversteps any of theirs—save, perhaps, C.D. Gibson’s—and who nets a great part of the year over sixty dollars a day. His name is Frederick Kaber, and his home is a simple little house on Prospect place. He makes designs for lithographers, and many of the most famous colored advertisements come from his water color brush. Representatives of the great firms in the business come to him from everywhere, and each hour of his time is mortgaged for months ahead.
Kaber’s next documented address was found in the 1898 and 1899 Brooklyn, New York city directories, which had him at 266 Decatur Street.

According to the 1900 census, artist Kaber and Nellie had two daughters, Nellie and Grace. His address in the directories was the same in this census and the 1905 New York state census.

Kaber’s mother passed in Philadelphia on November 20, 1905.

According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), Kaber drew the Carolyn Wells-penned series, Adventures of Lovely Lilly which ran in the New York Herald from 1906 to June 9, 1907.

Also in 1906, Kaber illustrated In Childhood’s Unhappy Hours (below) for the New York Herald.

I believe Kaber was the artist who did the artwork for the 1908 Pabst Extract Jewel Calendar. The first sentence of the advertisement begins: “This latest creation by Kaber…” The style is similar to Kaber’s 1911 calendar art for Rainier Beer. In 1912, Kaber was one of several artists producing artwork for M. Boettiger, of New York, who held the copyright.

Kaber and his family continued living in Brooklyn at 266 Decatur Street as recorded in the 1910 and 1920 censuses. According to the New York Courier and International Topics, May 22, 1915, Kaber was involved with the International Pure Milk and Food League, “an organization of philanthropically inclined women, who spend much of their time in ameliorating the condition of the poor in this city…”

In 1916, Kaber was granted a patent for a “display device”. The pose of the woman in the patent drawing is similar to the manufactured display of a woman.

Kaber’s daughter, Nellie, was the first to marry in the early to mid-1920s. Her husband was Edward Dennis Lyons according to the family tree. The New York Times, April 19, 1925, noted the marriage of Grace. 
The marriage of Miss Grace Kaber, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. G. Frederick Kaber of 266 Decatur Street, Brooklyn, to William C. McTarnahan of this city and Boston, formerly of California, took place yesterday at the home of the bride’s parents. The ceremony was followed by a wedding breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton.

The bride has appeared in motion pictures and has also acted in a number of Broadway successes. Mr. McTarnahan is President of the Petroleum Heat and Power Company. Following their wedding trip to Chicago and the Pacific Coast, Mr. and Mrs. McTarnahan will return to make their home at the Westchester Biltmore Country Club, Rye, N.Y.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle 4/19/1925

The San Francisco Chronicle, June 16, 1926, said the couple honeymooned in San Francisco and told of her acting.
…Mrs. McTarnahan said that her honeymoon was the first attraction to take her away from Broadway.

“But marriage will not end my career on the stage,” she insisted. “My husband agrees to that.”
Some time after the wedding, Kaber and his wife made their second trip to Europe; the first was in 1913.

According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 14, 1926, Kaber was a juror in the John Maxwell murder trial. Maxwell and two accomplices murdered a woman during a robbery. Maxwell was found guilty and executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing prison on December 10, 1926.

A death notice for Kaber’s son-in-law, Edward Lyons, was printed in the Eagle, October 7, 1926:

Lyons—On Wednesday, Oct. 6, 1926, Edward D. Lyons, in his 40th year, husband of Nellie Kaber Lyons of 576 Eldert lane. Funeral services at the Fairchild Chapel, 86 Lefferts pl., near Grand ave., Brooklyn, Friday evening at 8 o’clock. Interment private.
The Eagle, June 19, 1928, noted Kaber’s vacation plan: “Mr. and Mrs. G. Frederick Kaber of 1092 Carroll st, and their daughter, Mrs. Nellie Kaber Lyans [sic], will sail on June 30 to spend the summer in Europe.” The Eagle, May 28, 1929, said Kaber’s wife was going overseas: “Mrs. G. Frederick Kaber of 1092 Carroll st, will sail tomorrow for Europe.”

Kaber’s address in the 1930 census was 290 Carroll Street in Brooklyn. Kaber continued working as a commercial artist. A 1939 passenger list had this address for Kaber’s wife, 18 Watson Avenue, Ossining, New York. Kaber’s daughter Grace and family also resided in Ossining.

Kaber and his wife returned to Brooklyn in the 1940 census. Their home was 24 Monroe Place, which was daughter Nellie’s former address on the aforementioned 1939 passenger list.

Kaber painted portraits of his family as well as a self-portrait.

Letters by Kaber’s daughter, Grace, were auctioned in 2009. The description said she wrote a thank you letter to her 90-year-old father, who was erroneously called her grandfather.

Kaber passed away in 1951 according to the family tree. It’s not clear if his death preceded or followed that of his son-in-law, William McTarnahan, who died October 18, 1951. Grace passed away in the late 1950s, who was followed by her mother, around 1960, and sister, Nellie, around 1964.

—Alex Jay


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Monday, August 17, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Mrs. Dingle's Diary

F.M. Howarth did most of his newspaper cartooning work for Hearst, but he did make an occasional foray elsewhere. Of course, with his incredibly distinctive style, he certainly wasn't about to try moonlighting under the radar.

In 1907-08, Howarth did several series for the Chicago Tribune, including this one, Mrs. Dingle's Diary. I rather like the idea here that we see the gag acted out, but then Mrs. Dingle's inner thoughts sometimes put a different spin on the situation (best in the top example).

Mrs. Dingle's Diary ran in the Tribune from June 9 1907 to March 22 1908. Sadly, Howarth was dead before the end of 1908, extinguishing his truly unique brand of cartooning.

Thanks to the late Cole Johnson, who supplied the sample images.


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Sunday, August 16, 2015


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


Those are great tips for ANYONE to live by!


Craig Zablo
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Saturday, August 15, 2015


Herriman Saturday

Friday, October 9 1908 -- After a draw and victory over Leonard Lauder in two back-to-back fights, Harry Trendell has worked his way up the ladder to Freddie Welsh. Welsh and Trendell will fight tonight at Naud Junction, and Trendell will turn out to be badly overmatched. Welsh will knock him out in the 6th round.

Also another vignette about Bill Desmond's 'around the world' trip.


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Friday, August 14, 2015


Sci-Friday starring Connie

Connie January 15 1939
Courtesy of Cole Johnson


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Thursday, August 13, 2015


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Alex Kurfiss

Alexander Wilson “Alex” Kurfiss was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on November 16, 1900. His full name and birth information were found in a family tree at According to the book, Christopher Reynolds and His Descendants (1959), Kurfiss’s parents were Shelby Harney Kurfiss and Addie Brown Smith.

Student Kurfiss and his architect father were listed in the 1909 Kansas City, Missouri city directory. Their home address was 2114 Amie.

Kurfiss had the same address in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census. He was two years older than his sister, Virginia. Kurfiss attended Northeast High School and was in the class of 1918. A photograph of him was found the 1916 school yearbook, The Nor’easter.

The family tree said Kurfiss attended Kansas City Art Institute in 1918. The following year Kurfiss was a student at the University of Kansas.

The 1918 Kansas City, Missouri city directory said the Kurfiss family resided at 320 North Chelsea Avenue. They were at the same location in the 1920 census.

The alumni page in the 1922 Nor’easter yearbook said: “Alex Kurfiss, ’18, is doing art work at the Kansas City Journal.” Also in 1922, Kurfiss was hired by Walt Disney. The Jackson County Historical Society Journal, Summer 2014, published “The Roots of Animation in Kansas City” which reproduced a March 1922 classified advertisement from the Kansas City Star:

Cartoonists—Animators wanted for moving picture cartooning; experienced or inexperienced. Apply in person. Laugh-o-Gram Films, Inc., 1127 E. 31st st.
The article said Disney hired five young men of various backgrounds including “a trolley motorman, a baker, and a draftsman. Three of the five animators he hired had drawn cartoons for their high school yearbooks” About Kurfiss, it said “he had worked as a meter reader for Kansas City Power & Light.”

In the book, Walt Before Mickey: Disney’s Early Years, 1919–1928 (2011), Kurfiss’s role at Disney was described by Rudy Ising who said Kurfiss was “a successful commercial artist, but [at Laugh-O-gram] did mostly the posters; we used to make a poster for each one [of the shorts].” Kurfiss’s printed signature was on the Laugh-O-gram Little Red Riding Hood poster.

The 1924 city directory said Kurfiss was an artist at the Kansas City Star. His occupation was artist in the 1925 directory. The 1927 listing had Kurfiss as an architect at the firm W. E. Gillham. In all three directories, his address was 320 North Chelsea Avenue.

Kurfiss has been credited as the artist of the comic strip, The Connoisseur, which was recorded in the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, December 13, 1927:

Ser. No. 256,493. Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, Ill.
Filed Oct. 22, 1927.
The Connoisseur
Particular description of goods. — Fashion Strip and Cartoon Published in the Form of a Mat to be Used in Newspapers for Advertising Purposes.
Claims use since Sept. 5, 1927.
The Connoisseur ran in the Philadelphia Ledger from November 21, 1927 to December 8, 1928. The strip also appeared in the Greensboro Daily News (North Carolina) in 1928.

Detail of advertisement

Kurfiss’s marital status was divorced in the 1930 census. He continued to live with his parents. At some point, he moved to Chicago.

According to the Christopher Reynolds book, Kurfiss’s first wife was Fleda Wamsley. They married around 1923. The 1930 census recorded Wamsley and her six-year-old son, Robert Kurfiss, at 429 Tenth Place in Kansas City, Missouri, which was the home of her parents.

The family tree said Kurfiss graduated from the Chicago Art Institute around 1935. Kurfiss was in Chicago during the 1940 census. He resided at 838 Dearborn Street and was a commercial artist. Later that year Kurfiss married Margery Maud Knapp.

In 1941 the couple lived on a farm in rural Minnesota. The family tree said they made their home “in an 1860s farmhouse on 80 acres of land” in Blue Springs, Missouri, from 1948 to 1980. Walt Before Mickey said: “Kurfiss worked as a commercial artist and his wife Marjorie was a schoolteacher.”

Their unnamed son was born November 9, 1948 and did not survive. 

The Catalog of Copyright Entries, Third Series, Volume 28, Parts 7–11A, Number 1, Works of Art, Etc., January–June 1974 recorded Kurfiss’s drawing.
To trisect an angle. With semi-circles & arcs. By Alex Kurfiss. Mechanical drawing. © Alex Kurfiss; 31Oct74; IU17077.
According to Walt Before Mickey, “the couple retired to Marjorie’s native Iowa…” Kurfiss passed away December 29, 1983, in Westfield, Iowa.

—Alex Jay


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Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: The Connoisseur

One of the odder comic strips you'll ever encounter is The Connoisseur. The oddnesses just pile on, one after another, until you have an amazing skyscraper tower of weirdness.

First of all, the basic idea of a comic strip devoted to fashion advice is a bit screwy. What's wrong with text and photos? Why a comic strip? Is there a worry that the illiterate aren't getting the latest word in hem lengths? Do preschoolers have a yen to know whether herringbone or houndstooth is in this year?

Secondly, our comic strip host Mr. Van Der View seems to be a rather creepy old man. He can't manage to keep his concentration to write a check in a bank when some shapely female wrists are visible. Geez. A revealing dress I could get. But getting the cold sweats over a bracelet? Then again, I suppose he might not seem QUITE as creepy if his head wasn't shaped like a bewhiskered Pac-Man. But it is. Why, oh why? Lucky for the old creep, he's apparently loaded. So he has no trouble keeping the shapely young ladies, the ones with dollar signs in their eyes, hanging around. Even when all he wants to do is ogle them and then criticize their clothes.

So if all that wasn't bad enough, The Connoisseur indulges itself with one final coup de grace. They tell their creepy little fashion stories in verse. Oh, c'mon. All that weirdness plus tortured doggerel, too? Now you're just messing with us.

The bizarre train wreck that was The Connoisseur actually had a more substantial run than the week or two you might have guessed. It ran from August 29 1927 to December 8 1928. On the other hand, you won't be at all surprised to find that the creator(s) declined to take any credit on the strip, ever. Even the syndicate tried to hide itself. Though Bell Syndicate was the distributor, the copyright slug on the strips is to some firm called Standard Publishing. Why I dunno.

According to an anonymous online dealer from whom I bought some original art to this strip (no, really, I did), he got it on good authority that the artist was a fellow named Alex Kurfiss.


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