Tuesday, September 25, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Litta Mabie

Litta E Mabie was born on September 26, 1882, in Waterloo, Iowa. Her birth information was recorded in the Iowa, Births and Christenings Index at Ancestry.com. Similar birth results were found at the Maybee Society.

In the 1885 Iowa state census, Mabie was the only child of Charles, an insurance agent, and Almira. The trio lived in Waterloo on Lafayette Street near 8th street.

The 1898 Chicago Blue Book included Mabie and her father who resided at 368 49th Street.

Mabie has not yet been found in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. She was in New York state at the time. The Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle (New York), May 24, 1900, reported the recital at the Rhineland School.

A Delightful Recital by the Pupils in Vocal and Instrumental Music.

A most delightful musical event took place at Rhineland School, Hooker Avenue, on Wednesday evening. It was a recital by the pupils in music of Miss Kate S. Chittenden and Dr. John C. Griggs….The school is under the management of Prof. Fish, and the character of the entertainment points to undoubted success of the institution as a preparatory school….We cannot undertake to give to detail the many excellent things heard, but one of the features of the evening were the contralto solos of Miss Litta, Mabie….
An item in the Daily Times (Troy, New York), January 6, 1902, said “Miss Litta Mabie of New York is the guest of Miss Celeste Foote [of Plattsburgh].”

According to the Cook County, Illinois, Marriages Index, at Ancestry.com, Mabie and Felix Mendelssohn married on December 22, 1903.

The 1910 census said Mabie had two children, Dorothea and Theodore. Her husband was a lithographic salesman. The family and two servants were in Chicago at 5529 Michigan Avenue.

The 1915 New York state census was enumerated June 1. Mabie and her daughter were Manhattan, New York City residents at 348 Central Park West. Mabie’s marital status was not indicated. Two months later, a marriage license was issued to Mabie and Clarence L Bach on August 3 as recorded in the New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes at Ancestry.com.

In 1917 Mabie sang in Chicago. One of her performances was advertised (below) in the Chicago Tribune, October 26. On December 2, the Tribune said “Litta Mabie Bach, who recently had a debut with Mr. Dunham’s, will sing with the Edison in its January concert.”

The Brooklyn Standard Union (New York), November 26, 1918, said Mabie was in the cast of “Upstairs and Down” at the Fifth Avenue Theatre.

Mabie performed on stage as Eva Goldschmidt in “The Gentile Wife” which was reviewed in Theatre Magazine, February 1919. The play opened in late December 1918.

Mabie, Clarence, Dorothea and servant were at 260 Riverside Drive in Manhattan as recorded in the 1920 census. Mabie’s husband was president of a film company.

On March 19, 1923, Mabie returned from Bermuda. The passenger list said her home address was 225 West 71st Street.

The 1925 New York state census had Mabie’s address as 170 West 74th Street. She and her daughter were unemployed. The status of Mabie’s husband is not known.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Mabie wrote the series Deb Days which was distributed by the Ledger Syndicate. The strip debuted with art by Charles J. Coll, Jr. on April 18, 1927. He was followed by Earle K. Bergey who drew the strip from June 20 to November 19, 1927.

San Francisco Chronicle 4/13/1927

At some point Mabie and her daughter sailed to Europe. On their way home they departed from Genoa and arrived in New York City on January 12, 1928. Their address was 17 East 82nd Street in Manhattan.

Mabie’s engagement to Percy C. Ludlam was announced in The New York Times, April 29, 1928. Their marriage was on September 26, 1929 in Manhattan according to a 1929 issue of Home Journal, “Bach—Ludlam. September 26. Mrs. Clarence L. Bach, of New York, the former Miss Litta Mabie, daughter of the late Charles E. Mabie, to Mr. Percy Clifford Ludlam, of New York, son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Ludlam; at the home of the bridegroom’s sister, Mrs. Charles Oakes.”

In the 1930 census, Mabie’s home was in Manhattan at 118 East 93 Street. Her husband was a publicity and advertising salesman and her daughter a saleslady at a retail hat store.

Mabie’s fourth marriage was to Henry C. M. Supplee. Their marriage license was issued in Manhattan on January 6, 1932.

According to the 1940 census, the couple were residents of Hawaii in 1935. Their home in 1940 was Milwaukee, Wisconsin at 1961 North Summit Avenue. Mabie’s husband was a U.S. Army colonel.

PM (New York, New York), January 15, 1942, profiled Supplee and at the end said “He is married to the former Litta Mabie, niece of the late Hamilton Wright Mabie, American critic. They have no children and live on Governors Island.” The New York Times, December 31, 1956, published Supplee’s obituary which said “in World War II [he served] as Commander of Special Services at Governors Island. He was assigned to Fort Niagara when he retired, in Aug. 1943.” Supplee died at his home in East Orange, New Jersey, 176 South Harrison Street. He was survived by Mabie and two step-children.

The Maybee Society said Mabie passed away around August 1964. A brief obituary was published in the Chicago Tribune, August 6, 1964, “Mrs. Litta M. Supplee, a soprano who performed with the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra in the 1920s and later wrote a syndicated column ‘Deb Days’ for the society pages of the Philadelphia Public Ledger; in East Orange, New Jersey.”

—Alex Jay


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Monday, September 24, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: Deb Days

As it is with many actual debs, Deb Days is lovely to look at, but that's where the attraction ends. The more time you spend, the more vapid the subject seems.

Deb Days debuted from Philadelphia's Public Ledger Syndicate on April 18 1927*, a product of writer Litta Mabie and cartoonist/illustrator Charles J. Coll. Coll's art on the strip is superb (see top two samples), but Mabie's writing spoils the fun. It becomes apparent very quickly that Mabie feels nothing but disdain for debutantes, which is fine unless you have contracted to write a freaking daily comic strip about them. She writes only about their faults and foibles, taking great joy out of unmasking their every inadequacy. What's more, Mabie's writing itself is grating. She feels the need to put "hashmarks" around every "dratted" "term" that she "fancies" could be considered "slang". It "drives one bonkers", "I guarantee".

After a few months Coll had evidently had enough of the torture of reading her scripts and begged off the assignment. Replacing him on June 20 1927 was Earle K. Bergey. Bergey was fresh out of art school, and this was his most high profile assignment to date. He would go on to become a highly respected and prolific painter of pulp and paperback covers in the 1930s and 40s.

The young Bergey's art was quite good, but he hadn't learned how to draw women with the sex appeal that he would display later in his career. Mabie's scripts kept up the same boring anti-deb drumbeat, but thankfully some editor was now somewhat curtailing her annoying use of double quotes. The series was cancelled with the release of November 19 1927, probably mourned by no one including the creators.

Ink-slinger profiles for all three creators are to follow this week, so stay tuned.

* Source for all dates: Philadelphia Evening Ledger.


Allan, what a pleasure to find your research bearing on the overlap of artists, C.J. Coll and Earle K. Bergey. Deb Days presents an interesting moment in the earlier years of Earle K. Bergey's career, though I'd suggest it is a bit more interesting in content than you concede, having reviewed all of the panels beyond what you reproduce here. The language is certainly dated, as is the humor, but there's a clear attempt at modernity to the women protagonists and situations of this strip—smart, savvy women who determine their own paths with a sense of freedom that is in keeping with the times of the early to mid 1920s. No great ground is broken, but Mabie was being politely subversive in an enjoyable way that recalls an early Anita Loos. However, the main reason I am writing is to straighten the narrative regarding this period of Earle K. Bergey's career. Young indeed, Bergey was already quite accomplished by this time in terms of his published art, including but not limited to his confident depictions of women that anticipate his work to come through the early 1950s. Your readers would benefit to see the paintings he was producing at the Academy in the early 1920s, his many newspaper illustrations and naughty interiors of magazines like Laughter if we're talking "sex appeal." An entire year before this strip even hit the presses, Bergey was producing cover paintings for the influential pin-up title, Paris Nights, where he overlapped with Enoch Bolles and Charles Hargens. This strip is a happy aberration in the course of Earle K. Bergey's career, but rather like a swansong to his work in newspapers than some "high profile" project, especially in the artist's own assessment of his trajectory. It doesn't make sense to judge his depictions of women, what he may or may not have learned, or the vitality of his greater career at this time period, in the mid to late 1920s, by several dozen wonderfully accomplished panels of a pen and ink strip that serves a specific audience (and author) with paid-for illustrations of society people dressed in tuxes and gowns. Sex appeal wasn't the point. Again it's exciting to see these rare images coming to light again; so thank you for giving Bergey attention!
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Saturday, September 22, 2018


Herriman Saturday

September 23 1909 -- Herriman celebrates the virtue of learning in a well-drawn editorial cartoon. This cartoon accompanied a newspaper crusade to buy a newly issued LA school bond.


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Friday, September 21, 2018


Wish You Were Here, from Dwig

Here's an oddball card. This is a card from the Tuck 'Smiles' line, Series 169. But the back of the card has an ad for Butter Crust Bread rather than the standard Tuck reverse. I guess this bread company contracted with Tuck to offer their cards, maybe in a giveaway, with their logo on the back.


That's a real collectible,I've seen this happen a few times. Tuck had nothing to dow with Butter Crust, a distributor would have a pile of cards printed with the product logo. They'd just have a lot of cards printed over, maybe no two the same card. I've had them where a local politician would have a message done like this, the card face having nothing political about it.
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Thursday, September 20, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Jim Christiansen

James “Jim” Orman Christiansen was born in Baldwin, New York, September 18, 1927, according to Who’s Who of Comic Strip Producers. The same birth date was found in the Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875–1940, at Ancestry.com, which had Christiansen’s full name and baptism on December 13, 1927 at the Zion Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, New York.

Christiansen and his parents, Ivar and Marie, were recorded in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census in Hempstead, Nassau County, New York, at 51 Harte Street. Christiansen’s father was a Norwegian emigrant and bricklayer.

The Nassau Review-Star (Freeport, New York), December 21, 1935, published an “In Memoriam” list that said Christiansen’s mother died December 21, 1930. It’s not known when his father remarried to Charlotte Jensen.

The 1940 census recorded Christiansen, his father, sister, step-mother and step-grandmother in Roosevelt, Hempstead, Nassau County, New York, at 133 East Lincoln Avenue. Christiansen’s father was an insurance agent.

Christiansen’s father’s New York Guard service card said he served two years, from 1940 to 1942. The card listed two addresses: the home address was 133 Lincoln Avenue, Roosevelt, New York; and the change of address was 37 Grand Terrace, Baldwin, New York.

Christiansen graduated from Baldwin High School. At the baccalaureate services, the Nassau Review-Star, June 25, 1945, reported that “Christiansen, a senior, acted as chairman and read the Scriptures.”

Who’s Who of Comic Strip Producers said Christiansen studied at the School of Visual Arts. 

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Christiansen was an assistant to Tom Gill who drew the strip, Flower Potts, from May 20, 1946 to July 3, 1948.

Christiansen served in the Korean War. He was an army engineer according to Who’s Who of Comic Strip Producers. The Nassau Review-Star, September 18, 1952, noted the return of several local veterans including Christiansen.

16 Vets of Korea Reach Coast on Way Home
Troop transports brought 16 Nassau veterans of Korea combat to the U. S. West Coast yesterday.

Arriving at Seattle and San Francisco were: …Rockville Centre—Private First Class James O. Christiansen of 22 Cambridge Street
Christiansen was the third artist on Davy Crockett, Frontiersman, which began with Jim McArdle on June 20, 1955. In mid-January 1957, Jack Kirby ghosted the strip for about two-and-a-half weeks. Christiansen took over the Columbia Features strip on March 10, 1957.

Christiansen was the fourth artist on Nero Wolfe. Mike Roy started the strip November 26, 1956. He was followed by Pete Hoffman Fran Matera, and Christiansen, who produced the daily and Sunday from August 26, 1957 to March 1, 1958. Columbia Features was the syndicator.

Christiansen worked briefly in the comic book industry. Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 said he drew the Lone Ranger in 1955, and produced material for Treasure Chest from 1956 to 1958.

Both Who’s Who said Christiansen was an assistant art director at the Robinson Tog [sic: Tag] and Label Co. The dates of his employment were not stated.

Christiansen’s father passed away November 19, 1991 in Florida.

Christiansen’s present status and whereabouts are not known.

—Alex Jay


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Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Jim McArdle

James “Jim” Nivison McArdle was born in New York, New York, on November 22, 1899, according to the New York City birth record at Ancestry.com, his World War I draft card (which also had his full name), and Who’s Who in American Art (1959).

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census recorded McArdle as the only child of James and Lillian. His father was an Irish emigrant and liquor dealer. The family resided at 425 West 52nd Street in Manhattan.

According to the Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists, McArlde’s father died when he was five months old. The New York, New York, Marriage Index at Ancestry.com said McArdle’s mother remarried to William Smoot on April 20, 1904.

According to the 1905 New York state census, McArdle and his parents lived in Manhattan at 816 Tenth Avenue. His step-father was a stevedore.

The 1910 census and and 1915 state census recorded McArdle, his parents and two step-sisters at 771 Washington Street in Manhattan. In 1915, McArdle was an office boy.

On September 12, 1918, McArdle signed his World War I draft card. His address was 52 Jane Street in Manhattan. McArdle was a clerk with the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal in its office at 129 Front Street in Manhattan. His description was medium height, slender build with blue eyes and dark brown hair.

In the 1920 census, McArdle was counted in the Smoot household which numbered seven. The family resided in Manhattan at 159 Ninth Avenue. McArdle was a clerk at a men’s furnishing store.

The New York, New York, Marriage Index recorded McArdle’s marriage to Lillian D. Larkin in Manhattan on June 14, 1924.

Who’s Who in American Art said McArdle studied at Fordham University. According to Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999, McArdle studied art at the Academy of Design and Art Students League.

McArdle was a self-employed commercial artist according to the 1930 census. He and his wife made their home in Brooklyn at 36 Crooke Avenue.

The New York Times, February 10, 1960, said McArdle was a magazine and fashion illustrator, and a member of the Society of Illustrators. McArdle signed his name as “Jay McArdle”.

From New York City, the couple went on a cruise from February 25 to March 13, 1931 on the steamship Britannic. The passenger list had the same address as the census.

In the 1940 census, the couple lived in Manhattan at 35 East 30th Street. McArdle was a freelance commercial artist and his wife was an artist. The census said McArdle had completed three years of high school.

The Nassau Daily Review-Star (New York), October 3, 1942, reported McArdle’s divorce.
Mrs. Lillian L. McArdle of South Oyster Bay road, Hicksville, won a divorce from James N. McArdle who now lives at 225 East 79th street, Manhattan. They were married in 1924. There were no children and she asked no alimony. She alleged that McArdle was living with another woman at the Manhattan address.
A family tree at Ancestry.com said McArdle’s second wife was Gladys May Brown, an Irish emigrant. 

Dansville Breeze 4/16/1946

Putnam Country Republican 4/19/1946

McArdle worked for several comic book publishers in the 1940s and 1950s. An overview of this work is at Who’s Who of American Comic Books.

Four Color #212

Dale Evans Comics #23

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said McArdle (as “Jim McArdle) drew and Elliot Caplin wrote Dr. Bobbs from June 30, 1941 to February 18, 1950. The strip was syndicated by King Features. McArdle drew Davy Crockett, Frontiersman starting June 20, 1955. Ed Herron did the scripting starting  July 18, 1955. The strip was listed in the Catalog of Copyright Entries, Third Series, July–December 1955.

McArdle’s run ended in January 1957. Jean Depelley, with Bernard Joubert, wrote about Jack Kirby ghosting the Davy Crockett strip at The Kirby Effect

”…[Kirby] started on a single strip on Thursday, 10 January [note from Allan -- sorry, this is not Kirby] —probably as a try-out—and went back to it for a 18 day tenure, from Monday, 14 January up to Saturday, 2 February. No evidence points to Kirby working on the larger Sunday strips….”
American Newspaper Comics said Kirby did two Sundays, February 24 and March 3, 1957. After Kirby’s brief stint, Jim Christiansen continued drawing the daily and Sunday for Columbia Features.

Who’s Who in American Art said McArdle was a member of the National Cartoonists Society.

McArdle passed away February 7, 1960, at his home, 1356 Madison Avenue, in New York City. His death reported in the Times which said he was survived by his wife, two sons, three half-sisters and a half-brother.

—Alex Jay


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Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: Davy Crockett, Frontiersman

When Walt Disney decided to tag along with the boom in TV westerns with a mini-series about Davy Crockett for his Disneyland show in 1954, he unleashed an unexpected mania among the pre-teen boy set. Coonskin caps, fringed jackets and leather moccasins became a full-fledged marketing bonanza, and the theme song of the program became a #1 hit.

Columbia Features recognized a golden opportunity. Disney had made the mistake of making a pop culture phenomenon out of an historical figure. You can't copyright and trademark a real person, so Columbia was within its rights to offer a comic strip about Crockett, piggy-backing on the craze.

The Columbia Features strip, titled Davy Crockett, Frontiersman, debuted as a daily on June 20 1955* to a lukewarm reception from newspaper editors, a victim of the fact that there were already so many western strips already on the market. Editors were doubtlessly saying that sure, Crockett is a hot property, but am I supposed to turn over the whole blamed comics page to cowboys and their ilk? There was also the factor that papers running Disney's Treasury of Classic Tales series (and there were a lot of them) had been put on notice that they were going to do the 'real' Disney version of Davy Crockett in a six month Sunday strip series starting in July.

Columbia's new strip was created by Jim McArdle, a journeyman artist who spent nearly the whole decade of the 1940s drawing the adventures of Dr. Bobbs (an obscurity that we'll discuss here one of these days). McArdle's art was nothing to write home about, but it got the job done. Never known as a writer, McArdle was soon joined on the strip by Ed Herron, who took over scripting duties on July 18 1955**.

Despite the appearance of the Disney version in Sunday papers, Columbia decided to go head to head with their own color version, which debuted on October 16 1955***. Although it never appeared in many papers, the Sunday got a few plum sign-ups, from the Chicago Tribune and New York Daily News, which alone can keep a strip afloat.

The Columbia strip told the sort of non-historical but semi-plausible baloney that you would expect, expanding even more on Disney's truth-in-advertising Legend of Davy Crockett -- accent on the Legend part.

What could have been just another ho-hum 'me-too' strip becomes a minor celebrity and cause celebre for comics fans when Jim McArdle was in the process of bowing out from the art duties. In late 1956 the Sundays start to look like the product of various hands, although generally not in a positive manner. Then in December someone fabulous shows up. Here is the December 30 1956 Sunday, sporting some superb art that I cannot identify (though Al Williamson sorta comes to mind):

Then in January the King weighs in. And by the King, of course I mean Jack Kirby. Working under McArdle's signature, Kirby drew the dailies for January 14 to February 2****, and the Sundays of February 24 and March 3, before giving way to the new regular artist, Jim Christiansen. If you'd like to see the Kirby Sundays, you'll find them here on Michael Vassallo's blog.

I think Christiansen's art is a real breath of fresh air, but it was too little too late for the strip. As far as I know by the time he came on board there might well have been only a single client left -- the New York Daily News. And when they told the syndicate that they were dropping the strip in favor of The Heart of Juliet Jones, Columbia knew they were sunk. The final Sunday appeared on August 25 1957, followed by a week of dailies to finish off the last story, ending on the 31st****.

Columbia continued advertising all of their strips for many years in Editor & Publisher, but there was no new material created, nor were there any takers that I know of for reprinting the existing material.

* Sources: Chronology of American Comic Strips, Cleveland News.
** Source: Orlando Sentinel.
*** Source: Chicago Tribune.
**** Source: New York Daily News.


#3 is Nick Cardy
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Monday, September 17, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: Benji

Animal lover and television director/producer Joe Camp decided in the early 1970s to combine his two passions. He tried to sell Hollywood on the idea of a family-friendly movie about a scruffy little dog and had every door slammed on him. Not to be denied, Camp rounded up his own financing and shot the film Benji on a shoestring. The movie became a monster hit, grossing $45 million, and that scruffy mutt became a star.

More successful movies and TV appearances ensued, and in 1981 Camp was approached about the possibility of a Benji newspaper comic strip.  The realization of the strip took three companies -- Camp's own Mulberry Square Productions, the Dallas Morning News (the publisher lived next door to Camp), and New York Times Special Features. The Times had recently dipped a toe into the comic strip syndication world with very modest success, and Benji was destined to be the final feature introduced by them.

Harland Wright, art director at Mulberry Square Productions, was chosen to handle the art on the strip, with Camp writing the gags himself. Wright was a capable cartoonist, but his sense of character design was a bit bizarre. Benji himself looks okay, but his co-stars are straight out of a freak show. Dustin the dog is drawn as a collection of random squiggles, and Clawd is a cat with a monstrous growth on his face (is it a nose? a fat lip? elephantitis? who knows).

The daily-only strip debuted on October 5 1981 in a very small number of papers (perhaps less than fifteen), but Camp was no stranger to swimming against the tide, so the strip soldiered forth.

Harland Wright was apparently never intended to be the permanant artist on the strip, and he bowed out not long after the debut. A new artist was found, an art student at North Texas State University named Casey Shaw, and he was groomed to take over the art. He began drawing the strip on November 2 1981. Wright continued to oversee and sign the art until December 19. Thereafter the strip was unsigned for the rest of its year-and-a-half run.

At the end of the first year of the strip's life, New York Times Special Features called it quits from the comic strip business. Despite a tiny client list that could not have made the balance sheet look too attractive, Benji found a new home at Field Enterprises. At this time Dustin and Clawd were banished from the strip, Benji began walking on all fours, and real life trainer Frank Inn was introduced as Benji's main foil. The changes were all positive, but it was a case of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. Field offered the strip for just about seven months, until May 28 1983. Here are some samples from year two, courtesy of Casey Shaw:

I was able to track down Casey Shaw, second and basically main artist on the strip, and he offered me a lot of the information for this essay. I asked Shaw how he felt about not getting to sign his work on Benji, and he had this to say:

That's a tricky one. I was a college kid just happy to be working on a syndicated comic strip and Benji was such a creation of Joe Camp that I was kind of surprised that Harland ever got to sign it. I equated it to working on a strip for Disney, which the artists never seemed to sign. If they had offered, I'm sure I would have accepted just for the opportunity to have my name become more a part of the comics community, but I never pushed or lobbied for it.
One of my most treasured possessions is a letter from Berke Breathed excoriating me for not signing the Benji work. This was during the time period after Breathed had graduated from the Univ. of Texas, but right before the launch of Bloom County. Breathed had been drawing Academia Waltz at UT while I was a high school student in San Antonio and the paperback collections of his college work had inspired me to start a daily strip at North Texas State when I went there (which is what eventually led to the Benji gig). I had sent Breathed some samples of my college work and corresponded a couple of times and then sent him a few of the Benji clips. His response to my working part-time illustrating someone else's strip with no credit was written in that exquisite exuberant exasperated style that we all came to know from Breathed.

Noting the varied and wonderful art on his website, I asked for an update on his career:

After Benji ended, I went on to full-time graphic design and computer graphics work, but I always continued to also spend at least part of my time doing cartooning work. While in Dallas, I freelanced humorous illustration for numerous companies and contributed regularly to the Dallas Observer alternative weekly newspaper.

I later moved on to USA Today and became Creative Director for their USA Weekend Magazine Sunday newspaper supplement. During that time, I was also the magazine's cartoon and puzzle editor and I drew weekly gag cartoons for the magazine's Wit & Wisdom column.

These days, I'm doing less cartooning and more gallery fine art work, though I also still work full-time as a designer for the local newspaper, which is owned by Berkshire-Hathaway Media Group, and one of my jobs is building the newspaper's comics pages.

When I was a kid, the thing I dreamed of most was becoming a syndicated newspaper comic strip cartoonist ... and now I fear, with the direction newspapers are taking, that it may actually be possible that a generation from now, kids will have no idea what newspaper comic strips were! My dad instilled a real love of the art form in me and I used to spend hours in the library pouring through old newspaper archives and micro-fiche in amazement at the work created in the early 20th century.

Thanks very much to Casey Shaw for his invaluable help with this mini-history of the Benji strip.


There it is! Casey Shaw's name seemed familiar, and then the mention of USA Weekend brought it back. His cartoons appeared there regularly for at least the last ten years of the insert's existence. "Casey's Cartoon Corner" had a very short run, but I remember enjoying Casey's cartoons every weekend for quite awhile.
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Saturday, September 15, 2018


Herriman Saturday

September 23 1909 -- After a two week layoff Herriman is back, and his first large cartoon is on a topic that he rarely covers -- football. That season is just getting started, and George takes a few broad swipes at it.


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Friday, September 14, 2018


Wish You Were Here, from Gene Carr

Here's a St. Patrick's Day card from Gene Carr. It was published by the Rotograph Company, and numbered 'F.L. 189'. It is undated, but was postally used in 1908.

The message on the reverse is rather interesting. A friend who signs himself only as "Authority" is warning Mr. Delmer Homer of Cortland NY that a mutual friend of theirs,  of the female persuasion, has targeted him for matrimony. He is warned by "Authority" to beware of her 'bear trap.'


It is dated- note the copyright in the lower right corner. the type font the title is set in seems to be one Rotograph had made for them.
Oops! Time to check that eyeglass prescription...
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Thursday, September 13, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Bertram Elliott

Bertram Robinson Elliott was born on September 8, 1889 in Tokyo, Japan, according to his United States Petition for Naturalization, at Ancestry.com, which he filed July 15, 1918. His parents were Canadian. It’s not known when he returned to Canada. Elliot was counted in the 1901 Canada census. He resided in Brandon, Manitoba.

Elliott’s artistic achievement was reported in The Victoria Daily Colonist (British Columbia, Canada), April 27, 1906, on page five, column five.

Won Royal Prize.—Bertram Elliott, who is studying with Miss L.M. Mills, of this city, has been successful in gaining the highest award from the Royal Drawing society. Miss Mills was so pleased with the boy’s work that she sent samples to the exhibition of the Royal Drawing Society, Caxton Hall, London, England. Two thousand seven hundred sheets of drawings were sent from various parts of the British Empire and out of this competition Bertram Elliott’s worked gained the highest prize, viz., H.R.H. Princess Louise prize. Had this boy been in England he would have had the honor of receiving his reward from the hands of H.R.H. herself.
Elliott’s award was also reported in The Journal of Education, May 1906.

The Victoria Daily Colonist, November 2, 1907, covered the graduation at Victoria High School. Elliott graduated in the Arts with an average percent of “73 2-3”.

According to Elliott’s petition, he sailed on September 1, 1910 from Vancouver, British Columbia to Seattle, Washington. Elliott attended the University of Washington and was in the class of 1914. He was on The Tyee yearbook art staff in 1912 and 1914; the 1913 yearbook was not available for viewing but he was probably on the art staff, too. Elliott was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the Biological Club.

After graduating, Elliott returned to Canada for a brief time. A border crossing manifest, dated June 1914, said Elliott was an Irish Canadian commercial artist. His father was W.E. Elliott who lived in Cumberland, B.C. Elliott returned to the United States through Blaine, Washington on his way to the Seattle-based Electric Engraving Company.

Elliott signed his World War I draft card on June 5, 1917. He was a self-employed commercial artist residing in Chicago, Illinois at 109 West Huron Street. His description was medium height and build with blue eyes and light-colored hair.

When Elliott filed his petition he was in the army at Camp Walter R. Taliaferro, San Diego, California. The date of his discharge is not known. Elliott returned to Chicago.

In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census said Elliott lived at 245 North Avenue in Chicago and operated a commercial art studio. Elliott also pursued fine art.

The Arts, January 1922, reviewed the Arts Club annual exhibition in January and said “…There was a crayon sketch of Ben Hecht by Bert R. Elliott, a lively cartoon with strong linear balance, conveying an impression of Chicago’s latest literary limelight in a character of sardonic humor that undoubtedly was satisfactory to the sitter….” The same issue reviewed the “Twenty-sixth Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity” and opined, “There is good drawing in Bert Elliott's ‘River, Road, and Tower’ though one feels that his interest in the sky has made him neglect the tower a bit.” The Chicago American, February 4, 1922, mentioned the same drawing and identified the tower as the Wrigley Building.

The Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, December 1923, said Elliott joined its school faculty.

Writer Ben Hecht included Elliott in A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago (1922).

In the mid-1920s Elliott moved to New York City.

The New York Times, December 29, 1925, published an advertisement for the Master Institute of United Arts which included Elliott’s class in illustration and poster design.

Editor & Publisher and The Fourth Estate, January 28, 1928, published a McClure Syndicate advertisement that included Elliott’s Animal Ways and Wonders, a “daily strip telling drama of animals; authentic, fascinating, curious”. It’s not known if any newspaper published the strip. 

No evidence has yet been found that "Animal Ways and Wonders" was successfully syndicated.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Elliott and John Hix were the artists on the series, O. Henry’s Short Stories, which was distributed by McClure. The series ran from June 11 to July 29, 1928. Elliott drew these adaptations: “Iky’s Love Philtre”; “Springtime a la Carte”; “The Ransom of Mack”; “Sisters of the Golden Circle”; “Service of Love”; “Lost on Dress Parade”; “Buried Treasure”; and “Makes the Whole World Kin”.

The 1930 census recorded self-employed artist Elliott and his Japanese English wife, Sumi, in Manhattan at 202 East 43 Street. They married around 1926 and were naturalized citizens.

Elliott passed away in 1931 according to his grandniece, Dianne MacLeod. Elliot’s life was noted in an issue of AB Bookman’s Weekly which published an article about the My Book House series.

Bertram Elliott, who contributed by far the most drawings to volumes I and II was born in 1889 in Tokyo, the son of a minister. He attended commercial art schools in Victoria, B.C., Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He attended the Art Institute of Chicago’s evening division sporadically from 1917 to 1920. A 1931 issue of an art publication noted: “Bert Elliott, well-known member of the liberal group of Chicago artists ten years ago, died recently in New York.”

The American Art Annual (1931) had this obituary: “Elliott, Bert.—A painter, died in New York in the summer of 1931. His early life was spent in Japan, but for many years he was affiliated with the No Jury group of artists in Chicago. One of his works is in the Art institute of Chicago.”

Further Viewing
Art Institute of Chicago
Two drawings: “Portrait of a Man” and “An Eminent Journalist”

—Alex Jay


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Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: O. Henry's Short Stories

O. Henry's stories are some of the most beloved and popular American literature this side of Mark Twain, so it's no surprise that they eventually found their way into the kingdom of comic strips. Interestingly enough, the same syndicate, McClure, offered comic strips based on Twain and O. Henry.

Unlike the much better received Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, which had a successful run of a decade and a half, O. Henry's Short Stories was not embraced by newspaper editors or readers. No wonder, though, when the series distilled most of the stories down to two or three daily strips in length. Granted, Porter's stories are short, but to boil down a beautiful story like The Love Philtre of Ikey Schoenstein into two daily strips is a criminal offense. What's next -- the complete Shakespeare plays in three weeks? Considering that I see no copyrights on the strip to the estate of O. Henry, I have a sneaking suspicion that these adaptations were unlicensed. Maybe McClure thought they could get away with thievery if they were quick about it?

I have yet to find a newspaper that ran the strip with perfect consistency, but the Brooklyn Eagle came close enough that I offer this index as my best guess. The scripts are uncredited (as well they ought to be), but the two cartoonists who double-teamed the series did take credit:

TitleArtistStart DateEnd Date # of Strips
The Cop and the AnthemJohn Hix6/11/286/13/283
Jimmy Hays and MurielJohn Hix6/14/286/16/283
A Double Dyed DeceiverJohn Hix6/18/286/23/286
Tobin's PalmJohn Hix6/25/286/28/284
Iky's Love PhiltreBertram Elliott6/29/286/30/282
Springtime a la CarteBertram Elliott7/2/287/3/282
The Ransom of MackBertram Elliott7/4/287/7/284
The Skylight RoomJohn Hix7/9/287/11/283
Sisters of the Golden CircleBertram Elliott7/12/287/14/283
Service of LoveBertram Elliott7/16/287/19/284
Lost on Dress ParadeBertram Elliott7/20/287/20/282
Buried TreasureBertram Elliott7/23/287/26/284
Makes the Whole World KinBertram Elliott7/27/287/28/282

Here's a quick comic strip quiz for you: what other comic strip is based on a character created by O. Henry?

Tomorrow, Alex Jay weighs in with a profile of Bertram Elliott. You'll find his profile of John Hix here.

Didn't Joe Kubert (and School) feature Jim and Della in an adaptation of The Gift of the Magi for an NEA Christmas strip?
But I'm sure you're thinking of a different character.
A hero portrayed by Warner Baxter and Jimmy Smits, among others?

Incidentally, said hero owes little more than his catchy name to O. Henry. In the single story the author wrote, he's not a nice person.
The final panel of "Lost on Dress Parade" on July 21 1928 in the EAGLE says "Next story: Buried Treasure" so I don't believe there's a missing strip
Said another way, "Lost on Dress Parade" has 2 episodes
And though the EAGLE does indeed credit Elliott on "Lost on Dress Parade", a later printing in the SAN BERNADINO COUNTY SUN credits Hix. Bit the comic strip editors aren't known for their accuracy :)
Thanks to Jeffrey Lindenblatt and Art Lortie, who both separately cleared up the mystery of the missing strip. Post has been updated.
Donald Benson takes the prize for IDing (in a coy way) the strip I was thinking of. DD, you get a double bonus for coming up with one I wasn't thinking of. --Allan
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Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Early Comics of the International Syndicate Part VI: The Toles Show, with a Side of 'Midget'

From 1901 and stretching back to the 1896 inauguration of the International Syndicate weekly page, only C.E. Toles seemed to have any interest in producing a cartoon series. Mr. Toles was also by far the most prolific contributor, but I don't sense that series cartoons were disallowed of the other contributors.

Above we have a sample of the Toles series Reverend O. Shaw Fiddle D.D. I previously thought he had produced this series for the Philadelphia Press, but it turns out they were simply using bits and pieces of the International material in their paper. This series is a revival of the series Reverend Fiddle D.D. that Toles produced for the New York Journal in 1898.

This is the first real series, in the sense of using a continuing character, that ran on the International page. It is also the first series that ran on a regular basis. It ran each week from June 9 to July 14 1901.

The cartoonist who signed himself "Midget" produced many cartoons about bugs, and his style strongly resembles that of Gus Dirks. I thought for awhile that it might be Dirks using a pen name, but much later on, the same 'bug cartoonist' started signing himself as Joe Hanover on the International page.

Although I suppose you could make a case that all the bug cartoons are a sort of series, I didn't count them as such. "Midget" did manage to produce two episodes of Buggum and Snailey's Sideshow (2nd installment titled Buggum and Snailey's 20th Century Show). The first episode ran on June 23 1901, the second not until August 11. Committed to the series concept Mr. Midget certainly was not.

C.E. Toles produced six episodes of Tales of the Orient (later retitled Tales of the East) but it took him the better part of a year. The first episode appeared on November 12 1899, the last on October 14 1900. Each installment was rather text-heavy, just like the first one shown above.

The first continuing series on the International weekly page appeared so infrequently that I nearly didn't recognize it as such. Koon Tracks, a strip about stereotypical blacks with a hunting theme appeared on October 29 1899, December 17 1899, March 4 and March 25 1900.

Our last sample from the International Syndicate weekly page is its first installment in the Rochester Democrat-Chronicle, April 26 1896, and the earliest found in which it is a full page with masthead. Jeffrey Lindenblatt finds good evidence that a page existed as early as July 1895 in the Cincinnati Enquirer, but they chopped it up just enough so as to be uncertain as to the complete contents that were being distributed.

As you can see in the sample above , the early version was a little more text-heavy than it would be later, but right from the first it offered both panels and comic strips. The prolific C.E. Toles was its most frequent contributor right from the start.


Do you have any updates on Toles since you last reviewed his biography? I found this blog entry about a private collection of Toles' art: https://charleywag.wordpress.com/ . I wonder if it has been sold to any public institution. Is Toles related to the political cartoonist Tom Toles?
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Monday, September 10, 2018


Early Comics of the International Syndicate Part V: Goodes, McK and Toles

Working our way backward now, we find W.M. Goodes making some contributions to the International weekly page. His only series, which managed just two installments quite far apart, was Illustrated Interviews. Above is the first installment on October 12 1902, and the other was on December 7 of that year.

On this page we also see cartoons by F.L. Fithian and William F. Marriner. Lillian Steinert and Jean Du Bois are both unknown to me, but pretty good cartoonists.

A longer series was Mr. Henry Peck, also known as The Henpecks, and Mr. Peck. As with other series that went by this same name, it is the tale of a henpecked husband. This series couldn't make up its mind whether it wanted to be a panel or strip, appearing three times in each guise. The series ran from July 6 to September 7 1902. The series was signed only "McK", which I suppose is most likely to be McKee Barclay. He was active in Baltimore at this time.

This page has a contribution from C.A. David, about the latest he'll be found on International's page.  He was a major contributor to the page in the 1890s, though he never once deigned to pen a series.

Going back to 1901, we finally get to see a series by the great C.E. Toles. This one is a panel series titled The Summering of Miss Frivolity, and each pretty girl picture is accompanied by some verses by Toles. This series ran for ten episodes from July 7 to September 15.


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Saturday, September 08, 2018


Herriman Saturday

September 7 1909 -- A packed fight card at Naud Junction tonight, with some up-and-comers and local favorites. According to Boxrec, the marquee fight between Frank Picato and Phil Brock was won by Picato, and Young Solomon lost his bout.

Apparently Herriman went on vacation for a few weeks after this, as his next large cartoon won't appear until the 23rd.


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Friday, September 07, 2018


Wish You Were Here, from Grace Drayton

Here's a Grace Drayton (signing Weiderseim at this time) card from Reinthal & Newman, this one marked #120 on the reverse. The maker hasn't dated it, but Grace hand-lettered a copyright notice under her name, and dated it 1909.

This one is a play on the then-current fad saying, "I love my wife, but oh you kid.", immortalized in many postcards by Albert Carmichael.


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Thursday, September 06, 2018


Early Comics of the International Syndicate Part IV: Marriner, Fenderson and a Mystery Cartoonist

Mr. Absent Minde (or Mr. Absen T. Minde) by William F. Marriner is one of those many strips about an absent-minded man. These things sprouted like weeds in a garden back in the day. It ran from September 4 to October 9 1904*.

In the upper lefthand corner of the sample above you'll see one of the earliest contributions of Ryan Walker to the International Syndicate page.

On the page above we have samples of two series. Mr. B.Z. Boddy by William F. Marriner appeared only twice, on October 30 and November 20 1904*. The interesting thing about this series is that Marriner had already done a short-lived series of this title for the New York Evening Journal in 1902. Not having access to those strips outside a microfilm room, I can't say if Marriner was reselling the same strips to International, or if he came up with new installments of the same series.

Also on this page is a series by a mystery cartoonist. Adventures of the Merry Dingbat, a panel and rhyme series featuring fanciful animals, 'officially' ran from October 30 to December 12 1904*, but the same creators contributed panels about bizarre animals on many additional pages. This is some really weird and wacky stuff, both art and poetry, and its a shame that the creators saw fit only to sign themselves as H & L,when they bothered to sign at all.

Here we come to the latest of the series that I found in the International Syndicate page. For some reason (change of editor?), series material pretty much stopped dead in 1905. I tracked the page through most of 1906 and never saw another series.

This last series, Mr. City Man Tries the Country, is appropriately half-hearted, running a grand total of two times, on June 11 and 18 1905*. Mark Fenderson was the cartoonist.

Next week we'll continue this series on the International Syndicate, now working backward from where I started my search in early 1903.

* Source: Rochester Democrat-Chronicle


Any idea who "Midget" on one of these pages is? Like their style.
I'll address that issue next week, E.
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Wednesday, September 05, 2018


The Early Comics Series of the International Syndicate Part III: 1904 Series by Fenderson, Marriner and Hambleton

Mr. Lookin was by Mark Fenderson, who started contributing to the page with this series. This strip about a fellow who dives into situations without thinking, ran from April 24 to June 12 1904*. It was always a two-panel strip -- set-up and denouement with no extra frills.

Grouchy Gregory, a strip about a kid with anger issues, was contributed by William F. Marriner. It ran from June 5 to July 31 1904*. Also noteworthy on this page is the top central cartoon, by Florence Pearl England Nosworthy. She made a name for herself in magazine cover and children's book illustration.

Unfortunately there are many contributors to these pages whose signatures I cannot decipher. Anyone who can ID these folks is very much welcome to chime in. Even some whose signature is plain elude me -- who was Fayette, or the colorfully named Foe Feroux?

Oddly enough, this is the only International series by A.Y. Hambleton, who was a major and constant contributor to the page for a long while. Sports of the Summer Girl, a pretty girl panel series, ran from July 24 to September 4 1904*. Hambleton is a real bright spot on these pages whose bold line really makes an impression.

Note in the bottom right is a panel by Carl Anderson, who was an infrequent contributor to the page.

* Source: Rochester Democrat-Chronicle


Hi! This might seem as an odd question, but I am writing my Master's thesis on feminism in American comic strips in the 1960s. I would like to use examples of strips from a fairly controversial cartoonist(s), dealing with the subject of women and/or abortion, contraceptive pill, etc. Any suggestions? I really like your blog.

Seline Eskedal Amundsen (Norway).
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