Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Zimmie - Redux, Redact, Retract

We talked about Zimmie on Monday, but it turns out there's more to the story. I really love it when I learn something new because of the blog, and presume you do too, so let's take another whack at Zimmie, even though there's still some holes in the story.

Turns out that Zimmie had a far longer run than I'd been able to verify. The Houston Chronicle started running the feature on May 5 1908, and ran it until November 8 1916 (all this info is from J.R. Gonzales of the Chronicle). Furthermore, Gonzales tells me that the earliest panels were signed by a fellow named Arch Bristow, and that when the feature debuted the Chronicle included this blurb:

"The Chronicle is pleased to announce to its readers that it has secured in Arch Bristow's weather cut service what it considers one of the most unique and attractive newspaper features in existence."
A cut service is sort of like a syndicate. The cut service would periodically send out a whole batch of illustrations to subscribing papers. Depending on the focus of the service, the illos might be cartoons, drawings of people in the news, ad illustrations, page decorations, any number of things. The newspaper would receive from the service printed sheets full of drawings, and in-house staff would cut out individual drawings (thus the term cut service) and use them to
add decorations and illustration to the paper.

Apparently this Bristow fellow had found himself a very specific niche in doing cuts about weather (which seems like an overly specific niche market, frankly). I can certainly see why he would come up with something like Zimmie to keep subscribers coming back. I mean, how many different cuts does a paper need to represent 'partly cloudy', right?

Worth noting, by the way, that International Syndicate began as a cut service back in the 1890s, and retained vestiges of that business into the 1910s and perhaps beyond. Maybe Bristow sold out to them in 1912. Or maybe Bristow was aligned with International all along. Just another guess, and my track record's been pretty lousy on this one so far!

Speaking of a lousy track record, Cole Johnson is apparently right that Zimmie was not drawn by Harry Martin as I had guessed in the first post. When will I learn that it's rarely a winning proposition to disagree with master Johnson?

Gonzales wonders if Bristow was working directly for the Chronicle because on occasion the Zimmie cartoons would make specific references to Houston and the paper itself. My guess is no, that the occasional local references might have been Bristow doing special items for a valuable client. For a big paper like that to use a cut service is a mite odd. Usually cut service clients were limited to small papers that couldn't afford an in-house art staff, a category that certainly doesn't fit the Chronicle, even in 1908.

Anyone else out there who can tells us something about Zimmie or Arch Bristow?


I would just like to comment that doing a weather panel like this for the Chronicle would've been the easiest thing in the world, considering it's partly sunny and in the mid 90s for half the year and rainy and 70 the other half. (A slight exaggeration but not much of one.)

The copy of The Family Upstairs arrived the other day, by the way. Thank you much for sending it.
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