Friday, September 24, 2010

 

Obscurity of the Day: Little Moments


Jerry Stewart may be one guy, or he might be two. On the comic strip side, he's a black cartoonist whose work appeared in papers like the Chicago Defender, Baltimore Afro-American and others from the late 1940s to early 1970s. According to bios found on the web, he was also an editorial or staff cartoonist on the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel from 1936 to 1986.

While 'my' Jerry Stewart, the comic strip guy, definitely had the chops to do cartooning for mainstream newspapers I just can't see a black man being hired as a cartoonist on a 'white' newspaper in Indiana in 1936. Maybe I'm guilty of thinking too ill of Indianans of the time, but considering the state was a hotbed of KKK activity in those days I just don't see a newspaper having the balls to hire a black cartoonist. Hopefully I'm wrong.

In any case, today's obscurity was Jerry Stewart's last successful foray into newspaper cartooning, at least as far as I know from personal observation. He created Little Moments (at first advertised as Life's Little Moments), a gag panel without recurring characters, around 1961. For awhile it was marketed by Select Features, which was a very small syndicate that never really went anywhere. By 1963 Stewart seems to have been self-syndicating it, but to only one paper that I know of, the Chicago Defender. It appeared there on a more or less daily basis from 1963 to 1972. In 1971 Stewart signed on with Allied Features, another minor syndicate, to try to get the panel into additional papers. Apparently it didn't work and Stewart threw in the towel, because the feature disappeared from the Defender in 1972 and was not advertised for sale thereafter..

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Comments:
Hi Allan,
I really love Jerry Stewart's drawing (and inking) style! Have there been any collections published of his newspaper works? What comic strip did he do besides "Little Moments". Beautiful stuff, thanks for posting it!
Mark Kausler
 
Hi Mark --
No reprint books as far as I know. I, too, like Stewart's style, reminds me a little bit of Walt Ditzen's work, of which I'm also a big fan.

--Allan
 
Allan,

Jerry Stewart was indeed a cartoonist for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. He started work as a copy boy and the paper's first black employee on March 25, 1946. Three months later he was promoted to staff artist. From then until his retirement on May 30, 1986, he drew cartoons for the paper alongside Eugene Craig and William Sandeson. He also knew Nick Pouletsos (Nick Penn).

Stewart was born on May 18, 1923, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, one-time home of Henry Jackson Lewis, believed to be the first black editorial cartoonist in the United States. I don't know anything about Stewart's early life, and I have wondered if he was the same Jerry Stewart who drew comic strips (including one called Scoopie) for black newspapers. Can you confirm this? I'd like to find out more about his cartooning for black newspapers. Anyway, Stewart died on October 29, 1995, in Fort Wayne and is buried in his adopted hometown.

Terence Hanley
 
Hi Terence --
Thanks for the info. Certainly the world became a very different place between 1936 and 1946, so I can go along with Stewart getting his position at the paper ten years later than reported elsewhere, after the war had softened attitudes a bit on race. That's why I love doing this blog -- unexpectedly finding out all sorts of great info that dispels all the misinformation rampant in reference books and on the web.

And yes, Jerry Stewart also did Scoopie and several other series. As much as I like to cover the features of the black papers, I rarely get a chance because good repro quality examples are VERY hard to come by. Old black papers are quite scarce, and the microfilmed papers are overall a terrible mess yielding few good quality examples. I tried scanning some material at the Library of Congress, but their rules made it impossible to get decent quality images.

--Allan
 
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