Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Obscurity of the Day: Mister Philander Phat
In the 19th century it became more and more fashionable for ladies to be thin, though the pendulum still swung both ways. By the 20th, though, both men and women were no longer considered hearty and healthy if they packed on the pounds, and diet and exercise became an obsession throughout the western world.
The fashion took longer to take hold for men, but heavyweight President Grover Cleveland, who came in for a lot of ribbing about his weight, brought the issue front and center in the U.S. The pear-shaped Mister Philander Phat has the same contours as the bulbous president and shows that the obsession with being thin had indeed invaded the male public consciousness.
Mister Philander Phat ran from May 20 to October 28 1906 in the third and final version of the Boston Herald's Sunday comics section. The title Mr. Philander Phat's Country Exercises was used from July 1 to September 9.
Of the cartoonist, George Nuttall, I know little. Obviously he is an accomplished penman, and I seem to recall that he was an editorial cartoonist in the 1910s and 20s, though at the moment I can't seem to find proof of that in my files. Over 35 years after Mr. Philander Phat he made a return appearance in the funnies, taking over the reins of Morris Weiss' It Never Fails for four months. A layoff of that length must be some sort of record.
[EDIT: Turns out that the cartoonist on this feature was Charles Nuttall, not George. Thanks to Alex Jay for setting me straight!]
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!