Thursday, November 18, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: Sidney Smith's Untitled Comic Strip

The great Sidney Smith's main claim to fame is his long running soaper-adventure-humor strip The Gumps. But he has quite a few other credits, including this obscure comic strip that he produced in 1916.  I assume it was produced for the Chicago Tribune, but when I indexed that paper many moons ago when I was still an unschooled researcher I failed to notice it. Perhaps back then I saw the lack of a consistent title and didn't consider it a series. So anyway (hint, hint) if anyone has access to the Trib on Proquest a report on running dates would be much appreciated.Or maybe I'm completely off-base and Smith moonlighted with a different syndicate for this one. It did run in the Minneapolis Journal, for instance, which took all the rest of their line-up from Press Publishing/New York World.

Smith modeled this feature after others of the day that used revolving or inconsistent titles, like the features of Rube Goldberg and Clare Briggs. Among Smith's line-up of recurring titles were The Bunk of a Busy Brain, It Depends on the Point of View, Tell Me Does It Pay? and Wasted Energy. As you can see above, other one-shot titles were used as well. The one consistent title to the feature was for the panel cartoon portion called Light Occupations. Some papers actually ran this panel as a separate feature (the Cleveland Leader for one).

Smith's untitled 1916 effort was a really wonderful feature. The lack of a consistent plot or set of characters really gave him room to spread his comedic wings. Sometimes witty, sometimes goofy, but always pretty darn funny. Almost makes me wish he had stuck with this rather than creating The Gumps


Hello, Allan--The Sidney Smith strip started as a local sports- oriented feature in the Chicago Tribune on Oct. 28, 1914. It initially appeared in various odd sizes before adopting the aspect in your examples, most likely to make it more easy to syndicate. "Light Occupations" ("No. 1") appears in the first episode. It lasted until Saturday,Jan. 20, 1917, and the following Monday saw the daily version of Smith's OLD DOC YAK. ----Cole Johnson.
Hi Cole --
Thanks for confirming that this was indeed a ChiTrib feature. I do seem to recall Smith's sports cartoons in the Trib, was there a specific date in which he switched in the direction of straight humor, or at least sports humor as opposed to sports editorials? The feature only seems to have been syndicated in 1916, and by then there's no sports content.

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