Tuesday, November 09, 2010

 

Obscurity of the Day: Mrs. Worry

Mrs. Worry is one of those strips that gets old before you've finished reading even a single strip. Yes, Mrs. Worry worries. Ho hum.

John A Lemon penned this forgettable feature in his typical fussy style for the C.J. Hirt-copyrighted version of the McClure Sunday section from March 11 to May 6 1906. I doubt that any readers worried overmuch when Mrs. Worry failed to appear after that.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan!

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In 1912 there was another Mrs. Worry, a dailie strip by C.A. Voight.
 
Part 1

Lemon's first name was Joseph.

Joseph A. Lemon was born in Kansas in May 1870 according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. He married Caroline in 1897. They lived at 312 West 18th Street in Manhattan, New York City. His occupation was "artist". Lemon has not been found in other census years.

The "American Art Directory, Volume 3" (1900) has a listing for Lemon's studio, "Lemon, Joseph A., 270 West 25th St".

Lemon was listed in a number of New York City directories:

1891-1892, Lemon J. artist, h 210 W. 105th
1895, Lemon Jos A. artist, 4 W. 14th, h 235 W. 123d
1896, Lemon Jos A. artist, 126 W. 23d, h 235 W. 123d
1897, Lemon Jos A. artist, 152 W. 23d, h 270 W. 119th
1898, Lemon Jos A. artist, 53 W. 24th
1916 and 1917, Lemon Jos A. artist, h1919, 7th av
1924-1925, Lemon Jo artist, h47, Gwich av
1931, Lemon Jos, 154 W 100 (unconfirmed)

Lemon was a contributor to the "Blue Pencil Magazine", which was published by the Blue Pencil Club. A description printed in the first issue, February 1900:

Intrenced in the second floor at No. 9 Spruce street, New York
City, this unique organization occupies quarters that, to say
the least, are bizarre and out of the ordinary.

It is the home of the best known newspaper men and artists,
whose work is known all over these United States, and who
are all possessed of the true Bohemian instincts that are only
to be found on the island of Manhattan.

In the May 1900 issue, Lemon contributed a portrait drawing; on page 19 were brief descriptions of the contributors. Below are some of the cartoonists:

Joseph Lemon.--Not so sour.
Jim Swinnerton.--Alias Swetterton.
Clarence Rigby.--Toys with art.
Dick Outcault.--Not so yellow as formerly. This is no kid.

Blue Pencil Magazine, Volume 1 is available as a PDF download at Google Books.

Lemon was described in "Broadway Magazine", Volume 11, Number 1, June 1903:

With a broad brimmed, black Stetson hat, big Joseph Lemon
looks the artist, his flowing black tie adding to the impression.
This makeup does not prevent his wielding a prolific pen
which costs the McClure syndicate newest freak element in
New York humor, and furnishes the aviary department in the
live stock humor of the "American."
 
Part 2

Lemon contributed illustrations to several books including "Toothsome Tales Told in Slang" (1901), "The Man with the Grip" (1906), and "Colonel Crook Stories" (1909; available as a PDF download at Google Books).

Art Young mentions Lemon in his book, "Art Young: His Life and Times", on page 207.

On the walls among the array of weapons were framed drawings
which had illuminated Sunday World feature stories that Will
had written, and originals done by the artists on the World staff;
also drawings for the "funnies" of that era, by Dick Outcault,
George Luks, Anderson, Bryans (whose silhouette pictures were
then popular), Tony Anthony, Gus and Rudy Dirks, Joe Lemon,
Walt McDougall; and illustrators such as Will Crawford (he
made comics as well, but always seemed too dignified and
artistic to be classed as such), "Hod" Taylor, Al Levering, and
others.

Lemon remarried after 1912; what happened to his first wife is not known. The periodical "Metal Record and Electroplater", December 1918, published the following notice:

Joseph Brown Beach, 67 years old, head of the sales force of
the International Silver Company, with which he had been
associated for forty-two years, died yesterday at his home,
302 West Thirtieth Street. He was born in Connecticut, and
lived in this city [New York] twenty years. His daughter is
the wife of Joe Lemon, the artist.

Beach's daughter Daisy asked for a separation from her husband, William F. Palmer, as reported in Oakland Tribune, November 13, 1912. Their divorce followed. How and when Lemon met Daisy is not known.

When and where Lemon died is not known.

Lambiek Comiclopedia mentions Lemon's strips "The Adventures of Dennis O'Shaugnessy", "Willy Cute", "Hop Lee", "How would you like to be John?", and "Humpty Dumpty". Two "Hop Lee" pages (Saint Paul Globe, December 6, 1903 and October 30, 1904) are available at Chronicling America, chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.

by Alex Jay
 
It has been a whole week, and no new entries. Could anything bad have happened to Alan? This is really bothering me.
 
I am getting very worried too.
 
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Monday, November 08, 2010

 

Obscurity of the Day: Just Kids et al.



T.S. Allen's kid cartoons were a staple of no less than three different syndicates in the late 1890s and 1900s. His urban street kids seem to have been inspired at least in part by the more celebrated works of British/Australian cartoonist Phil May, whose guttersnipe cartoons were world famous. Allen's cartooning doesn't really compare in quality to May's, but his work does convey a gritty realism that really bring these street kids to life.

Although our Stripper's Guide obscurity postings are normally about a single series, to cover Allen's kid cartoons one at a time would keep us busy for over a week. Instead we'll cover Allen's entire kid oeuvre in one fell swoop. Allen's first kid cartoon appeared in Hearst's New York Evening Journal on October 2 1897, but his first real series, which unlike most of them featured a recurring character, was titled Adonis Jimmy -- as you might guess he was a bully type. That series ran in the Evening Journal from August 31 to November 15 1898.

Allen continued contributing many kid cartoons to the Hearst papers, but the next named series didn't come until March 11 1900. That was Them Kids, which established the pattern of multiple vignettes, like the samples above, with no recurring named characters. The series ran until December 29 1901.

The first series actually titled Just Kids began in the Evening Journal on February 13 1903. A mere two days later Allen can be found moonlighting from Hearst with a Sunday series titled Tads and Tykes, which ran in the New York World Sunday section just twice, on February 15 and 22 -- apparently Hearst quickly put a stop to Allen's appearances in the competing newspaper.

The first Just Kids series ran until June 3 1905, and then was replaced by a new title, When The World is Young. This was essentially more of the same but under a new title that bounced around between Hearst's Evening Journal and morning American papers. This series ran from June 6 1905 to May 18 1906. Allen then reverted back to the Just Kids title on November 8 1906, continuing it in the Hearst papers until May 18 1907. Allen and Hearst then parted company after an association of over a decade.

After taking a bit of a breather, Allen switched over to the Pulitzer camp where he continued Just Kids starting September 26 1907. At Pulitzer's World the series also went by a few other names, including Wisdom of the Young and Chimmie the Kid. Apparently Allen didn't get along as well with his new company, and the World series came to an end on October 13 1908 after just one year.

Before the World had even finished publishing all of Allen's cartoon backlog he found a new employer at the Cleveland-based NEA. This was a giant step down from his heydays in New York, and Allen's tough talking street kids looked like fish out of water appearing in the smalltown papers serviced by NEA. This final Just Kids series began on August 14 1908, but avoided using Allen's long-standing title at first, presumably to sidestep the wrath of Pulitzer. The Just Kids title was finally used regularly starting May 26 1909. The series continued with NEA until sometime in the second quarter of 1910. But that was the end of Allen's kid cartoons, which had found an appreciative audience for over a dozen years, an impressive achievement during those days when the lifespan of the average cartoon series was measured in weeks and months, not years.

All the series discussed above, except Tads and Tykes, were weekday features that ran regularly but not daily.

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I was reminded of Phil May the moment I saw the first strip. True, he's no May, but Allen's work isn't bad.

What language are these kids supposed to be speaking? I've heard plenty of "skeert" and "jest" in my life, but "dorg"?

Interesting features. Thanks for posting.
 
Part 1

On December 23, 2005, Allan posted this biographical sketch of T.S. Allen which was published in the book, "Little Visits With Great Americans" (1903; available as a PDF download at Google Books).

One of the artists whose purpose in life seems to be smile-breeding is
T. S. Allen. Well known in connection with his work in the columns of
the New York American, his studies of and contingent jokes on "youth"
youngsters, under the caption of "Just Kids" are full of genuine humor.
Mr. Allen was born in 1869, in Lexington, Kentucky, and was educated
at Transylvania university, of that state. After some years spent in
writing jokes, jingles, etc., for local and New York newspapers, he
began to illustrate the same in a manner which quickly caught the
attention of editors. To-day he has an established reputation as a
graphic humorist, and his work finds a ready and remunerative market.

Based on that information there is a Thomas S. Allen who was the second of six children born to Thomas N. and Harriet as recorded in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census. The family lived in Lexington, Kentucky. By the 1900 census Allen's family had moved to the territory of Washington. It is not known when Allen moved to New York but his cartoons began appearing in the late 1890s according to Allan.

Lambiek Comiclopedia also has a sketch of Allen's life. Here is an excerpt:

In the 1890s, he moved to New York to work as a clerc [sic] in his
father's law office. Around [the] same time, he started moonlighting
as an author and joke writer for magazine cartoonists, and eventually
also took on drawing.

Allen's father, Thomas Newton, was a lawyer according to the 1880 census; so Allen may have been a clerk. The New York City directories, of the time, list a clerk named Thomas Allen but the middle initial "S" is absent. A listing for a lawyer named Thomas has not been found. However there was a listing in "Lain and Healy's Brooklyn Directory 1898" for "Allen Thos. S. artist h 275 Carlton av"; he lived 7 blocks west of Pratt Institute.

The November 1902 issue of "The Bookman", an illustrated magazine of literature and art, published the second part of "American Caricature and Comic Art." The article included this quote by Allen.

"I do my work any old way, as a rule"–and one can imagine him lying
in a boat reading 'The Rubayiat'. "My ideas are my own, and no one
should be blamed for them except myself. As for inspiration–is a
comic artist ever inspired? I spend about half of every year bobbing
about in a fishing boat, and my happiest things–those I sell–have
come to me just after successfully negating a five-pound black bass
or a twelve or fourteen pound pickerel. My moments of inspiration
are very few and far between."
 
Part 2

That issue of "The Bookman" is part of a bound volume which is available at Google Books. I recommend searching the first line of the quote to get the link.

If Allen really spent half the year fishing then this might explain his absence in subsequent census records. Perhaps the New York winter's were too much for him.

In the September 1903 issue of "The Literary Collector", an illustrated monthly magazine of book-lore and bibliography, Percival Pollard, a literary critic, wrote a tribute to the late Phil May. Near the end of the tribute Pollard took a swipe at Allen.

Our debt of gratitude to May for the lift he gave black-and-white art
in the general and critical estimation is so great that we can afford
to forgive him for unconsciously being the cause of much art that
was superfluous, When his style first began to attract attention, its
superficial mannerisms were at once seized by many lesser artists.
They forgot that in his work there was much that had been eliminated
to save the essential; they fancied it was mere outline work, easy,
yet effective. Some of these imitators owed their daily bread in this
way to May for years, notably one American illustrator, T. S. Allen.

Allen's work can be found in "Blue Pencil Magazine" (1900; available at Google Books); "Caricature: Wit and Humor of a Nation in Picture, Song and Story" (1911 edition; available at the Internet Archive); and at the web site, Chronicling America (chroniclingamerica.loc.gov), which has two samples of his strip, "Lucky Mike–He's Adopted"; the Sunday strip was printed in the "Los Angeles Herald" on May 10 and 17, 1908.

Lambiek Comiclopedia has Allen's death at 1930 with a question mark.

by Alex Jay
 
Wow, that Percival Pollard sure did get out of the wrong side of the bed, didn't he? Imagine, two guys drawing tough urban kid cartoons! Heavens.

Thanks for the info Alex!!

--Allan
 
Supplement 1

The Morning Olympian, a Washington newspaper, informed its readers on January 2, 1900 that Allen was the subject in the current issue of Broadway Magazine, "Phil May, of London, and Tom Allen, of New York: An Estimate of the Work of Two Famous Comic Artists." The newspaper published this excerpt:

Thomas Stamps Allen is the full name of the American artist, who
is assuredly a worthy successor to Michael Angelo Wolff. He is
twenty-nine years old, was born in Lexington, Ky., went to school
at Cincinnati, O., and was originally intended for the law, studying
that profession for one year in his father's office. Mr. Allen seems
to be a perfectly inexhaustible mine of ideas in his particular line.
No sooner does he finish one of his cute little sketches of street
'kids' that it suggests, another. His humor is obviously spontaneous,
and it is thoroughly, absolutely, New York all through. He writes
all the jokes underneath the drawings he does for the New York
Evening Journal, never being at a loss for the exact phraseology
in which to clothe his dialect.
 
Supplement 1

The Morning Olympian, a Washington newspaper, informed its readers on January 2, 1900 that Allen was the subject in the current issue of Broadway Magazine, "Phil May, of London, and Tom Allen, of New York: An Estimate of the Work of Two Famous Comic Artists." The newspaper published this excerpt:

Thomas Stamps Allen is the full name of the American artist, who
is assuredly a worthy successor to Michael Angelo Wolff. He is
twenty-nine years old, was born in Lexington, Ky., went to school
at Cincinnati, O., and was originally intended for the law, studying
that profession for one year in his father's office. Mr. Allen seems
to be a perfectly inexhaustible mine of ideas in his particular line.
No sooner does he finish one of his cute little sketches of street
'kids' that it suggests, another. His humor is obviously spontaneous,
and it is thoroughly, absolutely, New York all through. He writes
all the jokes underneath the drawings he does for the New York
Evening Journal, never being at a loss for the exact phraseology
in which to clothe his dialect.
 
Supplement 2

Allen's middle name was his mother's maiden name (1860 census). He mentioned his maternal grandfather, also named Thomas, in the Lexington newspaper, Morning Herald, which published, "Kentuckians Who Have Won Fame in New York", on May 18, 1902.

...Thomas S. Allen, whose studies of child life in the slums are so
clever as to have won him the title, "The Phil May of America."

"To begin I was born just as ordinary mortals are. This interesting
event took place thirty two years ago on my grandfather's farm near
Lexington, Ky., now the property of Major Thomas, the well known
horseman. From my grandfather I inherited a love of saddle horses,
which, alas! the business of comic picture-making has never
enabled me to gratify, and a very fine taste for whisky which I have
gratified as time and opportunity permitted.

"When I was a little lad I lived for four or five years in Louisville,
where my father practiced law with his brother, Major Bryant Allen,
and after that lived in Lexington. At Lexington I was a pupil of
James Lane Allen, the novelist. I have three gold medals he gave
me. I was a student of the Kentucky University, where I stood
fairly well, I believe, in English and the classics, but like many
another great man whose name has gone sounding down the
corridors of time gave no particular sign of that mighty genius
which has since set the world on fire.

"I read law in my father's office for a while, and a very brief while
it was, and then drifted into newspaper reporting in Chicago and
Spokane, Wash., and then came to New York and wrote jingles
and jokes for Judge and Truth for several years. Encouraged by
the late Bernard Gillman, of Judge, and Mr. P. W. Arthur, once
editor of Truth, I began to make my own sketches to go with my
jokes, and so gradually developed into the most wonderful artist
you know. Most of my stuff has to do with the little street gamins
of New York. Their lives interest me because they are the saddest
and bravest I know."
 
Supplement 3

Allen and his wife, Minnie, mailed announcements of their daughter's marriage, Genevieve to Rollin Wright, as reported in the Washington paper, the Olympia Record, on December, 30, 1914.

According to the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Allen and his wife were living with their daughter's family in Rockledge, Florida; the Wrights had two sons, Thomas and Rollin Jr. Allen and his son-in-law were fruit growers. Minnie, a housewife, was born in New York.

In 1930 Allen was growing oranges while his son-in-law was a bookkeeper. They remained in Rockledge. The census revealed that Allen married when he was 23 years old.

The Allens and the Wrights were recorded in the 1935 Florida State Census. Allen continued growing oranges in Rockledge. He passed away some time later.

In the 1945 Florida State Census, Allen's wife continued living with their daughter's family.
 
This has all been so interesting. T.S. Allen was my great grandfather and this is the most information I have ever seen on him. The comments about bobbing about in a boat probably refer to the Indian River in FL and at Lake George, NY
I believe he died in 1940, because my grandmother always lamented that he never got to see me, born just two years after he died.
My father, Thomas Allen Wright is deceased, but my brother, Thomas Allen Wright still lives in Rockledge.
 
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Sunday, November 07, 2010

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics

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