Friday, February 18, 2011

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles: Ole May

(from Cartoons Magazine, June 1913)

When one of art's disciples and devotees is powered with wide intelligence, broad sympathies, quick perceptions, humor and common sense, loyalty and honor, only two things are lacking to insure success - capacity for hard work and a fair chance, meaning chiefly enough health and strength to make persevering industry possible. Everything else follows.

Ole May, cartoonist of the Cleveland Leader, is one of the living witnesses to the truth of this bit of moralizing. His record is the proof. And every day his work is making that record stronger as well as longer. He grows with his pictorial chronicle of the times. He "arrived" long ago, but he did not stop when he gained success.

This versatile, many-sided newspaper worker is only thirty-nine years old, having been born in Pleasanton, Ia., June 24, 1873, but he has drawn pictures and written "copy" of many kinds in Los Angeles, Houston, Washington, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. As if that were not variety enough, he played four years in the Marine Band, at Washington; spent three years in Armour & Co.'s law department, at Chicago; was a court reporter two years in Colorado Springs and Denver; worked two years for a big coal company in Ohio, and served the Pullman Company in Chicago and St. Louis.

It will be seen that Ole May began early and kept steadily at it after he started. It is hardly necessary to add that his various mercantile, court, law office and industrial "jobs" came before he found his true sphere as a cartoonist. After he began to earn his living as a newspaper artist he never wandered farther from that field than making pen drawings for a photolithographic concern in St. Louis and drawing pictures for an advertising agency in Chicago. The musical interlude in the Marine Band could hardly be counted a break with the newspapers, for during that period Ole did much art work for the Washington Post. It put him in line for his later positions on the Pittsburgh Gazette-Times and, finally, on the Cleveland Leader. So this gifted artist and humorist has touched life at many angles. He has watched the great human comedy in cities great and small, East, West, North and South. He is a votary of music and devotee of art, a trained writer as well as picture-maker. The breadth of his interests, like the range of his experiences, enriches his work in his favorite field.

Such a man, full of temperament, quick to smile, instant in sympathy, keen in both mental and visual impressions, and vivid in speech, a lover of his fellow men, makes cartoons which come to the readers of the Leader like the morning sunshine. They have weight and "punch" in plenty, but they are pleasant to see, unless some terrible lesson has to be driven home. They appeal to humor, imagination, intelligence and common sense, and they get the answer they seek.

And all the while Ole May is growing and advancing, to the delight of a host of friends. He merits the success he has won and he is sure to go on earning the good things which come his way.—Benjamin Karr.

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Ole is my great grandfather.Thank you for posting this.:-)
 
Whoever you are, I am doing my doctoral dissertation on Ole May and his time as a euphoniumist in the Marine Band. Please get in contact me. I have some great info about you grandfather. You can reach me through the U.S. Marine Band website: marineband.publicaffairs@usmc.mil - just tell them it concerns euphonium history! Thank you!
 
Ole May is my grandfather's brother, Leo May. And my father is named after Ole. Do u have any info on my grandfather, Leo, that you van share with me. Thank you.
 
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

 

Obscurity of the Day: Rich and Famous




Stu Hample, in amongst his varied activities as an entertainer, had a long-running panel cartoon titled Children's Letters to God. In 1976 either Stu ran out of entertaining missives to the Creator, or the last newspapers that ran it finally ODed on the intense sugary sweetness of the feature. Left without a gig, Stu must have prayed just a little too hard for a new entree into newspapers, because he ended up with two of 'em. One was Inside Woody Allen, the other was this feature, Rich and Famous.

Hample was engaged by two competing syndicates, so on King Features' Inside Woody Allen he chose to work under a pseudonym at first, using his real identity on this feature for Field Enterprises.

Rich and Famous had a good gimmick with its tale of would-be entertainment mogul Bruce Rich. The endless parade of offbeat acts he represents gives the strip plenty of room for comedy. The problem, I think, is that Bruce is such a lazy good for nothing, and borderline cruel to his doting wife Daphne, that he's a complete turn-off. He really has no redeeming features, and he's not even an amusing ne'er do well. He's just off-putting.

Hample undoubtedly would have preferred to make a success of this feature, being lock, stock and barrel his own, rather than the other feature where he was in the comedic and financial shadow of Woody Allen. But it didn't take long to figure out in which basket his eggs would do best. Rich and Famous started on November 1 1976, and seems to have pooped out less than five months later, on March 12 1977.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

 

"Pop" Momand Profiled by Alex Jay

From the first week of Keeping Up With The Joneses, perhaps the first strip

Arthur Ragland "Pop" Momand was born in San Diego, California on May 15, 1887. His date of birth was recorded on his World War I and II draft registration cards, a 1925 passport application, numerous passenger lists, and in the Social Security Death Index. He was the first of five children born to Ragland, a Georgia native, and Anna, a Mississippi native. His brother, John Leslie, was born in California around 1888. Siblings Don Stuart (1891), Grace L. (1895), and Gertrude C. (1897), were all born in New York.

An August 1908 passenger list recorded Momand's return to New York, aboard the S.S. Floride, on the 19th; he had departed from Le Havre, France on the 8th. This trip may have been related to his study at the Julian Academy in Paris, France.

In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Momand was married to May Harding (her second marriage and nine years his senior) who had three teen-aged daughters. They had been married for three months and lived in Hempstead, Nassau, New York. His occupations were artist and painter. His mother and siblings lived in Manhattan. Momand's "Keeping Up with the Joneses" may have debuted in April 1913 in the New York Globe, the World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska) and other newspapers (March 31 is my start date -- Allan).


The Moving Picture World profiled Momand in its September 11, 1915 issue on page 1809:
Arthur Momand's Cartoons

Right away a guy gets conspicuous—next thing you know he's in the moving pictures. That is what happened to Mr. McGinnis and his whole family in the daily-cartoon extravaganza "Keeping Up with the Joneses." So it is that this comic, which graces the pages of a big string of American dailies, is to appear on the Mutual Film Corporation's $8,000,000 program.

Arrangements have been completed with "Pop," father of the series, to put it into animated cartoons for release on the Mutual program. The Joneses matter will be animated by Harry Palmer, cartoonist for the Gaumont Company. Five hundred feet a week of this subject will be released on a split reel carrying an equal footage of "Seeing America First."

"Pop," as he signs his cartoons in the Associated Newspapers, is Arthur R. Momand, a newspaper artist of high repute. Mr. Momand was born in California along in 1888, before it became the fashion to brag about the climate down at San Diego. Shortly thereafter he brought his parents to New York. A few years later he was about to matriculate at Princeton when an editor got in the way and gave him a job. This was Henry Grant Dart, then art editor of the New York World. Mr. Momand stayed with the World seven years, there gaining a name as the maker of various series including "Mr. I. N. Dutch." 

Next Mr. Momand appeared on the staff of the Evening Telegram, where he created the series "Pazzaza." Success encouraged Mr. Momand to go abroad for study. He spent a year at the Julian Academy and there evolved his most human series of them all, "Keeping Up with the Joneses." This series is now running in about 150 daily newspapers in the United States and Canada. It deals in the most cheerful sort of way with the most intimate foibles of American family life. But why analyze and be serious. Look at it and laugh.

(Two "Keeping Up with the Joneses" animated cartoons and a book can be viewed and downloaded at the Internet Archive, enter "Momand" in the search box.)

The Hamilton Daily News (Ohio) published Momand's account of his life on October 7, 1921:
'Keeping Up With Joneses' Keeps Pop Momand Busy

Here's what Pop Momand, creator of "Keeping Up With the Joneses," appearing in the Daily News Comic page daily, has to say for himself:

"I gave my first yell in San Diego, Cal., on the night of May 15, 1888 [sic]. Unlike most Native Sons, I haven't yelled much about California since. At a tender age my parents moved to Houston, Tex., where I understand my father tried to make some real money in real estate. About the only thing I remember in connection with Houston is getting a licking for running off and riding on a 'flying jinny," which, above the Mason Dixie line is known as a merry-go-round. From Texas my fond parents made a big jump, and the next thing I remember in life is a flock of cable cars, elevated trains and hansom cabs. Also a large quantity of human beings walking up and down a street called Broadway.

"Shortly after this my father evidently decided it was time I learned who discovered America and who won the battle of Bull Run, and many other things so necessary to a complete education. So I was sent to school, where I didn't cover myself with much glory, but certainly did cover my books with queer looking pictures. The family wanted me to become a prominent lawyer, but I fooled 'em and rapidly became a very poor artist.

"When about eighteen, I met Harry Grant Dart, then art editor of the New York World, who said if I cared to become a "regular artist" he would give me a job. I jumped at his offer and started on the magnificent salary of $6 per week. He was very kind and through his efforts and instruction I was soon making $30 per week. [If Momand was 18 at the time, the year would have been 1905.]

"For about eight years I did regular newspaper stuff—everything from making borders for photographs to sporting cartoons for the sports page. At last I hit upon "Keeping Up With the Joneses," began to make some "real money," and also began to "keep up with the Joneses" myself.

"That was nine years ago, and Aloysius P. McGinnis and his family are still going strong."
The date of Momand's divorce from Mary is not known. According to an August 1927 passenger list, Momand and Mayo Deason arrived in New York, from Cherbourg, France, on the 15th. On June 4, 1928 Momand married Deason, a Clara City, Minnesota native, at the Town Hall (Rathaus) in Lucerne, Switzerland, as recorded in the United States Consular Reports of Marriages.

The New York Times reported Momand's passing on December 5, 1987.

Arthur R. Momand, Comic Strip Artist, Dies

Arthur R. Momand, an artist and creator of the comic strip "Keeping Up With the Joneses," died Nov. 10 at the Mary McClellan Hospital in Cambridge, N.Y. He was 101 [sic; 100] years old and lived in a nursing home at the hospital.

Mr. Momand, who was born in San Diego, attended the Trinity School in New York City and began his career as a sketch artist for The New York World in 1907 [sic; 1905].

In 1916 [sic; 1913], he created "Keeping Up With the Joneses," a comic strip parody of American domestic life, which was eventually syndicated in several hundred newspapers in the United States and abroad. After discontinuing the comic strip in 1945 [sic; the strip ended on April 16, 1938.], Mr. Momand, who was known as "Pop," worked as a portrait painter in Manhattan.

He is survived by a nephew, Anthony V. Lynch, of Shushan, N.Y., and two nieces, Keiron Jesup of New Canaan, Conn., and Virginia, of Staten Island.


The New York Times has ideas about the origin of the idiom (1 and 2) of Keeping up with the Joneses.

Some of Momand's fine art work and sketchbook pages can be viewed at Mark Lawson Antiques.
Farewell from Keeping Up With The Joneses, April 16 1938

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Hello---I did a search of several major newspapers, 1875-1910,for the expression "Keeping up with the Joneses" and there was nothing. Now I read Momand's own account, and he discusses how he invented the phrase. Thanks to Alex Jay for finally establishing the origin of the phrase!---Cole Johnson.
 
I would like to reprint this strip in a book I am doing. Do you know if a copyright exists on it? And who I would have to contact? - doug
 
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

 

Obscurity of the Day: Pazaza, It's Great!




Arthur 'Pop' Momand spent most of his early cartooning years at the New York World, but he did part company with them for awhile to produce Pazaza, It's Great! for the Evening Telegram, the afternoon paper counterpart of Bennett's Herald. The Telegram was notable in the 1900s and early teens for having a constantly evolving and often interesting line-up of weekday comics. Unfortunately their material wasn't widely syndicated, and archived copies of the Telegram itself are quite scarce (this because libraries correctly considered afternoon papers to be comparatively frivolous compared to their morning editions).

Luckily Cole Johnson provides some wonderful samples of this Telegram strip, a particular favorite of mine. Momand's brainchild was deliciously rebellious and snarky. Most newspapers were filled with snake-oil ads at that time, and I don't recall the Telegram being a dissident in that respect, so it's pretty cool that the paper ran this strip which makes blatant fun of such products. In those days the typical wonder elixir was advertised to cure a whole laundry list of aches and illnesses, from the mundanity of psoriasis and warts right on up to cancer and leprosy. Amazing what a little codeine and alcohol can do.

Momand's stand-in for products like Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound, Carter's Little Liver Pills and Dr. Morse's Indian Root Extract was Pazaza, and the strip had it being effective for doing pretty much anything the purchaser could ever dream. Although it was a one-joke strip, it was a pretty funny one with a million gag possibilities. Momand didn't quite make it to the million mark, but he did produce it on a pretty consistent basis from December 9 1908 to September 14 1910.

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I've never seen this before. I agree with you: its unique gimmick is a lot of fun. I could use a bottle of Pazaza myself.
 
While I like the base idea and the art, the development in each case seems unremarkable to me. I'd have been more impressed if he'd managed to add a "monkey's paw" twist where the magic elixir works exactly as advertised but things go awry comically from there.
 
Chris, I wonder if the idea of a "patent medicine" that did everything its salesman said it could do was just so ridiculously absurd that it appealed to the sensibilities of the time. In that strange way it was a fantasy strip that didn't depend on rarebit dreams or anything else to excuse its narrative.
 
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Monday, February 14, 2011

 

Obscurity of the Day: Drowsy Dick



No, no, it's not a strip about the benefits of Viagra, though this snoozer might have benefited from a little blue pill.

When the New York World expanded its Sunday comics section in 1926, Drowsy Dick was one of the new additions on September 12. In a concept that had been done before, and done better, a kid is injected into various classic fairy tales. Unlike strips that managed to muster up an actual point of view, though, the kid doesn't seem to have any effect on the telling of the stories. He simply takes the place of a character, or tags along for the ride in the awkwardly adapted tales.

The original creator was Ernest J. King, a fellow who  has no other credits that I can find. While his art isn't all that memorable, it's pretty darn impressive stuff for a guy who seems to have left no tracks other than four Sundays he did for this series.

Yep, that's right. He was canned after a mere four pages, barely had his feet, or rather his brush, wet. The good news is that his replacement wielded a pretty fabulous pen. Violet Moore Higgins, a criminally under-celebrated cartoonist and children's book illustrator, took over on October 10. Her lush brushwork almost makes us forget that the stories continue to be stilted and unoriginal. At least we have plenty of eye candy to look at. As Higgins settled in, she seemed to at least wield enough control over the feature that the stories were made more manageable. Rather than trying to retell an entire fairy tale story in twelve panels, her version more often focused on a single vignette as in the example shown here.

My assumption is that neither King or Higgins did the writing on this strip, but rather it was the work of some anonymous staff writer, one who seemed to have no feel at all for comic strip pacing. No great loss that the writer took no credit since it would not have done his or her resume any good.

Drowsy Dick continued as a Sunday page until May 29 1927. But Dick wasn't sent off for the eternal slumber just yet. On September 30 he reappeared, this time in a daily strip that, as best I can  tell, appeared only in the New York Evening World. Dick continued his snoozy adventures in the new format until April 14 1928.

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Part 1

The following information is from the family history book, "The Wights: Volume 2" (Gateway Press, 1977), page 52:

Violet Idelle Moore, born November 28, 1886, Elgin, Illinois, married March 12,
1910, Edward Roberts Higgins, born September 26, 1877, San Francisco,
California. He was a Captain in the Philippines Constabulary during and after
the Spanish-American War. He became a newspaper artist and worked for
many years for the N.E.A. division of the Scripps-Howard chain. He died New
York City, February 3, 1949, Violet died July 30, 1967, New York City. She
had for many years been a writer and artist of children's books. She produced
a comic strip for the New York World for many years called "Drowsy Dick". In
the late fifties and early sixties she produced a daily children's feature called
Junior Editors, syndicated in more than 150 United States newspapers. She
wrote and illustrated more than a dozen books and illustrated many more.

In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, the couple and her mother lived in Chicago, Illinois at 3528 West Van Buren Street. Edward was an artist at a newspaper; Violet was an artist. The Higgins eventually moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Her illustrations appeared in books as early as 1916. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on October 4, 1919 that the Higgins spent their summer in New York City.

In 1920 the couple lived in Cleveland at 3518 Prospect Avenue. Their occupation was artist at a newspaper. They soon moved to New York City where their son, Lindley, was born on October 17, 1922. Violet took over the comic strip, "Drowsy Dick," on October 10, 1926. The identity of Ernest J. King, the previous artist on the strip, will be explored in Part 2.

In 1930 the Higgins lived in the Bronx, New York at 5661 Post Road. His occupation was commercial artist; her occupation was illustrator. The couple worked together on at least one project, "The Three Musketeers," which was edited by Violet and illustrated by Edward. It was published by the John C. Winston Company in 1931.

The New York Times reported her passing on July 30, 1967.

Mrs. Violet Moore Higgins, a retired newspaper artist and children's book
illustrator, died Friday at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx after a long illness.
She was 80 years old and lived at 5661 Post Road, the Bronx. She was the
widow of Edward R. Higgins, also an artist.

Mrs. Higgins, a native of Elgin, Ill., created the comic strip known as
"Drowsy Dick," which ran in the New York World in the 1920's. She drew
a two-column children's feature called "Junior Editors" for the Associated
Press from 1954 until her retirement in 1963.

She was the illustrator for a number of children's books, including "Heidi"
and "Hans Brinker" and she wrote and illustrated "The Real Story of a Real
Doll."

Mrs. Higgins leaves a son, Lindley R. Higgins of Old Bridge, N.J., a senior
editor for McGraw-Hill, and two grandchildren.
 
Part 2

Ernest J. King drew the first four "Drowsy Dick" Sunday pages, dated September 12, 19, 26, and October 3, 1926. Violet Moore Higgins replaced him on October 10. I believe Ernest J. King was really Violet's husband, Edward, also a newspaper artist.

The New York World was aware or made aware of Violet's children's book illustrations and approached her to draw the strip, "Drowsy Dick." She was busy illustrating books and may not have had enough time to complete the first four Sundays, so she arranged for her husband to fill in for her, probably with the World's approval. Maybe she laid out the panels and he did the finished art. Edward chose to use the pseudonym, Ernest J. King.

Ernest Joseph King was born in Lorain, Ohio on November 23, 1878. During the Spanish-American War, King served as a cadet aboard the USS San Francisco. Edward also served during the Spanish-American War, so it's possible he and Ernest crossed paths. If they did not meet at that time, perhaps it was later in Ohio where the Higgins resided. Ernest moved to Annapolis, Maryland where he graduated and taught at the naval academy. He may have visited Ohio to see friends and relatives, and might have met the Higgins at some social event. But if they did not meet in Ohio, maybe it was in New York City. They may have met at a reunion of Spanish-American War veterans.

I think Edward knew Ernest and acknowledged him by signing his name on the strip. Ernest would go on to distinguish himself. According to the web site Ohio History Central, it was during World War II that "President Franklin Delano Roosevelt combined the office of Commander in Chief of the U.S. Fleet and the Chief of Naval Operations. He appointed King to this position. King was the only person to hold this office. In 1944, he attained the rank of fleet admiral."
 
Hi Alex --
An interesting possibility that Edward Higgins was involved. Comparing this to his NEA work I do sort of see similarities. However, I don't really see the sense in using the King name as an homage to the navy man. Stranger thangs have happened tho...

Thanks for the bios!

--Allan
 
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