Friday, April 06, 2012


Obscurity of the Day: Living in Lonesomehurst

Ed Mack, who we've met before through an Alex Jay bio on the blog, parlayed a relatively minor position in the Hearst cartooning pantheon into a job ghosting Bud Fisher's Mutt & Jeff. We can debate the wisdom of Mack's career move, but you can't really blame him for giving up on Hearst. Mack seemed to always pull assignments that were guaranteed to foster his obscurity.

Here's one of Mack's last assignments for Hearst, Living in Lonesomehurst. Mack may have already been working for Fisher when he did this strip, and the feature shows that Mack didn't have a whole lot of heart in his work. The plot is one that was pretty popular in the teens; a chronicle of a family that moves to the suburbs. In the 1910s the city folks thought these new suburbanites were completely nuts -- they were half-certain that dingoes would eat their babies out there in that newly platted wilderness. One point of interest in the first example above is that Mack trots out his character Hilda, who had her own Sunday strip back in 1914, for a cameo in the new feature.

Living in Lonesomehurst was a Sunday feature of Hearst's Newspaper Feature Service, which was the company's least successful syndication offering at the time. The syndicate began with the idea of selling a sort of boilerplate Sunday section, a la McClure, just as that business model was circling the drain. By 1916, when Living in Lonesomehurst premiered, few papers were interested in taking a complete section of lesser Hearst products, and even fewer editors were soft enough in the head to choose Living in Lonesomehurst on its own merits.  Therefore samples of this strip are scarce enough that I can't supply a start date; my earliest sample is from mid-June. The end date, if my run in the Springfield (IL) Leader is to be trusted, is October 8 1916.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!


I like how in the top strip's fifth panel it says, "'Close up' just like in the movies"

"Close up" would have been a fairly new term in 1916.
It sure would. The Oxford English Dictionary's earliest recorded usage was 1913.
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