Saturday, October 20, 2012

 

Herriman Saturday

Sunday, March 22 1908 -- Yet another cartoon leading up to the big Battling Johnson / Fireman Jim Flynn fight. Herriman's point in this cartoon is that Johnson, the giant European, has absolutely no finesse in the ring, but just wades in with fists flying, trusting that brute strength and a complete willingness to take punishment from his opponent will add up to an eventual heavyweight championship.In other words, he's like a steamroller, willing and able to pulverize everything in its path.

The Hen Berry 'weazel hat' cartoon series continues ... on and on ...

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Friday, October 19, 2012

 

News of Yore: The First Serious Newspaper Strip Collector?


On Collecting Comics

by August Derleth
(from The Book Collector's Packet, December 1938)

After more than a decade, they don't give me that butterfly net look any longer. My friends and neighbors have come to accept my comic section collecting as a kind of affliction with which they must bear. One among many such, I should say.

I began collecting comic sections longer ago than I can remember, before I was in my teens. But collecting did not amount to a serious mania until a dozen years or so ago, when I had my first volume bound. That first volume was a departure from most of those that came after, for it was put together page by page, the strips carefully pasted to book-size sheets, and then sent to the bindery. That collection, Everett True, is still one of my favorites, not alone because of the character's asperity in social comment, but because I have seldom encountered so sensible a comic. A.D. Condo died in 1926 [sic], and Everett True died with him. He began some twenty years before, initially The Outbursts of Everett True, and was, in all his long life, bested by no one with the single exception of his wife. The man who mistreated animals, the know-it-all who decided criminal trials by what he read in the newspapers, the horn-blowing nuisance who comes to call, the careless motorist or pedestrian, and many another suffered Everett True's righteous wrath; it sometimes seemed strange to me that this wrathful gentleman could be as irascible as he was in his home and thus bring himself to merit from his wife the treatment he accorded others. His common sense is memorable, and there is no comic character today who so consistently gives voice to acidulous truisms such as "The best minds in the country are those who mind their own business!" and "Put the punch into your talk, not into my ribs!" Of A.D. Condo I know nothing, save that in appearance he was mild, and probably short, a slight man; I have not the least doubt but that Everett True's opinions represented his own. Comics of far less importance were continued by other hands, but Everett, alas! was left to pass on with his creator.

Only three other comics on my shelves are bound in this particular fashion, and all three are excellent examples of what a comic artist can do in the way of portraying human nature. They are Fontaine Fox's Toonerville Folks, and J.R. William's Out Our Way, all of which are familiar to even the most casual reader of comics. But the casual reader misses in most cases the scope of these comics, he is not aware of the artist's growth, the increasing depth of his insight into human nature, he fails to understand that he may often be reading about himself, that the characters of Ahern, Williams and Fox can be picked out of any walk of life. The distinction between the larger volumes and these smaller books by Condo, Fox, Ahern, and Williams is that they are black and white comics, usually in one or two small cartoons.


Of the colored comics, I have to date no less than twenty-one bound volumes, all carefully selected. That is to say, I have not simply bound entire papers; I have gone over all I had on file and chosen those comics I wished to preserve, so that within the covers of these twenty-one volumes there are comics dating from 1903 to 1938. The comics I collect most assiduously have been and are the late Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland, Cliff Sterrett's Polly and Her Pals, Herriman's Krazy Kat, Percy Crosby's Skippy, Knerr's and the earlier Dirks' The Katzenjammer Kids, Fera's Just Boy and, to a lesser degree, its successor, Winner's Elmer, Edwina's Tippie, Clare Victor Dwiggins' Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, H.J. Tuthill's The Bungle Family, George McManus's Bringing Up Father, Billy DeBeck's Barney Google, particularly since the addition of Snuffy Smith to the cast of characters.

A glance at this list of favorites will suffice to enable the reader of comic supplements to divide them into small defined groups: 

1. comics of small town folk, pure and simple, such as Just Boy, Toonerville Folks, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn (to these I have added from time to time Armstrong's Slim Jim and the Force, Dwiggins' Nipper and Gene Byrnes' Reg'lar Fellers)
2. comics revealing a deep insight into human nature such as Out Our Way, Skippy, The Bungle Family, Our Boarding House, Tippie (to this group I have added many installments of Blosser's Freckles and His Friends, Berndt's Smitty, Cliff McBride's Napoleon and Uncle Elby, Chick [sic] Young's Blondie, Jack Callahan's Home Sweet Home, Briggs' Mr. and Mrs.)
3. pure nonsense comics, such as The Katzenjammer Kids, Bringing Up Father, Barney Google (in this category belong also the late F. Opper's Happy Hooligan and the late Segar's Popeye)
4. and finally comics in which imagination is combined not only with fantasy but with one or more of the above classifications; such comics are Little Nemo in Slumberland, Polly and Her Pals, and Krazy Kat, in all of which there is manifest not only a delightful fantasy and an excellent artistry, but often a penetrating commentary upon our times, a feature that is especially true of Krazy Kat.

Frankly, nothing that can even approach Winsor McCay's imagination and technical ability has appeared among American comics since McCay's death and the end of the Nemo series. The kingdom of Morpheus to which Litlle Nemo nightly went to sojourn for eight to fourteen cartoons is absolutely unique for its wealth of artistic detail, for the breathless scope of McCay's imagination. The cartoons had about them, too, a very special dreamlike quality, a perspective and depth inherent in powerfully imaginative drawings of buildings and scenes in the Slumberland kingdom, a quality which set them far above present-day bidders for the glory that was Little Nemo's—Davis and Falk's Mandrake the Magician, Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon, and Dick Calkins' Buck Rogers. Of these three, Raymond's Flash Gordon betrays the best imaginative power, but is still far below McCay's Little Nemo. Likewise there is no other artist in the game who can top Cliff Sterrett's curious manner, his livid colors, his strange leaning houses, his modernistic trees, nor is there anything in print to equal Herriman's Krazy Kat.

It is interesting quite apart from the collecting habit, to watch the development of comics. Few People know, for instance, that when Russ Westover started Tillie the Toiler, Mac was as tall as, if not taller than Wally, that when the late Sidney Smith gave up Old Doc Yak, he could not bear to part with Doc's old car, his 348; so he gave it to The Gumps; that several artists have drawn The Katzenjammer Kids, and that the comics running under the name of the originator, Dirks, The Captain and the Kids, are inferior to those by Knerr; that the entire group of present-day crime hunters in the comics, from Dan Dunn to Jane Arden, from Dick Tracy to Don Winslow are not nearly up to the earlier, more crudely drawn Hawkshaw the Detective. Likewise, the original Hairbreadth Harry by C.W. Kahles had it all over the present comic by that name. Few people remember King's Bobby Make-Believe, a very human comic about a boy who lived in day-dreams, but King is now well known for his Gasoline Alley, and particularly because he is one of the few comic artists who has permitted his child characters to grow older with time.

Over a period of time, many comic artists repeat themselves. On November 12, 1916 Sidney Smith's Old Doc Yak concerned itself with Doc's being startled by a great hullaballoo of people running in terror; investigation showed that they were running from Doc Yak's little son, who was pursuing them with an armful of bricks. Last year, the identical occurrence took place in The Gumps. But few, very few comics, repeat themselves with the utterly boring monotony of the two worse space-takers in the comic supplements: Jimmy Murphy's Toots and Casper, and the Buck-Stevenson Ted Towers. Even the annoying advertisements stealing space from comics are preferable to these two fillers.

The world of the comic supplements is a world in which few things change, a dream-world in which few characters ever age. The Captain, the Inspector, the Katzenjammer Kids, Jiggs, Maggie, Paw Perkins, Elmer, Pa and Cedric, Little Jimmy, Hairbreadth Harry and Belinda—all are substantially the same as they were decades ago when first they appeared. For this reason it is common in psychological parlance to think of a liking for the comics as an escape from change and life, a retreat to stable, unchanging things from the mad clamor of the world of today. This is consistent with the contemporary cloaking of simplicity with complexity; while there is a modicum of truth about it, there is little to show that a liking for comics is anything more than the manifestation of a healthy desire to laugh at the foibles of mankind, as a healthy man derides his own beliefs.

But there is more to the comics than just the comedy. Thirty-five years of comic supplements reveal in miniature the social history of our country: styles, fads, the periods' slang, history (the War comics especially), political life; but particularly and most clearly life in small towns, in city neighborhoods, in typical families of those years, revealing such life with a fidelity not found even in the histories of our time.

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. . . and I wonder where his wondrous bound volumes are today. Starting in 1903 — omigod! I have always dreamt of a time machine to take me back to those days, when I could buy a pristine Sunday section of McCay, McManus, Dirks, Opper, Outcault . . . Derleth's volumes must be somewhere! Does anyone know?

While I'm at it, I'll add that my Mom clipped and saved (in scrapbooks) many years of Terry and The Pirates, in Caniff's greatest period. I have those scrapbooks now. So if Derleth was the first comics collector, maybe my Mom was second! (She also discovered Barks in the early 50s, and introduced her kids to him. She would let us read her comics if we were careful.)
 
Other pioneering comic strip collectors would include Ernie McGee, who started collecting at least in the 1920's, and was able to accumulate an incredible amount of early material when most everyone else thought it worthless. Also, the late Cal Dobbins of Seymour, Ill., who started about the same time.
 
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Thursday, October 18, 2012

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles: Harry J. Westerman



Harry James Westerman was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia, on August 8, 1876, according to Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900 (2000) and his World War I draft card. He has not been found in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census.

Artists in Ohio said “he was raised in Columbus and attended the Columbus Art School. He went to work at the Ohio State Journal in 1897 and became staff cartoonist four years later.” His illustration of a shootout was reprinted in Historic Columbus Crimes: Mama’s in the Furnace, the Thing and More (2010).

In the 1900 census, he was the second of three children born to Francis and Clara. His father was not counted in the census. The family lived in Columbus, Ohio at 923 Franklin Avenue. He was a newspaper artist. The Art of Caricature (1904) said

...Ohio boasts of four political cartoonists of prominence, and in a State where there is so much political activity and strife, and which contains so many statesmen, the reputation of a newspaper artist is important. J.H. Donohey, with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, W.L. Evans, with the Cleveland Leader, E.A. Bushnell, with the Cincinnati Post, and Harry J. Westerman [above], with the Ohio State Journal, are all first-class draughtsmen....

His cartoon of Theodore Roosevelt was reprinted in Rough Rider in the White House (2003). An issue of International Studio, 1904, reviewed Westerman’s A Book of Cartoons. A family tree at Ancestry.com said his father died May 18, 1906, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His Ohio State Journal illustrations for The Young Lady Across the Way were collected in a book and published in 1908; it can be viewed and downloaded here.

In 1910 he lived in Columbus, Ohio at 1661 Franklin Park South. The census said he and Maude were married for 13 years and had two children. His occupation was a newspaper cartoonist. The 1910 Ohio census recorded his first name as Henry. There is a self-portrait at the Columbus Metropolitan Library website.

The American Art Annual, Volume 10, 1913 listing said he was a member of the Columbus Pen and Brush Club. In 1914, he was the artist of George V. Hobart’s The Dinkelspiels, and George Ade's Newest Fables in Slang.


Cleveland Plain Dealer Magazine, 7/13/1913


Miami Herald, 10/25/1914

The Hudson Triangle, May 16, 1914, reported his car purchase.

Harry J. Westerman, whose “Young Lady Across the Way,” “Dinkelspeil [sic],” and other cartoons are widely known, now takes his ease in a Hudson Six-40 phaeton. H.J. Schwartz, president and general manager of the Standard Motor Company of Columbus, Ohio, did the dotted line act.

During World War I he did drawings promoting thrift stamps, here and here. Cartoons Magazine, April 1916, published a photo and drawing of his dog. Artists in Ohio said, “By 1917 his work was being distributed nationally by the McClure and Adams syndicates.” His illustrations for “The Young Lady Across the Way” were published in Puck; early 1917 drawings are here. He signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. He was a cartoonist for the Ohio State Journal. He was described as tall and slender with blue eyes and brown hair.


He remained a newspaper cartoonist at the same address in the 1920 census, which also recorded a third child. The Fourth Estate, July 8, 1922, reported the death of his wife.

Mrs. Harry J. Westerman, 47 years old, wife of the artist of the Columbus, Ohio, State Journal, was killed in a fall on the pavement near her home. She was carrying her infant grandchild at the time but the little one escaped injury. It is believed that Mrs. Westerman was overcome by the heat. Her skull was fractured.

Westerman and his oldest son’s family lived at the same address in 1930, Columbus, Ohio, 1661 Franklin Park South. He remarried, to Grace G. Doyle, in 1931 according to the New York Times, June 28, 1945. Three men, including Richard F. Outcault, “were added to a roll of honor fostered by the school of journalism at Ohio State university,” as reported in the Lima News (Ohio), November 5, 1933; “...Outcault, who drew a comic strip for the Cincinnati Enquirer and created Buster Brown, was extolled by Harry Westerman, artist for the Ohio State Journal.” Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles (2008) said Sickles covered for Westerman.

…Bud [Sickles’ nickname] wandered back to Columbus and found himself once again working as a staff artist at one of the city’s newspapers, this time the highly-regarded Ohio State Journal. That paper’s political cartoonist, the prolific Harry James Westerman, had taken ill. After Billy Ireland pulled a few strings on Noel's behalf, responsibilities for the the Journal’s daily political cartoon fell into the hands of the 19-year-old from Chillicothe.

The Hamilton Daily News Journal (Ohio), July 5, 1935 said: “…Westerman retired today as cartoonist of the Ohio State Journal. He will continue in syndicate and portrait work.”

In the 1940 census, he was an artist at home, 4124 Riverside Drive in Perry, Ohio. His highest level of education was four years of high school. His wife was 24 years his junior and they had a six-year-old daughter. Westerman passed away June 27, 1945, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on his way to New York City. The New York Times published the United Press report the following day. He “suffered a heart attack as the Jeffersonian, Pennsylvania Railroad express, reached the station here. He was pronounced dead by Dr. H.A. Larkin, railroad physician….Mrs. Westerman and their daughter, Sylvia, were with the cartoonist when he was stricken….” He was buried at Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

 

Obscurity of the Day: The Young Lady Across the Way




Two employees of the Ohio State Journal got together and came up with this long-running single-panel feature, The Young Lady Across the Way. The artist was Harry J. Westerman, who was their editorial cartoonist, and the writer was Robert O. Ryder, who was, as they said in those days, a paragrapher, which means a writer of opinion pieces, light items, and other fluffy stuff.

The panel broke some new ground. It was single-column, a rarity in the day it was created, and it featured the malapropisms of a stylish, pretty but slightly dim damsel, very much in the same fashion as the much later debuting Flapper Fanny, Rolls Rosie and others.

That's what I can tell you for sure. From there on, the details get a little murky. The first problem is that for the longest time I believed that the feature began in July 1913. I have two papers that started it then -- figured I was good to go. Only problem is that Alex Jay just shot a rather large hole in that theory with the information that there were two books of the cartoons published in 1908! Okay, back to the drawing board. Now my theory is that the feature was picked up for syndication by George Matthew Adams Service in 1913, but was apparently running in the Ohio State Journal at least as early as 1908. Saying any more than that will require some microfilm research of the 1900s Ohio State Journal, which I have not reviewed as yet. I do know, however, that the feature moved from Adams to the McClure Syndicate in 1919, so I do have something worthwhile to contribute.

The next problem is the end date. The feature was never to my knowledge advertised in the E&P yearbooks for some reason, so they're no help. As best I can tell the feature stopped being produced in 1928. But that is hard to say for certain because both McClure and Adams sold off their backstock of the panels to reprint syndicates even before they stopped producing new material, and you can easily find the feature running into the 1930s in smaller papers. But the material I find in bigger papers up to 1928 looks to me like first-run material -- the references seem timely, and the reproduction isn't muddy and full of type lice, as is often the case with the reprint material.

Next question that bothers me is that I've never seen Robert Ryder credited on the panel in the newspaper -- only in the books of 1908 and 1913. So it could well be that he didn't have anything to do with it after a certain point. But I dunno. Well, hopefully Alex Jay will make up for all this uncertainty with some hard facts for us tomorrow, when his Ink-Slinger Profile of Harry Westerman is the post of the day.


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I have both of the 1908 books, and they are fairly slight -- each is about 4 by 5.75 inches, and the art is likely the size that the feature appeared in the Journal. Both books are copyrighted 1908 by Robert O. Ryder, and one also adds "The Young Lady Across the Way Publishing Company," which sounds as if Ryder published these on his own nickel. Westerman's art is markedly different from your samples, as well -- it's more a take on the fashion of the day as popularized by C.D. Gibson.
 
Hi Frank --
Westerman kept his 'young lady' up-to-date in both fashions and drawing style. The samples shown here are all from the 20s. It would be interesting to see a 1908 sample or two if you can send scans.

Interesting that you have both of these scarce books -- was it a result of collecting the work of Westerman or Ryder?

--Allan
 
Allan, just Westerman -- and I am in Ohio. Columbus used to have a few good used and rare bookstores, but as with most towns they're becoming more and more scarce. I also have Westerman's lone political cartoon collection and a couple of his originals. And what I didn't note in the first post was that one of the '08 books is signed by both Ryder and Westerman.
 
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

 

Obscurity of the Day: The Dinkelspiels

For reasons that I find mystifying, at the turn of the last century some of the most popular prose humor was written in dialect. There were 'humorists' who specialized in just about every dialect flavor imaginable. But I'll be darned if I find any of it funny, and not because of any holier-than-thou dislike of national or cultural stereotyping. No, it's the work I have to do reading it to make any sense of the darn stuff. By the time I go to all the trouble of translating the lingo into something understandable I am certainly in no mood to laugh. Heck, I'm exhausted!

George V. Hobart was a humorist whose highest achievement in dialect humor was a family of German immigrants named the Dinkelspiels. He came up with them for the Cumberland Sunday Scimitar in 1893, and they were popular enough to get him into Baltimore, and then New York City, newspapers with short stories relating their conversations written in German-flavored pidgin English. If you have a constitution that can enjoy such stuff, you can read two books of Hobart's Dinkelspiels online, Dinkelspiel's Letters to Looey and D. Dinkelspiel; His Gonversationings.Hobart's Dinkelspiels also apparently did well on vaudeville stages well into the 1910s.

The last hurrah for The Dinkelspiels seems to have been this comic strip. The faltering McClure Syndicate contracted Hobart to write the series, probably hoping that the addition of some well-known characters to their pre-print sections might put it back on the radar for newspapers. They would later do the same with another series which (sort of) starred Charlie Chaplin, that time taking the unlicensed route to save money.

The addition of The Dinkelspiels to the preprint section didn't help McClure, of course, as preprint seemed to no longer be nearly the economical boon it once was. Apparently by the mid-teens newspapers could take their pick of features from multiple syndicates and get their customized funnies sections printed for about the same cost. 

Though The Dinkelspiels was full of Hobart's signature slanguage, which I could certainly do without, it did sport some delightful art. First up was Harry J. Westerman, whose usual cartooning work, mostly done for the Ohio State Journal,  would have never have led me to expect this wonderful highly stylized stuff.

The Westerman art ran from the strip's inception, on February 1, to July 26 1914. Then one of McClure's best artists, Ed Carey, took over until the strip ended on April 11 1915.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles: Ralph Eckhart


Ralph H. Eckhart was born in Cleveland, Ohio on June 29, 1907, according to the Ohio, Births and Christenings Index at Ancestry.com. In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, he was the oldest of two children born to Harry and Bessie. His father was a teamster at a dairy company. The family lived in Cleveland at 1967 West 75th Street.

In 1920 the family lived in Ashland, Ohio at 608 Ohio Street. His father manufactured brooms. The Cleveland Plain Dealer on May 15, 1960, said: “…he was a graduate of West High School. He was an outstanding sandlot baseball player in early years….” Eckhart was a newspaper artist according to the 1930 census. He lived with his parents in Cleveland at 3141 West 84th Street. The Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Records and Indexes, at Ancesty.com, recorded his marriage, November 28, 1935, to Marjorie Black.

According to the Plain Dealer, Eckhart was an “editorial artist for the Press in the 1930s and creator of the comic strip Bizzy Bear.” (There was a 1933 Bizzy Bear by Bob Satterfield and Max Cook in the Toledo News-Bee, which was taken over by Eckhart after about five months) A 1936 issue of Safety Education said:

...Bizzy was a good friend of Cleveland boys and girls long before he began his safety campaign. He appeared in The Cleveland Press every night in a comic strip and illustrated bedtime story by Ralph Eckhart and Edith Oliver Jones. One day a school boy went to Mrs. Jones and asked, “Why doesn’t Bizzy Bear organize a safety club? I’ll bet a lot of kids would like to join.” So Mrs. Jones and Mr. Eckhart talked it over with Bizzy and the next week Bizzy began his safety campaign in his comic strip. At the same time The Press invited all the boys and girls in Greater Cleveland to learn the six Bizzy Bear Safety rules and join the club. And did they do it? Ask Bizzy! He had to hire three more secretaries to help him send out badges to new members! Carl L. Smith, managing director of the Cleveland Safety Council, and a personal friend of the jolly bear, says, “It is in my opinion the most successful campaign ever conducted among school children in this country.”
Eckhart has not been found in the 1940 census. He enlisted in the army on December 12, 1940, according to the U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records at Ancestry.com. The record showed that he had two years of college and was divorced without dependents. The Plain Dealer said he was an Air Force captain and “worked for a time for Radio Station WTAM after leaving the Press. Later he was public relations assistant to the county auditor, John J. Carney….”

Eckhart passed away May 12, 1960 according to the California Death Index. His death was reported in the Plain Dealer, May 15, which said: “…His work in California had been with the Pasadena Independent-News….Surviving him are his wife, Bernice; five sons, Roger of North Olmsted, Gary, Ralph, Dale and Howard; a sister and his parents.”

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics

Allan's note: this piece was completed before Jim's recent move -- unfortunately the kaffeeklatsch is now Jim-less.

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Uh, let's refer to them as our "reclining years" -- Craig
 
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