Saturday, November 24, 2012

 

Herriman Saturday

Tuesday, March 24 1908 -- Sorry, folks, this one has me more than a little confused. I don't know why Herriman, out of the blue, feels the need to point out that the Great White Fleet will eventually visit Japan months from now. I don't know why the Japanese fellow says "Sayonara To Sin". I don't know why the buried hatchet vignette is accompanied, as best I can tell, with the words "Nic Jacet". I don't know why the sailor refers to the Japanese woman as "Eey Yo San". I don't understand why the fleet's visit to Japan made Union Pacific stock rise.

I'm real confused.

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It's not "Nic Jacet" but "Hic Jacet," Latin for "here lies." As in here lies the buried hatchet.

As for the Union Pacific stock, it should probably be remembered that a few months before this cartoon came out, in October-November 1907, there was a major bank panic which caused stock prices to fall dramatically. Union Pacific, being a bellwether stock, suffered heavily. Between May, 1907 and June, 1908, there was a fairly serious recession. Any outbreak of peace would be good for stock prices, including Union Pacific. Union Pacific, of course, was one of Los Angeles' largest companies.

There had been fairly serious, just-below-the-surface tensions with the Japanese empire about this time -- there had been anti-Japanese riots in San Francisco just months before; the Great White Fleet visit was a show of muscle (the fact that we could send a fleet around the world and have it in good nick, unlike the Russians during their recent war) beneath the good will. Hence why there's a lot of "peace" imagery here.

The fleet, by the way, hit Yokohama in October of 1908, some months after this cartoon.
 
Further note: as to "Eey Yo San," one possible explanation is that this is an allusion to the Puccini opera "Madama Butterfly." It will be recalled that Cio-Cio San [pron. Cho-Cho, the Japanese word for Butterfly], the heroine of the opera, is romanced by Pinkerton, a U.S. Navy officer. (Spoiler: the opera doesn't end well.)

The opera had its world premiere in 1904, and had its U.S. premiere in 1906. The last revision, creating the standard version, came in 1907. Thus, the opera would have been well-known at the time of the cartoon.
 
One of the arias in the second act of Madama Butterfly is: "Ah! M'ha Scordata?" [Italian: Ah! He has forgotten me?] In this context, Herriman's use of the term "forgotten" is highly suggestive.
 
Eric hit the high points, but I can add to the "goodby to sin" question. The Japanese announced that they would provide hospitality for the US sailors, including geisha girls. The US press, thinking there was no difference between geisha's and prostitutes freaked out and denounced the Japanese for basically providing an orgy. The Japanese were bewildered because the geishas were supposed to full-fill their traditional role of providing music, preform some traditional dances, laugh at the sailor's jokes, and otherwise entertain the men in a non-sexual fashion. Of course geishas often did form sexual relationships with regular, favored customers, but that was not their primary public role. The western nations, however, tended to emphasize erotic fantasies about foreign "exotic" women (see, for example, the many 'harem' paintings and stories from North Africa that were popular in Europe) and so only paid attention to the sexual role geishas could play. In order to pacify the bluenoses in the US the two nations agreed that sailors would be entertained in less controversial ways, hence the "goodby to sin" joke.
 
Hi Eric and Woodrowfan --
Wow, admitting my dumbitude in this post paid off really well! Thanks fellas for your very interesting explanations of this (to me) highly inscrutable cartoon!

--Allan
 
Great fun! Let have more of these cartoon treasure hunts! Try a few Billy Ireland's from the same time period, please.
 
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Friday, November 23, 2012

 

Obscurity of the Day: Radio Ralf




One of the very earliest radio-related comics is Radio Ralf, which arrived on the scene just three years after the first commercial-style radio broadcasts in 1919. Newspapers were quick to get on the radio hobby bandwagon, instituting weekly or even daily radio pages. Of course, where there's a radio page there must be a comic strip. That was the thinking of Jack Wilson and the McClure Syndicate when they offered Radio Ralf, starting April 10 1922.

Perhaps Radio Ralf didn't pique the fancy of newspaper editors on its own merits, or the offering was made earlier than there was any real demand for it, but the original daily run of the strip was extremely short, apparently ending on July 8, a mere three months later.

Although the strip seems to have ended with only 70-some installments under its belt, the burgeoning interest in radio kept it from going peacefully into the comic strip graveyard. In 1922-23, Western Newspaper Union added reprints of the feature to their weekly line-up. Then McClure itself started selling the strip in batches, where it was snapped up by economically minded newspapers well into the mid-1920s.

Thanks to Mark Johnson for the samples!

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles: O.P. Williams


Orville Peter Williams was born in Vassalboro, Maine on March 7, 1876. His full name and birth date came from his World War I draft card, and his birthplace was named in a profile published in the St. Albans Daily Messenger (Vermont), April 24, 1903. In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, he was the third of five children born to Peter and Margaret. They lived in Vassalboro, where his father worked in a woolen mill. The family eventually moved to Boston where he attended English High School and won a drawing prize, which was noted in Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Boston, 1894: “For Drawing. — First Prizes. — (First Class) — William F. Howes, Orville P. Williams.” The preface to Elements of Botany (1896) said: “…The illustrations drawn from nature, or redrawn expressly for this book, are mostly by Orville P. Williams or Francis M. West, recent graduates of the English High School….” He was credited in Adobeland Stories (1899) for his title page illustration, which, unfortunately, cannot be seen due to the quality of the scan. The Boston Herald, January 3, 1944, said he attended the Boston Museum of Art.

In the 1900 census, he and his brother Samuel lived with their mother, a widow and head of the household. They resided in Boston, Massachusetts at 23 Mansfield Street. Both brothers were woolen merchants. The Strand Magazine, November 1902, reported Williams abrupt change of careers.



...Mr. Orville P. Williams, who is now the chief cartoonist of the Boston Herald, began, it is true, as an artist, but owing to the failure of his father's health “had,” as he says, “to quit and take up the woollen [sic] business in which my father was engaged.” Mr. Williams adds, with significance: “Having but little heart for business, my career was a large and elegant ‘fizzle.’ ” He thereupon turned to cartoon work, and since then has made a gratifying success, which bespeaks great credit for a young draughtsman such as he. Mr. Williams is now twenty-six years old, and , although born in Maine, was educated in the Boston public schools.

That Williams cares not for the bludgeon is sufficiently proved by the delicacy of his work here reproduced. One or two of these cartoons are already well known to the people of the United States, owing to their repetition in papers outside Boston. That showing Russia and France hoeing together in the Chinese potato patch, with the Kaiser enviously watching from the top of a ladder perched against the sign in the background, tells an excellent little story, although few cartoons could exceed in merit that which represents Uncle Sam and his ink-stained hat standing in an attitude of reproof before the bad and wicked boys from France, Italy, Germany, and Austria. The Herald, in the person of its cartoonist, has had several sly digs at the foreign Powers who tried so energetically to prove that during the Spanish-American War each was Uncle Sam’s best friend….

He was one of several newspaper artists named in a 1902 issue of The Studio. The St. Albans Daily Messenger profile said:

Maine Boy’s Success.
Orville P. Williams, One of the Leading Cartoonists of the Country.

But 26 years old and chief cartoonist of The Boston Herald, is the place that Orville P. Williams, born and brought up in Vassalboro, Me., has made for himself, and it is predicted by heads of art departments all over the country that he will some day outrank any cartoonist America has ever produced. This is but one of the many instances constantly coming up that show what Maine boys are made of and make one proud of their Pine Tree state.

Mr. Williams began as an artist, but owing to the failure of his father’s health “had" as he says, “to quit and take up the woolen business which his father owned,” and adds with significance “that having but little heart in the business my career was a large and elegant fizzle.” He, therefore, returned to his art and at once attracted attention by his humorous drawings. His original and unique style quickly “caught on” and his sketches were soon in demand by newspapers and comic weeklies. But he was not satisfied with simply being funny, but sought the more serious side of comic illustrating—the cartoon. His cartoons now appearing daily in The Boston Herald are reproduced by newspapers and magazines everywhere. His work is delicate, his style original, and as a leading New York publisher said, “one of his cartoons tells more than a column editorial could.” The Strand magazine, in a recent article, “The American Cartoonist and His Work,” placed him in the front rank of our cartoonists. His work is sought after by book publishers and comic weeklies, but he prefers to give his time to his cartoons. As he says, “If I spread my work everywhere it will become commonplace and I had rather make the mistake of giving the public too little of it than too much.” It was, therefore, quite a surprise when it became known that he had drawn a series of comic illustrations to be used as advertisements by The Quinona company. The bright verses have given Mr. Williams an excellent opportunity to caricature the funny situations. His 14 illustrations published in book form, although an advertisement, have made a big hit and are well worth looking over. Each drawing will bring a laugh and that is worth a good deal these days. The Quinona company, Hartford street Boston, had placed these booklets in all the retail drug stores where one can be had free for the asking or one will be sent you by sending your name to their Boston office.

Williams was one of seven vice-presidents of the Newspaper Artists’ Association, according to the American Art Annual, 1903–1904, Volume 4. The Literary Digest, February 13, 1904, paired cartoons by him and Luther D. Bradley. According to the Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985, at Ancestry.com, Williams married Grace Nelson Woodfall on March 10, 1906 at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One of his Philadelphia Public Ledger cartoons of Theodore Roosevelt was published in the book, T.R. in Cartoon (1910), on page 208The Fourth Estate, March 20, 1909, said: “O.P. Williams, the cartoonist who in 1904 went from the Boston Herald to the Philadelphia Public Ledger, is again drawing cartoons for the Boston Herald.”


In 1910, Williams, Grace and their three children lived in Boston at 74 Carruth Street. He was a newspaper cartoonist. During his time in Boston he produced many strips including Mrs. Fret-Not. The National Magazine, August 1912, said, “…‘Papa Buys Some Diamonds’ will be illustrated by Orville P. Williams, the cartoonist who came into national prominence through his ‘Claribel’ series of comics….” He signed his World War I draft card on September 3, 1918. His address was 218 Summer Street in Malden, Massachusetts. The cartoonist worked for Star Publishing, a Hearst company in New York City. His description was medium height and build with blue eyes and brown hair.

According to the 1920 and 1930 censuses, Williams lived in Brooklyn, New York at 130 East Nineteenth Street, where he continued as a cartoonist; he was an editorial cartoonist for the New York Evening Graphic through the mid- to late-1920s. His panel, Rare Oddments of Sportsdom, appeared briefly in the Evening News (Tonawanda, New York) in 1930 and 1931. Readers were encouraged to send their suggestions to him at “P.O. Box 77, Varick Street Station, New York, N.Y.” At some point, he moved back to Massachusetts.

The 1940 census recorded him and his wife in Rockport, Massachusetts at 33 School Street, where his mother-in-law was head of the household. He was a newspaper cartoonist who had four years of high school education. Williams passed away January 2, 1944, in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The Boston Herald reported his death the following day.

Orville Williams, Cartoonist, Dies

Rockport Jan. 2—Orville P. Williams, for many years staff cartoonist for The Herald and The Traveler, died today at the Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester. He was 67, and lived at 33 School street, Rockport.

He was born in North Vassalboro, Me., and attended the school of the Boston Museum of Art. After working on the Philadelphia Ledger, he returned to Boston in 1907. He remained with the Herald and Traveler until 1919, when he joined the staff of the New York Journal.

As newspaper cartoonist, fulfilling many of the functions of today’s photographers, he met and knew many of the prominent figures of his time. For the past few years he lived in Rockport, lecturing and doing free lance work.

He leaves his wife, two daughters, Miss Margaret Williams and Mrs. William T. Pape, both of Plainville Ct., and two sisters. Services will be held tomorrow at 2 P.M. at the Burgess Funeral Home, Rockport.

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He was also a sports cartoonist for the Boston Journal in 1912-1913. When their well-respected cartoonist Sid Greene left, Williams handled baseball cartoons for the Journal. At first, he used the name O.P. Williams, and then in 1913, he bylined as "Pete Williams."

Donna L. Halper, PhD
media historian
Assoc. Professor of Communication
Lesley University, Cambridge MA
 
In 1896, he did some work in a little magazine of the 1890s called Miss Blue Stocking, edited by Richard Gorham Badger. An issue for April 1896 credits him with the "various exceeding clever black and white sketches scattered throughout the book, and a double page poster sketch in color."
 
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

 

Obscurity of the Day: Gasoline Gus

The problem with some folks is that their names are too doggone common. Here's Gasoline Gus by 'Williams'. But which Williams?

Gasoline Gus, a delightful strip about a car fanatic, was syndicated by the Philadelphia North American from January 26 1913 to July 4 1915 (on that date the North American Syndicate was shut down). In an age when motor vehicles were still somewhat the province of the well-to-do and the hobbyist, Gasoline Gus was a slice of life that may be even more interesting today from a historical perspective than it was in its original run.

The strip was revived in reprints, when World Color Printing reused the strip in its Sunday sections of 1919-21. That four year layoff was enough to make Gasoline Gus already look somewhat anachronistic, as automobiles and the people who drove them had, in just that short span,  gone through big changes.

Anyway, back to the Williams question. This is the only North American strip done by a Williams, so no help there. In fact we have no Williamses particularly associated with Philly in this era, so no help there either.

Looking at the signature and the style, though, there is a little resemblance with Orville P. Williams (the big swoosh, though is at the end of the signature rather than the beginning). Besides, he is a guy normally associated with Boston in this era. However, looking at his credits (you know where to check, right?) I see that his workload at the Boston Post seemed to be reduced in 1913. And although the 'Gasoline Gus Williams' was doing work for the North American, I note that the Boston Post was a client of North American material at the time. Hmm ... things are fitting together nicely. Yup, I'm going with it -- this is the work of Orville P. Wiliams.

Tomorrow, Alex Jay's Ink-Slinger Profile of Orville.

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Interesting. Comedian Billy Murray recorded an Edison cylinder in 1915 called "Gasoline Gus and his Jitney Bus." Wonder if this inspired or was inspired by the strip. Of course it could have been coincidence.
 
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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles: Frank Crane




Frank Crane was born in Rahway, New Jersey in April 1857. His birth date was recorded in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, and his birthplace was found in the passport applications of his wife and stepson. In the 1860 census, he was the oldest of three sons born to Joseph, a cabinetmaker, and Rachel; his older brother, William, was not, at the time, in the household which resided in Rahway. In the 1870 census Crane was not counted in the household but William was, as well as two more brothers. They family remained in Rahway.

Crane was a lithographic artist according to the 1880 census. He was still a member of his father’s household which lived in Rahway at 22 Adam Street. The New York Times, October 27, 1917, said: “…After graduation from the New York Academy of Design Mr. Crane became a cartoonist on The New York World and later art editor of The World, in the days before photography played a part in the makeup of a newspaper….” The New York Herald, October 27, 1917, said: “…In 1895 he became cartoonist and art director of the Philadelphia Press. Mr. Crane then came to the New York Herald. Later he was cartoonist for the Boston Herald….” The Times said:

…He then was art editor of The Philadelphia Press, having as members of his staff Everett Shinn, John Sloan, William J. Glackens, James Preston, F.R. Gruger, and others, since well-known illustrators. Returning to this city, he made cartoons for The New York Tribune, became Sunday art editor of The New York Herald, and was for a time connected with the art departments of The New York Times and The Boston Herald…. 

The 1900 census recorded him in Jersey City, New Jersey at 25 Lembeck Avenue. The artist was married to Louise and had a son, Kent. He was one of fifteen cartoonists featured in “Cartoonists of America”, published in the Deseret Evening News, October 20, 1900. During this decade he produced the comic features Val the VentriloquistPhilly Peno and KokoProf. BughouseMuggsy and 
Willie Westinghouse. 

 Baltimore American 1/1/1905

 Baltimore American 2/11/1906


Baltimore American 3/18/1906

Crane’s home was in Bayonne, New Jersey at 46 East 46th Street, as recorded in the 1910 census. The newspaper artist’s household included a daughter, Roma. He had been married to Louise for 16 years (1894); it was her second marriage. 

[Updated 4/10/2013] Cartoonist W.O. Wilson’s petition for naturalization was witnessed and signed by author George Folson, and Crane on December 8, 1911.

In the mid-1910s he produced Uncle Dick’s ContraptionsAt some point, Crane moved to New Rochelle, New York, where he passed away October 26, 1917. According to the Times, he was “a descendant of an English Baronet, Sir Peter Crane. His ancestors founded the town of Crane’s Ford, now Cranford, N.J. He was a cousin of Stephen Crane, the author.” The New York Tribune, October 28, 1917, published a funeral notice: 

Crane —At his home, 348 9th st., New Rochelle, N.Y., October 26, 1917, Frank Crane, aged 60 years. Funeral service at the Davis Chapel, 58 Rose st., New Rochelle, Sunday afternoon, at 3 o’clock. Interment private.


His death was also reported in the New York Sun.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

 

Obscurity of the Day: Willie Westinghouse Edison Smith



An obscurity it may be today, but a hundred and ten years ago, this strip, Willie Westinghouse Edison Smith, was a popular and long-running favorite. In an era when strips that lasted less than a year were the norm, only the hardiest specimens survived. Willie Westinghouse (as the strip title was often abbreviated) had an edge that made it easier to survive, but nevertheless, it lasted because it deserved to.

Frank Crane (whose scratchy signature is often mis-read as Drane, and who is a different fellow than the famous newspaper columnist of the same era) created the kid inventor with the pedigreed name for the New York Herald, where he debuted May 27 1900. In the typical strip, Willie would recognize a problem, invent some wondrous device to address it, and then have the invention backfire, generally through no fault in the design. This last bit was important, as it made the strip a favorite among engineers of all stripes -- end-users can manage to misuse anything, no matter how elegantly designed. Think of it as a Victorian version of Dilbert.

Crane used the conceit that Willie was writing a letter to his pal Tommy in the strip. This allowed him to minimize word balloons and include a blueprint for the invention, as if it was an insert to the letter. I don't know what the relationship was between the two kids, or if Tommy ever actually appeared in the series, but he sure did get a lot of letters.

Crane left the New York Herald in 1902 and the last Willie Westinghouse strip to appear there was on July 20. Crane took the strip to the Philadelphia North American, where he eventually became the feature editor. His strip first appeared in the North American on November 2 1902, and ran consistently until August 25 1907. This was an impressive run in itself, but the apparent end of the strip was only Crane taking a lay-off. The strip returned on November 1 1908, and ran for six more years, ending on November 29 1914.

Although this was the end of new material, World Color Printing purchased the back-stock of the strip and used it in their pre-print Sunday sections from July 4 1915 until sometime in 1918.

Despite running for so many years, the strip was collected in book form only once -- "Willie Westinghouse Edison Smith, Boy Inventor", published by Frederick Stokes in 1906.

Stayed tuned tomorrow for Alex Jay's Ink-Slinger Profile of Frank Crane.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


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