Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Arch Bristow

Archibald Ralph “Arch” Bristow was born in New Brighton, Pennsylvania, on May 14, 1882, according to his World War II draft card. In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, he the youngest of four children born to Thomas, a preacher, and Sarah. His parents and siblings were born in England. The family lived in New Brighton at 813 12th Street. Bristow was an apprentice to a machinist, but not for long.

When he was 19, the family moved to Garland, Pennsylvania. The Times Observer, June 12, 2012, said: “…At 20 years old [1902], Arch lived and worked in Johnstown [Pennsylvania] writing for The Tribune.” According to the Times Observer, October 28, 2011: “…After attending a school of caricature in New York City, Arch began drawing the cartoon ‘Zimmie’ which was syndicated nationally….” The Inland Printer, January 1908, devoted a full page to his Zimmie drawings and said:

The owl sketches shown herewith are from the pages of the Johnstown Tribune, a live Republican daily published every weekday afternoon in the Flood City. The artist—Mr. Arch Bristow, whose portrait accompanies the sketches—has made a hit with the little owls, which appear every evening with the weather bulletin. In the three years Mr. Bristow has been the Tribune’s cartoonist, the names of Zimmie and Lizzie have become household words in Johnstown; and every issue of the paper is eagerly searched on its arrival “to see what Zimmie is doing.” During a recent vacation of Bristow’s, when for ten days the owls were missing from their place at the head of the “Here and There Column,” the Tribune office was besieged with letters and telephone calls from people wanting to know what had become of Zimmie and Lizzie. Hundred of Johnstowners are clipping and preserving the pictures, and the smiling face of the owl is even embroidered upon sofa-cushions and burnt on wood. Mr. Bristow also uses the owl as a mascot in all his political cartoons, the strength of which is best illustrated by the fact that no candidate has been elected by the opposition since his cartoons began to appear in the Tribune. All of Bristow’s work is done on chalk plates.

Around 1905, Bristow was a cartoonist for the Tribune. Zimmie was a local feature whose start date is not yet known. According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), the panel was self-syndicated by Bristow; the Houston Chronicle started it May 5, 1908. Later, the panel would be handled by International Syndicate and the George Matthew Adams Syndicate. Three Zimmie panels are here.

The Zimmie cartoons were apparently collected and published as a book. The Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 1: Books; Dramatic Compositions; Maps and Charts; Index, New Series, Volume 4, Number 26, June 25, 1908, had this entry:

Bristow (Arch)*, Johnstown, Pa.Zimmie’s summer book, 1908. 105 p. illus. 12mo. [13592A 207976. May 25, 1908.
Bristow’s other cartoons were adapted for the stage according to Variety, January 16, 1909:
Johnstown, Pa.Majestic (M.J. Boyle, mgr.).—That Quar­tet, splendid; Ed. Bondell and Co., in “The Lost Boy,” a laughing hit; Carroll Johnson, good; De Witt, Burns and Torrence, “The Awakening of the Toys,” good; Josephine Davis, songs, fine; Arthur Huston, pantomime Juggler, good; Nye and Crispi, fine; the show is opened by a local team, Adams (Leo Short) and Whitford (John Boyle), In a sketch called “Waiting on the Train,” founded on Arch Bristow’s cartoons in the “Tribune.”
2/14/1910 -- courtesy of Cole Johnson
He married Grizelle Andrews in 1909. One of his interests was noted in the Daily Times (Beaver, Pennsylvania), October 15, 1907: “Arch Bristow, the newspaper cartoonist of Johnstown, was the guest of New Brighton friends Sunday. He was on his way to the northern part of the State where he expects to hunt for several days.”

The 1910 census recorded cartoonist Bristow and his wife at his father-in-law’s residence in Pittsfield, Pennsylvania. The Gettysburg Compiler (Pennsylvania), August 31, 1910, reported the death of William Jacobs and included the editorial from the Johnstown Daily Tribune:

…The death of William Jacobs, of the South Side, removes a young man who doubtless would have made his mark in the literary world had he been blessed with health and strength. That he had unusual ability with the pen was known to his imitate friends, but not to many outside that circle, for he was able to work only at certain intervals, making impossible any undertaking requiring sustained effort and generally he concealed his identity by the signature “L.N.C.” Under that pseudonym he has contributed to “The Tribune” many delicious sketches and bits of verse whose origin those who enjoyed them will now know for the first time. He collaborated not infrequently with Arch Bristow, “The Tribune’s” cartoonist, and together they produced some very excellent work. A characteristic bit of verse by Jacobs was that which formed the introduction to the last issue of the “Zimmie” book. “Zimmie” is speaking to his friends, when they open the book at the preface, and he says:
It's foolish being introduced to people what you know,Or making farewell speeches when you ain’t a-going to go;It seems to me it’s most as bad as telling what ain’t so,Which is something what I never, never do.
And I didn’t want to have no introduction in this book,But Lizzie says, “Good gracious, Zimmie! Think how that would look!Of all the liberal notions that a person ever took—And you brung up so strict and careful too!”
But the purpose of an introduction is, to introduce:And this here introduction hasn’t got that there excuse.For you all know me and Lizzie. Consekently, what’s the use?But it’s done now. And I’m much obliged to you.
Bristow signed his World War I draft card September 12, 1918. He lived at 6 Main Street, Coory, Pennsylvania. His employer was George Matthew Adams in New York City. He was described as tall and slender with blue eyes and gray hair.

In 1920, Bristow, his wife, two daughters and sister resided in Pittsfield on Garland Road. He was still a cartoonist with the Adams Syndicate. At some point, he returned to writing. The Fourth Estate, March 19, 1921, reported the phenomenal success of his periodical: “The Hay Rake, a monthly magazine, written and published by Arch Bristow in Garland, Pa., which started in a shoemaker's shop seven months ago with a first issue of 1,000, has since, without capital, climbed to 20,000. The paper is published in a village having a population of less than 100.”

A photo of the Hay Rake office is here. The office appeared in an illustrated advertisement in the Oil City Derrick (Pennsylvania), May 5, 1921, below.

A 1923 issue of Printers’ Ink had an advertisement written by Bristow.
“The Erie Daily Times is looked for every evening as a part of our day, quite as much as supper and going to bed. It is a piece of our life in this little town, fifty miles from Erie, and it is just as much a part of people’s lives! in dozens of other smaller and larger towns in the prosperous section that surrounds Erie. So when an advertiser uses space in this staunch daily he has the attentive ear not only of the City of Erie, but of all this region ’round about.” Most of the folks in Erie and trading territory (150,000), and nearly all of them prosperous, look to the Erie Daily Times each day for general news and FOR ADVERTISING NEWS.
The Warren County Historical Society said: “…He was a kindly man and often helped others. He once taught a boy cartooning and devoted many Saturday mornings to this lad, who was Fred [sic] Johnson of Spring Creek, the creator [sic; Frank Willard] and cartoonist of the comic strip ‘Moon Mullins’….”

According to the 1930 census, Bristow lived in Warren, Pennsylvania, at 315 Hazel Street. His occupation was newspaper writer. In 1932 he published Old Time Tales of Warren County, a collections of stories and folktales told to him by early pioneers in Warren County. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania), June 5, 1939, profiled Bristow and said of his newspaper career: “…Arch Bristow walked into the Pittsburgh ‘Post,’ father of the Post-Gazette, 35 years ago and got a job as cub artist. He went on to the New York ‘World,’ the Johnstown ‘Tribune’ and the Erie ‘Daily Times.’ And he became a syndicated artist whose ‘Zimmie’ pictures were published from coast to coast.”

The 1940 census found him at 1156 West Seventh Street, in Erie, Pennsylvania. He continued as a newspaper writer. His World War II draft card was signed on April 22, 1942. His home was in Meadville, Pennsylvania, at 636 North Street. He worked for the Erie Dispatch Herald, 12th Street, Erie, Pennsylvania. His description was 6 feet quarter inch, 154 pounds, with blue eyes and gray hair.

He continued writing until shortly before his death. Bristow passed away June 2, 1964. The following day the Leader-Times (Kittanning, Pennsylvania) published the United Press International article:
Death Takes Farm Life ReporterArch Bristow, whose accounts of small town and country life appeared in publications for more than 40 years, died Tuesday in a convalescent home. He was 82.
Bristow, a native of New Brighton, Pa., had been in semiretirement for the past several years. His writing was confined to a daily column in the Erie Morning News.
During the 1920s and early ’30s, he was editor and publisher of the Hayrake [sic] magazine, a monthly farm publication circulated in the northeastern United States.
Before starting the magazine, he worked as a cartoonist for the old New York World and later for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Johnstown Tribune.
He was interred at the Garland Presbyterian Cemetery.

—Alex Jay


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