Wednesday, July 01, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: America's History in Cut-Outs

Gonna kill two holidays with one stone today! Today, of course, is Canada Day, and three days hence is the U.S.'s Independence Day. Luckily I have an obscurity that is applicable to both. Well, sorta.

America's History in Cut-Outs ran in one of the McClure pre-print Sunday comic sections from June 20 to September 26 1909. The first two episodes, above, apply to the whole continent, so I figure I'm good to go.

Now I'm no expert in paper dolls. But maybe if there is a cut-out aficionado lurking out there, you can tell me if this is a particularly awful use of the form. As best I can tell, the kiddies are supposed to cut out the figures, and then (here it gets real exciting) place them in the approved positions, as dictated by the provided black and white outline drawing, on the background illustration.

Wow. I hope those rugrats aren't prone to over-excitement, because this amount of fun could well give them a brain hemorrhage or something. Is it my imagination, or is this about as much fun as a holiday weekend homework assignment to write a ten-page essay titled "What Freedom Means To Me"?

Not surprisingly the artist, who is quite good, decided to be anonymous on this series. Good call, my friend. No point in telling the kiddies who exactly to curse for wasting a space of a proper comic strip in the Sunday paper.

Happy Canada Day and 4th of July!


What other amusements did kids have back then besides marbles and throwing rocks at each other? I suspect this wasn't paper dolls, but diorama making
Your question "What other amusements did kids have back then" reminded me of a time in the 1980s when my father suddenly said (out of the blue), "You never see kids rolling barrel hoops anymore."--Doug
The maddening thing is how close these are to 3D dioramas -- all you need is flat bases on the figures and little tabs to fold back to they can stand in FRONT of the backgrounds, which IS fun (I loved my punchout books in the early 60s). They'd have to be pasted on cardboard or something, but wasn't that a given for paper dolls in the funnies and elsewhere?

Maybe there's a story in comic strip interactivity. Segar's Popeye Sunday pages had ingenious "movies"; and post-Segar strips had oddball creatures to cut out and fold into standing position. The Disney Silly Symphonies strip included phenakistoscope discs (yes, I looked up the proper name) for a stretch.

Usually it was something to cut out and collect. Dick Tracy had his Crimestopper's Textbook pages, and L'il Abner the semi-parody Advice fo' Chillen. I remember something with spaceships, but a quick look at Flash Gordon and my ancient Buck Rogers book (with two sample Sunday stretches) yielded nothing.

Play money and stamps, decorated with character faces, seemed to appear with several strips for a while. Popeye had both. Prince Valiant had "stamps" on the banner over the strip, sometimes featuring props and symbols. In time they became little portraits with no stamp border, the same handful of faces until the banner itself went away in the 40s. I know I've seen them elsewhere. A fad, a syndicate campaign, a random tradition cartoonists kept up? I can certainly see the appeal for depression kids.

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