Monday, July 04, 2016


Obscurity of the Day: In the Footsteps of Abraham Lincoln

Here's a special Independence Day obscurity -- sure, a strip about Washington would have been more appropriate, but these things don't grow on (cherry) trees, y'know.

The closed-end biographical strip In the Footsteps of Abraham Lincoln was adapted by famed muckraking journalist Ida M. Tarbell from her several biographies of the martyred president. In the duration of exactly 100 daily strips, she did a very creditable job of presenting a capsule version of the life of Lincoln. The only problem I can see with the strip, and I wonder if this could account for its relative obscurity, is that artist Nicholas Afonsky's drawings of Lincoln frequently veer into the realm of caricature. The artwork is generally lovely, but Afonsky seemed dead set on offering us a 'warts and all' Lincoln that is jarring in how different it is from the generally preferred image of the man. Granted, Lincoln was in fact a rather odd-looking fellow, but traditionally, artists sculpted him into something quite palatable and noble-looking. Afonsky's Lincoln comes very close to looking like a dim-witted lumbering yokel.

In the Footsteps of Abraham Lincoln was solicited by the McClure Syndicate to start in January 1927, but the earliest I've found it starting is on February 7 of that year, so we'll call the ending date June 2 until we find someone running it earlier. Several newspapers didn't run the series until 1928.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the sample scans.


Hello Allan-
It would seem that McClure had the newspaper rights to Ida Tarbell's
story, which was apparently written to be serialized as weekly chapters illustrated with photos of old prints and historical objects amidst the copy. This was begun 10 February 1923.The story covered not only Lincoln's life, but his family history back to the 1600's when they first came to America. In 1924, Miss Tarbell collected the material in a book published by Harper, "IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE LINCOLNS". McClure, still holding the syndication rights, produced the strip (with the original feature's name) when short-term serious continuity strips, often based on famous stories, like THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON were in fashion.
Mark Johnson
Ida Tarbell was one of leading lights of McClure's Magazine in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Her multi-part series on Lincoln's life was extremely popular. I would assume that McClure kept the rights to this work, and repackaged it many years later for comics.
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