Saturday, February 06, 2016

 

Herriman Saturday


Monday, November 2 1908 -- "'Tis the day before election, and all through the house...". Oops, hold on. Looks like Herriman has chosen a different poetic allusion.

Abou Ben Adham by Leigh Hunt


Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

 The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

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Friday, February 05, 2016

 

Walt McDougall's This is the Life: Chapter 8 Part 3

This is the Life!

by 

Walt McDougall


Chapter Eight (Part 3) - BLOSSOM TIME IN BOHEMIA





When it was announced that Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty would shortly arrive in America, there was no commotion, as the sculptor had a weak press agent. I made a cartoon showing Liberty with her skirts hoisted to her knees, wading about dejectedly in the mud of the Harbor seeking a site. John R. Reavis, an energetic hustler whom J. P. had found in Missouri, was inspired by the picture to suggest the formation of a fund raised by public subscription to build a pedestal. It was several days before J. P. would accede to his urging, and then he reluctantly put John in charge of the most popular and successful of all of the World's many undertakings. He raised over a hundred thousand dollars in a very short time, and the name of Joseph Pulitzer is inscribed upon the tablet on the pedestal—but Reavis is not mentioned.

Grozier, who died in 1924, was a small, impetuous and very ambitious city editor who was willing to try anything once. When the blizzard of '88 had buried the city a dozen feet deep, all news sources were stagnant. A harum-scarum reporter named Jack Farrelly informed Grozier that he was an expert snowshoeist and proposed to go forth into the suburbs to learn the fate of many delayed trains, about which startling rumors had begun to drift in. Eddie, delighted, gave Jack money to purchase the Indian footgear, and he bought a bottle of excellent whiskey, took a room at the Astor House and climbed into bed.

At eventide he produced an epic that brought the perils and sufferings of a blizzard home even to those who had experienced the horrors of a winter in Tuxedo. It was a gem. It told of a train in the remotest wilds of Westchester buried deep in snow, gave the number of the engine, the names of the conductor and engineer, and with keen sarcasm mixed with pathos, described how rapacious unfeeling farmers had sold sandwiches at a dollar each, and coffee at fifty cents a cup, to the famished passengers, many of whom he had interviewed, to the extent of four or five columns.

The next day Grozier bought fifteen pairs of snowshoes and sent a corps of reporters into Staten Island with instructions to learn to use them while they gathered the news. The results were negligible, most of the boys returned bruised, knee-sprung and frostbitten, all but Jack Farrelly, who brought in another grand bit of realism dealing with conditions in darkest Jamaica and points east.

About two or three years afterward Grozier was editing the World Almanac. At that time the task consisted mainly in compiling a modest record of the paper's glorious achievements of the past years. I asked him if he had mentioned his notable snowshoe expeditions. Strangely, he had overlooked this luminous spot, and he at once proceeded to transcribe a fitting account of the performance. An hour passed, and then I asked casually if he had ever heard the true story of Farrelly's blizzard yarns. When I related the amusing tale, Eddie was so chagrined that he tore up all he had written and the Almanac has never referred to this proud achievement.

The Astor House, corner of Broadway and Vesey Streets, built on the site of my grandfather's cabinet and furniture factory, although as a hotel swiftly becoming an antique, still retained a large restaurant trade, and its circular barroom (it had also a select, cloistered drinking room on the second floor) was the resort of almost all of the great men of the city. There one might encounter Mayor Gilroy, Collis P. Huntington, Austin Corbin, Hamilton Fish, Senator Conkling, Bob Ingersoll, Chauncey Depew, Elihu Root, Jake Hess, Inspector Byrnes, Ed. Lauterbach, at noontide, with a sprinkling of literary stars like Howells, John Brisbin Walker, Alden, Curtis, Lathrop, Hawthorne, Habberton and Gilder, and mingling with them the rising journalists, such as Julian Ralph, James Metcalf, Irving Bacheller, W. J. Lampton, J. K. Bangs, Howard Fielding, Julius Chambers, Jimmie Huneker and Edward Marshall, belonging, many of them, to the high-browed and select Lantern Club down in William Street.

The men who made whiskey, whose names were blown into bottles and printed on labels, fraternized here with the men who consumed it, and the eminent wine-agents like Osborne, Heckler and Somborn, who were civic institutions, all began their daily rounds of joy in this circular temple of Apicius.

 One of the town sights was the Chemical Bank at 270 Broadway, where strangers halted to catch a glimpse of Hetty Green, the richest woman in the world, who would not have her photograph taken and whom one could always throw into a panic by pretending to make a sketch of her from the doorway, for she was always accessible. The average bank had not yet taken on the solemnity of a cathedral, but the Chemical possessed an awful, sublime dignity. When Bill Nye and I received our first checks from Major Smith of the American Press Association, we repaired to the Chemical Bank. Bill presented his check and the cashier rather testily informed him that he would have to be identified.

"Do you mean I've got to go and find somebody who knows me and whom you know before I can get the money?"

"Precisely," assented the cashier. "Step aside and let that gentleman get to the window."

"Oh, he's with me," said Bill. "He can identify me."

The cashier, not knowing me, demurred and an argument ensued. Finally Nye asked him, in turn, if he knew Grover Cleveland, De Witt Talmage, Senator Breckenridge and Queen Victoria, eliciting a snappy "No!" ach time, whereupon he said, with a protesting gesture: "There! You see, you don't move in my set! How can I find anybody who knows us both?"

Then he pulled out that morning's paper, exposed his portrait, and took off his hat. The cashier glared, melted and, with a grin, began to count out the money. Then Nye introduced me and he cashed my check, after which we invited him out to lunch and found him to be entirely human and companionable.

In 1887, in front of a wooden house in Greene Street, there hung a large faded sign, "Laura's." In my early teens almost every house on the street bore such an advertisement, and the simple Jersey commuter wended his way to and from the ferry through a section given over to sin. In time the growing needs of the provision business evicted the fair occupants of the establishments, filling the ground floors with potatoes and the upper floors with virtuous Levantines and Armenians. The Red-light District, an actuality and not a mere name, then shifted to the region south of Macy's new store in Fourteenth Street, but the practice of hanging out signs ceased.

This district, with its monotonous rows of silent houses darkened by day, with its flow of cabs by night, was awesome and fascinating to growing, curious, palpitant Boyhood. As I endeavor to form a picture of the night-wanderers of those times, I get an impression of furtive forms, rather pathetic, of seemingly middle-aged, drab women, none under twenty, at any rate, and certainly not a hint of the brazen, flippant creatures of thirteen and fourteen who at present give color to our garishly lighted thoroughfares.

About the period when Mrs. Grannis began to agitate against the segregation of vice, business needs drove the Cyprians northward to the Thirties. Then, in Thirty- first Street, the newspaper men established the Tenderloin Club in an old mansion opposite the notorious "House of All Nations," and Gunn, Luks and I did the decorating of the interior in an entirely novel manner. Everybody who was anybody, it seems, belonged to the club; it had a membership of seventeen hundred and its reputation was simply devilish, but it was actually a worker's club and generally as dull as dishwater.

Nothing more exciting than a boxing match in the back yard or a poker game on the top floor ever happened, but before it went into bankruptcy it had witnessed "the suppression of recognized vice" and seen the painted women driven from brothels into private flats, lodging houses and homes, some twenty-five thousand of them. Its sophisticated members predicted evil to follow. When I recall the tawdry attractions of such oft-assailed dens of iniquity as Billy M'Glory's Armory Hall, Tom Gould's subterranean dive at Sixth Avenue and Thirty-first Street, Huber's Prospect Garden and Theiss's on Fourteenth, Harry Hill's dingy hall and the Haymarket, I marvel at the crudity of those remote, uncultured days and rejoice that all that sort of thing is done away with, as the prophets predicted it would be when vice was no longer "recognized." Gould would be shocked, however, at the goings-on in dance halls, supper rooms and public parks today. Perhaps "strip-crap" games, necking parties and nude exhibitions are some of the fruits of knowledge disseminated by the twenty-five thousand Phrynes. Also, another ripe fruitage may be the vast increase in a certain class of hotels.

At this time "Citizen" George Francis Train was largely in the public eye, due to his conspicuous appearance, eccentric manners and thirst for publicity. I early became acquainted with him, but how, I have forgotten. He was tall and well-built, with a countenance so different from the common herd's as to attract instant attention, and he wore the oldest of clothes in a distingué manner. He was then, I suppose, well into the fifties. A millionaire and an owner of steamships at nineteen, promoter of the underground railways in London, and a master mover in the Crédit Mobilier, he dressed negligently, lived in a cheap hotel, subsisted by turns on peanuts, apples or oatmeal, and spent the daylight hours on a bench in Madison Square with children and sparrows as his preferred company.

At times Train's talk was wild and disjointed, and his fine eyes flashed a weird and feverish light; he would talk with anybody and he was almost always surrounded by an admiring, if sometimes too familiar, group of workmen, tramps and out-of-town visitors, who regarded him as one of the city's sights. He wrote doggerel in alternate lines of blue and red, and I have still a "poem" written by him not long before his death, in terms of friendly but preposterous eulogy. 'Gene Field had this same queer custom of writing in various tints.

But Train was not, as many supposed, a man insane. Perhaps in his early strenuous life too much concentration upon self had developed a mild form of megalomania, but his food fads and health hobbies were no more extreme than those of many a physical-science professor of today and his megalomania never blunted his wit, sarcasm or apperception. I think he stepped aside from the world of action voluntarily and adopted the odd pose of clown and seer combined in response to an instinct that the role has always been popular with the common people.

One of his pet fancies, which he never abandoned, was the notion of a comic Bible; he believed that if I would illustrate it we would make a fortune. I am afraid that I assisted in this delusion, for I often suggested a sacrilegious picture which, if ever published, would have brought down upon us the wrath of all the elect of the earth.

He and Bob Fitzsimmons used to take the same early Sunday morning train for Jersey when I lived in Glen Ridge, where Train's daughter resided. Train used to take an inexplicable pleasure in suddenly introducing Bob and myself to the passengers on boat or train, using extravagantly laudatory language and affording the passengers, many of whom knew him by sight, immense amusement. To poor Fitzsimmons and myself, although we were accustomed, as professional beauties, to the spotlight, it was painfully embarrassing to be held up to public admiration after a long hard night at poker. Train, wiry and ruddy, believed that he would live to an extreme old age. John L. Sullivan held the same belief. Train would not wear an overcoat or gloves, and often bared his chest to the winter blast at the bow of the ferryboat. He was taken off by pneumonia at about seventy-seven.

It was always a mystery what he had done with the fortune he had so early acquired; indeed, he must later have made considerable money from his lectures, some of which I had heard in my teens with immense astonishment and enjoyment. They always filled a theater. It was about the time when the same class flocked to the absurd performances of "Count" Joannes, who travestied Shakespeare in a screamingly funny manner, although apparently perfectly serious, and was barraged with ancient eggs, vegetables, dead rats and pennies by his audiences. Nothing of that sort ever happened to George Francis Train. He made them laugh but he compelled them to think by his logic and his striking, if often quite obscene, diagrams.

Sam Gompers, then working at his trade of cigar-maker, short and slight and extremely opinionated, used to frequent my office, where he debated with B. B. Valentine, who wrote the Fitznoodle Papers for Puck, and Bill Sulzer, then a good imitation of the young Henry Clay and already making an impression on Dick Croker; D. Frank Dodge, the scenic artist, recently arrived from California and still unused to stone pavements and regular meals, used to amuse and amaze us with his incredible bear stories, Irving Bacheller, just starting in the syndicate business, Lafcadio Hearn, sloppy and purblind but a genius, Abe Hummell, seeking diversion from a fast-growing law business, Harry Dixey, then playing in "Adonis," and Lew Dockstader, with a theater on Broadway and losing a fortune every week, M. Quad, Dave Warfield, Paul Boyton, Billy Muldoon, Marshall P. Wilder, John Kendrick Bangs, Albert Payne, Moses P. Handy, John Mackey and, occasionally, Herrman, the magician, at whose performances the beautiful Alice Raymond played the cornet as it has never been played since—these and dozens of others made my office just such a forum as my father's or Matt Morgan's had been.

Charles Dana Gibson was just beginning to amaze us with the grace and humor of a new style of illustration that was to alter the very figures of our boys and girls and create hundreds of imitators. I imagine that nothing but the hurry and stress under which I worked prevented me from becoming the most slavish of his imitators, but to acquire the apparently careless line of Gibson necessitated constant drawing from life, and a man turning out from five to twenty drawings daily saw life on the jump, with little time to reflect or meditate.

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Sherry B. Bowen


Sherry B. Bowen was born Sherry Bowen Krauskopf in Maywood, Illinois, on March 13, 1900, according to the Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index at Ancestry.com. His parents were Charles C. and Mary Hort. Bowen served in the Army during World War I and on his Report of Interment card, his birth surname was crossed out and “Bowen” was written above it. A note said he had legally changed his name but the date of the change was not recorded.

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census said Bowen was the only child and his father was a school teacher. In the 1910 census, the family still resided in Maywood and their address was 900 8th Avenue. Bowen had a younger brother, Karl, and their father was a principal and teacher.

According to the Interment card, Bowen’s Army service started May 28, 1918. He was a private in Company B, 336th Battalion, Tank Corps. He was discharged July 18, 1919.

In 1920 Bowen was a university student and still lived with his parents at the same address. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (New York), August 5, 1956, said Bowen studied at the University of Illinois and then joined the Bloomington, Illinois, Pantagraph. Bowen’s move was reported in the Daily Illini, February 1, 1922.

Krauskopf Resigns Illini Position for Job on Pantagraph

Sherry B. Krauskopf ’23 has resigned as one of the news editors of The Daily Illini to accept a position on the editorial staff of the Bloomington Pantagraph. He will leave to assume his new duties Saturday.

Krauskopf will start as a reporter but will be given a taste of the mechanical side of newspaper work and will De training on the city editor’s desk as he intends to follow the editorial phases of newspaper work.

Beginning as a reporter in his freshman year Krauskopf has rounded out five semesters of work on the staff of The Daily Illini, two years as a reporter and thus far this year he has been one of the six news editors.
The Illini, January 20, 1923, reported Bowen’s marriage to Ruby Butts.
Ruby Butts Take Vows Of Marriage To S . B. Krauskopf

Another romance of The Daily Illini culminated in a wedding last night when Ruby D. Butts ’23 became the bride of Sherry Krauskopf ’23 at 7 o’clock in the home of the Rev. James C. Baker, 1209 West Green street, Urbana. Mr. Baker read the service before members of the immediate families.

The date for the wedding had originally been set for June, but owing to the serious illness of the groom, the ceremony was performed last night.

The bride wore a gown of black satin and Spanish lace and a corsage of American roses. Geraldine Hegit ’23, who was bridesmaid, wore blue taffeta and carried a shower bouquet of La France roses. Karl H. Krauskopf ’26, brother of the groom, acted as best man.

Mrs. Krauskopf has been a member of the staff of The Daily Illini for the past three years and was society editor this year until forced to resign because of ill health. The groom was a reporter on The Daily Illini in his freshman and sophomore years and was a news editor last year.
According to the Democrat and Chronicle, Bowen moved on to the Springfield, Illinois, Register. In Tucson Arizona, Bowen was at the Independent and then worked 16 years at the Arizona Daily Star.

The 1930 census recorded Bowen, a newspaper reporter, and his wife, in Tucson on North 1st Avenue. The 1933 and 1934 Tucson city directories listed his address as Route 1, Box 399A. In 1935 he resided in the Tucson Mountains. Bowen’s address was Anklam Road in the 1936 directory.

Bowen’s home and surroundings were described at the Pima County website.

Bowen brought his wife, Ruby, to Tucson from Rockford, Ill., in the late 1920s in hopes that the climate would improve her health. Bowen was a typesetter and later city editor at the Arizona Daily Star. The Bowens homesteaded in the Tucson Mountains and began living in a cabin there in 1931 while Bowen built the house of native stone. They expanded their claim to 2,000 acres.
Ruby Bowen wrote for Desert Magazine of the Southwest. Her diary of her first year in the Tucson Mountains refers to the wildlife she saw, including javelina, deer and wild mountain sheep that came to the base of the cliffs nearly every evening to graze. She wrote that a mountain lion would pace about when she was cooking meat and once attempted to get in the window.
In 1944, Bowen moved to New York City to work for the Associated Press. Some of his reporting can be read in the Spokane Daily Chronicle, the Southeast Missourian and Toledo Blade.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Bowen wrote The Story of Santa Claus which was drawn by Ed H. Gunder and ran from December 17 to 22, 1951. The strip was syndicated by the Associated Press.

Bowen passed away August 4, 1956, in the Bronx, New York. He was buried at the Long Island National Cemetery. Bowen’s wife, Ruby, passed away November 30, 1961. Bowen and his wife are survived by a daughter, Gloria, who lives in Nevada. Ten-year-old Gloria was profiled in the Tucson Daily Citizen, March 27, 1954. 


—Alex Jay

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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

 

Obscurity of the Day: Looping the Loop


If you are a serious cartooning fan, E.C. Segar's Looping the Loop, drawn for the Chicago Evening American,  is well-known by name but certainly not by sight. To my knowledge, only a few scant samples of the feature have even been printed in cartooning history books or seen online (try Googling it and you'll see the very same sample on a plethora of websites). The sample above is the only one I have in my collection, and the tearsheet is so fragile and tattered that a small section near the bottom of the cartoon, in the newspaper's fold, has disintegrated. But beggars can't be choosers.

It's a shame we don't have more Looping the Loop samples to peruse, because the feature chronicles an incredible evolution from the startlingly amateurish Segar of the Chicago Record-Herald, to the bright upcoming Hearst star of Thimble Theatre. It's almost impossible to believe that it is the same cartoonist. In this seminal feature Segar all of a sudden seems totally self-assured in both his writing and art. The jazzy, playful, and confidently-drawn strip above shows that Segar was ready for the big-time.

Looping the Loop offered Segar's very rah-rah reviews of Chicago entertainments, like the vaudeville acts discussed in the sample above. Whether he was instructed by the Chicago American to be a booster I don't know, but from the admittedly tiny sample I have seen, Segar seems to like everything he sees. It is probable that the American was trying to stimulate advertising sales from Chicago's burgeoning entertainment venues, so no shows were to be panned, just needled good-naturedly.

In Nemo #3, Bill Blackbeard (who is one of the few who have ever had access to a good run of the Chicago Evening American), says that Looping the Loop began on June 1 1918. Blackbeard doesn't offer an end date, but does say that Segar left for New York "late in the winter of 1919", which would seem to indicate that the series ended sometime around March or so.


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I have 30 or 40 Looping the Loop brittle tearsheets from 1918 and 19. In one, Segar reviews the silent film Turning the Tables with Dorothy Gish which was released in early November of 1919, so he did this daily strip right up until he left Chicago and moved to NYC and Thimble Theatre at King Features.
 
Segar moved to NYC in late 1919 and Thimble Theatre first appeared on December 19, 1919. The panel pictured here of the Lady Sitting Next to Me are caricatures of Segar and his wife Myrtle.
 
Lucky you to have so many Looping strips!

Blackbeard seemed to be of the opinion that Segar moved to NYC quite awhile before Thimble Theatre debuted. That seemed a little odd to me. I don't get the impression that Hearst was the type of organization that would have given him six months or more to develop a strip. My guess is they would have said "Just copy Minute Movies, kid, let's get this show on the road".

If you've got Looping the Loop in November 1919, it seems like Segar moved to NYC after Thimble Theatre had been given the thumb's up at headquarters, which makes more sense.

Thanks, Allan
 
Segar also drew special cartoons for the Chicago American sports page in October 1919, attending both home and away games for every Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds World Series game (known as the Black Sox Scandal). Pretty solid evidence that he was still in the Windy City until late 1919.
 
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Tuesday, February 02, 2016

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: J.K. Bryans


Judge 5/7/1917


John “Jack” Kennedy Bryans was born in New York City in 1872. Bryans’ birthplace was determined through census records, and his birth year and full name were published in the Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 1, Group 1, Books, New Series, Volume 27, Number 38, June 1930.

In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Bryans was the oldest of six children born to James, a shoe dealer, and Mary. The family resided in Manhattan, New York City, at 411 West 34th Street.

Information about Bryans’ education and art training has not been found.

According to Broadway Magazine, December 1903, Bryans’ earliest work was published in the New York World newspaper: a political cartoon of President Grover Cleveland whose second term was from 1893 to 1897. American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Bryans produced comics in silhouette, from June 6, 1900 to February 5, 1914, which was handled by the New York Evening Journal, McClure Syndicate and the World. For the World Bryan drew the Fluffy Duff Sisters from August 12 to October 14, 1900. He was a contributor to Metropolitan Magazine which advertised in the Sunday Telegraph (New York, New York), August 5, 1900 (see the bottom for Funny Fancies and the list of artists).





The World, December 9, 1900, featured Bryans, T.E. Powers, R.F. Outcault, W.F. Marriner, Paul West, C.G. Bush, and W.W. Denslow in a full-page titled “Grand Congress of a Galaxy of Wit & Humor”.




Some of Bryans’s comics in the World are here.

In 1901, Bryans was one of eight cartoonists who contributed two illustrations to Toothsome Tales Told in Slang. Bryans’ art is here and here. Harper’s Bazar recognized Bryans’ talent and included him in its roster of Bazar artists.

The following year Bryans illustrated Grace Miller White’s A Harmless Revolution, a punctuation guide, and James D. Corrothers’s The Black Cat Club.




Bryans marriage to writer, Zoe Anderson Norris, was on the front page of the Morning Telegraph (New York, New York), March 28, 1902.


Zoe passed away February 13, 1914. Bryans’ first marriage was to Ader Brown on June 20, 1896.

Laughoettes was a panel Bryans created for the McClure Syndicate. According to American Newspaper Comics the panel debuted March 29, 1903.

Bryans was profiled by J. Dempster Cater in Broadway Magazine, December 1903.

Bryans, Silhouette Artist

Like most artists, J. K. Bryans commenced his artistic career under strong parental objection. The idea of money failed to connect itself with art in the heads of his father and mother. A proposal on the water is always safer, because she cannot get away from you without risk of her life They saw only the long hair, the Turkish cap, and the unpressed trousers. Hence their distaste. Particularly was this so in the case of his father, who, a New York shoe merchant, naturally ran to the practical, endeavoring to the best of his ability to steer his sons in the same direction.

This, then, was how it happened that at an early age little J. K. was set to trying on shoes and swearing at his luck because he was not permitted to scribble caricatures of the buyers all over the paper before he wrapped them in it.

Indeed, so stern and unbending was the paternal objection to this same scribbling, that, upon perceiving a longing in his eye to put pencil to paper, his mother was wont to say to him:
”If you must draw now, Jack, for the love of heaven, go on up-stairs to your room, where your father can’t see you, or there’ll be no living with him.”

And Jack went up to his room on the top floor, where he drew to his heart’s content. He tacked his pictures up all over the walls and sat back gazing at them admiringly, dreaming dreams of High Art, and Recognition, and Steam Yachts, and beheld other radiant visions common to embryo artists, far from danger of contact with the paternal boot.

Failing signally as a shoe merchant, a position was presently found for him as bookkeeper in a downtown store.

It is needless to say that this failed quite as signally.
One day, unexpectedly discovering caricatures of himself drawn with more or less dexterity upon every available flyleaf of the ledger — which, as a matter of fact, should be the last place in the world to find caricatures — the proprietor promptly fired him. This was too much. There ensued high words from the exasperated head of the family; and Jack all at once found himself cast adrift into the cold, cold world, minus a home.

A special Providence, however, appears to watch over small children, artists and young married people. It was, therefore, at about this time that the New York World started out on its famous hunt for erratic genius, and brought the Comic Artist into fashion.

Bryans made his debut on this paper with a political cartoon of Grover Cleveland, then President. Excuse me, but we have poetesses of passion to burn — unless they burn us first.

Then the Journal, emulating the World, also sought out the festive Comic Artist, making him more and more the fashion...and not a little, too, to his gratification, Bryans found himself in the proud possession of a permanent salary of so much a week, his hitherto empty pockets hilariously jingling with real coin, and the paternal eye fixed upon him animated by a curious mixture of anxiety, admiration and awe.

Stranger still, this salary, with some slight fluctuation, of course, has fortunately continued, even to the present day; and while he has had some few insignificant imitators, the Bryans silhouettes have held their own, unique in the clean-cut excellence of their drawing and in the facility of their humor.
Mr. Bryans works for Life, Harper’s Bazar, McClure’s Syndicate, The World, The Journal, and The Times. The examples herewith are reproduced by permission of McClure’s Syndicate.

Though his specialty is comics, Bryans has done considerable illustrating of short stories and made a few clever covers for books.

Being a young man, hardly thirty-two yet, he may be said to have the world before him, at least in the matter of silhouettes.
A postcard with a Bryans silhouette was published in 1905.




Caricature: The Wit & Humor of a Nation in Picture, Song & Story (1913) included four illustrations by Bryans here, here, here and here.

Cartoons Magazine, February 1916, reported the Central New York Art League exhibit which included Bryans.

In the 1915 New York state census, Bryans was counted in his father’s household at 371 Convent Avenue in Manhattan, New York City. A 1915 New York City directory listed Bryans as an artist residing at 35 West 104th Street. Bryans’ address from 1917 to 1920 was 507 West 111th Street according to city directories.

Advertising Arts and Crafts (1927) had this listing for Bryans: “Bryans, J.K., 53 West 105th, Aca 1873 New York City. Black and White.”

For King Features Syndicate, Bryans produced the panel, Shadow Kids, beginning in 1927.



Syracuse Journal 10/19/1927

In 1929 Shadowkids was published by the Platt & Munk Company which published, the following year, Shadowkids at Play.

Art Young mentioned Bryans in his book, Art Young: His Life and Times (1939):

On the walls among the array of weapons were framed drawings which had illuminated Sunday World feature stories that Will had written, and originals done by the artists on the World staff; also drawings for the “funnies” of that era, by Dick Outcault, George Luks, Anderson, Bryans (whose silhouette pictures were then popular), Tony Anthony, Gus and Rudy Dirks, Joe Lemon, Walt McDougall; and illustrators such as Will Crawford (he made comics as well, but always seemed too dignified and artistic to be classed as such), “Hod” Taylor, Al Levering, and others.
Bryans has not been found in the 1930 and 1940 censuses. 

The passing of Bryans’ sister, Marian, was published in the New York Times, October 31, 1943. The death notice said: 
Bryans—Marian E., suddenly, Oct. 30, daughter of the late James H. and Mary Kennedy Bryans and beloved sister of John K., Sara, Carlotta, and Mrs. Philip J. Faulkner. Funeral services Monday, 2 P.M., at the Hallett Homestead, 147th St. and Northern Boulevard, Flushing, L.I. Interment Bronxville Cemetery.
What became of Bryans after 1943 is not known.

—Alex Jay

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Monday, February 01, 2016

 

Obscurity of the Day: J.K. Bryans' Silhouette Cartoons









While many cartoonists enjoy employing silhouettes in their cartoons on occasion, no one could possibly match the steadfast love of the form exhibited by J.K. Bryans. In his long career at the New York newspapers, only one of his earliest short-lived strips (The Fluffy Duff Sisters of 1900) was not done using the silhouette technique.

Because Bryans' newspaper cartoons were instantly identifiable simply by the large blobs of black ink that drew your eye to them, naturally he didn't see any pressing need for a consistent running title to advertise his wares. He did sometimes use recurring titles, though, which generally refer to the technique: Silhouette Repartee, Fun in Black and White, In Silhouetteville and so on. He also had additional calling-cards: his cartoons generally appeared in pairs of subject-related gag cartoons under a common masthead, and the underlying art style was very much in the debt of William F. Marriner, whose copyists were legion in those days.

Because I generally don't consider single-panel gag cartoons without a unifying subject, title or genre as a series, assigning a start date to Bryans silhouette cartoons is a challenge. I feel that although he made contributions to New York newspapers in the 1890s that he doesn't have a real series going until June 6 1900, when the New York Evening Journal began featuring his cartoons regularly and giving him a byline.

The next year Bryans began submitting his trademark silhouettes to the McClure Syndicate's Sunday section, and they appeared there semi-regularly from August 18 1901 to October 9 1904 (in 1903 the C.J. Hirt-edited McClure section gave them a consistent (and awful) title for a short time -- Laughoettes). This moonlighting seemed not to have set well with the Hearst folks, and Bryans' cartoons were dropped from the Journal sometime in 1902 (unfortunately I cannot offer an exact date as the Evening Journal microfilm is woefully incomplete).

Bryans evidently wasn't totally thrilled with his gig at McClure, because he left them in order to take a position at the New York Evening World. His cartoons for them, which followed the same pattern as usual, began appearing on October 26 1904.

Although Bryans had a long relationship with the Evening World, he went through a few periods of hibernation. The first hiatus began after the cartoon in the April 28 1905 issue, and he didn't get back on the World horse until October 9 1906. What he did in that 17-month period I don't know. His return didn't last long, and once again he disappeared after the cartoon of December 11 1906. This time he disappeared for close to a year, returning on October 3 1907.

Finally Bryans settled into a groove, and his silhouette cartoons appeared on a semi-regular basis in the Evening World for the next seven years, finally ending on February 5 1914. By this time they were looking quite distinctly old-fashioned among the comic strips that were running alongside them. While Bryans would try sporadically to revive the silhouette cartoon business for at least another decade-and-a-half, he met with little success. Time and style had passed him by.

Tomorrow Alex Jay will fill in some of the biographical blanks with an Ink-Slinger Profile for Mr. Bryans.

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