Monday, July 24, 2017
Obscurity of the Day: Us Girls
Edith Stevens wasn't any great shakes as a cartoonist, and as a humorist, well, I wouldn't exactly put her in Al Capp or Rube Goldberg territory. What she did have was more important than either of these qualities -- a devoted following among the lady readers of the Boston Post. Popularity can trump talent in a local cartooning gig, even in a big newspaper town like Boston.
Us Girls debuted in the paper on March 4 1929, and if you think Ms. Stevens' drawing ability was a mite crude in the above examples from 1939-43, trust me that she had improved quite a bit by then. Crude drawing notwithstanding, Us Girls seems to have struck a chord with the female population. Stevens' humor was definitely aimed directly at women, looking endlessly at the dynamics of female friendship -- men very rarely made an appearance in her work. Stevens was also very interested in fashion, and she occasionally dispensed with the humor altogether to draw a group of vignettes about the latest styles.
During World War II, Stevens' cartoons began to appear with less frequency in the Post, sometimes disappearing for weeks at a time, and then appearing weekly for long stretches. After the war, Us Girls appears more frequently, but still doesn't go back to being a consistent daily. It seems that Stevens' work was welcomed by the Post when and if the spirit moved her to draw one.
With the Boston Post microfilm available only at the Boston Public Library, my research time was so precious while there that I had to give up the chase for an end date for Us Girls in the reels of 1950, when it was still appearing. The Post folded in 1956, so presumably somewhere in that 1950-56 timeframe Us Girls came to its end. Or so I thought. An online search reveals this 1962 advertisement in the Troy Record:
Did Us Girls move over to the Boston Globe when the Post folded? This 1962 ad would seem to indicate, in a roundabout way, that that was indeed the case. The research never ends ....
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the sample images.
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