Thursday, August 06, 2020

 

Mystery Strips: Alligator Joe and Pete the Piker

In the pages of The Fourth Estate, February 27 1915 edition, we find this short article: 

A SOUTHERN CARTOONIST


Henry Muheim, cartoonist for the Florida Metropolis of Jacksonville, has been attracting considerable attention in the South through his bright and timely cartoons.

After graduation from the Providence School of Design, Mr. Muheim did cartoons under Sid Greene of the New York Telegram, but then in charge of the art department of the Providence (R.I.) Telegram. For the past eight years Muheim has been furnishing the cartoons for the Metropolis on national and local topics. These have been so good that they have been reproduced by the London Sketch, among other papers. His comic strip, "Alligator Joe" is known throughout Florida.

In Editor & Publisher, January 14 1911 (thanks to Alex Jay for digging this up), we get another glimpse of Mr. Muheim's activities:

Jackson Metropolis Staff Changes

A complete reorganization of the staff of the Jacksonville (Fla) Metropolis has been made recently. E. E. Naugle, formerly sporting editor, is now on the city desk. Frank L. Hulfaker is news editor. Ernest Metcalf has taken charge of the State news department. George D. Love, formerly of the Denver Post copy desk, is on the City Hall and Federal Court run, while George Benz, formerly of the Philadelphia Telegraph. is doing police work. W. J. Morrison, the well-known turf writer. who has seen service on Baltimore and Montreal papers, has taken the sporting desk. with L. S. Clampitte, formerly of the Chattanooga News, as assistant. Henry Muheim, the cartoonist, has recently created a novel character for the sporting editions of the paper in “Pete the Piker,” which has caught on with the racing fraternity now attending the winter meeting at Moncreif Park.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 "Alligator Joe" is a strip I cannot locate. Same with "Pete the Piker", though it is less clear that it was a strip -- character might have just been a sports cartoon mascot.

The Florida Metropolis is unavailable on microfilm, no doubt because in its day it was best known mainly as a real estate developers' journal, and I don't mean that in a good way -- I mean folks selling swampland to gullible tourists. You'd think that a strip that was 'known throughout Florida' would show up in an occasional mention elsewhere, but my searches have turned up nothing. The title "Alligator Joe" itself seems unlikely -- there was a pretty famous guy in Florida who exhibited and sometimes even wrestled alligators known by this name. Unless the strip was actually about that guy?

Anyway, Muheim was at least definitely at the Metropolis. Here's a rare surviving cover page by him. Nice attractive style. Ironically, the cover of a special real estate section:



So, can anyone offer proof of the existence of "Alligator Joe" or "Pete the Piker"?

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Hello Allen-
Warren B. Frazee, the guy known as "Alligator Joe" was probably the most famous man associated with Florida, who made himself famous for being the "Crocodile Hunter" of his day. He had an alligator farm in Florida from which you could buy gators through the mail! Sometimes his name in news articles is Frazier. He had a famed gator exhibit at Coney Island where you could see such wonders as a reptilian incubator. He died in 1915 at his exhibit at the Panama-Pacific exposition in 'Frisco.
It would seem entirely possible that he, as a self-promoting showman, could have a cartoon series, especially in something like "Florida Metropolis," designed to intrest one in the glories of that state.
 
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Wednesday, August 05, 2020

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Harry Shorten


Harry Shorten was born on October 5, 1914, in Manhattan, New York, New York, according to his World War II draft card and Social Security application which was transcribed at Ancestry.com. His parents were Joseph Shorten and Lena S. Lebewohl or Lebenwald, both Russian emigrants. Shorten has not yet been found in the 1915 New York state census.

The 1920 U.S. Federal Census recorded Shorten’s parents and their five children in Manhattan at 126 Rutgers Street. Shorten was the third child whose older siblings were Russian. The youngest two were New Yorkers. His father, a junk shop truck driver, emigrated in 1911, while his mother and older siblings arrived in 1913.

In the 1925 New York state census, the Shorten family were Brooklyn residents at 357 Bradford Street. The address was the same in the 1930 census.

On February 4, 1932 Shorten graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School as reported in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The next day the Eagle said Shorten was one of “five outstanding graduating athletes whose names will be inscribed on the Charles Model Memorial Plaque.”

Shorten enrolled at New York University where he played football in his freshman year. In March 1936 Shorten was awarded a scholarship. The Eagle, June 9,1937, said

Harry Shorten of 458 Eastern Parkway, ace blocking back go the football team, today was awarded the Sussman Memorial Medal at N.Y. U. commencement exercises. The prize was presented to shorten by the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity for outstanding service to the sophomore class of Washington Square College of the university. He is a former Thomas Jefferson High School star.
On June 7, 1937, Shorted and Rose Sadoff obtained a marriage license in Manhattan according to the New York, New York, Marriage License Index at Ancestry.com.

Shorten’s first published work was reported in the Ogdensburg Journal (New York), October 16, 1937.

The Mal Stevens opus, “How to Watch Football [sic],” is the literary work, we hear, of Harry Shorten, the 190-pound junior blocking back, pass receiver and wit of the N.Y.U. team, who turned it out when he had nothing else to do during the summer.

Brooklyn Eagle 10/19/1937

Shorten received his Bachelor of Arts degree in June 1939. Shorten told magazines and newspapers he graduated in 1937.


After graduating Shorten played for the Brooklyn Eagles in the American Pro Football Association.

Editor & Publisher, April 26, 1969, profiled Shorten who talked about his early writing and comics career.
… After graduating from college in 1937 [sic] with a degree in Geology (“I wouldn’t know one rock from another now”). …

“The sports magazines paid $1 per page of copy or $10 per story,” he says. “Earlier I’d sold stuff to Street and smith, Argosy, and a few others. Back in those post-Depression days you were paid from 1/2¢ to 1¢ per word and you got paid when you caught them. In those hungry days the publishing business was severely depressed.”

Shorten … sold “everything he ever wrote” and eventually gravitated to writing comic books. … “I was hired by Abner Sunbell [sic], editor of Columbia Publications, to be his assistant. He became my mentor: he was my teacher and my inspiration and taught me much of what I know today about the business.

“We put out Pep Comics, Blue Ribbon Comics, Black Hood Comics and Archie Comics. Eventually we had a string of 10 comic books, which isn’t bad. When I was with them their total assets were $300,000. Now they’re worth $3-million and they’re asking $5-million for the business.” …

While on the subject of millions: Shorten was making the magnanimous sum of $1 per page (steady) for grinding out comic book text and would average a steady $35 per week. Woe to the long suffering artist. “Those poor guys only got $5 per page and it took them all day to draw just one.”

… “In those days you had to turn out an astronomical number of pages to make any money.” While turning out an “astronomical number of pages” Shorten invented “Archie,” the bumbling high school student who later became a King Features daily comic staple. Shorten says he owns the copyright.

“In 1943,” he explains, “Henry Aldrich was a popular radio show
[The radio show was called The Aldrich Family, a series that began in summer of 1939 and ended in 1953.] and the kid made a tremendous impact. I suggested to Sunbell that we start a strip with a Henry Aldrich-type kid. … I created ‘Wilbur’ with Lin Streeter as the artist and the character came out looking exactly like him. “Later we signed Bob Montana to draw ‘Archie’ and the kid came out being about eight-years-old, he was much too young. I was writing the strip and wrote him as being a teenager and he came out just right. That was the greatest time of my life. We worked on ‘Archie’ in hotel rooms and at Montana’s summer home in New Hampshire and had a great time.

“During that time we created ‘Katy Keene,’ ‘The Shield,’ ‘The Black Hood,’ ‘Reggie,’ ‘Jughead,’ ‘Betty and Veronica,’ ‘Ginger,’ ‘Super Duck,’ ‘Pokey Oakey,’ ‘Calthar the Jungle Man,’ and many others. We created many heavies but even more minor characters.”

Shorten dreamed-up the format for “There Oughta Be A Law,” which he wrote and his partner, the late Al Fagaly (who died six years ago) drew. “That was in 1944,” says Shorten. “We sold it to the McClure Syndicate and stipulated that they had to take ‘Archie’ along with it. We only gave them three weeks worth of daily samples but they grabbed it. The thing was in 20 papers almost immediately. We made from $30,000 to $40,000 the first year and the strip made $65,000 and up with the syndicate getting 40% and us getting 60%, which Fagaly and I divided equally.”

… The cartoon feature, which made Shorten a millionaire … was the springboard he used to jump head-first into the publishing business. “In 1952” he says, “we published the first of four ‘There Oughta Be A Law’ paperback anthologies … which grossed about $8,000 per book with 85% sales. Then we just kept going on until we built-up a list of 26 titles and publish 26 books per month plus four comic magazines and two TV magazines and we’ve added three book lines which include another 26 titles.”

Shorten, whose organization now grosses almost “four-million” per year employs 35 people—all of whom receive more than $1 per page for text and $5 per page for art. “We’re part of the V-T-R Corp., (American Stock Exchange) part of the V-T-R Corp., (American Stock Exchange)— he says. “It’s a conglomerate. They’re our parent corporation and are worth between $55-million and $60-million. V-T-R is headed by Fred Gould, a sharp young guy who made his money in real estate, and there are some very dynamic-minded young executives in the organization who already are looking for new properties.”

One property that became a casualty was, strangely enough, “There Oughta Be A Law,” which Shorten stopped writing “four or five years ago”. “It was fun in the beginning, then it got to be a drag,” he says. … United [Features] took the strip over from McClure in 1963. Art is being handled by Warren Whipple, who formerly worked for the late Jimmy Hatlo. … Sy Reit has taken over the writing chores from Shorten, who still owns the feature lock, stock and barrel.

In the profile Shorten said he “invented” Archie. For the June 1954 issue of American News Trade Journal, Shorten wrote an article about Archie’s Mechanics and did not take credit for creating Archie.
Some years ago, when [John] Goldwater and [Louis] Silberkleit decided to launch their first Archie comic, everyone said they were crazy. A teen-ager as a comic book character? Not a chance. “All today’s kids want,” they were told, “are super-men, either saving or destroying cities, with plenty of thrills, gore, and manufactured excitement. True-to-life stuff will never go.”

But John and Lou felt differently about it. Differently enough to gamble that the children of America wanted good, wholesome entertainment based on stories that had to do with normal characters who, in spite of their cartoon guise, acted and looked and talked pretty much like their own teen-age friends. They decided to build up a comic group based on that idea, a comic group that would create an entirely new concept in comic book publishing. 
Rik Offenberger profiled John Goldwater and said
John Goldwater inspired by the popular “Andy Hardy” movies starring Mickey Rooney; wanted to create a comic about a normal person to whom readers could relate. He created “America’s newest boyfriend”, Archibald “Chick” Andrews. In Pep Comics #22, December 1941 writer Vic Bloom and artist Bob Montana, published Archie Andrews first adventure. Gloria Goldwater, John’s wife said “He loved Superman and he wanted to create a kind of opposite to Superman,” “Archie was based partly on a red-headed friend of his named Archie,” Mrs. Goldwater said. “He also created Betty and Veronica. Then he decided Archie needed a real good friend. That was Jughead. It just grew and grew.”
In Comic Book Artist #14, July 2001, Bill Pearson was asked about Shorten and said
Harry Shoten made his stake as the writer of the There Oughta Be A Law comic strip that had been very popular in the ’40s and ’50s. He had a very successful pocket book publishing business when the comics had a boom in the ’60s and he decided to take the plunge. I never talked to him but I saw him around the offices once in awhile. He looked like the very caricature of a publisher. Stocky body, bald head, and a fat cigar in his mouth at all times.
In the 1940 census freelance writer Shorten and his wife resided in Brooklyn at 685 Sterling Place. The same address was on his World War II draft which he signed on October 16, 1940. His employer was MLJ Magazine Company. Shorten was described as five feet nine inches, 185 pounds with brown eyes and black hair.

At some point Shorten moved to Rockville Centre, New York.

The 1960 Manhattan, New York directory listed Shorten’s office at 505 8th Avenue.

Shorten was the publisher of the soap opera magazine, Afternoon TV, which debuted August 1968. The magazine held its first awards banquet in 1973. The Cortland Standard (New York), August 2, 1975, said “Harry Shorten, Publisher of Afternoon TV Magazine, explained that winners were selected through, a poll of professional TV writers and editors, ‘individuals in constant touch with the afternoon television scene.’”

Shorten passed away on January 14, 1991, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was laid to rest at Star of David Memorial Gardens. Obituaries were published in The New York Times, January 17, 1991, and South Florida Sun Sentinel, January 22, 1991.


Further Reading
The MLJ Companion: The Complete History of the Archie Comics Super-Heroes
Brain Bats of Venus: The Life and Comics of Basil Wolverton Volume 2
Grand Comics Database
Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999


—Alex Jay

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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: George T. Eggleston


George Teeple Eggleston was born on November 21, 1906, in Oakland, California, according to his world War II draft card which also had his full name. In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census Eggleston was the only child of Charles and Mabel. They were Oakland residents at 4089 Howes Street. His father was a real estate agent.

The 1920 census said the Eggleston address was 5116 Fonthill Boulevard in Oakland. His father was now an insurance agent. At Fremont High School Eggleston was on the yearbook staff. He was one of two artists on the Flame.

Eggleston continued his education at the University of California in Berkeley. He was a member of Kappa Alpha. The 1929 yearbook, The Blue & Gold, said Eggleston was the Spring editor of the school humor magazine, The Pelican




The San Francisco Chronicle, March 1, 1928, said
George T. Eggleston, senior in the University of California Law School and art editor of the Pelican, campus publication, was awarded second prize, a $250 gold watch, from a field of several thousand in a nation-wide art contest conducted by a magazine, according to word received by him yesterday. Young Eggleston does his art work as a side line to his study of law at the university and his talent is without instruction. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. C.P. Eggleston, 1221 Cavanaugh road, Oakland. The committee awarding the prizes included James Montgomery Flagg, H.N. Swanson, editor of College Humor; Gaar Williams and Arthur William Brown.
According to the 1930 census, Eggleston was a lodger in Evanston, Illinois, at 927 Hinman Avenue. His occupation was salaried magazine artist. About three months after the census enumeration Eggleston and Martha Downing obtained a marriage license on July 21, 1930 in Yuma, Arizona.

Eggleston was the first artist to draw Rowdy Dow at Killjoy College, which debuted January 4 1931.
On April 10, 1932 he replaced by “Tom”. The strip was distributed by the Bell Syndicate/Collegiate World.

Eggleston’s appointment as editor of Life magazine was reported in the Chronicle, March 6, 1932.

George T. Eggleston, graduate of the University of California with the class of 1929, and former editor of the Pelican, has been made editor of Life, New York magazine. Eggleston is the son of Charles P. Eggleston, 515 Vernon street, Oakland, and was graduated from Fremont High School, Oakland. Following his graduation he was associate editor of College Humor at Chicago. He is a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity and was married last july to Miss Martha downing of Berkeley.
Eggleston’s second marriage was to Hazel Nicolay on January 18, 1936 in Windsor, Connecticut. The 1940 census said Eggleston was a magazine editor whose income, in 1939, was $5,000. He and his wife had a seven-year-old daughter, Day, and a maid. They lived in Greenwich, Connecticut at 4 Chapel Lane. In 1935 they had lived in New York City where Eggleston was an editor on the old Life magazine according to The New York Times, July 9, 1990.

On October 16, 1940 Eggleston signed his World War II draft card. His address in Greenwich was Buxton Lane. His employer was Conde Nast Publications. He was described as six feet two inches, 190 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair.

The Times said

Mr. Eggleston was editor of Scribner’s Commentator, a magazine published in New York that helped lead the opposition to the United States’ entrance into World War II in 1940 and 1941. He changed his position after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and enlisted in the Navy, but charges of disloyalty dogged him for years.

Mr. Eggleston recounted some of the harassment against him in his last book, “Roosevelt, Churchill, and the World War II Opposition,” published by Devin-Adair in 1979. He wrote about leaving the Navy after Walter Winchell, the syndicated columnist and radio commentator, urged Americans to start a letter-writing campaign demanding his removal from the service.

Eggleston’s veteran’s file said he enlisted in the Navy on January 4, 1944 and was released March 11, 1944.

The Times said Eggleston “was an editor at Reader’s Digest after the war. In 1957 he and his wife moved to St. Lucia in the West Indies. Twenty-two years later, they moved to Sarasota.”

Eggleston passed away on July 7, 1990, in Sarasota, Florida.

 

—Alex Jay

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Monday, August 03, 2020

 

Obscurity of the Day: Rowdy Dow at Killjoy College







There was a time when just about any college worth its salt had both a newspaper and a humor magazine. The most famous of the humor mags is probably the Harvard Lampoon, which began in 1876, but the form has continued well into modern times. Some are still around and even thriving, though mostly as digital versions, like The Onion out of the University of Wisconsin.

Back in 1920, some smart cookie realized that there might be good money in a newsstand magazine that collected the best material from these magazines together. That entrepreneurial publisher, whose name I cannot seem to find, started Collegiate World, which was soon renamed College Humor. The magazine sold well, especially once they started supplementing the reprints with some more professional level material, including a big dollop of lecherous stuff about college coeds.

Around 1929 College Humor partnered with Bell Syndicate to create a weekly newspaper half-page of gags and cartoons culled from the magazine's archives. The feature sold respectably well, despite being a half-page of what I would call pretty weak material, mostly painfully bad gags.

In 1931, the feature's editor decided that a comic strip about college life would be just the thing to brighten up the half-page. Thus was born Rowdy Dow at Killjoy College, which debuted on January 4 1931, and was initially drawn by George T. Eggleston. Eggleston would go on to magazine cartooning, and then the editorship of several prominent magazines. Alex Jay, who will profile him tomorrow, says he was also serving in an editorial capacity at College Humor, so it is a good bet that these strips were also being run in the magazine, though I haven't seen them.

Eggleston could draw well enough, but his gags for this feature were certainly no classics. After about 15 months he gave up the strip in favor of greener pastures. He was replaced on April 10 1932 by someone who signed himself just "Tom." Tom did a decent job of maintaining the art style, but his gags were even more torturously bad. There was little mourning when he left the feature after just three months, his last episode appearing on July 17.

On the 24th a substitute signing himself G. Hayes (probably Geoff) came aboard for a single episode, then the next week someone signing themselves G.D. took a whack at the strip. On August 7 a new permanent creator appeared, a fellow who signed himself "Dan-'l". Dan'l was a pretty poor cartoonist, and his gags were worse than his art.

Dan'l kept plugging away, though, and his tenure ended after 15 months only because the half-page College Humor feature seems to have been cancelled. It ended on November 12 1933.

Thanks to Cole Johnson, who supplied most of the samples above (top one is Eggleston's last strip, then  two by "Tom," and one by "Dan-'l", followed by a sample of the full College Humor feature, this one with a "Tom" strip).


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