Saturday, January 16, 2021

 

Wish You Were Here, from an Anonymous Hack

 

I assumed this series was a freebie from the New York American, but Mark Johnson put me to rights back on this post about another card from the same series. This 1909 card is marked "Series 37    4". No telling how many of these awful cards were produced as who could stand to collect them all?


Comments:
Reminds me of the "Happiness, we're all in it together" poster in Terry Gilliam's movie "Brazil". How idyllic not to know the horrors on the horizon.
 
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Friday, January 15, 2021

 

Obscurity of the Day: Home Culture

 




In this early Chicago Daily News weekday series, Raymond "GAR" Garman offers his take on what happens when Miss Redfeather, fresh out of college, returns to her tribe with the purpose of instructing them in sophisticated pursuits. Being this is 1902, I don't need to tell you that the gags are just as offensive as you might imagine. 

Home Culture ran in the Chicago Daily News from February 10 to March 11 1902. Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

 

Obscurity of the Day: Three Squares






 I'm a big fan of cartoonist Walt Ditzen. His sinuous smooth penwork and instantly recognizable bottle-shaped characters graced the strip Fan Fare for over two and a half decades. The strip is about sports, which isn't really my thing, but my gosh that art just makes my eyeballs so very happy. 

Ditzen came by his interest in sports honestly; 6' 4" and powerfully built, he barnstormed with a travelling semi-pro basketball team for awhile until an injury sidelined him. He settled in Chicago and became an artist for the National Safety Council during the war years. After the war he took some strip ideas to the Chicago Sun; they must have been impressed by him because he was offered the position of comics editor. One of his first jobs was to try to market his sports humor strip. Having seen firsthand what is important to editors, he came up with a small 3-column format which could be run horizontally or vertically. Rather than play upon the sports aspect of the new strip, Ditzen appealed to editors even with the title, Three Squares. It had nothing to do with the sports theme but accentuated his marketing come-on that the strip could fit just about anywhere.

Three Squares didn't sell well, but in the newspaper world there were plenty of editors who weren't fans of Marshall Fields' Chicago Sun, so that could have been the problem. There were just enough clients to launch the strip on June 3 1946*. Most client papers placed the strip on their sports pages, where the subject matter was sure to find an appreciative audience. Ditzen figured out pretty quickly that readers particularly liked his strip when the gags were about sports they themselves engaged in --  bowling, golf, fishing and such -- and Ditzen served the audience loyally. 

Unhappy with his small client list, Ditzen tried to figure out another angle. He came up with the idea of offering the strip in two formats -- Three Squares would continue as is, but he'd add a fourth panel to each day's strip and market that as Fan Fare (thankfully not Four Squares!). Papers could then run either version, responding to daily space constraints. The Three Squares name would not officially continue, but client papers being as lazy as they are, the name lived on with many of those early clients.

He did not come up with this idea on his own. Doing the practically unthinkable, he'd been shopping Three Squares around to other syndicates. He found an interested suitor at the John F. Dille Company, and he probably cooked up this idea with them. Although Fan Fare did in fact debut under the imprint of the Chicago Sun on September 29 1947**, Ditzen already had one foot out the door. He announced publicly in Editor & Publisher that the strip would be moving in December. What is unrecorded is how long it took Marshall Field to plant a boot on his backside -- for all I know he remained the comics editor for Field for years afterward (anyone know?). 

The 'drop panel' employed with Fan Fare didn't last long. In fact, it may have already been dumped by the time Dille's syndicate slug began appearing on the strip December 22 1947. 


* Source: Chicago Sun

** Source: Editor & Publisher, 9/27/1947.

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Monday, January 11, 2021

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Lawrence Lariar


Lawrence Lariar was born Lawrence Rosenblum on December 25, 1908, in Brooklyn, New York. His birth date was recorded on his World War II draft, Connecticut death certificate (transcribed at Ancestry.com) and at the Social Security Death Index. However, three documents have 24 as the birth day: his New York City birth certificate (Ancestry.com) and 1929 and 1936 passenger lists. Lariar’s parents were Marcy Rosenblum, an English emigrant, and Ella Poll, a New Yorker, who married on February 28, 1906 in Manhattan. Lariar’s birth surname was noted in Contemporary Authors (1975) and in The Armchair Detective, Winter or Spring 1982.

Lariar has not yet been found in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census. The 1915 New York State census enumerator misheard Lariar’s first name and wrote Florence. Lariar, his parents and two siblings resided in Brooklyn at 227 East 26th Street. Lariar’s father was a builder. The address was the same in the 1920 census.

Lariar’s father passed away July 19, 1924, according to his death certificate at Ancestry.com.

The Syracuse University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center said “Lariar graduated from Erasmus High School in 1925 and studied art at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts …”

Editor & Publisher, March 19, 1949, profiled Lariar and said

Lariar’s training began in the New York School of Fine and Applied Art. For the first six months he was on commercial illustration, then switched to cartooning. After graduation he started out with two buddies, Jack Arthur, now a school teacher in the New York system, and Adolph Schus, now a designer in fabric house.

The trio set up a cartoon agency in a flat in the 80’s in New York, sold vignettes to College Life, for which the editor wrote two-line captions. They also got in America's Humor magazine, primarily because it couldn’t pay as much as Life or Judge, says Lariar. Arthur, the oldest of the three (he was 21) would contact various outlets and say he represented a dozen different artists, which Lariar, Arthur and Schus tried to prove. One of their “artists” was named Baron de Shebago, who drew a full page of zanies.

In 1927, Lariar went to Paris on a scholarship to the school of dynamic symmetry. [Contemporary Authors said he studied at the Academie Julien.] He was accompanied by Arthur. Later, the third musketeer, Schus, joined them. They went into the same routine in Paris, and did a big business with British magazines and Fleetway House, then one of the big magazine publishing houses of the world. Much of their work was for The Looker-On, which folded but paid off—fortunately for the sake of their fares back home. They did work, too, for Boulevardier, a Paris publication operated by Erskine Gwynn, an American.

The trio caromed back to New York in October, 1929 [Lariar’s return was on September 10 according to a passenger list at Ancestry.com], a few days after the boom had burst.

“To make a living, we did everything,” says Lariar. “We had a service for printers, drew cartoons for calendars, played messenger and did some of the first work for the slicks.”

The boys hit upon a deal that brought home the bacon when they did a series of cartoon postcards, designed to save Boy Scouts time in writing home to mother. They sold over a million of them in a direct-mail campaign.

Flushed with success, they then embarked on a venture that sank them. In Paris, Lariar had picked up a book reproducing the etchings of a Rembrandt exposition. The plates were excellent, and they had sold many of them to friends back home without any other effort than razoring them out of the book. Reproduction by a photographic process was expensive, and they moved in trade as slowly as coal buckets from a hardware merchant’s shelves in the summer time. …

Lariar has not yet been found in the 1930 census. Contemporary Authors said he commercial advertising artist from 1930 to 1933, then a freelance illustrator and political cartoonist in 1933. Editor & Publisher said “Lariar rented offices on 45th Street where he turned to strip cartooning, drew some of the first comic books in 1933, and for Stuart Shaftell’s Young America created ‘Inspector Keene of Scotland Yard.’”

Lariar was credited as “Lawrence La Riar” in 1934 issues of Collier’s Magazine.

The New York City marriage index said Lariar married Susan Meyer in Brooklyn on October 19, 1935.

In 1936 the couple traveled to Europe. They returned to New York on October 16, 1936. The passenger list said their home was in Lindenhurst, Long Island, New York. That same year saw the publication of the first volume of Who’s Who in American Art which included Lariar (spelled La Riar) whose home address was 150 Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn, and office at 56 West 45th Street. The entry said his cartoons appeared in Collier’s, Saturday Evening Post, Judge, Life, Country Gentleman, Young America, American Magazine, New York American, and Everybody’s (London).

Editor & Publisher said

In 1935, Brooklyn-born Lawrence Lariar married his agent, Susan Mayer [sic] of Brooklyn. They have two children. Lariar says his wife was one of the first cartoon agents in the magazine gag panel field, and was a gag creator on her own. He took the Walt Disney aptitude test in 1938. …

 The Nassau Daily Review-Star (Freeport, New York), July 3, 1939, said
Lawrence Lariar of Wynsum avenue, Merrick, whose humorous cartoons in Esquire, Colliers, Saturday Evening Post, American and many other publications are “tops” as laugh producers, has gone to Hollywood.

He will forsake his drawing board for the typewriter when he joins the staff of Walt Disney productions in the story department.

Although he is only 30, Lariar is near the top in his profession and has been for several years. When his name was added to “Who’s Who in America” in 1937, the ultimate listing medium for those who have arrived, he was the first comic artist to be listed in that book.

While he has been cartooning for seven years as a free lance, poking fun at politics and administrations with his funny characters, he is no stranger to writing, and he feels that in joining Walt Disney, he is heading one step nearer the top of the ladder.

For Lariar believes that Disney has only started his career in motion pictures. Lariar has written fiction and he hopes to write more for Disney productions, but with the difference, that instead of seeing his work only in print, he will see his characters in action on the screen. …

In the 1940 census Lariar’s home was in Los Angeles at 2214 Holly Drive. The cartoonist worked 25 weeks in 1939 and had been out of work for 22 weeks. The books California Artists, 1935 to 1956 (1981) and Artists in California, 1786-1940: L–Z (2002) spelled Lariar as La Riar or LaRiar.

Lariar returned to New York and wrote Cartooning for Everybody which was published by Crown Publishers in 1941. In Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes, Volume 2 (2009), Walt Stanchfield wrote

In his book, Cartooning for Everybody, Lawrence Lariar astutely counseled, “Sketching is sketching. It involves a model, usually, whether the model is a buxom nude or an old tomato can. It is copying, after a fashion. The cartoonist, when he sketches, is going through a process of study. He concentrates upon the model, plumbs its movement, bulk, the ‘guts’ of the thing he’s after. He puts into his drawing (though it may be as big as your thumbnail) all his experience. He simplifies. He plays with his line. He experiments. He isn’t concerned with anatomy, chiaroscuro, or the symmetry of ‘flowing line.’ There’s nothing highbrow about his approach to the sketch pad. He is drawing because he likes to draw!”
Contemporary Authors said Lariar was cartoon editor at Liberty Magazine from 1941 to 1948.

Self-employed Lariar signed his World War II draft card on October 16, 1940. His residence was in Roosevelt, Long Island, New York at 99 Raymond Avenue.

Lariar wrote many books. He used the pseudonyms Adam Knight, Michael Lawrence and Michael Stark on his fiction works. The Man With the Lumpy Nose crime novel was published in 1944 and featured cartoonist-detective Homer and his fellow artists of the Comic Arts Club. The book won the Red Badge Mystery Award of a thousand dollars.

Lariar’s Best Cartoons of the Year annuals began in 1942.



In 1945 Liberty published the comic strip The Thropp Family which was written by Lariar and drawn by Lou Fine and Don Komisarow.

The Professional School of Cartooning was formed in 1947. An advertisement appeared in the January 1948 issue of Popular Mechanics. The teachers were Lariar (also executive director), Henry Boltinoff, Ed Nofziger, George Wolfe, Adolph Schus, Ben Roth, Irving Roir, Salo and Al Ross (the last four were brothers). One of Lariar’s students was Charles Johnson. Lariar was mentioned in The African American Encyclopedia, Volume 3 (1993), Charles Johnson’s Fiction (2003) and Passing the Three Gates: Interviews with Charles Johnson (2011).

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Lariar was the writer on Bantam Prince. The series began as Bodyguard on May 2, 1948. The title changed to Ben Friday on July 11, 1949 then to Bantam Prince in October 1950. The first artist was John Spranger who was followed by Carl Pfeufer. See strips in color at Fabulous Fifties.

Two books by Lariar were published in 1950: The Easy Way to Cartooning from Crown and Careers in Cartooning from Dodd Mead. David Brown wrote the foreword to Careers and said in part

As Editor of Liberty, I’ve had an opportunity to observe Lawrence Lariar’s versatility in the field of comics. He has been Cartoon Editor of Liberty for seven years, during which his skilled judgment in selecting our cartoons helped maintain a high level of humor in the pages of our magazine. I know of nobody in the cartooning business who is better equipped to show the young talent of this country the inner workings of the various branches of the craft, for Lariar has been through the mill of experience in every phase of professional cartoonery.
Lariar’s mother passed away July 2, 1950.

Lariar was the emcee of the CBS television show, Draw Me Another in 1947, and created the Happy Headlines show. According to Billboard, February 3, 1951, he was a panelist on What’s the Gag?

Freeport residents Larair and Guy Lombardo were included in World Biography. Lariar was president of the Freeport Artists Guild and Long Island Craftsmen’s Guild.


Long Island Star-Journal 12/30/1957

The New York Post, March 18, 1956, mentioned Lariar’s show at Pachita Crespi Gallery, 232 East 58th Street in Manhattan: “Also at Pachita’s are Lawrence Lariar, with cartoon sculpture, through March 30 ... ”

The 1960 Manhattan, New York City directory listed Lariar’s office at 52 Lexington Avenue.

Cartoonist Bill Griffith wrote about his mother’s affair with Lariar in Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Secret Love Affair with a Famous Cartoonist (2015) which was reviewed here.

Who’s Who in American Art (1973) said Lariar lived at 248 Mount Joy Avenue in Freeport, New York. In 1975 Contemporary Authors had his address as 57 West Lena Avenue in Freeport.

Lariar passed away on October 12, 1981, in Waterbury, Connecticut. The death certificate said his address was 399 Heritage Village, Southbury, Connecticut. It also mentioned his father’s surname, Rocenblum. A brief obituary appeared in The New York Times, October 15. Lariar’s wife passed away January 15, 1995 according to the Social Security Death Index.

 

—Alex Jay

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Saturday, January 09, 2021

 

Wish You Were Here, from Percy Crosby

 

Here's another Percy Crosby postcard from the unknown maker who designated this series #580 (or is it S80?). This one was postally used in 1912, probably several years after they were produced. 

To understand this gag are we to assume there's a beautiful babe who crowned him for getting fresh? Hey Percy, it'd help if you'd show that!


Comments:
Maybe not necessarily a gal hit him, the gag could be in that, as the pulse is associated with the wrist,or the hand, one has been used on the doctor's head, where he "felt" it rather violently. Reason for this outburst unspecified. Maybe a fee disagreement.
Like most of these Crosby cards, he seems to be just hating every pen stroke he puts down, carelessly flying through it without considering perspective or proportion. Look at that bag-why the 10 point brush outline on it alone? Feet don't bend that way! What is he wearing in lieu of a jacket?
I haven't had my morning coffee yet.
 
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Friday, January 08, 2021

 

Obscurity of the Day: Mike -- They Love Him So

 


Do you know what a "minced oath" is? What a lovely picturesque term for something you can say in polite company when what you really want to say is !@#$%$#@!!!! 

Some minced oaths replace a naughty word with a G rated one. Think "Darn it all!" or "I don't give a fig!" Others are designed to keep the speaker from violating Commandment #3 -- that's where we get terms like "cripes" and "jeez" so as to not actually be taking a certain someone's name in vain.

It appears some take that third Commandment so seriously they don't even like to utter the names of saints. From these goody-goodies we got the terms "for Pete's sake" and "for the love of Mike" (St. Peter and St. Michael barely disguised), and that's where today's obscurity comes in. 

The phrase "For the love of Mike" can be traced back at least to the 1880s, but it took a few decades before Ardo D. Condo, one of the brightest lights in the NEA cartooning stable, took aim at this ridiculous phrase. He wondered in cartoon form what would happen if there really was a Mike to whom all these minced oath utterers were referring. While Mike -- They Love Him So is no competition for Condo's classic series Everett True and Mr. Skygack from Mars, this cartoon is great fun nonetheless, showing what sort of interesting permutations Condo could twist out of such a one-note comic idea.

Mike - They Love Him So runs in the NEA archives as an occasional weekday strip from September 8 1910 to January 5 1911, but NEA clients were notorious for running things on their own schedules, so don't be surprised if you find it in a paper a little earlier or later.


Comments:
It doesn't take a genius to realize that the correct form is "for the love of Bob!"
 
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Wednesday, January 06, 2021

 

Obscurity of the Day: Jack the Giant Killer

 




 Johnny Gruelle was a very prolific newspaper cartoonist in the years before Raggedy Ann became his ticket to fame and fortune. Some of his best work was at the New York Herald, where he created the very long-running series, Mr. Tweedeedle. That series began in 1911 and ran for eight years, an extremely impressive run in those days. 

Surprisingly, Gruelle did little else for the Herald in that long peiod. Only two other series are known, one of which is today's obscurity, Jack the Giant Killer. Jack is not much older than a toddler, and in his fantasy world he and his dog, Dumplins, are professional giant wranglers. The pair are able to best a giant with ease; the combat is over so quickly it is carried out between panels. 

This series is so gosh-darn adorable it seems a pity that Gruelle abandoned it after a mere five episodes, from August 6 to September 3 1911. As much effort as he expended on this strip and Mr. Tweedeedle, though, perhaps he simply didn't have time to do both. 

Several housekeeping notes: in my book I miscredit this strip to the New York Tribune and credit it to Charles Twelvetrees -- get out your White-Out to correct those embarrassing errors. 

Second, I was perusing the Johnny Gruelle wiki entry, and if you are a Wikipedia editor, please oh please correct the ridiculous statements that Gruelle worked at the Tacoma Tribune, Toledo News-Bee, Pittsburgh Press, Spokane Press and Cleveland Press -- all the material being referenced is syndicated stuff from NEA, where Gruelle worked in much of the latter half of the 1900s. Sheesh.


Comments:
Allan, welcome back after completing the home renovations. Isn't it amazing how those type of projects quickly, and exponentially, expand?

This is my first exposure to the JTGK strip which is cute, funny and beautifully rendered. Dumplins, with his occasional droll comments, is a hoot.

FYI, your book lists Charles H. Twelvetrees as creator of the Jack the Giant Killer strip, without mention of Johnny Gruelle.
Did Mr. Twelvetrees write the strip?

Bob Carlin
 
You see that with a lot of Literary Digest Herblock cartoons from the mid-1930s, crediting him with all sorts of Scripps-Howard papers, when in fact he worked for NEA.
 
Newspapers themselves assumed that since they subscribed to a feature, they could say the cartoonist worked for them, and that would be technically true. In a chain like the Scripps-Howard Corporation,(or earlier, "The Scripps-McCrea League") the papers and the syndicate were part the same organization, as was King Features, Premier Syndicate,INS, etc.and the many papers in the chain were all part of the Hearst Corporation. So I guess the mentality was, you work for one part of the whole, you work for all parts of the whole.
As for the Literary Digest, perhaps without going any deeper than whatever paper the item was clipt from, the credit would be assigned.
 
Bob, I plumb forgot to mention that much bigger error. That came from Ken Barker's NY Herald index. Double oopsy.

--Allan
 
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Monday, January 04, 2021

 

Obscurity of the Day: Herkimer

 





The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a few locally produced cartoons, the most famous of which was (and is) The Weatherbird, a front page daily panel cartoon. Even the Sunday comics section of the P-D once had some impressive local content, Walter Quermann's lovely Hickory Hollow Folks. That wasn't the only locally produced Sunday strip, though. From November 17 1946 October 11 1953, Quermann's strip was joined by Herkimer by Amadee Wohlschlaeger. 

Wohlschlaeger produced sports cartoons for the P-D, but was mainly entrusted with the mascot feature of the paper, The Weatherbird. Wohlschlaeger helmed this feature for almost fifty years (1932 - 1981). Evidently the daily panel and sports cartoons left the cartoonist with a little free time, and he came up with Herkimer, a delightful and skillfully executed pantomime strip. Herkimer was a rotund middle-aged man whose short one-tier adventures have him about half the time as the playful force behind some hijinks, and the other half as the butt of misfortune. The character reminds me of French actor Jacques Tati's Mr. Hulot, who first appeared on screen just as Herkimer was winding down.


Comments:
Hi Allan,
Thanks for running these "Herkimer" strips by Amadee. He didn't use "Wohlschlaeger' in the Post-Dispatch. He also created a feature called "St. Louis Oddities" which became "Our Own Oddities". It was sort of like a Ripley strip but with local interest. I loved his lady characters with the pointed legs when I was growing up in St. Louis, and I was in love with the Hickory Hollow Folks page, and O. Hum the Opossum, who was the star of the strip. The rotogravure color printing in the Post was beautiful, but it doesn't age as well as the more conventional four-color printing. Thanks, Mark
 
Oops, I forgot that Ralph Graczak created the "St. Louis Oddities" page. I have a dim memory of seeing Amadee's name on the "Our Own Oddities" page later on, however.
 
The P-D's Sunday section of that time was a beautiful thing to behold, the Prince Valiant page could look like an oil painting. The Philadelphia Inquirer had the "ROTOCOMICS™" from about 1949-1970. It was great seeing strips in that lush color, really bringing out the excitement and artistry of series like Flash Gordon, Steve Canyon, Juliet Jones and Little Iodine.
I can't think of any other papers that did that, it must have just been too expensive or impractical, as more and more papers had their sections printed for them elswhere.
 
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Thursday, December 31, 2020

 

Advertising Strips: Good Vision Will Help Win the Decision

 


Are you depressed? Anxious? Stressed? It's not because you are a war worker in 1943, with members of your family fighting and dying overseas. It's not that you're putting in long hours. It's not the changes in your diet since rationing began. Nah, buddy, the problem is your eyes! Can't you see how obvious it is? 

Some association of optometrists, apparently with the initials A.C.S., offered their members a sequence of five comic strips designed to stimulate business. In each strip a war worker who is troubled on the job is discovered to be slipping because of eye problems. The series, titled Good Vision Will Help Win the Decision, began appearing in newspapers in March 1943; in some cases it ran daily, others weekly, and still others on a more haphazard schedule*. The strips are always run featuring the name and sometimes an associated print ad from a local optometrist.

The samples were supplied to me by Mark Johnson, who IDs the anonymous cartoonist as F. O. Alexander. Thanks Mark!

* Sources: Sedalia Democrat, Rochester Democrat, Ord Quiz.


Comments:
Hello Allan-
Speaking of F. O. Alexander, if anyone is interested in seeing his jolly countenance, you should take a blink at the Stripper's Guide entry of 4 March 2020.

Happy New Year, everyone- we sure could use one.

 
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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

 

Magazine Cover Comics: Two Innocents Abroad

 


One of only three magazine cover series drawn by Leonard T. Holton, Two Innocents Abroad is the earliest of them and the only one he drew for the Philadelphia Ledger Syndicate. 

Holton later became a comedy writer, so it is unfortunate that for this series he was assigned only the art duties. The writer was Margaret Ernst, whose ability to write comedic verse was quite nearly nonexistent. I don't know if this is the same Margaret Ernst who later paired up with James Thurber for a book called In A Word, but if so she was lucky to have fine collaborators at least twice. 

Two Innocents Abroad offers us vignettes from the whirlwind world tour of two flapper-types. Our gals may very well have never been dignified with names -- they aren't in my examples. There also seems to be a problem with the count of travellers, as a schnook named Bobby Day tags along in at least one sample (and he even has a name!). 

This pretty forgettable magazine cover series had a very short run, from July 28 to September 1 1929. Impressive, though, that these ladies made the Grand Tour in a mere six weekly episodes.


Comments:
As seen in the Sunday Tribune, of Providence RI, the characters are named Peggy and Lou in episode two, (4 August 29), and they picked up Bobby aboard ship in episode one. He's a young, unattached millionaire, a perfect travelling companion.
Incidently, did someone figure out their income tax on your second example?
 
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Thursday, December 24, 2020

 

A Christmas Obscurity: The Nobodies of Santa Claus Land, Discovered by a Modern Columbus

 


Comic strips? Oh, yeah, I remember those things. Used to like them. Liked delving into their history. Hazy, but it's coming back to me now. 

But that was in the before times, the long ago carefree days when I wasn't renovating a house. See, I bought this house last winter, to renovate and resell. But the project, which was expected to take about four months, ended up taking ten. It became an unremitting slog, everything taking longer than expected, materials very hard to source because of the pandemic, and prices spiralling for the same reason. 

In one way, the project was great. We started work just a week or two before covid became an issue, and while many people found themselves stuck at home twiddling their thumbs, boredom was the least of our problems during this pandemic crisis. In fact, bizarrely enough the pandemic was in a way the savior of the venture. You see, rural Nova Scotia has been practically untouched by covid; in fact it has been touted as one of the safest places to be in the world during the pandemic. That has stimulated the real estate market here to go bonkers. Canadians and foreigners from big cities are trying to escape here in droves. Our project, which went far over budget, could have turned into a veritable ocean of red ink, but due to covid we ended up having a very easy time selling the property for a reasonable, if not spectacular, profit. To everything ... even a pandemic ... there is a silver lining I suppose.

The house sale closed on December 21, and I plan to take it easy for the rest of the winter. That means hopefully lots of time spent researching and blogging about comic strips ... my idea of R&R. No idea if anyone is still out there checking in with the blog, so I may well be in an echo chamber, but, well, shrug. My apologies to Stripper's Guide readers for leaving you for such a very long time. 

The blog will probably not get daily updates like it used to, at least for the near future. I certainly don't plan to go straight from one daily slog right to another. So I ask for your patience. I'm also very interested to hear if you have any ideas for content, as I'd like to come up with some different themes than our old tried and true ones. I do want to go back to our Cartoons Magazine series, the George Herriman series (if I can ever find the remaining stack of material in some box somewhere), and maybe even finish the final letters of the Mystery Strips of E&P series. That one has been languishing for a very long time. 

As an aside, due to my work schedule I have been leaving many emails unanswered over the past months. I apologize to all who have written and been met only with silence back.

So, all that housekeeping out of the way, today's special Christmas obscurity brings together an unwieldy title, excruciating doggerel, a plot that is all but MIA and cartoons that can't really be bothered to have much to do with the text. Merry Christmas from the New York Herald, 1897!

The Nobodies of Santa Claus Land sports some decent art by J.M. Condé, but the art fails to really illustrate the story. In the episode above the climax of the action is the formation of the flags, but Conde didn't read that far. He elected rather to draw vignettes of the fairy tale characters mentioned early on. I can't say I blame him for reading only the first few stanzas as the verses by S.R. Maconochie* could be classified as torture under the Geneva Convention. 

The series ran in the Herald from October 3 to November 28 1897. On that last date it looks like the art is by someone other than Condé, but it is unsigned. That installment tells us that the series will run through December 19, but it was never seen again, at least on the New York Herald microfilm I reviewed. 


* The versifier may have been hiding behind a clever pseudonym. Although Maconochie is a known surname, it was in these days also the name of a detested soldier's tinned ration. Bad stew ... dog food ... doggerel ... Maconochie?



Comments:
You mentioned Herriman. In 1929 the Chinese vice consul's wife was grabbed with tins of opium at the SF port. KRAZY KAT By Herriman, Sf Examiner 11JUL1929 p.18
OFFISSA PUPP: DAWGUNIT! IT LOOKS LIKE THIS "PEACE PIPE" HAS GIVEN THEM AN OVERDOSE OF PEACE.
FRAME 2: AND IT'S LOADED WITH NOTHING BUT THE FINEST TOBACCO TOO--WITH PEACE IN EVERY FIBER OF IT--SNIFF
FRAME 3: HMMM IT TASTES PEACEFUL ENOUGH--THERE ISN'T A BIT OF HARSHNESS TO IT.
FRAME 4: IGNATZ, KAT AND PUPP ARE ALL PROPPED UP WITH A LOG FOR A PILLOW SLEEPING SIDE BY SIDE.
 
Welcome back! Thanks to the modern convenience of a RSS feed, I don't need to check manually if there are new posts.
Anything you do will be interesting, but here's an idea. I've always wanted a grand encyclopedia of comic strip themes and tropes: the masked mugger in the alley, the wife with the rolling pin behind the door, the flip-take. You can't even start on any of those without already having an encyclopedic knowledge of the terrain. So how about every once in a while having a historical treatment of some theme or another?
(The TV Tropes site does this, sporadically. Nice but not thorough or authoritative.)
 
Welcome back! It's good to see you.
 
Great to read that you have put your house in order, so to speak. I'm sure your readers will all return in no time. So welcome back, and a happy new year.
Now, I named them damn comic stamps, been looking at them every day since August, I forget- was there a prize involved, or no?
Also,what do you make of the "Cut-Out Toy" feature and what the mysterious alternate syndicates mean?
Yours,
Mark Johnson
 
Just so you know, although I don't necessarily read the blog every time you post something, it's a wealth of information that I reference quite a lot, very often searching for old posts that have even a bit of information about some obscurity that I'm interested in. More often than not I find something, which is astounding. So, while you may not know if anyone's reading this, I think you're doing important work, and I really appreciate it!
 
Welcome back!
 
Welcome back. You were much missed.
 
Welcome back. Happy with whatever obscurities you dish up. Glad to hear about the house. We had the same idea few years back in Oz. Still going after 6 years due to a myriad of misfortunes. Had no idea what I was taking on. Glad your turned out.
 
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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

 

Comic Stamp Quiz, Part 6

 Here is the sixth and final batch of unidentified comic stamps. Can you name the strip the stamp ran with, and the name of the character depicted? 




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Comments:
o hell in all,

All from MOON MULLINS:

45-"MISS SCHMALTZ'S FATHER. PLUTO G. SCHMALTZ" (17 July 1932)
46-"CAPT. OSCAR SCHMALTZ ABOUT THE TIME THAT REVENUE CUTTER SPOILED HIS WINTER CRUISE TO CUBA."(14 August 1932)
47-"T.N. TOMATONOSE MULLINS. MOONSHINE'S FATHER'S SECOND COUSIN." (24 July 1932)
48-"MOON'S GRANDFATHER BUNGSTARTER G. MULLINS, ESQ." (7 August 1932)
49-"EMMY SCHMALTZ WHEN SHE WAS SIX YEARS OLD." (10 July 1932)
50-"MUSHMOUTH WHEN HE WAS A PRIZE FIGHTER-A CHARACTERISTIC POSE" (29 May 1932)
51-"KITTY HIGGINS HERSELF!(22 May 1932)


 
I thought you might finish off this comic stamp series by mentioning King Features' "Poster Stamp Collectors' Club" Sunday syndicated feature.
 
Hello Allan-
It's been almost a month without a new posting- Has anything happened?


 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
NEEDLESS TO SAY, THE ABOVE POSTING IS A SCAM, IN WHICH YOU RESPOND, YOU WILL BE HACKED FOR ALL YOU'RE WORTH, AND MAY BE TRACKED FOR YOUR INVOLVEMENT, AND END UP IN GAOL.
 
Hello All-
It's now into October, and no new posts since mid-August. Does anyone know what's become of Allan?
 
Not I, and it is starting to worry me. I know he's 70 and all, but...
 
Hello? Is anybody home?
 
Sorry, all is well just realy busy. Hope to get back to the blog in the next month or so.

--Allan Holtz
 
Oh, good. Glad all is well.
 
Another month has passed. I'm trying to satiate my daily craving for STRIPPER'S GUIDE by reading ten year old entries, but it's not the same.


 
I hope Allan Holtz of the Strippers Guide isn't recovering from COVID.
 
You mean you hope he isn't recovering? But you assume he might have it, which he does not.
He has assured me he will soon be back here, but for now, an all time-consuming renovation project on some of his property must take precedent.
 
Hello,

in 1921-1923, there was a syndicated feature drawn by Dan Rudolph called "A Colored Cut-Out Toy". It ran in the Atlanta Constitution, the Syracuse Herald, LA Times, and San Francisco Chronicle, among others. It had a copyright mark for Thomson Features.
Are you familiar with this feature? Do you have any other information about the artist Dan Rudolph?
Thank you.
 
The feature might be actually titled just "Cut-Out Toy". I don't know much about the feature or Mr. Rudolph, but I notice the same installment, "Kitty and the Mouse" has the syndicate identia "Copyright 1921, Thompson Feature Service." in the Buffalo Courier, but when it ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer it's "Copyright By James Elverson" Both ran in 1922.The Knickerbocker Press (Albany NY)) ran the series with no syndicate imprint at all.
 
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Monday, August 17, 2020

 

Comic Stamp Quiz, Part 5

  Here is the fifth batch of unidentified comic stamps. Can you name the strip the stamp ran with, and the name of the character depicted? 




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Comments:
Hello All, en,

These are from MOON MULLINS and The GUMPS:
39- "ANDY GUMP AT THE AGE OF ONE WEEK-FIRST ACTUAL PHOTOGRAPH-WEIGHT 8/10 POUNDS-" (15 May 1932)
40-YOUR KAYO TRADING STAMP. HE POSED FOR THIS A THOUSAND FEET UNDER WATER." (27 December 1931)
41-"MIN AT THE AGE OF TEN-" (4 June 1932)
42-"MOONSHINE'S OLD AUNT JELLYROLL MULLINS." (28 August 1932)
43-"OLD UNCLE WILLIE MULLINS. A PHOTO TAKEN DURING HIS THIRD YEAR IN THE SIXTH GRADE." (4 June 1932)
44-"LORD PLUSHBOTTOM WHEN HE WAS A LITTLE BOY WEARING A SAILOR SUIT." (8 May 1932)
 
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Friday, August 14, 2020

 

Comic Stamp Quiz, Part 4

   Here is the fourth batch of unidentified comic stamps. Can you name the strip the stamp ran with, and the name of the character depicted?




Comments:
Hello Allen-
This bunch seem to be Gumprocentric:

31- "AN OLD PRINT OF UNCLE BIM-"(10 July 1932)
32- "TOWNSEND ZANDER" (31 July 1932)
33-" AN OLD TIN TYPE OF ANDY GUMP-" (25 September 1932)
34- "AN OLD PRINT OF ANDY'S MOTHER-" (18 June 1932)
35-"ANDY GUMP'S MOTHER-IN-LAW" (21 August 1932)
36-"MIN AT THE AGE OF FOURTEEN-" (24 July 1932)
37- "FROM AN OLD PRINT-" (11 June 1932)
38-"ANDY GUMP AT THE AGE OF FOUR-"(29 May 1932)

going back a few days:
30- ANDY GUMP AT THE AGE OF SIX-TEACHER'S PET-" (7 August 1932)
And Here's a HERBY one-
20- "EVERYTHING TO LITTLE HERBY LOOKS VERY VERY GREEN. HE'D KNOW IT WAS THE SUN GLASSES IF HE'D USE HIS BEAN!"(21 August 1932)
Incidentally, these all had captions and borders when they were published, so whoever cut them up really liked to cut things close.

 
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Thursday, August 13, 2020

 

Comic Stamp Quiz, Part 3

 Here is the third batch of unidentified comic stamps. Can you name the strip the stamp ran with, and the name of the character depicted? 

In fairness, I wonder if perhaps #23-26 aren't real; they sure look like amateur drawings to me. 


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Comments:
Hello All-
Here's my suggestions:
23-26- Home made, I guess whoever collected these stamps couldn't get enough, so he made some up. I can't wait to see some samples of the strip these might be from.
27- Texas Slim
28- On Our Block
29 a/b-Mr. Bailey(Smitty)
30- Is this even intended as a "stamp?" It looks like a detail in a regular panel of something.
 
It seems likely some kids would generate originals because they didn't get the Sunday paper or siblings got at the funnies first, perhaps to have something to barter with other kid collectors.

In "The Great Comic Book Heroes", Jules Feiffer described how he hand-drew his own comic books as a kid, then took them to where other kids would swap or sell comics. Feiffer notes, "Mine went for less because they weren't real"
 
One of them went on to become the script for the 1980 Popeye movie.
 
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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

 

Comic Stamp Quiz, Part 2

 Here is the second batch of unidentified comic stamps. Can you name the strip the stamp ran with, and the name of the character depicted? (Okay, a few are named ....) One hint: our comic stamp collector has the ID wrong on #15; it is not Tillie the Toiler.


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Comments:
Sort of looks like Ella Cinders...not 100% sure though.
 
#21 gotta be Silk Hat Harry; no?
 
#22 Alexander Smart, Esq. by Doc Winner
 
Hello all-


The stamps as far as I can tell, some Chicago tribune and /or NEA things as well as KFS:


10a/b-Freckles?
11- A strain on the family tie
12,-Little Jimmy
13-?
14-Gasoline Alley?
15- Lillums Lovewell, Harold Teen's girl.
16 a/b Corky? Herby?
17-Gasoline Alley?
18,19, 20 Corky?
21- Obviosly there was no more Silk Hat Harry series in the 1930s, I think this might be from one of Murphy's sets of theme stamps, this being hearst strips of the then recent past.
22- It's Alexander Smart, but was it drawn by Winner?


 
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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

 

Comic Stamp Quiz, Part 1

 What are comic stamps?

They were an extra added feature of some Sunday comic strips, mostly in the 1930s. In addition to the main strip and up to two topper strips, some cartoonists added yet more punch to their pages with comic stamps, which were little cartoon portraits typically printed at about the size of a typical postage stamp. Most simulated stamps, with the perforations along the edges, others play money with character faces, some just put the portraits in plain ol' rectangles. 

Here's a typical comic stamp from a Tillie the Toiler Sunday, an addendum to the Van Swaggers topper strip:

The idea of comic stamps was that kids should cut them out and paste them into stamp albums or scrapbooks, I guess. I don't really get the entertainment value of this, but then I'm not the intended audience. There evidently were kids who did this, because today if you watch the eBay auctions sometimes you'll come across a dusty old collection of comic stamps or play money. 

Much to my surprise, there are even people today who collect them. I was contacted recently by a comic stamp collector who was hoping to get my help IDing some of their more obecure stamps. What I thought would be easy turned out to be anything but. It turns out that many comic stamps don't identify the characters, and often they depict secondary or even short-lived guests in the strips. 

Rather than have all the fun to myself of trying to figure out the comic strip that gave birth to these comic stamps, and the characters they depict, I decided to throw it open to the group as a quiz. And this is not some easily aced gimme, either. So if you can figure any of them out, be sure to post a comment and accept the laurels of an expert comic stamp spotter. 

Here's the first batch. I'm not sure #1 is an actual comic stamp, but the rest appear to be the real thing:




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Comments:
Hello Allen-

Here's my pathetic guesses:

1-The corner of a Post Toasties ad
2-A character from Tim Tyler's Luck(?)
3-A character from Blondie.
4-From Johnnie Round-the-world stamp gallery?
5-A character from Count Screwloose
6,7,8- from Katzenjammer Kids
9-from Captain & the Kids(?)
 
More questions and a trace of further uninformed speculation from me:

Always wondered about those. Had the impression they were an organized campaign by, at first anyway, one syndicate. They were almost always presented without comment, so I wonder if there any kind of promotion telling kids to look for them and collect them.

Went back to the Popeye reprints and noticed Segar favored play money, larger than the stamps and often featuring gags or words of wisdom. Unlike the other strips I'd seen, there was usually a character commenting on the play money or a mini draw-me thing.

Early in the '30s Segar abandoned the play money in favor of cut-out movies and eventually the Cartoon Club. But years later, Prince Valiant sported collectible-type images on its masthead into the 40s: Always the same portrait of Val on the left, and various characters, objects and scenes on the right. They vanish when the masthead strip vanishes.

Were there other strips that kept the stamp / play money thing going that long, or was Prince Valiant a last stand?
 
If I recall it right, it was Jimmy Murphy who started the extras like comic stamps, play money and cut-out dolls in Toots & Casper in about 1930 or 1931, and many other Hearst Sunday strips followed suit. The other syndicates may have done similar things, but kind of half-heartedly. There were the dolls, which off-and-on could be seen in non-Hearst girl strips like Dixie Dugan, Jane Arden, or Fritzi Ritz.
The play money could be in other syndicate series. If you've seen 1930's copies of the Sunday Mirror of New York City, you'll notice for years they had play money of their strips, Hearst and non-Hearst, such as Toonerville Folks, that they made themselves, used as space fillers along the bottom of the pages when they couldn't come up with a long,thin ad. (often for "Baby Ruth")

 
Dick Tracy ran a series of stamps featuring mystery writers. That may be the source of #4, the Edgar Allan Poe stamp (just a guess).
 
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Monday, August 10, 2020

 

When Did THE CAPTAIN AND THE KIDS End?

The end date for The Captain and the Kids, as cited in my book and elsewhere, is believed to be April 15 1979. The source for that is the distributor itself, United Feature Syndicate. While that may seem to be about as authoritative as you can get, I have found errors in their records before.

I just got an email from a Captain and the Kids fan who owns a piece of original art that seems to defy the UFS records. Here it is:


In case you can't read the date, it is May 13 1979, a month later than the supposed end date.

There is a possibility that UFS cancelled The Captain and the Kids while there was still art waiting in the pipeline. That can happen especially with cartoonists who work far ahead of deadline. I have no idea, though, if John Dirks was one of those people.

The other explanation, obviously, is that UFS has the end date wrong in their records. Unfortunately my own collection and online sources do not shed any light. The latest printed strip I or the owner of this art can find is this episode from March 3 1979:


So can you shed any light on the mystery of the Captain and the Kids end date? Do you have tearsheets in your own collection that go past April 15 1979, or have you found an online source for later episodes? If so, please do let us know!

Comments:
Both "Captain and the Kids" and "Katzanjammer Kids" evidently lasted a long time; the Comics Kingdom site presently carries reruns of both.

Always wondered how that situation persisted for so long. You'd think that one strip would outdraw and vanquish the other in the marketplace, or some lawyers would sit down and finally make a deal. Wikipedia sez both strips prospered.

Did they bump up against each in merchandising? Did any papers run both strips? Were there any further battles, legal or otherwise?
 
Hello Allen, DBenson,

The Comics Kingdom site does NOT have any "Captain and the kids" on offer, they can't. C&TK is a United Features-owned property and trade mark, not to be found on a site owned and devoted to rival King Features Syndicate and their properties.
Here's a blog entry from the defunct "Ask The Archivist" blog I used to do there that explains the Katzenjammer/ Captain schism:


https://www.comicskingdom.com/trending/blog/2013/05/15/ask-the-archivist-katzentennial

Both strips existed in the same universe for many years, but they went into decline, the Katzenjammers quite a lot after the demise of HH Knerr in 1949,and 'Capatin' was a second level strip from the 1930s on, and really just gasped along from the 1950s on, and by the 70's, it would be pretty hard to find. The Katzenjammers are still syndicated today, but it's (at least by the time I left the syndicate) down to only a handful of papers in the world. Doubtful that both strips would ever have ran in the same paper, unless maybe they have a sunday comic section on Bongo Island.
 
Idiot mistake on my part. I just rechecked the website and what they have are a "current" and a "vintage" running simultaneously (the "current" for this and other retired titles being reruns less ancient that the "vintage").

Thanks for the link!
 
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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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Comments:
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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Comments:
Shorten, Rose, of Pompano Beach, passed away Wednesday, August 23, 2006. She was the wife of Harry Shorten, creator and editor of "Archie" and the syndicated comic strip "There Oughta be a Law". He was the publisher of Tower Books and Afternoon T.V. She was a devoted and loving mother to Linda Lemle Goldberg and Sue Proctor Broskowski; a proud grandmother to Robert Lemle, Laura Osborne, Andrew and Jonathan Proctor; a great-grandmother to Harrison, Caroline, Madeleine and Josie; a dear sister to Wm. Sadoff. Her loss will be immeasurable. We all love you Mom. Published in Sun-Sentinel on Aug. 25, 2006.
 
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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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I'm intrigued by some of the dates given here. Eggleston and Martha Downing obtained a marriage license on July 21, 1930 but the March 6, 1932 Chronicle says they married the previous July (i.e., 1931). Did they wait a year, or is one of those dates in error?

Even more interesting is that Eggleston's second marriage to Hazel Nicolay was on January 18, 1936, but in the 1940 census they are said to have a seven-year-old daughter (i.e. born in 1933). Was Day the daughter of the first marriage or born to Hazel and George beforehand? Is it known how the first marriage ended?
 
Yes, they waited a year to marry.
 
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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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