Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Obscurity of the Day: Mrs. Fret-Not
Mrs. Fret-Not is a delightfully funny strip that had a short but entertaining run; March 24 - August 16, 1913. The feature, and the one shown above is an excellent example, must be read in light of the era in which it appeared to be fully appreciated. The idea of an upstanding married woman being an accomplished card-sharp was, in these rather uptight post-Victorian years, scandalously wicked. This strip might have actually been worthy of a spit-take over a few breakfast tables in 1913.
The strip was distributed by Associated Newspapers, and that syndicate is eminently worthy of an extended discussion, but I'll leave that for another day. Today I want to focus on the cartoonist of this feature, a fellow by the name of Williams.
Now I know this signature as well as if it was tattooed on my forehead, because I love the guy's work. What I can't remember is how I came up with the notion that his slightly more complete moniker is O.P. Williams. I don't recall his signature ever being anything more than just 'Williams', and I don't recall a byline to that effect on any of his strips. However, that's how I have him listed, so I presume I discovered it in some way.
Anyway, his most memorable work was back in the mid-oughts when he took over the position once held by Winsor McCay at the Cincinnati Enquirer. Along with another fine cartoonist who has been lost to history, Apworth Adams, these two made Enquirer readers miss the great McCay a little bit less. If they didn't have quite the level of native ability of the master, they made up for it with imaginative concepts, good art and funny gags.
Williams seems to have been quite the gypsy. He first shows up on the comics pages in Boston, at first with the Herald in 1904, then doing strips for the Post and Globe. He then had his stint in Cincinnati in 1908-09, then returned to Boston again. Here he did a lot of work for the Post, and through them got syndicated with Associated Newspapers. In 1915 he shows up in Philadelphia working for the North American. Then he disappears for over a decade, only to reappear once last time in New York, doing a short-lived strip for the Evening Graphic.
Does anyone have additional information on O.P. Williams?
sold a 1914 sheet music insert from
the Boston Herald with cover art by
Orville P. Williams.
Yes, I now do have a positive ID of this fellow as Orville P. Williams, and thanks for the message to remind me to say so here. What is still wrong in the essay above is that Orville never worked in Cincinnati -- that turned out to be yet another Williams -- Carll B. Williams to be specific. That information was also determined too late to make it into my book, sadly.