Friday, May 26, 2006
Obscurity of the Day: Constable Hayrick The Rustic Sleuth
One of the earliest continuing features from my beloved World Color Printing was The Adventures of Constable Hayrick, The Rustic Sleuth. It started on 8/11/1901 in a comic section otherwise monopolized by one-shot strips and panels. As can be seen from our example, the art by one Albert Bloch (or Block, I've never been sure) is primitive as can be. The cartoonist (or perhaps the pressmen) didn't even know to leave the background white on the word balloons, so not only is the art amateurish, the entire presentation leaves a great deal to be desired.
The strip is pretty standard fodder for the time. Cartoonists in these early days seemed never to tire of spoofing the rural folk. A comic section without a dumb farmer or a cornfed fish out of water in the big city just wouldn't have seemed complete. Occasionally a cartoonist would get the bright idea of having the farm folk outsmart the city slickers, but even that turnabout was a pretty hackneyed concept by 1901. Bloch throws in the minor wrinkle of making his half-wit farmer a wannabe Sherlock Holmes, but doesn't really do anything all that interesting with the idea. Hayrick's sleuthing is mostly confined to outwitting farmboys stealing apples and giving hobo grifters the bum's rush out of town.
Bloch produced the Constable Hayrick strip pretty much every week, as well as contributing a lot of additional one-shot material to the section. But Bloch left the syndicate soon and Hayrick was put on ice after the episode of 10/6/1901. However, the feature was revived in 1902 by Dink Shannon, an excellent cartoonist. His stewardship lasted just three weeks, from 9/7 to 9/21/1902. The constable made one final appearance in the section of 10/12/1902, this time signed by Bloch again. My guess is that this is either a rerun from the first series or a leftover strip that never made it into the section back in 1901.
Completely OT, I have talked to Kees Kousemakar of www.Lambiek.nl, which is quickly turning out to be the largest and most complete website devoted to comic art and artists. They have over 8.000 biographies of different artists from all over the world. I have urged him to contact you as well, because much of the information on your blog would be great for him to add. Contact me privately if you want me to make contact with him for you (or the other way around).