Saturday, July 01, 2006
Obscurity of the Day: The New First Reader
Here's an example of the very first continuing series that the Chicago Daily News used on its daily comics page. As I've mentioned before this paper was an important pioneer in daily comics and syndication.
The New First Reader is a take-off on the rhyming primers used in elementary schools back in those days. You'll surely recognize the type - it's a gag that Mad magazine has been using for half a century, even though this sort of school book was already pretty well extinct by the time that magazine premiered. The Daily News feature began on June 22, 1900, with the first installment drawn by K.E. Garman. Garman signed himself 'Gar' throughout his cartooning career - it took some serious sleuthing to uncover his identity. Starting with the second installment the art was credited to a fellow who signed himself Newman (or something like that - the signature was always really small and tough to decipher).
The New First Reader ran regularly on the comics page, ending on 9/30/1901 after a very respectable run in that era of features that seldom ran more than a dozen times.
You can still buy McGuffey Readers, but as far as I know you can only buy an entire set of them (7 volumes) and it's over $100. Perhaps you can get individual copies via used book websites or eBay.