Thursday, December 31, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: The Life Story of Richard Nixon

In the fall of 1955 President Eisenhower suffered a massive heart attack that left the nation wondering if Vice President Richard Nixon would take over the office. Newspapers debated over whether Nixon, already a divisive name in politics, was fit to be president.

News-based comic strips were nothing new in 1955, in fact NEA and the Associated Press produced closed-end strips about major issues on a pretty regular basis. King Features, however, rarely used the form. They broke with this tradition to produce The Life Story of Richard Nixon, a hagiographical portrait of a politician already reviled in some quarters for his Communist witch hunts. Of course this was back in the days when many newspapers were still openly partisan, so Republican papers would have had no qualms about using it.

Or so you'd think. I've never seen this series printed in a newspaper, nor does it turn up in searches on Newspaper Archives or Google News Archive. I only know about its existence because it exists in proof form in the collection of Cole Johnson.

The 6-strip series was drawn by A.S. Packer (who, I assume, is not editorial cartoonist Fred Packer) and the writer is uncredited. The suggested running dates are not on the proofs, so I can only take my best guess that the series was released in the fall of 1955. Has anyone found this series actually running in a newspaper?


I don't believe we yet live in an era without partisan newspapers, but we do live in a climate where the new york times, newsweek and the washington post are sold to us as even-handed, reasonable and accurate. Maybe if obama and his pals can stay in office long enough, maybe they can subsidize our ailing journalism industry and then we'll truly have a bright new non-partisan age where all papers will speak in one voice. Oh joy! When there's none of those evil differences of opinion, we'll be in utopia!
Here's a biography by his daughter.
The sentence "In 1943, Packer returned to NYC to become the feature illustrator for the Hearst Organization until he retired in 1985" works for him doing this 1955 strip.
Daughter never says what the "A.S." stands for and, amazingly, even the Social Security Death Index lists him as "A. S. Packer".
It seems his full name is Abram Shore Packer however.
Funny how the "liberal media" bashers always sign themselves "anonymous." All those anonymouses are indeed working hard for a day without those "evil differences of opinion," and with some success: just check out Fox News, CNN, and the Three Majors.
I can't believe his second name was Milhous! I thought that was something The Simpsons had made up. Or is it a kind of compound last name? *learning things about the USA through the medium of comics*
It is indeed an unusual name. I googled around and discovered it was the last name of several relatives (uncle, grandmother) who came from Pennsylvania Dutch backgrounds.

The name origin sites say it's a variation on the English name "Millhouse," which was originally attached to people living at mills. There are a lot of Milhouses out there, too. Not that it matters any, but it's interesting.

A bit of trivia: Richard Nixon's mother was born near Butlerville in southeastern Indiana. Nearby is an old German town called Millhousen. That's probably no coincidence.

Terence Hanley
Hello, Allan---I wouldn't exactly call Nixon's efforts "witch hunts", as that would emply a fruitless, foolish endevor searching for imaginary foes. He was responsible for bringing down Alger Hiss, a pretty impressive result. Nixon could dine out on his conservative credentials for ever more on his early anti-communist efforts on behalf of this country, but once he got into the white house, he certainly didn't act conservative. (Gigantic new beurocracies, price controls). ---Cole.
Hi Cole --
How many thousands of innocent lives were irreparably harmed or even completely ruined in the pursuit of a few small-fry spies, and, far more often, people of conscience who had merely been open to a different form of government in the depression 1930s? The imprisonment of Hiss, far from an "impressive result" is a prime example of why I used the term 'witch hunt'. The government's case consisted primarily of the testimony of Whittaker Chambers, a questionable source if there ever was one, and a typewriter that has since been pretty well proven to be a rigged-up later model. Hiss may well have been a spy for all I know, but the government's Swiss cheese case shows they were willing to do most anything to fan the flames on behalf of Nixon and the other Commie-hunters, facts be damned. That's a witch-hunt.

And if I thought for one second that Nixon, Joe McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover and the rest of the Commie hunters did it because they truly saw a threat to the country, it might come closer to being forgivable. But they all did it seeking publicity and power, and they couldn't care less how many innocent lives they ruined in the process. Scumbags, every one of them, in my humble opinion.

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