Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: Oh, Where, Oh, Where, Has That Willie Boy Gone?

Walter Wellman is one of the banes of my research. His output was phenomenal in the 1900s-1910s, but it was mostly little arrays of gag cartoons that were often chopped up into pieces by his client newspapers. Although the complete versions of his features were undeniably series, they're all but impossible to track.

If that weren't enough, he also shared his name with a famous reporter/explorer of the day. Every time I stumble upon the name in an old book on journalism my heart leaps to think I'll learn something about him, but it invariably turns out to be the other Walter Wellman under discussion.

As best I can tell the cartoonist Walter Wellman was based out of Boston, but he jumped around enough that is impossible to tell from which syndicate many of his daily-style series were published. I'm half-convinced that he was an early self-syndicator.

Today, though, we have a Wellman series that poses no mysteries other than the one asked in the title of the feature. Oh, Where, Oh, Where, Has That Willie Boy Gone? ran in the Boston Herald Sunday comic section from May 6 to October 14 1906. It's basic premise is one shared by a kazillion other features -- the pranks of a mischievous boy. Wellman, though, adds an extra wrinkle by having Willie 'hide' in the final panel of each strip. Can you find Willie in our two samples today? They are a bit of a challenge, but he is there.

Tip of the hat to Cole Johnson, contributor of today's samples. Thanks Cole!


I had not heard of Wellman, or of this particular strip, until now. Thanks mucho. Your blog is truly a treasure trove of information and enjoyment.
I give up. Where is he in those last panels? At least a hint?
They are toughies. A Hint -- disregard the lower 1/2 of the panels entirely -- in both he's hiding in the upper half.

Let me know if you still have no luck.

I give up too, even with that tip I can't find him...
In the first strip, it seems that Willie may be represented as a disembodied head immediately to the right of George's neck. I don't know about the second strip.
almost a month behind in my blog reading, and hopefuly no one else has discovered this for you... but he's in the 1910 census in Manhattan. listed as "cartoonist"
30 years old, born in new Hampshire. Wife, Maltida is 37

with this, I find: Walter Jesse Wellman (May 25,1879- ) born Dublin, NH
5'4 127 lbs, blue eyes
graduated MIT in 1902
married Matilda Ritchie in NYC June 1905
1910 Manhattan, NY cartoonist
1917 Montvale, NJ cartoonist
1930 Montvale, NJ commercial artist
1942 Montvale, NJ self-employed

no children

hope this helps! ;-)
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