Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: The Cartoonists of Just Among Us Girls

"Just Among Us Girls" was originally a column by Kathryn Kenney; it was distributed by the Editors' Feature Services. The earliest date found, so far, is January 26, 1926 in the Poughkeepsie Eagle-News (New York). 

Some newspapers used a photo of Kenney with her column. The Seattle Daily Times picked up the column in mid-April. It published a one-column illustration by R.J. Scott on May 4, 1926; in mid-October the newspaper included Scott's two-column illustration on a somewhat regular basis through March 1927. 

The Hamilton Daily News (Ohio) published "Just Among Us Girls" once a week on Saturdays; September 18 and 25, and October 2, 1926 had illustrations by 'Maier'. Because of the column's irregular appearances in the newspapers searched it has not yet been determined when he started on it. Earlier that year he was illustrating the panel, "The Golden Text," that accompanied a Sunday school column. In October Scott returned to "Just Among Us Girls."

In April or May 1927, Betty Blakeslee replaced Kenney. Her last column appeared on July 30 in the Augusta Chronicle (Georgia). Two weeks later, "Just Among Us Girls" reappeared the week of August 15 as a Paul Robinson panel cartoon distributed by Central Press Association. These four newspapers, among others, published the cartoons that week: Lancaster Daily Eagle (Ohio), Marion Star (Ohio), Chronicle Telegram (Elyria, Ohio), and Warren Tribune (Pennsylvania). 

Robinson's tenure on the cartoon ended on April 13, 1935. His replacement was Ruth Carroll who drew the cartoon from April 15 to June 22. She was replaced by Walter Van Arsdale on June 24; his tenure extended to the end of the feature on December 14 1935. However, after October 26 he signed the panel sporadically. Many of the unsigned cartoons look to be by his hand, but some are the work of an inferior fill-in cartoonist. 

Because Just Among Us Girls was designed to be an 'evergreen' feature, the panels were not dated. Many papers ran the material out of order or seemed to throw the weekly syndicate sheets into a slush pile from which they pulled indiscriminately.This makes dating artist changes and the end date of the strip a dicey proposition. The dates listed above are approximations based on cross-referencing three different newspapers that ran the feature.

The Cartoonists

R.J. Scott was profiled on the blog in this post

Paul Robinson
Paul Dowling Robinson was born in Kenton, Ohio on June 19, 1898. He was the only child of William and Cecil. His father was an iron moulder according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census.

The 1910 census has the Robinson family in Buck, Ohio, operating a home farm. Paul Robinson signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. He was living at 1219 West Jefferson in Sandusky, Ohio. At the time he was a demurrage clerk for a railroad company. His description was medium height, medium build, with blue eyes and light hair. The Sandusky Register (Ohio) reported Robinson's move to New York City in its June 21, 1919 issue.

Railway Clerk Now Cartoonist
Paul D. Robinson, formerly of 1219 W. Jefferson st., is now located with the Bray Cartoon moving picture studios at New York. Robinson, until two months ago was a clerk in the local Big Four freight offices.

Young Robinson, who had a natural talent for drawing, went from Sandusky direct to New York with the intention of making good in the art game. He secured a place in the Bray studios and is now drawing animated cartoons which are shown in the movie theaters throughout the entire country.

Wikipedia has a page on Robinson. "Before 'Etta Kett,' Robinson collaborated in 1924 with Tim Early and the screenwriter and short story author, H.C. Witwer. Their 'Samson and Delia' strip ran for two years. Robinson also drew 'The Love-Byrds,' a comic strip about the cheerful couple Peggy and Howard Byrd. 'The Love-Byrds' ran from the early 1920s to 1925." [Allan butts in -- Robinson took over Samson and Delia from Witwer and Early, and it lasted less than a year; and I find no evidence that an earlier version of The Lovebyrds exists than the topper to Etta Kett, which began in 1932]

Don Markstein's Toonopedia said this, "When King Features Syndicate began distributing 'Etta Kett' (December of 1925), it was just a panel about the social graces. But that was a very limited topic, and had to be expanded before Etta's series could become a full-scale daily strip and Sunday page." [Allan butts in -- Etta Kett was originally distributed by Editors Feature Service]

Robinson's "Just Among Us Girls" appeared as a panel cartoon beginning the week of August 15, 1927. His tenure on the cartoon ended on April 13 1935. His replacement was Ruth Carroll. The Marion Star (Ohio) published, on August 30, 1927, "Paul Robinson, Cartoonist of 'Just Among Us GIrls' Fame, Is Native of Kenton." Unfortunately much of it is illegible. Here are a few details that can be read:

In New York City Paul enrolled with an art school, and later completed his
studies aboard.

He has drawn humorous illustrations for general magazines including Life,
Film Fun and Judge. (illegible) he drew comic illustrations for H. C. Witwer.

His first comic strip appeared daily in 1,700 papers throughout the country.

In 1930 Robinson was married and lived in Belleville, New Jersey. His wife and daughter were both named Letitia. According to the census, he was 24 in 1922 when he married. His occupation was a cartoonist for a newspaper. The Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada) published, on February 23, 1932, the following article, "Originator of Etta Kett Tells Story of Life."

"Art marked me for its own at a tender age," says Paul Robinson, creator of the popular comic strip, "Etta Kett," an exclusive feature in The Nevada State Journal. "The mural decorations I painted on my classroom Halloween night proved sensational. A special meeting of the school board was held
and they voted unanimously that I was just wasting my time in their institution.

"Many times I am asked what course I took to become a cartoonist. For the benefit of those who are trying to become successful in this work, let me say that I took the course of least resistance.

"For a long time I produced animated cartoons, drawing for nearly all the large film corporations. In one year I worked for eight different companies. Even to this day I am trying to break myself of the habit I formed in those days of working with my hat and coat on.

"Next, the humorous weekly field claimed by [sic] attention, and from there I climbed the fence over into the newspaper field, where the grass looked 'long greener.' To make a long story less boredom, I drew practically every kind of cartoon from sport to editorial, and at one time more that 1,800  newspapers were being served with my work.

"Of the 'several' comic strips I have drawn, I think 'Etta Kett' my supreme inspiration. She typifies in my mind the ideal girl of today and in her I try to mirror all the daring vivaciousness, all the sweetness and carefree abandon of the modern girl."

Robinson passed away on September 21, 1974. The New York Times reported his death on September 23:

Paul D. Robinson, creator of the cartoon strip "Etta Kett," which appeared in 50 newspapers across the country more that 40 years, died Saturday at Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, N.J. He was 76 years old and lived at 14 Hillbury Road, Essex Fells, N.J.

Mr. Robinson joined the King Features syndicate in 1925, when he started the strip. "Etta Kett" dealt with problems and situations involving social etiquette.

He was a member of the Banshee Club of New York, a social organization of cartoonists.

Surviving are his widow, Catherine Dilzer Robinson; two daughters, Mrs. Franklin R. Saul and Mrs. Robert Failor, and eight grandchildren.
Ruth Carroll
Ruth Carroll was born Ruth Crombie Robinson in Lancaster, New York on September 24, 1899. She was the only child of Frank and Sallie. According to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census the Robinsons lived at 207 West 106th Street in Manhattan.

Ruth's art training was covered on page 217 in the book, Painting the Town: Cityscapes of New York (Yale University Press, 2000).

Ruth Carroll graduated from Vassar College and thereafter established roots in New York City, where she pursued training at the Art Students League under Cecilia Beaux, Charles Bridgman, and Andrew Dasburg, the last of whom probably influenced her Cezannesque approach to painting. In the
1920s her work was exhibited at the Newark Museum and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She later changed course within the art field, developing a career as an author-illustrator of children's books. From 1936 through the end of World War II, she had a staff position at King Features

Who Was Who in American Art (Sound View Press, 1985) mentions three more artists she studied with: Hugh Breckenridge, Charles Rosen and Frank DuMond.

In the 1930 census, Ruth and her husband Latrobe lived at 39 West Eighth Street. His occupation was an editor for a magazine. Her occupation was an artist making portraits. Some of her work included cover illustrations for The American Girl magazine in 1933 from September through December; and interior illustration for the April 1933 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine. In mid-April 1935 Paul Robinson left the cartoon, "Just Among Us Girls." Ruth was his replacement. It was a brief stint, ending in late June. She was replaced by Walter Van Arsdale. In 1936, Ruth was assigned the strip, "The Pussycat Princess," when Grace Drayton suddenly died.

Durward Howes' book, American Women, 1935-1940 (Gale Research, 1981), published a concise profile of Ruth on page 151.

CARROLL, Ruth Crombie (Mrs. Archer L. Carroll), artist, author; b. Lancaster, N.Y., Sept. 24, 1899: d. Frank Howard and Sallie Belle (Underbill) Robinson; m. Archer Latrobe Carroll, Jan. 24, 1928; hus. occ. writer. Edn. AB, Vassar Coll., 1922. Church: Presbyterian. Politics: Republican. Mem. Artists Guild.
Hobbies: photography, theater, reading. Fav. rec. or sport: swimming. Author: What Whiskers Did; Chimp and Chump; Bounce and the Bunnies (Junior Literary Guild choice). Exhibited landscape, Phila. Acad.; three landscapes bought by Newark Mus. Home: 39 W. Eighth St., N.Y. City.

According to the blog, The Pony Book Chronicles, the Carrolls moved to Asheville, North Carolina in 1950.

Ruth Carroll was best known as a children's book illustrator, with over 36 books from 1932 to 1976. Her husband wrote many of the stories. She passed away on December 5, 1999 in Stamford, Connecticut.

 Walter Van Arsdale
Walter David Van Arsdale was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 28, 1884, as recorded on his World War II draft card.

The Oakland Tribune (California) reported his upcoming marriage on December 26, 1909.

Alameda Girl to Wed in Pittsburgh
Miss Ruth Boltz, daughter of Mrs. S. A. Boltz, will become the bride in January of Walter D. Van Arsdale of Pittsburgh. Miss Boltz is a popular young woman of this city and has a host of friends who are interested in her coming marriage.

The wedding is to take place in Pittsburgh next month. Van Arsdale is a member of a prominent family of the Eastern city. His bride-elect and her mother are to go East soon.

Van Arsdale is well known in this city, having made several visits with friends here. He is a newspaper man and is prominently connected with one of the Pittsburgh dailies.

After a honeymoon of a few weeks the couple is to reside in Pittsburgh. Van Arsdale having prepared an attractive bungalow there.

According to Who Was Who in American Art (Sound View Press, 1985) the couple were last listed in American Art Annual, 1919. She was included in an updated edition, Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 years of Artists in America, Volume 3 (Sound View Press, 1999).

In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, the Van Arsdale family lived in Hempstead, New York at 6 Edna Court. The parents had two sons, Leonard and Carroll. Van Arsdale's occupation was artist for a newspaper. On December 28, 1927, the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune (Wisconsin) published an ad for the serialized story of Charles A. Lindbergh's flight to Paris. The portrait of Lindbergh was by Van Arsdale; beneath his signature was the following text:

A sketch of Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh by Walter Van Arsdale, celebrated magazine and syndicate artist and frequent contributor to the International Feature Service Daily and Weekly Magazines, "Life,"
& "Judge."

The Van Arsdales remained at the same address in the 1930 census. His occupation was artist for a picture company. He was listed in the book, The Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures (1930). In 1930 and 1931 he illustrated shorts stories by Anita Loos that were published in Cosmopolitan magazine. Parents and Gay Book magazines also published his illustrations. He replaced Ruth Carroll on the panel cartoon, "Just Among Us Girls," in late June 1935. The cartoon ended later that year in December.

According to Van Arsdale's World War II draft card, signed on April 27, 1942, he resided in Manchester, Connecticut with his wife. His description was five feet, ten-and-a-half inches tall, 140 pounds, gray eyes and brown hair.

Ruth passed away on December 26, 1957; according to the 1900 census, she was born in California in August 1889. The Bridgeport Post (Connecticut) reported Walter's passing on November 19, 1962.

Walter David Van Arsdale, 78, of Manchester, an award-winning artist, died last night.

His work won prizes throughout the east, and appeared in numerous magazines. Van Arsdale had studios in New York and in the Manchester area.

He was a native of Pittsburgh, and had resided in South Coventry, near here, nearly 25 years.

Survivors include a daughter, Mrs. Ruth Carroll Foster of Manchester, and a son, Leonard V. Van Arsdale of Allendale, N.J.


I'm really enjoying these profiles. Great stuff!
Thank you so much. I am Walter Van Arsdale's granddaughter, and found this while trying to learn more about his life and art.

This is to anonymous. I too am interested in Walter Van Arsdale. He painted a picture for me in 1958 when I was 7 years old with a dedication to me on the back. Any info on him would be greatly appreciated. I would gladly send you a photo of the painting with the inscription. If you see this please contact me at golf1here@gmail.com Thank you. Loved your grandad! Dana Wilk
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