Friday, June 10, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: The Troubles of the Titmouse Twins

When Hearst spun off a new syndicate called Newspaper Feature Service in 1913, a selection of Sunday color comics was offered, few of which found their way into many papers. In fact the Boston Herald seems to have been one of very few subscribers who stuck with the service for any length of time. Unfortunately I did not have time to index that paper past 1914 on a frantically busy research trip to Boston, so this 1915 series was unknown to me when Cole Johnson sent a sample.

The Troubles of the Titmouse Twins is a rather interesting series, too. All I know is that it was running by August 1915, and Alfredo Castelli cites it as surviving into the next year. But the really interesting part is the creator. The strip is signed John Barton, a name that doesn't appear elsewhere in my listings. And obviously he was quite the accomplished cartoonist from this fine example. A Google search on the name quickly offered a tantalizing clue. Although no illustrator or cartoonist by that name was apparent, I did find that Johnny Gruelle, creator of Raggedy Ann, had the middle name of Barton.

Comparing the art on this sample to other Gruelle work of the time, I'm pretty well convinced that we have Gruelle here working undercover. Gruelle liked drawing mouse characters, they usually were drawn like these characters, and there are other telltale signs in the art, too.

Why would Gruelle have worked under a pseudonym? Simple -- he was gainfully employed by the New York Herald at the time producing one of their flagship features, Mr. Twee Deedle.

EDIT: Since determined that the feature ran 5/30 - 10/3/1915.


Good art-Spotting and research, Allan! Now that you point it out, it's obviously Johnny Gruelle's work.
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