Saturday, November 03, 2012


Herriman Saturday

Monday, March 23 1908 -- It's time for the Chicago White Sox, who have been doing their spring training in and around L.A., to head on back to the Windy City. In the final exhibition game between the Sox and the local PCL-league team, the Angels finally emerge triumphant. And better yet for the hometown crowd, it doesn't sound like Chicago laid down to take a ceremonial licking, either. It was a hard fought game on both sides.

Even more memorable than the game itself may have been the two competing bands put together by the baseball rooters. The brass bands, one favoring the Sox, the other the hometown Angels, regaled the crowds with incredibly loud playing and leading cheer after cheer. In the sixth inning, to show the crowd that no one was really taking sides, the bands swapped allegiances, and kept the music and cheering going at sonic boom levels for the rest of the afternoon.


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Friday, November 02, 2012


Obscurity of the Day: The Weather Bird Family

The Weatherbird is only an obscurity if you've never spent any time in St. Louis. In that city he is an institution, appearing in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on a daily basis ever since 1901. If you're keeping score, that makes The Weatherbird the longest running daily newspaper cartoon of all time, with plenty of room to spare and with absolutely no chance of being overtaken since he is still running even today.

Now I say it is the longest running daily feature, but of course there are some minor caveats: at first the cartoon was truly just a weather cartoon (a wet bird indicates rain, a sweating bird indicates high temperatures, and so on) and that doesn't qualify as a real cartoon series. But by all accounts that period was very short -- the Weatherbird started making witty little commentaries very early on in his life. Also, we have no guarantee that the feature was afforded new art every day for all those years. After all, just how many poses of the bird do you really need to handle almost all occasions. The third caveat is that for much of the panel cartoon's life the writing has been by committee, with P-D reporters, editors and others submitting caption ideas; the lack of a consistent credit is a little troubling when bestowing such laurels.

But now I'm starting to get far afield. Because this post is not about the Weatherbird's entire history, which deserves more time and space than this. No, this is just about one particularly obscure part of an astounding 111+ year run.

Sometime in 1912, we don't know exactly when, but it was on or before March 3, the weatherbird got his own Sunday comic strip in the Post-Dispatch. The paper, which was owned by Pulitzer, dispensed with one page of the Funny Side section that was produced by their big brother, the New York World. In its place they inserted the homegrown feature, Jinx and the Weather Bird Family. The artist on the feature, S. Carlisle Martin, was the same fellow who was producing the daily cartoons at that time. The writing, however, was handled by Jean Knott, who would later become an important cartoonist himself in the Pulitzer organization. The strip was yet another in that endless procession of Katzenjammer Kids rip-offs, except that Knott had an interesting idea of adding a little fellow named Jinx. This imp's role was to set the misadventures in motion, usually by moving a prop around, or with a whisper in someone's ear. The conceit had possibilities, though in the examples I've seen nothing very exciting is done with the idea.

Sometime between July and November, the Jinx character and Jean Knott both took a powder, leaving Martin to handle the feature on his own, and the title was shortened to The Weather Bird Family. This move only proved Knott's importance to the feature, because now it became an utterly slavish Katzies clone (minus the Teutonic accents of course), with absolutely nothing original going on. The feature apparently ended on December 29 1912.

Thanks very much to Cole Johnson, who furnished all the information and samples of this rare feature!



The above is the current cartoonist's site, but there are more than one about the Weather Bird.
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Thursday, November 01, 2012


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Harry Keys

Harry James Keys was born in Alliance, Ohio on May 1, 1886, according to his World War I and II draft cards, and marriage certificate, all found at In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, he was the second of two children born to James and Elizabeth. They lived in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio on Newberry Street. His father was a railroad engineer. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), June 14, 1948, said: “...He joined the old Akron Times early in the 1900s after graduating from the Chicago School of Fine Arts….”

He has not been found in the 1910 census. The Plain Dealer said: “…He came to Columbus in 1911 as a Citizen cartoonist, subsequently shifting to the Dispatch.” According to the Summit County, Ohio, Marriage Records, 1840-1980, at, Keys married Katherine Ruth Vogan, a school teacher, on October 22, 1913. Their wedding was reported in the Plain Dealer October 26.

The American Art Annual Volume 12 (1916) listed him as a Columbus Citizen illustrator and member of the Pen and Pencil Club. Keys signed his World War I draft card August 31, 1918. He lived in Columbus at 2182 Summit Street. His occupation was cartoonist at the Columbus Citizen. He was described as tall, slender with gray eyes and dark brown hair.

The 1920 census recorded him in Columbus at 2182 Summit Street. The household included a son and daughter. His occupation was newspaper cartoonist.
The Educational Screen, January 1927, focused on the use of motion pictures in “Home-Talent Movie Floats Bond Issue”.

Widespread interest has been aroused in the means by which Columbus, Ohio, organized a campaign for the passage of a $1,250,000 bond issue, to beautify the surroundings of the proposed new City Hall and civic center in the central portion of the city, on the bank of the Scioto River.

The chief factor in the campaign was a motion picture film visualizing the need for beautification, planned and executed by George Karb, formerly mayor of the city. Its effectiveness is shown by the fact that, after its display widely in local picture theatres, the bond issue which had failed once of passage, and which citizens had regarded coolly, went over by a large majority.

Backers of the proposed bond issue, which architects and engineers had held would provide for property acquisitions needed to prevent erection of structures not in harmony with the municipal improvement project, called the former Mayor from his business interests to take charge of the campaign.

Among the first things he did was to seek to visualize to the Columbus public how the new City Hall would appear if the outlying sites were not purchased and “shacks” should be erected on them.

This he accomplished through having motion pictures made of himself and Harry Keys, newspaper cartoonist, discussing the project which was depicted before them on an artist's easel in the form of a large drawing of the new City Hall, a building of beauty, with the “shacks” pictured in the foreground. The picture in perspective was startling, but after some conversation between them, shown in the sub-titles, Cartoonist Keys with a brush of white paint eradicated the disfiguring structures, leaving the City Hall standing alone in all its beauty.

In “selling” ideas to the residents of Columbus and Franklin County which call for the co-ordination of community effort, officials behind campaigns designed for city or county benefits are resorting more and more to motion pictures.

In the following census the Keys remained in Columbus but at another address, 1042 Linwood Avenue. He continued as a newspaper cartoonist. When Billy Ireland passed away, Keys and other newspaper cartoonists continued Ireland’s The Passing Show, eventually renaming it We Folks in 1939.

The 1940 census recorded him in Bexley, Ohio at 2661 Bexley Park Road. The record showed the newspaper cartoonist had two years of college. On April 26, 1942, he signed his World War II draft card. His residence was in Bexley, Ohio at 2661 Bexley Park Road. He was employed at the Columbus Dispatch. His description was five feet ten inches, 180 pounds, with blue eyes and gray hair. Keys passed away June 13, 1948 in New York City. The Coshocton Tribune, (Ohio), June 14, reported his death.

Veteran Columbus Cartoonist Found Dead, Wife Unconscious in NY Hotel

New York—(AP)—Harry J. Keys, 55, veteran cartoonist for the Columbus Dispatch, was found dead in a Hotel Lexington room yesterday.

Police listed the case as an apparent suicide, but said they were unable to determine the cause of death immediately.

His wife, Ruth, aged 58, was in a critical condition today from what authorities described as “possible barbiturate poisoning.” She was found unconscious on a bed in their room. Keys' body clad only in a bath robe was between the beds.

The Keys had left Columbus Saturday for a short New York vacation.

Keys began his newspaper career with the now defunct Akron Times early in the 1900's. He transferred to the old Youngstown Telegram a short time later and subsequently joined Scripps-Howard news service with the Oklahoma News. He came to Columbus in 1911 as a cartoonist for the Citizen and had been with the Dispatch about 18 years.

Detective James Flynn said he found a bottle containing sleeping tablets in the Keys’ room. He said he also discovered another bottle containing am amber fluid he was having analyzed.

Hotel officials said the couple registered a few hours before Mrs. Keys asked the desk for assistance. A hotel employee sent to the room found Keys dead and Mrs. Keys unconscious.

Keys, a native of Alliance, O., attended school in Cuyahoga Falls. Survivors include his mother, Mrs. James F. Keys, Cuyahoga Falls; a son, Dr. Harry Keys, Brooklyn; a daughter, Mrs. Joseph M. Clifford, wife of a common pleas judge in Columbus, and a sister, Miss Florence Keys, Cuyahoga Falls.

A second Coshocton Tribune report appeared the following day.

Cartoonist's Death Pronounced Due to Natural Causes
New York—(AP)—Harry J. Keys, veteran cartoonist of the Columbus O., Dispatch, died of natural causes. Medical Examiner Benjamin Vance reported last night.

Keys was found dead Sunday night in his Hotel Lexington room and police first listed it as an “apparent suicide.”

His wife, Ruth, 58, was found unconscious in the room. She was reported in good condition at Metropolitan hospital today.

She told police her husband was upset after she took four sleeping pills. He took the bottle of pills from her, she said, and collapsed a few minutes later after telephoning for the hotel physician.

Dr. Vance said the 55-year-old Keys’ death was “not suspicious.” The Medical Examiner said Keys died of congestion of the viscera.

The body was claimed by a son, Dr. Harry J Keys Jr. of St. John's hospital, Brooklyn. He said burial will be in Columbus.

On June 26, a final ruling on Keys’ cause of death was published in the Coshocton Tribune.

Examiner Rules on Cartoonist’s Death
New York—(AP)—The chief medical examiner has ruled acute alcoholism and barbiturate poisoning contributed to the death of Harry J. Keys, 55, cartoonist for the Columbus Dispatch.

Keys was found dead in his hotel room June 13. His wife, Ruth, 58, was unconscious in the same room.

A preliminary report by Dr. Thomas A. Gonzales’ assistant gave congestion of the viscera as the death cause. Mrs. Keys later told the police she had taken an overdose of sleeping pills.


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Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Obscurity of the Day, Halloween Edition: The Woozlebeasts

If you still haven't decided on your Halloween costume, I offer you this selection of fanciful creatures, known as Woozlebeasts, from which to choose. It is guaranteed you will be the only Degust or Botong at the party. The only problem is that once you've explained the origin of your unique costume to your friends and recited the verse, they'll probably all be mystified (and not in a good spooky Halloweeny way) at the point of it all.

The cartoonist of The Woozlebeasts was John Prentiss Benson, who later made a name for himself as a painter of marine subjects. And we can certainly see in the artwork of The Woozlebeasts that the gent had a vivid imagination, and a gift for translating that to paper. The problem, unfortunately, is that his skill as a wordsmith is nowhere as great as his skill as an artist. The verses, obviously inspired by the nonsense poetry of Edward Lear, are fumbling, bumbling, pointless and klunky. They are indeed nonsensical, but not in a clever way. Just as Bob Dylan inspired a generation of excruciatingly bad poetry in rock lyrics by lesser hands, Edward Lear inspired a whole generation to think that they, too, could be witty and waggish, and Benson is one of those afflicted. It seems such a waste -- if he'd brought a good writer on board to offer more picturesque reflections on his superb creatures, The Woozlebeasts might well still be read and enjoyed today as a classic.

That, of course, is just my opinion. His work was evidently popular enough at the time that a book of the cartoons was published, and Benson even got to eulogize his own strip when it ended after a six month run in the New York Herald, June 5 1904 to January 1 1905. Today there are still those who like it a lot, and in fact you can read much of the run here if you have a mind to.

John Prentiss Benson, for better or worse, never followed up on The Woozlebeasts, his only known foray into the newspaper Sunday comics section. He did well enough as an architect, though, that later in life he was able to devote himself to painting, leaving a substantial legacy in an artistic genre that obviously was a better fit for him anyway.


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Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Sydney B. Griffin

Sydney B. Griffin was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts on October 13, 1854, according to the Massachusetts Vital and Town Records at The book, Little Visits With Great Americans, or Success Ideals and How to Attain Them (1905), said he was born on the fifteenth.

In the 1860 U.S. Federal Census, he was the third of four children born to John, a cabinetmaker, and Ellen. They lived in Detroit, Michigan. Ten years later, the family remained in Detroit where he was an apprentice to a carver. His father emigrated from England and his mother from Nova Scotia. Griffin has not been found in the 1880 census. Little Visits With Great Americans said:

…in 1888, [he] came to New York. When his first ideas were presented to Puck they were declined, but upon his taking them to Judge they were accepted forthwith. Mr. Griffin took the trouble to inform the Puck people of his success with their rivals, whereupon he was told that his work had been refused for the simple reason that it was so excellent that it was feared that it was not original. However, Puck made the amende honorable by engaging him forthwith. Mr. Griffin’s style is bold and slashing and his drawings are full of point and power.

He also wrote for Puck; the following piece appeared in numerous newspapers including the Canton Repository (Oho), January 11, 1890:

How Johnny Lost the Prize.
His family and friends were there,
His uncles, cousins, aunts;
An all were sure that for the prize
Their Johnny had best chance.

’Twas Johnny’s turn to speak his piece;
He said, with outstretched hands:
“Under a spreading blacksmith tree
The village chestnut stands!”

Many of his cartoons, black-and-white and color, can be seen in the 1891 Puck volume. He also contributed cartoons to Truth magazine. At some point he moved to Mamaroneck, New York. The New York Sun, May 10, 1896, reported the new course of Mamaroneck’s Oakhurst Golf Club; Griffin shot a 124. The Statesman (Yonkers, New York), May 19, 1896, reported “the following officers of the new village of Mamaroneck were elected on Monday: …Sydney B. Griffin…Trustees.”

The 1900 census recorded the artist and his mother in Mamaroneck. He produced Four Comical Coons from August to December 1900. It was promoted in the December 7 edition of The World. The following year saw the publication of his Little Umjiji. The New York Sunday Telegram, September 22, 1901, reported the upcoming baseball game between actors and artists on October 7. Representing the artists were:

R.F. Outcault, Homer Davenport, T.E. Powers, Grant Hamilton, Louis Dalrymple, James Swinnerton, Dan McCarthy, C.B. Schultze, F. Gilbert Edge, Harry Dart, H.F. Coultaus, Robert Edgren, C.G. Bush, C. Mortimer, W.F. Marriner, Sydney B. Griffin, Campbell Cory, Gus Dirks, C.R. McAuley, Bert Cobb….

…Dick Outcault (The Yellow Kid) who is marshaling the pen-and-pencil crowd, has already had the limners together for a practice game and this week will have a game at the Polo Grounds. Jimmy Swinnerton, as short stop, and Homer Davenport as pitcher, Tom Powers, Dan McCarthy and Robert Edgren as basemen, and Bert Cobb as any old kind of a fielder, have already been decided upon.

…Miss Lillian Russell from the first accepted the position of official scorer, and the veteran Thomas Nast will be her associate in that delicate but important office….

The New York Dramatic Mirror, October 12, 1901, said the frosty weather kept the attendance low and official scorer Lillian Russell and the chorus girls away. After five innings the game was called; the score was 31 to 12 in favor of the actors. Homer Davenport did not pitch because he had left for Oregon to see his ailing father. Dan McCarthy starred for the artists. 

Griffin was president and director of the New York School of Caricature, founded in 1901, which was located at The World Building. Instructors included J. Campbell Cory, vice-president, and Dalrymple, secretary.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 9/7/1902

The World, June 6, 1903, promoted his comic feature, Love Affairs of the Office Boy. In the 1910 census, he lived with his wife and two children in Manhattan at 521 West 182nd Street. The artist had been married for five years. The 1915 New York State Census and 1920 census recorded him at 559 West 183 Street. He continued illustrating.

Griffin passed away around early June 1923, in Mamaroneck. His death was noted in the Daily Argus (Mount Vernon, New York), June 7, 1923.

Sydney B. Griffin, the last member of the first Mamaroneck village board, elected May 18, 1896, died at his home on Palmer avenue, Mamaroneck, after an illness lasting more than two years.


Media Interview request -- regarding Sydney B. Griffin

Dear Mr. Allan Holtz:

I am a freelance writer for the Detroit Athletic Club's magazine and I found your blog while conducting some preliminary research on an early DAC member -- cartoonist "Sid. B. Griffin" who also went as "Syd Griffin."

You seem to be just the person I need to interview for some historical context on a story I am working on. I would like to give you more information if you can reply to my e-mail that I sent you on January 14, 2015.


Joe Cabadas
DAC News contributing writer
Dearborn, MI
DAC News: (313) 442-1076
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Monday, October 29, 2012


Obscurity of the Day: Love Affairs of the Office Boy

I imagine all young boys had crushes on older women when we were kids. I recall that at six years old, not yet knowing much about the vagaries of genetics, I thought a teenage cousin of mine was the bee's knees, and if she could just overlook the vast chasm of a decade in our ages, that we were surely each other's soulmates.

In Love Affairs of the Office Boy, Syd B. Griffin works that angle, chronicling the misadventures of a young kid who is madly in love with the winsome office secretary. Of course every other young man in the office, most of whom are of more eligible age, are warm for her form, too, so he has to stoop to some pretty rotten behavior in the losing battle to win her affections.

Griffin's art on this feature, much like his other newspaper strips such as Little Umjiji and Four Comical Coons, is nowhere near the quality of his work for the major humor magazines. I assume he either considered the work beneath him, or dashed it off rather quickly so that he could spend much more time on his magazine cartoons.

Love Affairs of the Office Boy ran in the New York World's Funny Side Sunday comics section from May 31 to August 16 1903.


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Sunday, October 28, 2012


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


Wow! That's a huge snake you have there, Mr. Ivey. Ulp! Let me rephrase that!
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