Saturday, November 21, 2015


Herriman Saturday

Friday, October 23 1908 --- Hearst's Archbold / Standard Oil letters continue to be published, and many prominent politicians are, as shown by Herriman, being caught in the web. Now implicated as tools of Standard Oil are Mississippi Senator Anselm McLaurin, Texas Senator Joseph Bailey, Oklahoma Governor Charles Haskell, and Pennsylvania Congressman Joseph Sibley.


Curiously, Sibley was out of office by then; I'm not sure why Herriman would have gone after him.

Perhaps ironically, Haskell would end up going into the oil business after leaving politics.

McLaurin died a few months after this cartoon appeared.

Bailey was the only one whose career seems to have been derailed by the oil scandals.
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Friday, November 20, 2015


Walt McDougall's This is the Life: Chapter 4 Part 2

This is the Life!


Walt McDougall


Those were the Steamboat Days. To every little bayside park and grove ran whole fleets heavily loaded, and the average city dweller then was intimately acquainted with the geography of parts as remote as Port Jefferson or Bridgeport, knowledge that was lost to the next generation until the bicycle opened up the world anew. Other fleets took rotund and stolid citizens far out to sea off Long Branch, where they fed expensive pink bloodworms to bergalls and toadfish for seven hours with an enormous consumption of beer. Other fleets, I know not how many, competed for the Hudson River traffic by day and night. I recall once that during a most bitter warfare I traveled to Albany for twenty-five cents, spent a lovely day, and meditated remaining for another, but strolling down to the wharf, where two boats were about to start for New York, I hit the very apex of the "Steamboat War." I heard a hoarse voice grate out an announcement, "Free trip to New York!" and its instant echo, "Same price here!" and I walked aboard the palatial steamer. I think it was the Daniel Drew. Nobody followed me, and in a few minutes we were racing down river. Last summer, when I paid over six dollars for the same privilege, the recollection gritted.

These flocks of steamboats were a constant menace to canoeists, who were regarded by their pilots as marine vermin to whom the navigation laws did not apply. As a large part of my spare time and that of my chum, George Baxter, a jeweler whose secret aspirations toward the ministry prevented him from acquiring the proper language of the sailorman, was spent on the waters surrounding New York, I naturally developed a gift of direct and pointed self-expression that was valuable later. I also discovered that canoeing literature was rather salable. It was not until '83 that I felt confident enough to devote my efforts solely to Art and Literature.

One day my brother remarked that "they'd be making artificial eggs next!" This led to cogitation, and as a result I wrote a couple of columns describing the manufacture of artificial eggs by a Newark concern, giving an imaginary formula for their construction precise in every detail, as well as many other particulars that gave added verisimilitude to the article, and then I took it to Amos Cummings, the editor of the Sun. To my unbounded delight, it was printed next day, and with my name signed to it, an unusual circumstance. I received fourteen dollars for the story, and I decided that Literature should be my stepmother from that day forth.

Letters began to pour in upon me containing money and stamps from produce-dealers, boarding houses and hotels, all wanting samples of the artificial eggs. My mother compelled me to return the money, and that hurt, but I was rewarded when a well-known dye concern offered me a hundred dollars for the use of the article in a small booklet advertising Easter-egg colors.

During the next three or four years, Baxter and I voyaged in our dainty, mahogany-decked craft some thousands of miles. Our favorite cruising ground was Long Island Sound, although we reached the Lakes via the Hudson and the Mohawk, ran the rapids of many rivers, did the Chesapeake region via the Elk River canal, and once sailed to Boston. Lincoln B. Palmer, afterward editor of Rudder, and Paul Butler, the son of General Benjamin Butler, were as ardent salt-water sailors as we, Palmer being the most expert canoe-handler I have known. There is not a nook nor cove along the Long Island or Connecticut shore from Sand's Point to Montauk or from the Thames River to the Raritan in which we have not at one time or another anchored our craft. Everywhere and always I wrote about the joys of canoeing. Thereby hangs another tale of conceit and vanity rudely handled.

I had been asked by a canoeing friend to act as judge of a race near Perth Amboy, and took the train attired in immaculate white flannels. When I arrived at my friend's office it was closed, and there I was, all dressed up with nowhere to go, and without even a porch to shelter me from a storm even then splashing down ominous drops. In desperation I darted for a flagman's shanty beside the railroad track, taking refuge just as the downfall came. When the old flagman came, he was soaked. I had observed, by then, with some surprise and elation, that the interior of his shanty was covered with pictures from the World, nearly all of them being my own cartoons and sketches. This circumstance argued that my host was not only an intelligent, cultivated man, but a discriminating one as well. Not content with this assumption, and moved by mere petty vanity and a desire for empty praise, I remarked:

"I perceive that you are an admirer of newspaper pictures, but you seem to have collected only those of one artist."

"That's right!" he replied with real enthusiasm, regarding me with interest. "I keep every one of McDougall's pictures. He's the greatest cartoonist that ever lived!"

I fully agreed with him, but I said, summoning a faint blush: "I can't subscribe

"What McDougall? The cartoonist?" he demanded sharply.

"The same," I breathed modestly.

His cold blue eyes surveyed my white flannels, my dinky sailor hat, and my buckskin shoes with chilling, corroding contempt, even disgust, but he uttered no sound. The rain poured down in thundering torrents for an hour, and I was compelled to sit there and wither. I grew smaller and smaller until I felt that soon I could slip out under the door. Several years passed in a glacial polite silence, and then suddenly the storm ceased and out flashed the sun.

I crawled out, wordless, and many months older, to find my friend Kitchell, who had been held up by the rain, in a buggy before his office. I crept to him, a broken man. A few minutes later, on our way to the canoe club, we had to drive past the little shanty adorned with my masterpieces, and balm was administered to my wounds. The old flagman came out and spoke to Kitchell, who all unwittingly administered the soothing ointment.

"Hello, Sam!" he said to the still affronted man. "Mr. McDougall tells me he's been spending an hour with you. I'll bet you've had a swell time if you made him talk to you. Git ap!"

Over the face of the art-loving flagman came the evidence of conflicting, various emotions—one of those transformations which one rarely has a chance to study—but the horse trotted off before I garnered other than a mere hint of his feelings. Kitchell told me afterward that whenever he felt especially mean he used to go to the shanty and rub gall and wormwood into its occupant, the poor man who could not, nor could many others, conceive that a great philosopher, sage, prophet and humorist could wear white flannels instead of long gray whiskers.

Probably the downtown center of High Art was Stewart's saloon on Warren Street, which seems to have held as many notable paintings as the Academy of Design, or, at least, it did after spending some hours there. Here was displayed Billy Harnett's bit of verisimilitude. The picture represented an old battered nail-studded door upon which were hung an old hat, a powder horn, a rabbit and other game so perfectly painted that, all day long, men stood before it in the blaze of electric light and disputed which portions of the picture were painted and which were real nail-holes, hinges, keyhole-escutcheons and the like.

Harnett could paint a dollar bill or a postage stamp so faithfully that one would try to pick it from the canvas. One day my brother met me and asked me if I had seen "Billy's" nude at the Academy. It was worth going up for, he declared. I took the trouble, as I was rather doubtful of Harnett's rendition of nude flesh, only to find that the picture was that of a dressed turkey hanging from a kitchen door!


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Thursday, November 19, 2015


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: H.F. Voorhees

Herbert Francis Voorhees was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on July 8, 1889, according to his birth certificate at the Wisconsin, Births and Christenings Index at His parents were John Voorhees and Katie Monahan.

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census recorded Voorhees as the second of five children. The family resided in Beloit at 623 Hackett Street. Voorhees’ father was a carpenter.

Voorhees’ childhood was mentioned in the sign-writing magazine, Signs of the Times, September 1923. The article, “Who’s Who in the Craft: H. F. ‘Bert’ Voorhees”, was transcribed at SignWeb

“I was born in Wisconsin which is known as the biggest cheese state in the union. I was no more than a day when my Uncle Amos, who was staying with us at that time, looked down in the clothes basket where they had me and said, ‘We will hear from that boy some day.’ And they did. That night. They tell me that I cried as though my little clothes basket would break. Some of the neighbors suggested giving me a rattle. But my mother told them that I had contracted a cold during the night, and already had a little one in my throat. From there I went to high school. I did not do so very well there, being stung by a spelling bee at the foot of my class. I used to hang around the sign shop in our town; but father said, ‘You can’t be a sign painter—you ain’t no artist.’ Well, things went along like that until one day my father wanted a door painted. I got him wrong, I guess. He wanted it white, and I gave him a nice coat of black. He was pretty well peeved about it, and told me to go and never darken his door again. So I came to Chicago.”
The 1910 census listed self-employed sign writer Voorhees and his brothers, Arthur (photographer) and Walter (electrician), in Chicago at 1801 Warren Avenue.

The Cook County, Illinois, Marriages Index said Voorhees married Loretta Adlam in Chicago on September 24, 1914.

On June 5, 1917, Voorhees signed his World War I draft card. His address was 5529 Kimbark Avenue, Chicago. He was a sign-writer employed by the Thomas Cusack Company. Voorhees named his wife as his nearest relative. He was described as tall, medium build with blue eyes and dark brown hair.

In 1920, Evanston, Illinois was Voorhees’ home town. His wife and brother, Walter, were in his household at 201 Ridge Avenue. Voorhees’ occupation was advertising artist.

In the mid-1920s, Voorhees contributed several articles to Signs of the Times including: “Flannel Mouth Fallen” (December 1923); “Bull in the Chinee Shop” (January 1924); “Good Yoke” (July 1924); and “Mammoth Electric Dominates Chicago’s White Way” (April 1925).

The September 1923, Sign of the Times, mentioned some of Voorhees activities:

Besides being a signist of the quality type on the staff of the Osgood Sign Co., Chicago, Mr. Voorhees is attracting much attention in his clever caricatures in a national “strip” being syndicated in the daily newspapers. He is doing comic art reviews of several theaters in Chicago and is a staunch member of Local 830.
The Rockford Register-Republic (Illinois), September 1, 1923, reported the upcoming marriage of Voorhees’ sister, Dorothy, and said: “…The bride’s brother, Herbert Voorhees of Chicago, will give her in marriage at the altar.”

According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), Voorhees produced the strip, Jack and Lil, which appeared from 1927 to 1928, for the John F. Dille Company.

Voorhees has not yet been found in the 1930 census.

In the 1940 census, self-employed, commercial artist Voorhees resided in Chicago at 846 Montrose. His wife was not listed but the children, Bob and Nancy were named. Bob was also a commercial artist.

On April 27, 1942, Voorhees signed his World War II draft card. He and his daughter, Nancy, lived at 6214 Winthrop in Chicago. Voorhees was employed at the painting company, N. J. Bohl, 5312 Broadway, Chicago.

The Rockford Register-Republic, November 8, 1951, reported the upcoming wedding of Voorhees’ daughter, Nancy, who had been living with her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. W.B. Doran, in Rockford. Voorhees was still a Chicago resident.

The whereabouts of Voorhees, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, was found in the files of the Investigation of the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Volume 25, 1964. Voorhees was interviewed by the FBI regarding a possible close encounter with Lee Harvey Oswald in Mexico. Voorhees had traveled by train to Mexico where he lived part-time for several years. Coincidentally, Oswald traveled to Mexico around the same time as Voorhees, who was questioned about a particular trip and asked to identify a photograph of Oswald. The eleven-page FBI report can be read here. The National Archives has the Oswald file here.

According to the Social Security Death Index, Voorhees passed away February 1968. His last known residence was Addison, Illinois.

—Alex Jay


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Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Jack and Lil

In the mid-1920s The Gumps was one of the most popular comic strips in the newspaper world, and so of course imitators sprouted like weeds in a garden. One of these imitators that failed utterly to take off was Jack and Lil by H.F. Voorhees. The strip seeks to emulate The Gumps with a similar continuing storyline featuring a wacky family. To further trade on The Gumps fame, Voorhees draws the male characters quite freakishly, while the women are relatively normal. That's really where the resemblance ends, though. From there on, for better or worse, Voorhees cuts his own trail.

The 'worse' is that Voorhees seems incapable of organizing a sensible continuity. He jumps all over, as you can see above in this two week sequence. But that's really not of any great consequence, if you ask me, because on the 'better' side we have the creator's great facility with snappy dialog and slang. These are delightful strips to read and savor, even if we only have half a clue what in the world is going on. Voorhees really should have been a gag-a-day man, because the only thing that seems to trip him up is long-range plotting.

I also love the running bit regarding Madame Zaza's radio show. The madame, who apparently we will never actually meet, has famous guests including (see above) Paul Whiteman the orchestra leader, and Rin Tin Tin the movie dog. These strips are filled with great patter from her front man, whose name I never learned.

Jack and Lil was syndicated by the John F. Dille Company, just a few years before that hole-in-the-wall syndicate hit the jackpot with Buck Rogers and could then hobnob credibly with the big guys. Jack and Lil ran from sometime in 1927 to sometime in 1928 (my run ends June 2 in mid-story). I'd love to hear from you if you have any more definitive running dates than that.

Sadly, as far as I know Mr. Voorhees never had another syndicated comic strip credit, but I understand Alex Jay is working on a profile for him, and we'll all learn more tomorrow.


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Tuesday, November 17, 2015


H. L. Mencken on Newspaper Artists

In H. L. Mencken's Newspaper Days 1899-1906, a very highly recommended memoir, he recounts his days as a reporter and editor at the Baltimore Herald. When Mencken took over the editorship of the newspaper's Sunday edition, he became de facto supervisor of the comic strip artists, as the Herald had not yet switched from local production of the Sunday color comics to a syndicated section.

Mencken mentions comics and cartoonists quite often in this book, showing a haughty disdain for their capabilities. In fact, he claims that he ended up writing most of the comic strip material as the cartoonists were unable to come up with gags.

Though newspaper art and artists are discussed throughout the book, Mencken devoted one chapter of the book to the subject specifically. I think you'll enjoy this taste of the muscular Mencken prose style ...

Slaves of Beauty

It was not until I became Sunday editor that I had any official relations with the fantastic Crocodilidas known as newspaper artists, but I had naturally encountered a number of them in my days as a reporter. The first one I ever saw in the flesh, so far as I can recall, was an Irishman wearing a seedy checked suit, a purple Windsor tie, a malacca stick, and a boutonniere consisting of two pink rosebuds fastened together with tinfoil. This was in a saloon near the Herald office in the year 1899, and I remember saying to myself that he certainly looked the part. It appeared at once that he also acted it, for when the bartender hinted that the price of beer was still five cents a glass, cash on delivery, the artist first snuffled up what remained of the foam in his schooner, and then replied calmly that it was to be charged to his account. I was still, in those days, a cub reporter, and full of an inno­cent delight in the wonders of the world. The de­caying veteran at my side had invited me out, as he put it, to introduce me to society, and while he did the introducing I bought the beer. He now nudged me, and whispered romantically that the artist had spent his last ten cents for the boutonniere: it had been bought, it appeared, of a street vendor in front of police headquarters — a one-armed man who was reputed to get his stock by raiding colored graveyards by night. This vendor trusted no one below the rank of a police lieutenant, so the rose­buds had to be paid for, but bartenders showed more confidence in humanity. After the artist had filled his pockets with pretzels and stalked out grandly, flirting his malacca stick in the manner of James A. McNeill Whistler, the old-timer ex­plained that he was honorable above the common, and always paid his reckonings in the long run. "Whenever," I was informed, "some woman with money gets stuck on him, or he sells a couple of comics to a syndicate, he goes around town settling up. Once I saw him lay out $17 in one night. He had to beat it from England in a cattle-boat. There was a rich Jewish duke packing a gun for him.”

I never saw this marvel again, for a few days later he was shanghaied on the Baltimore waterfront, and when, after a couple of months of bitter Winter weather down Chesapeake Bay, he escaped from the oyster fleet by legging it over the ice, he made tracks for Canada and the protection of the Union Jack, leaving more than one bartender to mourn him. But in the course of the next half dozen years, first as Sunday editor, then as city editor, and finally in the austere misery of manag­ing editor, I made acquaintance with many other artists, and acquired a lot of unpleasant informa­tion about their habits and customs. They ranged from presumably respectable married men with families (sometimes, indeed, with two families) down to wastrels who floated in from points South or West, remained only long enough to lift an over­coat and two or three bottles of Higgins's drawing ink, and then vanished as mysteriously as they had come. A few of them even neglected to draw their pay -— always to the indignation of the office cashier, who had to carry a small and incredible overage on his books until he got up nerve enough to buy the city editor a couple of drinks, and so discharge his debt for theatre passes. But whatever the differences marking off these jitney Dürers into phyla and species, they all had certain traits in common, mostly productive of indignation in editors. Each and every one of them looked down his nose at the literati of journalism, and laughed at them as Philistines almost comparable to bartenders or policemen. One and all had an almost supernatural talent for getting out of the way when fire broke out in a medical college or orphan asylum, and there were loud yells for illus­trative art. And so far as I can recall, there was never one who failed, soon or late, to sneak some­thing scandalous into a picture at the last moment, to the delight the next morning of every soul in town save what we then called the Moral Element.

I write, of course, of an era long past and by most persons forgotten, and I have no doubt that artists are now much changed, whether on news­papers or off.  Some time ago a man in charge of the art department of a great metropolitan daily told me that fully a third of his men read the Nation, and that many of the rest had joined the C.I.O. and were actually paying their dues. He even alleged that there were two teetotalers among them, not to mention a theosophist. In my time nothing of the sort was heard of. The artists of that day were all careless and carnal fellows, with no interest in their souls and no sense of social re­sponsibility. Their beau idéal was still the Rodolfo of "La Bohème," and if not Rodolfo, then some salient whiskey drummer, burlesque manager or other Elk; for the contemporaneous Roosevelts, Willkies, Hulls, Ma Perkinses, Bishop Mannings and John L. Lewises they had only razzberries. Long before naked women were the commonplaces of every rotogravure supplement — indeed, long before rotogravure supplements were invented — large drawings of ladies in the altogether, usually in the then fashionable sepia chalk, decorated every newspaper art department in America. It was believed by young reporters that artists spent all their leisure in the company of such salacious creatures, and had their confidence. Even the most innocent young reporter, of course, was aware that they used no living models in their work, for every­one had noted how they systematically swiped from one another, so that a new aspect of the human frame, or of a dog's, or cat's, or elephant's frame, once it had appeared in a single newspaper in the United States, quickly reappeared in all the rest. But the artists fostered the impression that they did hand-painted oil-paintings on their days off, direct from nature unadorned. They let it be known that they were free spirits and much above the general, and in that character they sniffed at righteousness, whether on the high level of political and economic theory or the low one of ordinary police regulations.

I well recall the snobbish rage of a primeval comic-strip artist whom I once rebuked for using the office photographic equipment to make coun­terfeit five-dollar bills. It was on a Sunday morn­ing, and I had dropped into the office for some reason forgotten. Hearing me shuffling around, he bounced out of the darkroom with a magnificent photograph of a fiver, cut precisely to scale, and invited me to admire it. I knew it would be useless to argue with him, but I was hardly prepared for his screams of choler when I grabbed the phoney, tore it up, and made off to the darkroom to smash the plate. He apparently regarded my action, not only as a personal insult, but also as an attentat against human enlightenment. If the word bour­geois had been in circulation at the time he would have flung it at me. As it was, he confined himself to likening my antipathy to counterfeit money to Lynn Meekins's Methodist aversion to drunkards, and laughed derisively at all the laws on the statute-books, from those against adultery to those prohibiting setting fire to zoos. I fired him on the spot, but took him back the next day, for good comic-strip artists were even more rare in that age than they are today.

Another that I fired — for what reason I forget — refused to come back when I sent for him, and I found on inquiry that he had got a job making side-show fronts for a one-ring circus. He pro­duced such alarming bearded ladies, two-headed boys and wild men of Borneo that the circus went through the Valley of Virginia like wildfire, and in a little while he had orders from four or five of its rivals. By the end of a year he was the principal producer of side-show fronts south of the Mason & Dixon Line, and had three or four other artists working for him. Also, he had a new girl, and she appeared in public in clothes of very advanced cut, and presently took to drink. Undaunted, he put in another, and when she ran away with a minstrel-show press-agent, followed with a third, a fourth, and so on. Finally, one of them opened on him with a revolver, and he departed for Scranton, Pa. When he edged back to Baltimore a month or two later, glancing over his shoulder at every step, his business had been seized by his assistants, and the last I heard of him he was working for a third-rate instalment house, making improbable line draw­ings of parlor lamps, overstuffed sofas, washing-machines, and so on. Many other artists of that time went the same sad route. Starting out in life as painters of voluptuous nudes in the manner of Bouguereau, they finished as cogs in the mass pro­duction of line-cuts of ladies' hosiery.

In the heyday of this fellow I had a visit one day from a sacerdotal acquaintance — a Baptist clergyman who pastored a church down in the tide­water Carolinas. His customers, he told me, had lately made a great deal of money growing pea­nuts, and a new brick church was approaching completion in his parish. In this church was a large concrete baptismal tank — the largest south of Cape Hatteras — and it was fitted with all the latest gadgets, including a boiler downstairs to warm the water in cold weather. What it still lacked, said the pastor, was a suitable fancy back­ground, and he had come to see me for advice and help on that point. Would it be possible to have a scene painted showing some of the principal events of sacred history? If so, who would be a good man to paint it? I thought at once of my side-show-front friend, and in a little while I found him in a barrel-house, and persuaded him to see the pastor. The result was probably the most splendiferous work of ecclesiastical art since the days of Michel­angelo. On a canvas fifteen feet high and nearly forty feet long the artist shot the whole works, from the Creation as described in Genesis I to the revolting events set forth in Revelation XIII. Noah was there with his ark, and so was Solomon in all his glory. No less than ten New Testament miracles were depicted in detail, with the one at Cana given the natural place of honor, and there were at least a dozen battles of one sort or another, including two between David and Goliath. The Tower of Babel was made so high that it bled out of the top of the painting, and there were three separate views of Jerusalem. The sky showed a dozen rainbows, and as many flashes of lightning, and from a very red Red Sea in the foreground was thrust the maw of Jonah's whale, with Jonah him­self shinning out of it to join Moses and the chil­dren of Israel on the beach. This masterpiece was completed in ten days, and brought $200 cash — the price of ten side-show fronts. When it was hung in the new Baptist church, it wrecked all the other evangelical filling-stations of the lower At­lantic littoral, and people came from as far away as Cleveland, Tenn., and Gainesville, Va., to wash out their sins in the tank, and admire the art. The artist himself was invited to submit to the process, but replied stiffly that he was forbidden in con­science, for he professed to be an infidel.

The cops of those days, in so far as they were aware of artists at all, accepted them at their own valuation, and thus regarded them with suspicion. If they were not actually on the level of water-front crimps, dope-pedlars and piano-players in houses of shame, they at least belonged somewhere south of sporty doctors, professional bondsmen and handbooks. This attitude once cost an artist of my acquaintance his liberty for three weeks, though he was innocent of any misdemeanor. On a cold Winter night he and his girl lifted four or five ash-boxes, made a roaring wood-fire in the fireplace of his fourth-floor studio, and settled down to listen to a phonograph, then a novelty in the world. The glare of the blaze, shining red through the cob-webbed windows, led a rookie cop to assume that the house was afire, and he turned in an alarm. When the firemen came roaring up, only to dis­cover that the fire was in a fireplace, the poor cop sought to cover his chagrin by collaring the artist, and charging him with contributing to the delin­quency of a minor. There was, of course, no truth in this, for the lady was nearly forty years old and had served at least two terms in a reformatory for soliciting on the street, but the lieutenant at the station-house, on learning that the culprit was an artist, ordered him locked up for investigation, and he had been in the cooler three weeks before his girl managed to round up a committee of social-minded saloonkeepers to demand his release. The cops finally let him go with a warning, and for the rest of that Winter no artist in Baltimore dared to make a fire.

But it was not only artists themselves who suf­fered from the harsh uncharitableness of the world; they also conveyed something of their Poësque ill fortune to all their more intimate associates. I never knew an artist's girl, however beautiful, to marry anyone above a jail warden or a third-string jockey, and most of the early photo-engravers came to bad ends, often by suicide. The engravers used various violent poisons in their work, includ­ing cyanide of potassium. It was their belief that a dose of cyanide killed instantly and was thus painless, but every time one of them rounded out a big drunk by trying it he passed away in a tumul­tuous fit, and made a great deal of noise. The sur­vivors, however, no more learned by experience than any other class of men, and cyanide remained their remedy of choice for the sorrows of this world. They had in their craft a sub-craft of so-called routers, whose job it was to deepen the spaces be­tween the lines in line-cuts. This was done with a power-driven drill that bounced like a jumping-jack and was excessively inaccurate. If the cut was a portrait the router nearly always succeeded in routing out the eyes. Failing that, he commonly fetched one of his own fingers. Many's the time I have seen a routing machine clogged to a standstill by a mixture of zinc eyes and human tissue, with the router jumping around it with his hand under his arm, yelling for a doctor or a priest.

In those days halftones were not much used in newspapers, for it was only a few years since Stephen H. Horgan, of the New York Tribune, had discovered that they could be stereotyped. Most provincial stereotypers still made a mess of the job, so line-cuts were preferred, and relatively more artists were employed than today. Neverthe­less, photographs were needed, if only to be copied in line, and every paper of any pretensions had at least one photographer. The first I recall on the Herald was a high-toned German of the name of Julius Seelander, who had served his apprentice­ship in his native land. He wore a beard trimmed to display the large stickpin that glowed from his Ascot necktie: it was, in fact, two pins, with a fili­gree silver chain connecting them. Julius was an excellent technician, but had a habit of aesthetic abstraction in emergencies. Once, in bitter Winter weather, I took him along when I was assigned to go down the Chesapeake on an ice-boat, to cover the succoring of a fishing village that had been frozen in for weeks. We got to the place after a bumpy struggle through the ice, and Julius took a dozen swell pictures of the provisions going ashore and the starving oystermen fighting for them on the wharf. But when we got back to the office, and I was in the midst of my story, he came slinking out of his darkroom to confess that he had made all of the photographs on one plate. He said he was throwing up his job, and asked me to break the news to Max Ways: he was afraid that if he did so himself Max would stab him with a copy hook or throw him out of the window. But when I told Max he was very little perturbed, for he believed that all photographers, like all artists, were as grossly unreliable and deceptive as so many loaded dice, and it always surprised him when one of them car­ried out an assignment as ordered. The next day Julius was back in his darkroom, and so far as I know, nothing more was ever said about the matter.

But the most unfortunate camp-follower of art that I ever knew was not a photographer, nor even a photo-engraver, but a saloonkeeper named Kuno Something-or-other, who had a great many artists among his customers. When, in 1900, he opened a new saloon, they waited on him in a body, and of­fered to decorate its bare walls without a cent of cost to him, save only, of course, for their meals while they were at work, and a few drinks to stoke their aesthetic fires. Kuno, who loved everything artistic, jumped at the chance, and in a few days the first two of what was to be a long series of pre­dacious frauds moved in on him. The pair daubed away for four or five hours a day, and it seemed to him, in the beginning, to be an excellent trade, for they not only got nothing for their services, but attracted a number of connoisseurs who watched them while they worked, and were good for an occa­sional flutter at the bar. But at the end of a couple of weeks, casting up accounts with his bartender, Kuno found that he was really breaking less than even, for while the credit side showed eight or ten square feet of wall embellished with beautiful girls in transparent underwear, the debit side ran to nearly 100 meals and more than 500 beers, all consumed by the artists.

Worse, the members of the succeeding teams were even hungrier and thirstier than the first pair, and by the time a fourth of one wall of the saloon was finished Kuno was in the red for more than 500 meals and nearly 7000 beers, not to mention innumerable whiskeys, absinthes and shots of bit­ters, and a couple of barrels of paint. The easy way out would have been to throw the artists into the street, but he respected the fine arts too much for that. Instead, he spent his days watching the Work in Progress and his nights trying to figure out how much he would be set back by the time it was finished. In the end these exercises unbalanced his mind, and he prepared to destroy himself, leav­ing his saloon half done, like a woman with one cheek made up and the other washed.

His exitus set an all-time high for technic, for he came from Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, and was a Prussian for thoroughness. Going down to the Long Bridge which spanned the Patapsco below Baltimore, he climbed on the rail, fastened a long rope to it, looped the other end around his neck, swallowed a dose of arsenic, shot himself through the head, and then leaped or fell into the river. The old-time cops of Baltimore still astound rookies with his saga. He remains the most protean per­former they have ever had the pleasure of handling post-mortem.


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Monday, November 16, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Cooper

As I've mentioned many times here on the blog, the 1980s was a decade in which seemingly every editorial cartoonist had to try out his or her luck on a comic strip, and all the syndicates seemed eager to give them a go. With Cooper we get two editorialists for the price of one.

Mike Keefe of the Denver Post and Tim Menees of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette met in 1978 and started talking about collaborating on a strip, but it took until 1985 for the team to settle on an idea and get it accepted by a syndicate. The idea that got Universal Press Syndicate on the hook was Cooper, which focused on the teaching staff at a suburban high school. Cooper himself is a youngish teacher, still somewhat idealistic but also starting to question the wisdom of his career choice; he's accompanied by an assortment of other teachers, a sunny young female principal, and the school's biggest behavior problem, a kid named Dwane. 

As with most strips that seek to appeal to a particular demographic, as Cooper undeniably did, it probably would have delighted its intended audience, but failed to impress newspaper editors. If I was one of those editors, I imagine I would have figured that teachers are probably already buying my paper, so do I really need a comic strip to pull them in? While the creators claimed to have a decent list of about 50 papers for Cooper, the short run -- March 18 1985 to January 3 1987 -- would seem to indicate that those clients weren't sticking with the strip, and new clients weren't being added.

In my book I stated that Menees handled the art and Keefe the writing. Articles about the strip that I read in preparation for this post show that I had that wrong. In Cartoonist Profiles #69, the creators say that they both wrote gags, and Menees did layout art and lettering, while Keefe inked the strip.

When Cooper ended Menees and Keefe evidently hadn't had enough of the comic strip world. Less than a year later, they returned with another strip, Iota, another short-run obscurity that we'll cover here one of these days.


The lettering reminds me a great deal of Russell Myers' Broom-Hilda.

Meanwhile, I have been trying to find samples of David Brown's "Today's World" panel on Newspaper Archive, with no success.

If only it didn't have such a generic title...

Keep up the good work.
off topic (Cooper - kind of cute)
I haven't visited much lately.....a friend mentioned this book: “100 Years of King Syndicate” book just released .... you probably have already heard.

Reading the Gumps ..... just finished some Out Our Way and a cartoon compilation from England - The Oldies magazine.....didn't understand about a third of it.
joe t.
The Cincinnati Post picked up Cooper on March 3, 1986 (the day they added Calvin and Hobbes).
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Sunday, November 15, 2015


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


Ah, the memories. And Jim is right. It is not about the money wagered but the game. The hours we spent playing cards are fond memories. So many great stories!!


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