Saturday, July 09, 2016


Herriman Saturday

November 30, 1908 -- With so many high-profile boxing matches coming to Los Angeles lately, the ticket moocher has evidently become quite a pest to those with an inside track to tickets -- like Herriman presumably.


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Friday, July 08, 2016


History of Newspaper Syndicates by Elmo Scott Watson: Chapter 8


Recent Developments in Syndicate History 1921-1935

The third decade of this century marked the beginning of a period of adding an even greater variety of "big names" to the list of those whose writings the syndicates had made available to the newspaper reading public. But even more significant was the service of one of these organizations in "bridging the gap between science and the public."

From time to time various syndicates had offered science features as a part of their service but they were either too "popular" to be scientific or too technically scientific to be "popular." The need for features which would reconcile these differences was met on January 1, 1921, by the founding of Science Service, Inc., in Washington, D. C. Endowed by E. W. Scripps of the Scripps-McRae newspapers, it was an institution for the popularization of science. All the preliminary work had been done by Dr. William E. Ritter. Traveling about the country, he consulted leading scientists and journalists in all parts of the United States, checking with them the most practical means for launching the enterprise. The result was the formation of a governing board of 15 trustees, ten of whom were scientists and five, journalists.1 The purposes of the organization were stated as follows:

To bridge the gap between modern science and the public by disseminating scientific information in popular form, Science Service was established. It is chartered as a non-profit-making corporation and all receipts from the sale of articles, books and films will be devoted to the development of new methods of popular education in science ... It is not under the control of any clique, class or commercial interest. It is not the organ of any one association. It serves all the sciences. It does not indulge in propaganda unless it be propaganda to urge the value of research and the usefulness of science.

With Dr. Edwin E. Slosson as director and editor-in-chief and Watson Davis as managing editor, Science Service began issuing the Science News Bulletin in April, 1921, and a News Letter for teachers and librarians in March, 1922.2  The slogan was "Not 'Interesting, if True,' but ‘Interesting and True.’"

Starting with 25 clients, mostly daily papers, Science Service doubled that number within a year. Since that time the service has increased steadily each year and its scope has widened until it includes a complete text and picture coverage of every type of scientific material.

The year 1922 saw the beginning of three syndicates which have had varied careers—the McNaught Syndicate, the Metropolitan Syndicate and the North American Newspaper Alliance. On January 1, V. V. McNitt organized the McNaught Syndicate to take over the business of the Central Press Association of New York.3

McNitt began immediately adding to his staff some of the best-known names in the feature world today. Irvin S. Cobb contracted to write an anecdote a day for six months and his fund of stories lasted four years. O. O. Mclntyre was the next to join the new service and Will Rogers began his cowboy philosophizing for it soon afterwards. In recent years these two (until Rogers' death this year) with Arthur Brisbane's column ("Today," syndicated by Hearst and "This Week," by Western Newspaper Union) have been the most widely used of any syndicate text features offered at the present time.

In 1933 the McNaught Syndicate scored a beat by securing a contract from Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt for a daily article. It was the first time in history that a President's wife had written regularly for newspaper publication. Other writers for this service now include Albert Payson Terhune, Roc Fulkerson, Charles B. Driscoll, Frank R. Kent, Alice Roosevelt Longworth and Zoe Beckley, and its leading cartoonists are Ham Fisher, John H. Striebel, John H. Hix ("Strange as It Seems"), Gus Mager and Julian Ollendorff.

In the same month that the McNaught Syndicate started, the Metropolitan Newspaper Service commenced as an independent syndicate. Founded in 1919 as a department of the Metropolitan magazine, it was purchased a few months later by Maxmilian Elser, Jr., and was conducted in combination with the Bell Syndicate until January, 1922. Mr. Elser operated the Metropolitan, which specialized in original fiction by prominent authors, until 1930, when his syndicate was absorbed by the United Features Syndicate.

The third syndicate founded in 1922 was the North American Newspaper Alliance. It was a cooperative organization promoted by Harry Chandler of the Los Angeles Times and Loring Pickering of the San Francisco Chronicle. Backed by some of the same publishers who had started Associated Newspapers, its purpose was to provide its member newspapers with important news feature stories and similar material to he used in conjunction with "spot news."

 In 1930 John N. Wheeler, who had returned to the syndicate business after resigning from Liberty, became general manager of the North American Newspaper Alliance which was then composed of more than 50 of the leading newspapers in the United States and Canada. At the same time the organization absorbed Associated Newspapers and a short time later it also took in the Consolidated Press Association of which David Lawrence was then head. It continued all of the features in this syndicate under the name of Consolidated News Features, Inc., except Lawrence's daily dispatches, which he now sells direct but distributes through the wire facilities of the Consolidated News.

In 1927 the Central Press Association, which had previously absorbed the North American Press Syndicate, took over the Editors' Feature Service owned by Mrs. Mary H. Rumsey. Three years later Joseph V. Connolly, who had been with the King Features Syndicate since 1920, acquired these combined feature services and they became a part of the Hearst chain. Connolly, who is one of the younger leaders in the syndicate field, was a reporter on the New Haven (Conn.) Union for six years before joining the editorial staff of the New York Sun in 1919. After serving in the world war he joined the Hearst forces and now, in addition to being president of King Features Syndicate, he also heads the International News Service. Universal Service, Central Press Association and International News Photos.

 In 1928 the McClure Newspaper Syndicate was sold to a group headed by Richard Waldo, former business manager of the New York Tribune. Two years later Waldo contracted with ex-President Calvin Coolidge to write a daily series of short articles. This arrangement continued for a year. During this time the sales of the feature amounted to nearly $425,000, which is said to be the largest return ever received for any feature for that length of time. Waldo is also credited with developing the Washington gossip column which has been widely copied among other syndicates since Paul Mallon started his "Washington Notebook" in 1931.

An interesting development during this period was the entrance of book-publishing companies into the syndicate field. It began in 1923 when Frank N. Doubleday established a syndicate department in his publishing house, Doubleday, Page and Company, with the idea of distributing to newspapers a variety of book material, particularly biographies and discussions of current affairs.

After this publishing house became Doubleday-Doran and Company, Ralph H. Graves resigned as Sunday editor of the New York Times to organize the Doubleday-Doran Syndicate and its syndicating operations expanded rapidly; its sale of periodic features yielded more than a million dollars in a decade. During this time it sold to newspapers as first rights serials material from such books as “The Letters of Archie Butt," containing the military aide's anecdotal story of Theodore Roosevelt's days in the White House; "Prohibition Inside Out," the first-hand narrative of Roy A. Haynes, head of the federal enforcement bureau; "Eight Years in Wilson's Cabinet" by David F. Houston; "The Open Conspiracy" and "The Science of Life" by H. G. Wells; the Roosevelt-Lodge letters; the memoirs of Gen. Robert L. Bullard; two books by Henry Ford; the Carter Glass banking reminiscences; two more volumes of Archie Butt letters covering the Roosevelt-Taft feud; the memoirs of Marshal Foch; and the biography of Woodrow Wilson by Ray Stannard Baker.

The latter two were among the record-breakers in syndicate history. Sales of the Foch memoirs totaled nearly $120,000 and contracts for $400,000 were signed by newspapers for the Wilson biography which was to appear in four volumes in successive years. Owing to Baker's illness, however, the syndication of this biography was abandoned after an amended schedule left the work still uncompleted with the fifth volume in 1935.

From time to time the Doubleday-Doran syndicate has also syndicated regular newspaper features unconnected with books. These have included fashions, puzzles, articles on golf, tennis and boxing, and a daily aviation column by Maj. Al Williams, speed flyer. Its main business, however, has been short-run features extracted from books about to be published or already issued.

Since 1930, syndicate history has been more a matter of journalistic coups by the established organizations than the founding of any important feature services. The United Features Syndicate scored one such "beat" when it secured the rights to the hitherto unpublished "Story of Our Lord," written by Charles Dickens for his children. In 1931 the North American Newspaper Alliance paid Gen. John J. Pershing $275,000 for his narrative of the world war for publication in its member newspapers and he received an additional $50,000 for publication rights in the New York Times, which was not then a member of the alliance. The narrative was also syndicated to a large number of rural newspapers by Western Newspaper Union.

In 1933 Henry P. Martin, Jr., manager of the Des Moines Register and Tribune Syndicate, created a sensation by purchasing the syndicate rights to the war pictures in Lawrence Stallings' "The First World War."4 He followed this up with such photographic features as "Hollywood (Uncensored)", "Behind the Scenes in Radio," "Picture Sideshow of Life" and "Picture Story of Shirley Temple."

The syndicating of unusual pictures promises to be an interesting future development for during the past year the Yale University Press began syndicating historical pictures from their series, "The Pageant of America," to a large number of newspapers. The latest development in syndicate history took place on February 24, 1935, when a weekly newspaper magazine titled "This Week" appeared as a part of the Sunday editions of 21 metropolitan newspapers which have a combined circulation of more than 4,000,000.5 "This Week" is published by the United Newspaper Magazine Corporation of New York City, headed by P. Gilleaudeau. It is printed in full color gravure by the newly patented Weiss Speedry process. Its cover page is the work of noted magazine illustrators and the table of contents is a parade of the biggest names in American fiction.

Thus the cycle of syndicate history is completed. It began with a printed service, a two-page supplement issued by Moses Y. Beach in New York City in 1841 and sold to a score of papers in the surrounding territory. In 1935 it returns to the original form of printed service in a gaily colored 16-page magazine issued from the same city to a score of newspapers in every part of the United States.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1. The scientists were W. E. Ritter, director of the Scripps Institution for Biological Research; Vernon Kellogg and R. M. Yerkes of the National Research Council; J. McKeen Cattell, editor of Science; George B. Hale, director of the Mt. Wilson observatory; D. T. McDougal, director of the Desert laboratory; J. C. Merriam, president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington; R. A. Millikan, director of the Norman Bridge Laboratory of Physics at the California Institute of Technology; George T. Moore, director of the Missouri Botanical Gardens; A. A. Noyes, director of chemical research, California Institute of Technology. The journalists were Edwin F. Gay, president of the New York Evening Post company; E. W. Scripps and R. P. Scripps of the Scripps-McRae newspapers; and William Allen White, editor of the Emporia (Kan.) Gazette.

2. Doctor Slosson, who was one of the first to recognize the journalistic value of science, was born in Kansas in 1865. After graduation from the University of Kansas he became professor of chemistry at the University of Wyoming, resigning there in 1903 to become literary editor of the Independent. He held this position until 1920, serving as an associate of the Columbia University School of' Journalism at the same time. He died in 1929.

3. The Central Press Association of New York was organized by McNitt in April, 1920. He was also the founder of the Central Press Association of Cleveland and although similar in name the two companies were financially separate.

4. Martin organized the syndicate branch of the Register and Tribune in 1922. Besides its photographic features it is also noted for its serial story service, its authors including Rob Eden, Vida Hurst, Anne Gardner and Priscilla Wayne. It also syndicates numerous other features and serves some 300 newspapers in the United States and foreign countries.

5. These papers were the Chicago Daily News, the Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dallas Morning News, Detroit News, Indianapolis Star, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Milwaukee Journal, Minneapolis Journal, New Orleans Item-Tribune, Omaha World Herald, St. Louis Globe Democrat, Washington Star, Atlanta Journal, Baltimore Sun, Birmingham News, Boston Herald, Buffalo Times, New York Herald Tribune, Philadelphia Record, and Pittsburgh Press.


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Thursday, July 07, 2016


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Wally Carlson

Wallace Anderson “Wally” Carlson was born March 28, 1894, in St. Louis, Missouri, according to the Missouri birth records at, Carlson’s World War II draft card, Who’s Who in America (1966) and the Social Security Death Index.

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Carlson was the third of four children. Who’s Who in America said the parents were Peter Carl Carlson and Annie Ramlose. Carlson’s father was a tailor. The family resided in St. Louis at 4641 Bell Avenue. Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons (2006) said Carlson’s family moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1905.

The Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1967, said Carlson, at age 12, was a newspaper delivery boy who drew sports cartoons which he sold to a cigar store owner who hung them in the window. Carlson was 14 and a student at Lane Technical High School when he sold sports cartoons to the Chicago Inter-Ocean newspaper. Who’s Who in America said Carlson was with the Inter-Ocean from 1909 to 1914.

The Carlson family was recorded in the 1910 census at 712 Aldine Avenue in Chicago. At age 16, Carlson’s occupation was cartoonist. The Inter-Ocean was sold when Carlson was 17. The Tribune said he found a new job at the Chicago Herald. After a short stay, Carlson moved into the animation field in 1914. Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons said Carlson’s first animated series was Joe Boko which was produced for Essanay Pictures. The second was Dreamy Dud which ran from 1915 to 1916. Carlson wrote about himself and animation for the Movie Pictorial, December 1915. Carlson starred in “How Animated Cartoons Are Made.”

Who’s Who in America said Carlson produced material for the Bray Studios from 1918 to 1920. However, Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons said J.R. Bray hired Carlson in 1916. Carlson created three series for Bray: Goodrich Dirt (1916); Otto Luck (1917); and Us Fellers. Carlson’s World War I draft card, which he signed May 31, 1917, showed that he was employed by New York City-based Bray Studios. Carlson’s Chicago address was 424 Oakdale Avenue. He was described as tall, slender build with blue eyes and blonde hair.

According to Who’s Who in America, Carlson married Rosalie Maeder in March 1919. During 1919, Carlson went into business for himself by forming Carlson Studios. Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons said his films were distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

In the 1920 census, the Carlsons were Chicago residents at 4188 Clarendon Avenue. His occupation was cartoonist in the motion picture industry. Carlson’s studio produced animated versions of Sidney Smith’s The Gumps from 1920 to 1921. Carlson met the strip’s writer, Sol Hess, who would eventually leave the strip. Hess and Carlson produced the comic strip, The Nebbs for the Bell Syndicate. American Newspaper Comics said the strip debuted May 1, 1923.

The 1930 census recorded newspaper cartoonist Carlson, his wife and son, Richard Wallace, in Chicago at 460 Barry Avenue. Sometime after the census, Carlson was divorced.

Who’s Who in America said Carlson married Patricia Edenton on November 29, 1933, but the Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index has the day as November 23.

The 1940 census recorded Carlson and his wife, who had three children from a previous marriage, in Chicago at 2613 Hampden Court. When Carlson signed his World War II draft card, on April 27, 1942, he resided at 3020 Sheridan Road. Carlson’s employer was Rae Hess, the widow of Sol Hess who died December 31, 1941. Carlson continued drawing The Nebbs which was written by Hess’s daughter and son-in-law.

Mostly Malarky, a daily panel and Sunday strip, was created by Carlson for the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate in 1946. The strip ended July 30, 1967. Carlson was assisted by Art Huhta on Mostly Malarky and The Nebbs.

Carlson passed away May 9, 1967, in Chicago. His death was reported the next day in the Tribune

—Alex Jay


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Wednesday, July 06, 2016


News of Yore 1960: McNitt Reminisces about Central Press Association


Central Press Has 50th Birthday Party

[from Editor & Publisher, October 15 1960]

The Central Press Association, a unit of King Features Syndicate, observed its 50th anniversary with a dinner Oct. 14 at the Press Club in honor of V. V. McNitt of New York, who founded CP here in 1910.

Small Beginning
Mr. McNitt had the following to say in regard to the early days of Central Press:

"The Central Press Association was a very little fellow with a rather impressive name when it began business 50 years ago. I kept it 20 years. King Features bought it 30 years ago. For a long time it has been an institution giving me great pride: an institution in which others are more entitled to pride now than I.

"In 1910 I was winding up a short career of four years with the Cleveland Press, for which I originally had great hopes. Some had fared better than I, and others hadn't lasted quite as well. The Scripps-McRae newspapers were exciting and uncertain places of employment in those times. Irvin S. Cobb told me in later years the Cincinnati Post put up with him for three weeks and then advised him to go back to Louisville. O. O. McIntyre quit the Post about the same time I left the Press. Our reasons were the same: we sensed that we were regarded as expendable and decided to move first.

"The service of the Newspaper Enterprise Association was produced in those days in the Press building on West Third Street in Cleveland. It was a daily service, made primarily for Scripps newspapers and others that adhered to the same editorial policies. About 60 papers in all were served.

"Other illustrated news services 50 years ago were Hearst's International, the New York Herald service, American Press Association, and the North American Press Syndicate. I persuaded myself there was room for another.

"On the evening of our first wedding anniversary, June 12, 1910, I entertained my wife at dinner at Weber's restaurant in Cleveland, and asked her whether she could agree to let me quit my $45 job and start a newspaper feature service. She must have trusted me as only a fond young wife can trust an insane young man. She didn't ask: 'What are you going to use for money?' She didn't remind me that I had built a little house to establish her in when I married her, with years of payments yet to make. She didn't point out once more that she would become a mother in about seven months.

"She only said: 'If you want to start a business, I'll stand by you.'

"So I never went back to the Press office, but resigned by mail. My salary stopped instantly.

Desk Space
"My first task, after writing letters to a number of Ohio publishers on my typewriter, was to rent desk space in somebody else's office in the Garfield building on Euclid Avenue.

"The first encouraging answer came from George B. Frease, publisher of the Canton Repository. He was always proud of being my first client as a syndicate man, and I was equally proud of him.

"I was beginning to get clients without having any features to sell. By the 10th of July I had made arrangements with Harry S. Thalheimer, business manager of the Cleveland Leader, to operate in the Leader building, with Leader financing, using the Leader's features, news cuts, and mechanical facilities.

"Benjamin F. Bower, publisher, also agreed to let me syndicate the features appearing in the Cleveland News. These included Bob Satterfield's cartoons, Edna K. Wooley's column, and a sports feature by Ed Bang.

"Sets of proofs of all the features of both newspapers were printed and assembled during the latter part of July, and before the month was over, I was away on a selling trip. Sales of the new Central Press service were made in Erie, Sharon, Youngstown, Alliance, Canton, Lorain, and two or three other towns; enough to bring the total sales to $150 a week by Aug. 31, first release date.

"With the merger completed the Central Press Association had 180 newspaper clients.

"In September 1911, I had gone to Los Angeles for Central Press to cover the trial of the McNamara brothers, charged with dynamiting the Los Angeles Times building and killing 21 employees. In addition to sending stories and photos to Cleveland for the regular illustrated news service, I carried on for a few weeks a special photo service for metropolitan papers in the east.

"Martin J. Hutchens, managing editor of the Chicago Journal, suggested to me when I stopped to see him on the way back to Cleveland, that I ought to venture again into the field of big-city enterprise by getting a well-known man to report the national political conventions in 1912. He promised to write his friend, William J. Bryan, on my behalf.

Bryan Reported
In the month of April, 1912, I met Mr. Bryan in his hotel in Cleveland. In the brief time it took him to dress, Before going out to give his lecture on "The Prince of Peace" in a Cleveland church, Mr. Bryan told me the terms on which he would cover the conventions for Central Press. He would accept a percentage of cash proceeds of sales, without any fixed guarantee or any advance payment. He would pay his own traveling expenses and hotel bills.

"Mr. Bryan was an exciting, controversial figure as a delegate from Nebraska to the Baltimore convention, which nominated Woodrow Wilson for President. At the preceding Republican convention in Chicago, from which Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose wing seceded, Mr. Bryan had a great deal of friendly attention.

"The whole enterprise, which included additionally a series of articles on the campaign through the fall, resulted so profitably for Mr. Bryan that he was able to buy the tract in Miami, Fla., where he later built a fine home.

"Central Press' share of the convention revenue permitted settlement of all obligations. Dan Hana had bought the Leader, and was about to put up a monumental new building for it. Harry Thalheimer concluded I would be better off going my own way, so the Leader accepted full payment of $2,500, with interest at seven per cent.

"Not long afterward Central Press moved from Superior Avenue to a new building on East Fourth Street, between Euclid and Prospect Avenues. This was the Frederick building handsome with white terra cotta front, in which we had nearly all of one floor.

"The Leader had formerly done our mechanical work, except for photo-engraving, which we did with our own equipment. Now it was necessary to set up new composing and stereotyping departments, get a new etching machine for the engravers, and buy enough office furniture and equipment for everybody. I was exceedingly proud of our new place.

"Operating costs were higher now, and the need for a larger newspaper clientele was insistent. There was nothing to do but get more business. When the national conventions of 1916 came, Central Press had William J. Bryan as a special correspondent again, with Samuel G. Blythe and Irvin S. Cobb besides. The performance was repested in 1920.

Merger Effected
"In 1927, a fairly new competitor named Editors' Feature Service, backed by Mrs. Mary Harriman Rumsey and managed by William H. Johnson, was merged with the Central Press Association. This deal was promoted by Averall Harriman, to cut his sister's heavy losses and perhaps get out of the syndicate business entirely.

"Johnson had been a syndicate operator for William Randolph Hearst and the New York Tribune. Soon after the merger, Central Press opened an editorial office and small mechanical plant in New York to get faster distribution of news mat service in the east.

"King Features Service bought the Central Press Association in 1930, maintaining the Cleveland offices and plant, and moving the New York operations into King Features headquarters on 45th Street. Joseph V. Connolly managed the deal for King, and made the new assignments of personnel.

"Feeling myself still a young man, I used a part of my share of the proceeds to buy a small city afternoon daily in Massachusetts: the Southbridge Evening News. One of my first moves to improve the paper was to become a client of the Central Press Association."


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Tuesday, July 05, 2016


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Nicholas Afonsky

Nicholas Dimitrievitch Afonsky was born in Kovno, Russia, on February 17, 1892. His full name and birth information were recorded on his World War II draft card.

A 1979 issue of Cartoonist Profiles had an article by Bob Dunn about King Features Syndicate. About Ed Wheelan’s Minute Movies, Dunn wrote: “Very early in its existence “Minute Movies” improved almost overnight. The reason was a well-kept secret. Nick Afonsky, a Russian artist from the court of Czar Nicholas, escaped execution and finally made his way to this country after the 1917 revolution.…” According to Lambiek Comiclopdia, Afonsky emigrated to America in 1917. The year is incorrect. A passenger list recorded the departure of Afonsky and his wife, Maria (28), from Constantinople, Turkey, on July 3, 1923. Afonsky and scores of people were helped by the American Red Cross in Constantinople. They arrived in the port of New York on August 2, where further assistance was provided by the Russian Refugee Relief Society of America, Inc. at 350 West 87th Street, in New York City.

The New York Times, June 17, 1943, said:

Afonsky…studied art under Selesneff and Pimonenko. During the first World War he was wounded five times and received eleven decorations. While a soldier he passed the graduation examination at the University of Moscow, and became a criminal lawyer.

When the Russian revolution occurred, he went to Constantinople and worked for Greek, Turkish, Armenian and French newspapers and magazines….
Afonsky has not been found in the 1925 New York census. He may have been in the 1925 New York City directory which listed an “N Afonsky” at 388 3rd Avenue.

Afonsky’s comics career began in 1925. American Newspaper Comics (2012) said he drew the Adventures of Vivian Vanity, under the pseudonym, Meetrich, from September 29, 1925 to January 30, 1926. He was followed by Delevante. N. Brewster Morse was the writer. Wheeler-Nicholson Inc. handled the distribution. Afonsky and Morse also produced the Great Mystery and Adventure Series for Wheeler-Nicholson Inc. Again, Afonsky used his pseudonym, Meetrich, from October 19, 1925 to January 30, 1926. Afonsky used his name from February 1 to October 7, 1926. Ruth Jane Williams assumed the writing from January 25 to October 7, 1926.

The Bottle Imp (7/3/1926), The Gold Bug, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (7/30/1926)
by Williams and Afonsky for Wheeler-Nicholson. Images courtesy of Art Lortie.

Afonsky and Morse’s departure from Wheeler-Nicholson was explained in Variety, January 27, 1926.
Syndicates Battling
Two newspaper syndicates are in legal battle over the artistic output of Nicholas Afonsky and the writings of N. Brewster Morse.

Wheeler-Nicholson. Inc., claim a prior contract with Morse for both his and Afonsky’s output and is suing the McClure Syndicate, alleging it is damaging them through having wrongfully entered into another agreement with Morse to release through the McClure channels. An accounting is asked for to determine the amount of damages.
Afonsky’s next series was In the Footsteps of Abraham Lincoln which was written by Ida M. Tarbell. It was from the McClure Syndicate in early 1927. Afonsky drew two more McClure series: Famous Love Romances and Conquest of the Air. Both began in 1927.

Afonsky took over the drawing on Ed Wheelan’s Minute Movies some time in 1929 and stopped in 1934. Dunn explained how Afonsky got involved.

Through a letter of introduction from Chaliapin, the great opera star, to Wheelan, Afonsky went to work drawing backgrounds on “Minute Movies”. Wheelan really didn’t draw well. After two days Afonsky took over all the art work, leaving Wheelan to devote all his time to seeing the new motion pictures and writing parodies of the best of them for his feature.
In Biographical Sketches of Cartoonists & Illustrators in the Swann Collection of the Library of Congress (2012), Sara Duke wrote, “Upon seeing his [Afonsky’s] work, William Randolph Hearst hired him to work in his ‘bull pen,’ where artists customarily drew panels, finished strips, an cleaned up the work of other artists.”

Beginning February 11, 1934, Afonsky produced the Little Annie Rooney Sunday page which began with Ed “Verd” Verdier in 1927. Afonsky also did the topper, Fablettes, which was followed by the Ming Foo topper on March 17, 1935. Brandon Walsh was the writer of the King Features strip. Afonsky’s Little Annie Rooney and Ming Foo also appeared in comic books.

The 1936 Heroes of American History was by Afonsky. Later, he was the third artist to draw Alex Raymond’s Secret Agent X-9. Afonsky’s stint was from April 11 to November 5, 1938. Both series were for King Features.

According to Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising (2011), Afonsky drew some of the Prince Albert pipe tobacco advertisements featuring Ol’ Judge Robbins.

The 1930 U.S. Federal Census recorded Afonsky at 45 West Avenue in Meadowmere Park, Hempstead, Nassau, New York. The newspaper cartoonist had a three-year-old daughter, Anastasia. Afonsky’s address and occupation were unchanged in the 1940 census. Afonsky also had an address in Rockville Centre, New York. Directories dated 1938, 1940 and 1942 listed 24 Harold Street for the artist.

Afonsky passed away at home June 16, 1943. The following day the Times said Afonsky lived at 557 West 148th Street and became a citizen nine years ago. Afonsky was survived by his daughter Anastasia.

—Alex Jay


I have the full run of Afonsky's CONQUEST OF THE AIR (and a few other science fact strips) at
Great stuff
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Monday, July 04, 2016


Obscurity of the Day: In the Footsteps of Abraham Lincoln

Here's a special Independence Day obscurity -- sure, a strip about Washington would have been more appropriate, but these things don't grow on (cherry) trees, y'know.

The closed-end biographical strip In the Footsteps of Abraham Lincoln was adapted by famed muckraking journalist Ida M. Tarbell from her several biographies of the martyred president. In the duration of exactly 100 daily strips, she did a very creditable job of presenting a capsule version of the life of Lincoln. The only problem I can see with the strip, and I wonder if this could account for its relative obscurity, is that artist Nicholas Afonsky's drawings of Lincoln frequently veer into the realm of caricature. The artwork is generally lovely, but Afonsky seemed dead set on offering us a 'warts and all' Lincoln that is jarring in how different it is from the generally preferred image of the man. Granted, Lincoln was in fact a rather odd-looking fellow, but traditionally, artists sculpted him into something quite palatable and noble-looking. Afonsky's Lincoln comes very close to looking like a dim-witted lumbering yokel.

In the Footsteps of Abraham Lincoln was solicited by the McClure Syndicate to start in January 1927, but the earliest I've found it starting is on February 7 of that year, so we'll call the ending date June 2 until we find someone running it earlier. Several newspapers didn't run the series until 1928.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the sample scans.


Hello Allan-
It would seem that McClure had the newspaper rights to Ida Tarbell's
story, which was apparently written to be serialized as weekly chapters illustrated with photos of old prints and historical objects amidst the copy. This was begun 10 February 1923.The story covered not only Lincoln's life, but his family history back to the 1600's when they first came to America. In 1924, Miss Tarbell collected the material in a book published by Harper, "IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE LINCOLNS". McClure, still holding the syndication rights, produced the strip (with the original feature's name) when short-term serious continuity strips, often based on famous stories, like THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON were in fashion.
Mark Johnson
Ida Tarbell was one of leading lights of McClure's Magazine in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Her multi-part series on Lincoln's life was extremely popular. I would assume that McClure kept the rights to this work, and repackaged it many years later for comics.
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Sunday, July 03, 2016

It's the final day of another weekly Heritage Auction of items from my collection. This time the Heritage folks went heavy on the Platinum comic books, plus a smattering of other neat items. With a big holiday weekend coming up, I'm guessing that some bargains will be had while many folks are busy celebrating the 4th by eating too many hot dogs and drinking too much beer. Here's the link to the items on Heritage's website, and here are my very informative annotations regarding the items they are offering:

One more big beautiful batch of weekly syndicate proof books, this one is 147 books from NEA (Alley Oop, Robotman, etc) and covering January 2000 - October 2002. NO BIDS YET!!

A set of 4 highly detailed 2-D metal sculptures of famous Italian comics characters in original boxes. This was a gift to me from Martin Mystere writer and comics scholar Alfredo Castelli of Italy.

A giant batch -- in fact a comic book storage box full -- of duck books from Gladstone -- there should be a number of complete runs of various titles in there

A group of four harder to find Platinum books -- Dolly Dimples and Bobby Bounce by Grace Drayton, Tailspin Tommy, Smitty in very rare dustjacket (not pictured), and a rare original content Cupples & Leon, Tom & Jerry the Jolly Plumbers drawn in a delightful animated cartoon style.

Another four scarcer Platinums -- Freckles & His Friends Famous Funnies, Captain and the Kids Famous Comics, Skeezix and Pal (from Gasoline Alley), and Gasoline Alley (not pictured)

2 platinum books from the Treasure Box series -- Reglar Fellers and Smitty

 A group of six harder to find Platinum books, these ones mostly in the fragile oversized category -- Hawkshaw the Detective, Hans und Fritz, Latest Adventures of Foxy Grandpa, Harold Teen Color & Paint Book, The Story of Happy Hooligan, and a coverless copy of the rare and valuable 1907 Newlyweds and their Baby. Great books currently at $1!!!!

Very early Platinum hardcover comic, and not listed in Overstreet, The Billy Prunes Cartoons reprints a series of rollicking traveling salesman comics that appeared in the Minneapolis Journal in 1903-1904. Really fun stuff, and of course exceedingly rare.

The Animated Cerebus Portfolio is a collection of 45 color plates by Dave Sim; a delight for aardvark fans.

Jack Kirby's 1972 Gods portfolio, in original sleeve, from back when no one had ever heard of a cartoon art portfolio.

A really neat activity set that allows kids to create their own customized comic strips based on a bunch of pre-drawn characters. A cool idea, but it sure didn't catch on, because I've never seen another. The art is unsigned but really attractive; reminds me a bit of McCay though it isn't him.

Little Jimmy Picture & Story Book, another hard to find Platimun item by Jimmy Swinnerton; really nice condition, and not colored in. 

The great Clare Briggs in a very early book appearance -- 1913. This very large book is scarce but not ridiculously so; however, it is usually found in extremely beaten up and ragged condition. Other than a little bit of handling soiling, this copy is in stunning beautiful shape. 

Not only is The Dumbunnies by Albertine Randall Wheelan a very hard to find Platinum book, this copy is incredible -- almost like it just came off the shelf at the bookstore. 

A collection of 5 Cupples and Leon Bringing Up Father books, including a very sharp copy of the hard to find #24.

A collection of 6 Cupples & Leon Platinum books -- the big deal here is VEP's Clancy The Cop Second Series, which is both in beautiful condition and very scarce.

A group of 5 cartoon instruction related items, including Cartoon & Story Illustration by Robert Peterson, E.C. Matthews Modern Cartoon Course, Lockwood Art School Art Catalogue with a great Nate Collier cover, The Kiddie Cartoonist by Milt Hammer (which actually should qualify as a comic reprint book) and the public service bulletin How Comic Strips Are Made by cartoonist Russ Winterbotham, which is very scarce. 

Heritage has characterized this lot as a bunch of coloring books, which made me do a full Homer Simpson "D'oh" plus face slap. They are actually mostly comic strip reprint books that try to get extra marketing mileage by offering the rugrats a suggestion to color in the pictures after they're done reading. Heritage threw in a 1970s Popeye item (it's kinda neat -- daily comics printed at full original art size), but the rest are fine additions to any really good Platinum collection. I'm not going to describe them all, but I want to highlight a real full-caps RARITY that they threw in without any realization of what it is. I would not be going too far to say that The New York Herald Comic Section Paint Book, which is full of 1915 Herald strips (Mr. Tweedeedle by Gruelle, Snapshot Sam, Colonel Corn, Verbeek's Terrors of the Tiny Tads, etc), might actually be unique. I have never seen or even heard of another copy. It is a small and very unassuming little book that you will likely never have another chance to own in this lifetime. 

Back before the internet made practically every rare book at least somewhat accessible, Rube Goldberg's Chasing The Blues was considered so rare that the folks who ran his estate once offered me a four figure sum for my copy, since they could not locate one for their archives. Well, I guess I should have taken them up on that offer. Today they pop up once in awhile. However, my copy does still have the singular quality that it was originally owned, and doodled in, by long-time King Features cartoonist J.P. Arnot!

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