Monday, December 04, 2017


Obscurity of the Day: The New Deal in Pictures

The NEA syndicate would eventually become nearly constant purveyors of closed-end newsy comic strip series, but until the late 1930s, they were seldom offered. One of the earliest attempts at telling a news story through the comic strip format came in 1933, when they offered The New Deal in Pictures.

Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs were coming fast and furious, and the alphabet soup of new bureaus and programs was tough to keep up with. NEA's solution was to offer a short, punchy explanation of them all in the form of a comic strip series in thirteen daily installments.

The official running dates of the series, per NEA archives at the OSU cartoon library, are July 27 to August 10. However, as was often the case with these series, many papers ran them late, out of order or incomplete.

The text was written by John M. Gleissner, who was a Washington DC newspaper editor in the 1920s, and apparently then went to work for NEA. The art was by Don J. Lavin, whose biggest mark was as head of the Chicago Tribune art department in the 1910s. He did a little work for NEA between 1932-34, with this feature the only comic strip series. According to Alex Jay, his full given name was Dominic, which leads me to wonder if he is the same fellow who did Did You Know? for the Chicago Defender in 1936 as Dom J. Lavin, rather than his more typical 'Don'. Most likely he did, since Chicago seemed to be his home base.

Thanks to Cole Johnson, who supplied the sample strip ... probably with a clothespin on his nose as he scanned it, as he was definitely not a fan of FDR. Sadly I have lost any comments he made about the strip; I imagine he had a few bon mots to say on the subject of the New Deal.


Judging from the memoirs of Herbert L. Block ("Herblock"), who was a staff editorial cartoonist at NEA in the 1930s, NEA (owned by Scripps-Howard) was generally a conservative place. Mildly surprising they would have a pro-New Deal strip.
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