Saturday, July 14, 2018


Herriman Saturday

August 11 1909 -- The Angels face a pivotal homestand against the Seals, one that will likely determine whether the Angels end the season at first place in the standings.


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Friday, July 13, 2018


Wish You Were Here, from Dwig

This lovely Dwig card features his mirror image text motif, along with an aquiline-nosed beauty. The card is embossed with gold on the mirror frame, which as usual doesn't reproduce well on the scanner.

This card must have sold well, because although there were other cards in this series (Series #30 according to the reverse), this is the one that shows up most often today.  The maker is, as best I can tell, R. Kaplan or Charles Rose. The maker is not directly identified, but it does have a logo on the back. It is a little fellow wearing a smock on which is shown the Swiss cross, and in one hand is a beer stein and the other a U.S. flag. Pretty sure that's either Kaplan or Rose, although the high quality of the card initially had me thinking Tuck. The usually very dependable postcard research site doesn't cover Kaplan or Charles Rose for some reason, so take my word with the appropriate measure of salt.

The divided back card is undated but was postally used in 1910.


In March 1907, an act of congress provided that from henceforth post cards could have the bifurcated backs. It's good that congress is ever concerned with such wieghty issues.
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Thursday, July 12, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: The Onion Sisters

World Color Printing offered up some truly bizarre comics in their early years, and The Onion Sisters must rate at least a nine on the bizzarometer. The series featured characters with the heads of various fruits and vegetables, and sported a naive art style that seemed perfectly designed to leave the kiddies with fodder for Sunday evening nightmares. It was the one of only two series penned by 'Nixon', the other being The Up-To-Date Uncle Tom's Cabin Company.

While Nixon's other series showed some rustic charm, The Onion Sisters is just plain odd. The factor of  the vegetable heads rarely has anything to do with the gags, which kinda amps up the creepy factor if you ask me. The overarching thread of the series was that all the neighborhood veggies are fighting over the attentions of the beautiful Onion Sisters. Corn Fritter (a cob of corn) is the guy we are supposed to root for in this struggle. Now if the sisters had only been lima beans rather than onions, then you'd have something -- if Corn Fritter had triumphed, you'd have a lovely succotash!

 Cole Johnson supplied me with one of the few strips in the series that takes advantage of the nature of the characters, making it the strongest entry in a run that went from December 18 1904 to February 19 1905*. If you want to see the other strips in this crazy series, click on over to Barnacle Press to enjoy (?) the whole run. Over at that site, I made a happy discovery. On the February 5 1905 episode, it looks like Nixon has for once offered us his first name. If my eyes do not deceive, he is Guy Nixon.

* Source: St. Louis Star


More creepiness: It might be some kind of "Turnabout-is-fair-play" for the vegtables to dine on an herbivore for a change, but they're obviously vegtacannibles too.
Truly nightmare-inducing!
I just finished reading them all. Although not a single story made any sense or had any moral lesson or any point....I still want more.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: Professor Howler's Calamities

Professor Howler's Calamities ran in the New York Herald's Sunday editions from July 23 1911 to April 14 1912*. The strip concerns a fellow who looks like a perfect milquetoast, but he actually has the call of adventure in his bones. Meek little Professor Howler will not shrink from any challenge, but he always ends up looking the fool (or worse).

This well-drawn and written strip was never signed by the creator. Now I may be totally off-base here, but when I look at these strips I hear a little whisper in my noggin saying "Ding Darling." I'm very likely wrong, I suppose, but Darling had just arrived in New York at this point to work at the New York Globe, and maybe he shopped his portfolio around town and had this strip accepted at the Herald. Of course, he wouldn't have been able to sign the strip. Any comment on my guess?

* Source: Ken Barker's New York Herald index


Do you have David Lendt's biography of Darling? If not, my copy is waiting for me in NYC (I just got it), and I can check that. Not dispositive if it doesn't list it...
Never thought of that - duh! Unfortunately both my Darling biographies are stuffed in boxes in Florida. Let me know if you find anything.
Lendt's biography has this to say at page 26: "He [Darling] also resisted management pressure to do comic strips for the Globe." In the next para, Lendt notes that Darling at this time had issues with his drawing arm that threatened to derail his career. This doesn't settle the issue, but in my mind, the facts that Darling didn't want to do strips and he was having drawing issues makes the ID for this strip unlikely. Feel free to disagree, since this is a guess on my part.
I guess so. Darling was in fact producing a general humor cartoon series for the Globe in 1911-12, which eventually was focused and became Professor Specknoodle 1912-13 (you'll find samples on this blog). But I suppose if he was doing that against his will, he wasn't likely to do another. Thanks for checking!
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Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Bert Mann

Bert Mann was the pseudonym of Herbert R. Kaufman according to the Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 1, Group 2, Pamphlets, Etc., New Series, Volume 6, Group 2, Numbers 22–25, June 1909 (below).

Kaufman was born on March 6, 1878 in Washington, D.C. as recorded on his World War II draft card and Social Security application, both viewed at In the 1880 U. S. Federal Census, Kaufman was the youngest of two sons born to Abram, a dry goods merchant, and Gertrude. The family resided at 1241 or 1247 Eleventh Street South East, Washington, D.C.

Who’s Who in America (1910) said his parents were Abraham Kaufman and Gertrude Raff. (I believe Kaufman’s middle name was Raff as it was common to take the mother’s maiden name.) He graduated from Emerson Institute in 1893, and Johns Hopkins in 1898. On August 12, 1900 Kaufman married Helen Herzberg.

Who’s Who identified Kaufman’s publishing activities. He headed the Herbert Kaufman newspaper syndicate in New York; served as the American adviser to C. Arthur Pearson, Ltd., in London; was a special American correspondent for the London Standard and American representative for W.T. Stead, also in London. Kaufman was associate publisher of Review of Reviews Encyclopedia and Continental Magazine. He was president of Herbert Kaufman & Handy Co., Chicago, since 1908; adviser to Frank A. Munsey, Chicago Tribune, as well as editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Record-Herald, and chain of syndicated Sunday papers.

Kaufman authored the songs Songs of Fancy, 1905; The Stolen Throne (with May Isabel Fisk), 1907; and Why Are You Weeping, Sister?

A similar listing appeared in The Book of Chicagoans: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the City of Chicago, Volume 2 (1911).

National Magazine, September 1910, profiled Kaufman and Arthur Brisbane.

Not mentioned in the profiles was Kaufman’s Billiken and Bobby. American Newspaper Comics (2012) said the series ran from March 7 to September 19, 1909. The artist was Tod Hunter or Todhunter. In November 1908 Kaufman had copyrighted a number pieces, possibly posters based on the dimensions, with the characters Billiken and Bobby.

According to the 1910 census, Kaufman was the president of an advertising agency. He, his wife and son Herbert Jr. lived in Chicago at 4830 Kenwood Avenue.

On January 19, 1913, Kaufman returned from a trip to England where he had departed from Liverpool on the eleventh. The passenger list had his address as 12 East 46th Street, New York City.

The Cook County, Illinois, Marriages Index at, recorded Kaufman’s intended marriage to Alta Esther Rush on the intended date August 2, 1913. The couple visited England in 1914; they returned October 9, 1914 to the port of New York from Liverpool. Their home was in Chicago. The Tarrytown Daily News (New York), September 6, 1947 said Kaufman moved to Tarrytown in 1916.

On September 12, 1918, Kaufman signed his World War I draft card. He was a resident of Tarrytown, New York and lived on Cobbs Lane. Kaufman was employed as special assistant and writer to the Secretary of the Interior of the federal government. He was described as tall, medium build with blue eyes and brown hair.

The 1920 census said writer Kaufman was in Tarrytown on Cobbs Lane. His son, Herbert R. Jr., was five years old and daughter, Joan, four. Kaufman remained in Tarrytown until his death on September 6, 1947 according to the New York Death Index at and the Tarrytown Daily News which said he passed away at home. The newspaper also said Kaufman was known “as an outstanding collector of original art and antiques and one of his special hobbies was chemistry.”

—Alex Jay


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Monday, July 09, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: Billiken and Bobby

One of the more offbeat fads I've encountered is Billiken. A character who came to young artist Florence Pretz in a dream, she sculpted the vaguely Asian looking imp sitting on a sort of throne rather Buddha-like, and declared that he was "The God of Things as they Ought To Be." She began marketing the little sculptures in 1908, first taking Chicago by storm, then becoming a hit nationally and internationally. In addition to the little statuettes, the fad was parleyed into a number of products, including a Sunday comic strip series. For the most part the fad blew over quickly, but Billikens still retain their popularity today in a few places.

Billiken and Bobby was a sumptuously drawn fantasy of the Billiken character going on adventures with a kid named Bobby Jones. Bobby's father bought the child a Billiken statuette as a present, and Billiken comes to life and whisks Bobby away to various fantasy worlds. The series debuted on March 7 1909* (top example is the inaugural episode), and ran until September 19 1909**. The poems were credited to Bert Mann, and the art, which may have only been signed in the first episode, was by Tod Hunter (Todhunter?). Mr. Hunter is an enigma to me, but he certainly makes quite an impression with what is apparently his only foray into newspaper comic art.

Billiken and Bobby was at first copyrighted to The Billiken Company, but soon changed to credit one L.M. Berwin. I have no idea who this person might be, as that name does not come up in the Billiken histories I've read. The syndicate that distributed this series to papers is not officially credited, but I have a note that it was likely the McClure Syndicate; unfortunately I failed to say why I thought that was so. Looking at the tearsheets in my collection, I also find Billiken and Bobby strips paired with New York World and Hearst strips on the reverse, not just McClure material -- which in itself would not be proof anyway.

Like to know more about Billiken? It's a pretty interesting subject, and you'll find several really top-notch articles about it at the Church of Good Luck website. At Mondo Mascots they offer a good article on the continued popularity of the figures in Japan with lots of great pics.

The Billiken also has another newspaper comics connection; in the 1920s the Chicago Defender decided to create a sort of editorial mascot for their kids/comic page. Based on a Billiken statuette that perched on an editor's desk, they named their mascot Bud Billiken ... apparently not worried about copyright infringement. The Bud Billiken page became a Chicago institution, inspiring a Bud Billiken Club and an annual parade in Chicago.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans.

* Source: Philadelphia Public Ledger
** Source: San Francisco Chronicle


As a kid, I have a vague memory of a Japanese comic from 1969 called "Biri Ken", about a magical dog.

I didn't realize until now that the name is a pun on "Billiken", which would have been well-known in Japan by then ("Ken" means "Dog" in Japanese, hence the pun)
Billiken was a licensing fad too, I've had post cards of him, and for many years I had a small statue of him sitting on my window sill. There was, at the time (ca. 1908) a series of comedy records featuring an old hick farmer character called "Uncle Josh Weatherbee". One was "Uncle Josh and the Billiken", where he is given one for a good luck charm. At first he's dubious about it, but he does as instructed and rubs it and makes wishes, and it unfailingly causes multiple disasters on his farm, and if I recall, he wound up at the bottom of a well.
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