Monday, April 15, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: The Gerald O. MacConachie Comic Strip

Gerald O. MacConachie worked at the Detroit Free Press from the late 1900s to the early 1920s, dabbling in sports writing, column-writing and every variety of cartooning -- editorial, sports and comics. He even produced at least one animated cartoon in association with the Freep in 1918. Since his byline doesn't begin appearing until 1915, there's no telling what other jobs he might have had there in the early years of his employment*.

Mr. MacConachie was very much into sports. In the late 1900s he tried for a berth with several minor league baseball teams, though it isn't evident to me if he succeeded. After his days as a newspaperman he seems to have been all over the map -- his name pops up in association with baseball, handball, even auto racing. There was also a Detroit sporting goods company called the Essex-MacConachie Company, though I can't determine if Gerald was the MacConachie in the name. Never fear -- Alex Jay will be here tomorrow with lots of information on Mr. MacConatchie's very active life.

MacConachie was probably employed by the Free Press at least partially on the strength of his sporting world ties, because I have to say that his cartooning started out pretty crude, and may have actually gotten worse over the years. He had a good lowbrow sense of humor, though, as his saving grace.

MacConachie began producing a regular comic strip for the Free Press on September 17 1915, running three times per week. The strip itself had no running title, but there were running titles to his 'bonus panel'. Some of these were Little Moments in the Lives of Big Men, Hall of Fame, Really Great Men, Wise Cracks by Kid Koo Koo, Squirrel Fodder and There's No Sense To It.

The three per week schedule began to break down before the end of the first year, and thereafter you could expect no more than one or two strips per week, with sometimes a stretch of several weeks without any. By 1918 the strip rarely ran more than once a week, and these appearances were often in the Sunday automobile section with gags related to cars.

MacConachie ended his title-less series with the installment of April 28 1918 in favor of a new series he'd just begun, called The Kaiser and his Six Simps. We'll discuss that series some other day here at Stripper's Guide.

* He was referred to as a Free Press cartoonist in a 1908 article, but I'll be darned if I can find any by him in the paper nearly that early.


He might have been at the Free Press in 1908 as a general utility guy that did such things as draw the ornate borders around photographs, which were fashionable for many years. That's what George McManus did at the St. Louis Republic before he was elevated to actual cartoonist doing strips. MacConachie seems to be a devotee of Rube Goldberg, the same anothology approach,the seperate topic panel at the end, and definately the art style.
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