Saturday, March 02, 2019


Herriman Saturday

December 10 1909 -- Oops, I found another Baron Mooch that didn't make it into Blackbeard's "By George" Volume 1. The Baron has gained the power of invisibility when he says the magic word "mushwa", and several weeks of the Baron Mooch series concerns his escapades in this vein. This strip above is the last in the series that uses the "mushwa" gag.


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Friday, March 01, 2019


Wish You Were Here, from Walter Wellman

Here's an unsigned Walter Wellman card, published by J.B. & Co. It was postally used in 1912. Nothing too great about the drawing on this one, but wow, that frame is really something!


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Thursday, February 28, 2019


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Shorty Shope

(An updated profile is here.)

Henry Irvin “Shorty” Shope was born on May 11, 1900, in Boulder, Montana, according to Shope’s birth certificate at His parents were Ira Daniel Shope and Emily Alvis Shope.

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, month-old Shope was the youngest of three children. Their father was a stationery engineer. The family resided in Boulder.

According to the 1910 census, Shope was the third of seven siblings. The family resided in township six of Jefferson County, Montana. Shope’s father was a farmer.

The Great Falls Tribune (Montana), November 23, 1977, said the family moved to Missoula, Montana when Shope’s father died.

It was there, in his formative years of 13 throughout 18, that he came under the influence of E.S. Paxson, painter of native Americans and the frontier West.
“He gave me my first lesson in anatomy and would correct and trim up my drawings, illustrated on the side of my paper and even let me watch him paint,” he later said….
His formal art education began in 1919, when he attended both Portland Art Academy and Reed College in Portland….
Shope graduated in 1932 from the University of Montana with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. The Missoulian Sun, September 4, 1966, said Shope met artist Charles M. Russell and studied with Harvey Dunn in New York City.

Shope was mentioned in the Missoulian newspaper on September 5, 1913,
“Irvin Shope, 13 years old and a nephew of Mrs. W. W. Wickes, was operated upon for appendicitis yesterday morning at St. Patrick’s hospital.” In the May 27, 1914 issue, Shope was one of several speakers in the Roosevelt School’s declamation contest. Shope was listed as an honor student in the February 23, 1917 Missoulian. Shope was a guest at the Christmas party hosted at the Wickes home.

Farmer Shope signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. His address was 425 West 5th Street in Missoula. His description was short, medium build with blue eyes and light brown hair.

The 1920 census said Fargo, North Dakota was Shope’s home at 1043 Tenth Street North. The head of the household was his widow mother’s brother-in-law, Carl Greenwood. Shope was unemployed.

The 1930 census listed Shope, his mother and three brothers in Missoula, Montana at 425 South Fifth Street West. Shope was a self-employed artist.

The Great Falls Tribune said Shope married Erva Vivian Love, on June 23, 1932 in Missoula. The 1934 Missoula city directory listed them at 517 Connell Avenue. Shope’s occupation was artist.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Shope drew Rusty Rawlins, Cowboy which was written by Glenn Chaffin. The McClure Syndicate strip began in late 1934 and ended in early 1936. The last three weeks were drawn by Tom Maloney.

The 1940 census recorded Shope, his wife and three daughters in Helena, Montana at 1337 9th Avenue. The advertising artist worked for the Montana Highway Department. In 1935 Shope lived in Los Angeles, California.

During World War II Shope registered with the draft on February 16, 1942. The Helena resident was employed at the Montana Highway Department.

1956 and 1964 Helena city directories said Shope’s occupation was artist whose address was 1337 9th Avenue.

The Missoulian Sun, September 4, 1966, said several paintings by Shope were to be exhibited at the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Shope was a member of the Cowboy Artists of America, Inc. Shope had three dioramas at the Charles M. Russell Historical Society Museum in Helena. Shope “painted many portraits of Indians, mainly from the Blackfeet tribe in Browning who adopted him as a ‘blood-brother’ in 1937 and gave him the name ‘Wolf Bull.’”

The Independent Record Sun (Montana), August 24, 1969, said between 1950 and 1965 Shope painted murals for the Highway Department, Western Life Insurance Company, First National Bank, Helena Junior High, St. Paul Fire & Marine Building, and the Federal Building in Webster, South Dakota. He contributed a painting every year to the Shedd-Brown Calendar Company starting in 1956.

Shope passed away November 22, 1977, in Burlington, Massachusetts. The Great Falls Tribune said Shope and his wife were visiting their daughter when he suffered a stroke. He was laid to rest at Boulder Cemetery.

Further Reading and Viewing
Montana Historical Markers
How About the Roads?: Montana’s Highway Maps 1934–2004
Montana’s Historical Highway Markers; cover art by Irvin Shope

Meadowlark Gallery; signature
Montana Historical Society
  Museum Collections Online
  Map: Montana Highway Dept. Frontier & Pioneer Montana, 1937
University of Montana; Irvin “Shorty” Shope Oral History Collection
Surveys and Surveyors of the Public Domain, 1785–1975; photograph from an oil painting by Montana artist Shorty Shope

—Alex Jay


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Wednesday, February 27, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: Rusty Rawlins, Cowboy

When Glenn Chaffin was bumped from his writing gig on Tailspin Tommy he teamed up with artist Irvin "Shorty" Shope and switched from aviation to a western setting for his next strip. The result was Rusty Rawlins, Cowboy, and it was distributed by the McClure Syndicate.

In the promo material for the strip Chaffin and Shope are both revealed to be Montanans, and their bona fides as honest-to-gum cowboys are offered. The strip they came up with from all this first-hand experience concerns a nineteen year old cowboy who has already distinguished himself  as a "top hand" at the Wagon Wheel Ranch. Rusty tangles with most of the standard western villains -- gun-slingers, land-grabbers, and rustlers -- in the time-honored oater tradition. I find nothing that sets Rusty Rawlins apart from other westerns, but then I have to admit to not being a fan of the genre. Shope's art is merely adequate to the job, and becomes less and less finished as the series goes on.

The strip was numbered instead of dated so that papers could more easily pick up the strip out of step with the intial release. The earliest start date I have found so far is November 5 1934*, but promo materials about the release were available in August, so the true start date may well be a bit earlier.

The strip did not prove a big success, and is generally found running in rural papers. An odd exception to that is the Boston Evening Transcript. The Transcript was known as a sophisticated paper that appealed to the high society and old-money class of Beantown. Why the paper became a patron of this nondescript western is a mystery, but one that really tickles me. Finding Rusty Rawlins amidst the genealogical columns, society news and stock exchange analysis is a bit of a hoot.

Although pinning down the end date of this numbered western is impossible without a definite start date, I can report that it ended with strip number #431, a day short of 72 weeks**. The strip ends with Rusty's best gal accepting his proposal of marriage. If November 5 1934 is the actual start date, that places the end date on March 20 1936. Using the same dating scheme, Irvin Shope left the strip shortly before the end, on February 22. He was replaced by a fellow named Tom Maloney, who managed to make Shope's work look good by comparison.

By the way, this strip is written up in Maurice Horn's One Hundred Years of American Newspaper Comics book. He misspells the name of the strip and the artist, and has the running dates wrong, so I'm taking everything he says with a chunk of Himalayan pink salt, but he makes the intriguing claim that the strip lasted until 1938, and from 1936 on was drawn by Bob Naylor. I believe where he has erred here is that he mixed up Rusty Rawlins with another even more obscure strip, Rusty and the Redskins, which was drawn by Raymon Naylor.

* Source: Pittston Gazette
** Source: Mauch Chunk Times-News


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Tuesday, February 26, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: Economical Bertie

The Hall-Room Boys pretty much cornered the market on the comic strip plot of young men who haven't two nickels to rub together but are trying to break into society and date above their class. However others did try to to horn in on that business.

On November 1 1908 the Chicago Tribune added a feature to their Sunday section titled Economical Bertie, which basically offered readers a singular Hall-Room Boy in the person of  Bertie. Bertie is considerably more naive than the constantly plotting Percy and Ferdie, allowing readers to feel some sympathy for him, something notably missing from those he copied from.

The gags in Economical Bertie are fun and the drawing is absolutely delightful. The only problem here is that Stewart, the signer of the strips, cannot write dialogue or properly arrange it in word balloons to save his soul. How it could be in those days that an editor wouldn't help a cartoonist to fix these basic and simple problems is beyond me.

Economical Bertie ran until April 4 1909, and if you like the samples above then you can read the whole series (in microfilmed b&w) over at Barnacle Press.

A couple postscripts about this strip. First, although they are signed only "Stewart", I feel about 85% confident in saying that the cartoonist is James Stewart, whose only other newspaper strip credit comes a full decade later in the New York Herald with Jimmy Dodge-a-Job. Though Stewart's style had loosened up a bit in the intervening years, I see enough similarities, not to mention very similar signatures, to bet a buck or two on it.

Second, I was intrigued by the top strip in which the gag concerns a "lunch club." I was not familiar with that term, but a Google search turned up the interesting answer. Seems that in the 1900s there was a type of club/restaurant, popularized in Chicago, in which you could buy a monthly membership and enjoy all-you-can-eat lunches every day. These businesses most often catered to working women who liked the idea of a private club in which they could eat lunch in peace, unharassed by men. The idea then expanded and new clubs opened their doors to both sexes. Seems like a great idea, but according to Economical Bertie, the all-you-can-eat aspect made them a bit of a zoo.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples.


There were dining establishments intended for feminine clientele known as "Tea Rooms", but it seems to be a bygone business model now.
Buster Keaton makes use of a cheap shrinking suit in the opening scenes of "College". And "The Cameraman" has a bit where Buster and his date catch a ride with Buster's rival. Buster is stuck in the rumble seat during a downpour, and ends up the dripping odd man out like Bertie.

Not that Keaton and his gagmen had seen this specific cartoon, but it's amusing to think that contracting menswear was an ongoing blight to young men's dignity. As for "The Cameraman", Keaton plays Bertie's gag moment for poignance as much as comic embarrassment.
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Monday, February 25, 2019


A Gathering of Stars for Tagalong's Birthday

It's Tagalong's birthday in this very special Freckles and his Friends Sunday page of January 3 1926, and a galaxy of NEA stars are coming to the party. Can you name all the comic features that have sent representatives?

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan.

It's the stars of the NEA basic lineup, not a real challenge to name as it's done so in the second panel. It's an interesting gag, some what of a throwback to the early sections where the syndicates were really trying hard for brand identification, building on the popularity of individual characters. You'll remember all the Pulitzer characters would gang up in special episodes, like Phyllis's Wedding, and Happy Hooligan "guest starred" in the Katzenjammer Kids so often he almost became cast member.

But this one is different, Blosser drew all the guests, some better than others. This might be the only time Everett True apeared in a Sunday page.

The date on this is for Sunday, 3 January 1926. Weren't the first NEA full pages given Saturday dates? As usual, Freckles unfailingly fails to be funny.
Do you really think they're all drawn by Blosser? I'd be impressed that he could do such credit to Wash Tubbs, Boots and the Major.

Oh, and as regards Sunday page dating. I mistyped the date on this post (since corrected). Not having my collection at hand, I can't check for early dating, but given that there were 6 dailies each week, presumably they would have dated the Sundays as Sundays. Not like they were bloody Canucks, eh?

-Allan (proud Canuck, so no hate mail)
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