Saturday, April 10, 2021


Herriman Saturday


January 27 1910 -- Residents of the ultra-posh Westmoreland Tract neighborhood of Los Angeles are fed up with cows, goats and other livestock roaming their streets and yards. Looking at the Westmoreland developments on Google Earth today, small neighborhoods of gorgeous arts and crafts piles in amongst the far less tony warehouses, strip malls and bodegas of central LA, one can hardly even imagine a day when farm animals roamed there.


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Friday, April 09, 2021


The Wheeler-Nicholson Syndicate, Part V

 In the waning months of 1925 Wheeler-Nicholson launched other series along with the Great Mystery and Adventure comic strip; in fact they began to advertise themselves as a 'blanket service'. What that means, in theory, is that a newspaper can pay one syndicate for access to its entire output, and it would offer the subscriber such a complete range of features that the paper would have no need to add features from other syndicates. 

In the case of Wheeler-Nicholson, the term 'blanket service' seems laughable. But we cannot dismiss the concept out of hand, since the syndicate never seemed to get around to telling in their advertising just what exactly was included with their service. 

So far we've seen two comic strips, a panel cartoon, and a theoretical serial story (unseen but advertised). That's certainly no blanket service by any stretch of the definition. Lucky for us, though, in October 1925 a few papers to which we have access finally took the Wheeler-Nicholson bait and began to run more of their offerings. We know they didn't use everything, because they didn't run Adventures of Vivian Vanity, but at least they give us some proof that Wheeler-Nicholson was bringing to market a wider roster of features. 

A number of columns have been found in the Buffalo Sunday Express. Column features are always tough to pin down because most papers remove the copyright slugs. The Express sometimes removed slugs, sometimes didn't. Lucky for us, they occasionally left the Wheeler-Nicholson slug. For some reason they seem to have only used the W-N syndicate material on Sundays (or perhaps they were better about removing slugs on weekdays).

The first Wheeler-Nicholson column they used is Studies In Personality by Henry Gaines Hawn, the earliest apparance was in the October 18 1925 edition.  In this November 8 page we also have Snappy Chips, a collection of quick little one-line gags. These sorts of things were popular with newspapers for plugging small holes, they were seldom collected together like this and given a title.


On November 1 they ran Living on 19 Cents a Day by Winfred Harper Cooley (her name is actually Winnifred, the paper got it wrong). The real name of the column may have been Practical Dietetics, which is how it was known on its one appearance in the Elmira Star-Gazette


Squeezed into the corner here is a column on fashion by Elizabeth Forbush, the only one I could find  appearing in the November 15 edition. 


On December 6, we get samples of several columns. Tip Topics by Tip Bliss is a snarkily comedic news commentary interspersed with other theoretical humor. My Mother tells stories of the mothers of the rich and famous. This one doesn't rate a byline. Finally, there is The Scrap Basket by our comic strip writer, N. Brewster Morse. He contributes little gags, anecdotes, news commentary and poetry in an aptly named column. 

On December 20 a fashion column by our comic strip gal, Vivian Vanity, appears shoehorned in next to W.E. Hills Among Us Mortals (not a Wheeler-Nicholson product). 

On a January 10 1926 page we have a bumper crop of Wheeler-Nicholson columns, including the already mentioned Scrap Basket. Where Are They Now? tells stories of bygone celebrities; this one doesn't rate a byline. Next there is Everyday Behavior Problems, a "Dear Abby"-style column (yes they existed long before her) credited to Janet Paige. Ms. Paige may be a pseudonym, as was often the case with these so-called 'sob sisters.' A Janet Lee Paige did byline a column called Good Housekeeping earlier in the 20s -- same writer?

Finally, there is Holding Your Husband by Lorene Bowman, a column of romantic instruction and advice; another popular subject of the era. This one sports a nicely drawn title cartoon, but I can't make out the artist signature. 

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the next installment of this series (Monday) we'll finish off Wheeler-Nicholson's 1925 offerings with  some additional illustrated features; there were a few more in addition to Vivian Vanity and the Great Mystery and Adventure Series.

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Thursday, April 08, 2021


The Wheeler-Nicholson Syndicate, Part IV

 So far in our history we have Wheeler-Nicholson, Inc. with but a single ongoing feature  -- The Adventures of Vivian Vanity (see yesterday's post). That feature debuted at the end of September. But the syndicate wasn't standing still by any means. On October 17 they placed a small ad in Editor & Publisher. It stated that they were inaugurating a new serial story service, and the first serial would be "Wits and the Woman" by Violet Irwin. The small ad promised that each installment would also include a two-column illustration. 

Unfortunately I cannot find a single paper that ran this serial, which means I also don't know who drew the illustrations, though one might reasonably say that Nick Afonsky would be a good bet. It's not all that surprising that clients didn't flock to this -- the story was published in book form in 1919, so it was probably still available in the remainder bins half a decade later. 

In October the syndicate began what proved to be its most popular feature, a comic strip titled The Great Mystery and Adventure Series. The feature adapted classic stories in strip form -- not the most original idea ever hatched for a newspaper feature -- but for some reason it seemed to click with editors, at least more so than the previous Wheeler-Nicholson offerings. The popularity might have been helped by the promotion budget they put behind it. Here's a full page ad from Editor & Publisher:

The Great Mystery and Adventure Series sported art and writing by the same pair who did Vivian Vanity -- Nicholas Afonsky (as Meetrich again) and N. Brewster Morse. As we learned yesterday, Morse jumped ship at the end of January 1926, and so afterward the adaptations were handled by Ruth Jane Williams. 

Above are the first six strips of the first story, Treasure Island (not counting an intro strip which we'll see in a later post). What could have stimulated editors to buy this series? The Afonsky art is good, but the editing is non-existent. Afonsky doesn't have a clue what a cutlass looks like, and Mr. Morse uses the word "pour" when he means "pore" -- all this within the first week of the adaptation, and things will not improve later on. For the record, the strips above are restored from paper tearsheets, while all other images in this series will, unfortnately, be from digital sources.

No paper has yet been found that can offer us anywhere near a complete and unbroken run of the Great Mystery and Adventure Series, but by triangulated on a number of incomplete, out of order and sporadic runs, I've come up with what I believe might constitute a perfect run of the strip. The most puzzling thing about this series is that newspapers did not seem to run the stories in any particular order -- therefore even the order given in the following table is merely a figment of my imaginary perfect run.


Start Date

End Date

Treasure Island



The Three Musketeers






The Gold Bug



Attack on the Mill



The Sire de Maldetroit's Door



The Vendean Marriage



The Beauty Spot



The Bottle Imp



Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves



 That covers Wheeler-Nicholson's only series that could really be considered a success, and we're defining success here in the most modest of terms. Tomorrow we'll cover other early series from Wheeler-Nicholson.

By chance I've just been "pouring" over my collection of Treasure Island adaptations. It was one of the favorite books of my youth. Gotta say this version doesn't excite me. Afonsky's ho-hum art is squeezed by the enormous lettering. I've wondered about newspaper strips adapting classic stories like Treasure Island. I'm sure that even in 1926 almost everyone already knew the story. I don't picture kids who didn't know it being pulled into this version because of its messy presentation. Anyway, Nick not only didn't know what a cutlass looked like, he also didn't know how to spell it.
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Wednesday, April 07, 2021


The Wheeler-Nicholson Syndicate: Part III

 After Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson launched his corporation near the end of August 1925, he wasted no time putting material out into the field. Unfortunately, he missed the deadline for E&P's 1925 Syndicate Directory, so we need to find this stuff on our own, in piecemeal fashion and in the very few papers that took it. 

The first definite Wheeler-Nicholson product we know of is a comic strip, The Adventures of Vivian Vanity, which started on September 29 1925. This strip about a glamor girl has only been found starting in one newspaper on time, the Syracuse Herald. This run was discovered by Leonardo de Sa, and I don't have any samples to show.

The strip was written by N. Brewster Morse, who was already known as a playwright and movie scripter. The art was by "Meetrich", a known pseudonym of Nicholas Afonsky. Why he chose to use a pen name for his first syndicated strip is unknown. 

Along with the strip,Wheeler-Nicholson also made available a companion panel cartoon series, Vivian Vanity Says. This was in the mode of Flapper Fanny and other popular pretty girl panels of the day:


While this feature may have started concurrently with the strip, the earliest I can find are from November 1925. It is in November that I can finally find a newspaper running a selection of the Wheeler-Nicholson product. The Elmira Star-Gazette ran Vivian Vanity Says sporadically. Both the strip and the companion panel ended in January -- the panel on an unknown date, the strip on January 30 1926, as per the Syracuse Herald

On a side note, in my book you'll find a note that Vivian Vanity Says does not merit a listing because the art was reused from day to day. As the above samples attest, that turns out not to be true.

There is good reason to believe that the end date from the Syracuse Herald is spot on. It was right at this time that N. Brewster Morse and Afonsky decided to jump ship from Wheeler-Nicholson. Here's a short article that ran in Variety on January 27 1926:

Two newspaper syndicates are in legal battle over the artistic output of Nicholas Afonsky and 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. 

As best I can tell, McClure backed down from poaching these two creators, but Morse did definitely leave Wheeler-Nicholson's employ. He spent the next few months writing the play The Half-Naked Truth, which was ready for rehearsals by May of that year. In an announcement about the play in Variety, Morse was credited as the former editorial director of Wheeler-Nicholson. 

Afonsky, on the other hand, capitulated to Wheeler-Nicholson and stuck with the syndicate, even to the extent of being credited by his real name from there on.  

Tomorrow we'll look at other early offerings of Wheeler-Nicholson, Inc.

I found a few "The Adventures of Vivian Vanity" strips (and I use the term loosely) in the August 1926 Winnipeg Tribune. It's credited to Ruth Jane Williams and S. Delevante. Can't find any copyright.

Is this the same strip, resyndicated?

My delvings into the 1920s have on several occasions prompted leaps to conclusions that turned out false. After 2 years of hearing the whining of infallible lying politicians (2017 and 2021), so straightforward an aside as "that turns out not to be true" is joyfully refreshing; cheered me right up.
Chris : you have found samples of the second version of the strip, which we'll be covering about a half-dozen Wheeler-Nicholson posts from now. Stay tooned!

Hank: glad to have refreshed your joy; as many mistakes as I make, I should be able to send you to absolute niravana!
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Tuesday, April 06, 2021


The Wheeler-Nicholson Syndicate Part II

 Yesterday we learned that Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson had a job in January 1925 selling for the Famous Features Syndicate. This evidently inspired him to enter the syndication business himself, and he certainly wasted no time getting right to it. 

The first evidence I can find for the existence of Wheeler-Nicholson syndicating material is on July 10 1925, and this is an outlier to everything else produced by the syndicate. Here is the front page of the Camden Post-Telegram on a most historic date, the opening day of the Scopes Monkey Trial:

Under the editorial cartoon is a copyright slug to "Wheeler-Nicholson Press Service". The cartoon is by the famed caricaturist Al Frueh. Frueh at this time was just getting established with The New Yorker, but he was already well known; his caricatures and comics had been syndicated by the New York World since the early 1910s. How and why Frueh hooked up with Wheeler-Nicholson -- possibly for the sale of a single cartoon -- is a mystery.

As far as I can determine this one cartoon was a unique occurrence, and I cannot find any other paper that ran it, the implication being that that Wheeler-Nicholson was just testing the waters around his home base of New York City.

Did Wheeler-Nicholson offer anything else to the Post? Unfortunately, the Camden paper was quite assiduous about removing copyright slugs, so this is the only one in the paper. If Wheeler-Nicholson supplied any other material, the evidence was wiped clean.

Only one month later, Wheeler-Nicholson was ready to get serious about newspaper syndication. The following incorporation notice appeared in the New York Times  on August 26:

Starting a syndicate on $15,000 should not have been too hard -- that was pretty big money in 1925, probably about the equivalent of a couple hundred thousand dollars today. Since Wheeler-Nicholson himself is not known to have been a wealthy man, presumably the listed partners, R.T. Hardy and V. Irwin, were the ones with the deep pockets. Unfortunately I know nothing about them; a shame they didn't list full names. 

During the same week Wheeler-Nicholson also placed an ad in the Times:

We can tell by the ad that Wheeler-Nicholson seemed to have no existing sales force, as the salesman was promised to become the sales manager in one month. That manager would likely not have had anyone to manage, though, as the company placed no further ads offering positions. 

~ ~ ~ ~ More Tomorrow ~ ~ ~ ~

Thanks for these blog posts about the early career about the man who would found what we know of today as DC Comics.
In theory, you could check with the New York Secretary of State's office to pull the original incorporation documents; a corporate filing service could do that for you. The fact that the corporate records are from 1925 is no block, they have all the records on micorfilm. The corporate documents would have more information on Hardy and Irwin.
Here's the information how to do it: the cost would be $5 for a plain copy.
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Monday, April 05, 2021


The Wheeler-Nicholson Syndicate Part I

 Ray Bottorff Jr. recently pointed out to me a new paper online that briefly used the Wheeler-Nicholson syndicate offering, and that got me off my duff to revist this syndicate. Due to other new sources that have come online, I was surprised to find a much fuller picture of this obscure syndicate than I've had before. 

Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, the president of this syndicate, is of intense interest to comic book fans. He is the fellow who, a decade after his foray into newspaper syndication, ran the company that introduced the world to Superman, Batman and the rest of the DC line-up of men and ladies in tights. While the Major's newspaper syndicate did not offer any superheroes -- so don't get your hopes up comic book fans -- comic book history buffs are nevertheless interested in his earlier involvement in this different part of the cartoon business. 

I was surprised to find, first, that I have never done a post about any of the Wheeler-Nicholson offerings, and second, that I don't really find that anyone else has, either. The Major's grand-daughter is on record as working on a full biography of him, but that hasn't seen the light of day yet.  So it's high time that we shine some light on Wheeler-Nicholson Inc., and that's what we'll do over the next series of posts. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson had a distinguished career in the armed forces, and an even more interesting episode that caused him to part ways with the military. This series of posts, however, does not claim to offer a biography of the man; I'm just going to cover what I know about his brush with the newspaper syndication world. Therefore, we're going to start things off with a brief look in at him in 1923, after he had parted ways with the military. Evidently his first stab at making a living in the civilian world was as a farmer, as we see in this clipping from the Fort Collins Courier of April 10 1923:

A restless soul like the Major seems unlikely to have been happy eking out a living selling eggs, so it is no big surprise that this did not last. Unfortunately, I do not find any trace of him through the rest of 1923 and throughout 1924.

At the beginning of 1925, though, we are back on the trail. In a minor blurb in the Poughkeepsie Eagle News of January 30 1925, we learn that he is now a "representative of the Famous Features Syndicate of New York City."

'Representative', of course, is the genteel way of referring to a salesman. So Wheeler-Nicholson had entered the syndication business from the ground up, trying to line up newspaper clients for a small syndicate. 

When I found this blurb I'd not heard of Famous Features Syndicate (well, not this iteration of the name, anyway -- it was later used by another company). Curious as to what the Major was trying to sell, I did a little searching. Turns out that Famous Features, which came and went pretty quickly, initially offered a small roster of newspaper columns and features. Their main claim to fame was a column they were commissioning from a female reporter, Zoe Beckley, who had a measure of fame in that day. More importantly, though, Ms. Beckley was instrumental in getting Queen Marie of Rumania to write a column, a rare 'get' to have actual royalty writing for newspapers. Here is a large article from the Bimingham News (November 8 1925) in which the owner of the syndicate gets to crow over the achievement:

 Famous Features gained another famous name in 1926, when the 70 year old S.S. McClure, practically destitute, came onboard as an editor and also penned a minor column that didn't sell well. He seemed to have good success at bringing in some fiction writers, his specialty, but the syndicate was on the skids.When Zoe Beckley jumped ship in 1928, that was about the end of the syndicate. 

Famous Features did not ultimately become an industry player, but one thing it did do was inspire Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson to enter the syndication business himself. 

** Continued Tomorrow ** 


Index to this Series:

Part I (introduction)

Part II (first stirrings of the syndicate)

Part III (Vivian Vanity first series; defection of N. Brewster Morse)

Part IV (Great Mystery and Adventure series)

Part V (1925 text features)

Part VI (Hot Doggerel; Joe Archibald sports feaures; the January 1926 implosion)

Part VII (new series of Vivian Vanity; capital increase)

Part VIII (1926 E&P Syndicate Directory advertisement for The Syndicator)

Part IX (1926 E&P Syndicate Directory list of Wheeler-Nicholson features; syndicate backers)

Part X (The Syndicator text features)

Part XI (Oscar Hitt: Ambitious Ambrose, Wally and his Pals, Hi-Way Henry, Uncle Eph)

Part XII (M.A. Dunning: They Never Do This But Once, Maggie's Yiddish Moe)

Part XIII (Joe Archibald's features in The Syndicator era)

Part XIV (Afonsky's editorial cartoons; On The Links)

Part XV (Squirrel Food; Mike O'Kay; Looney Land)

Part XVI (A.B. Chapin cartoons; Fables in Slangwidge; College Comics)

Part XVII (syndicate end and conclusion)


I am happy that I inspired further searching into The Major's syndicate. As the public domain "clock", if you will, is moving forward a year every year now, I think sites like will be adding more and more of these small-town newspapers and even bigger city newspapers as time goes along.

I look forward to the discoveries this will bring!

my best
Ray Bottorff Jr
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Sunday, April 04, 2021


Wish You Were Here, from Reg Manning


Reg Manning's Arizona postcards were very popular -- they are ubiquitous and generally found in used condition, so we know the commonness is not just a big warehouse find.

This "travelcard" was issued in 1941 by Curteich and distributed by Lollegard Specialty Company of Tucson Arizona. It is number 3-41 in this series, which I take to mean card #3 from the 1941 series.


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