Saturday, May 22, 2021


Herriman Saturday: February 3 1910


February 3 1910 -- Los Angeles makes a botch of getting out the paychecks for January; red tape has the process hung up somewhere in the warren of city government offices. Employees, understandably, cannot seem to see the humour in the situation.


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Friday, May 21, 2021


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: J.W. McGurk

Joseph William McGurk was born on March 26, 1886, in  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, according to a passport application, World War I draft card and death certificate at

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census McGurk was the youngest of four children born to William McGurk, an Irish emigrant and cigar manufacturer, and Frances Mallon. McGurk’s three sisters were Katherine, Anna and Frances. The family lived in Philadelphia at 1442 North Second Street and would be McGurk’s permanent address. 

McGurk was listed in the February 1904 Roll of Honor for his submission to St. Nicholas magazine. The June 1904 issue used his artwork for a heading. 

The New York Times, January 10, 1939, said McGurk graduated from Catholic High School and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He joined the staff of The Philadelphia Record in 1906 as sports cartoonist. 

According to the 1910 census McGurk  was a newspaper cartoonist. His widow mother was head of the household and a retail tobacco and cigar merchant. 

On April 5 1912, McGurk obtained a passport. He vacationed in Europe and England. McGurk was mentioned up in a handful of pages in John Cournos’  Autobiography (1982). On July 28, 1912, he returned to Philadelphia from Liverpool, England. 

McGurk signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. He was an artist with the Philadelphia Record. His description was slender build, short height with blue eyes and sandy hair. The Pennsylvania World War I Veterans Service and Compensation File, at, said McGurk was inducted on October 18, 1918. He was a private whose first assignment was the Motor Transport Corps, Company F; then Motorcycle Company A, Camp Joseph E. Johnston, Florida to January 3, 1919; and Motor Transport Company 809. He did not serve overseas. McGurk was honorably discharged on February 18, 1919. 

The 1920 census said McGurk was s Record newspaper cartoonist. He lived with his mother and oldest sister, Katherine. 

Editor & Publisher, March 5, 1921, said 
Joseph W. McGurk, who has been sports cartoonist on the Philadelphia Record for a number of years and who has also done special illustrations for the Sunday Magazine Section, joined the sports staff of the New York American March 1. ...
McGurk’s sports cartoons ran in the Washington Times. I believe the October 24, 1921 edition was the first time he introduced Kayo Tortoni and Charlotte RusseThomasina Crib, was introduced on December 3, 1921. In the cartoons the women appeared individually, in pairs and occasionally in trios. Kayo Tortoni became the principal character on January 21, 1922. What’s in the New York Evening Journal: America’s Greatest Evening Newspaper (1928) said 
“Kayo Tortoni” is acknowledged the most famous woman character in sports cartoons. She enters every branch of athletics and leads the vogue in sports togs. Joe McGurk’s fascinating portrayals of Kayo’s sporting proclivities put the “Oh!” into Evening Journal sports pages. …
Washington Times 1/21/1922

The character, Kayo Tortoni, appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1923. The music and lyrics for “Kayo Tortoni” were by Gene Buck and Dave Stamper

A female dancer changed her name to Kayo Tortoni and pursued an acting career. She may have been better known for her nose job

McGurk contributed a drawing, on page 39, to Right Off the Chest (1923). 

McGurk also contributed to the Hearst publication Cosmopolitan. He illustrated stories of Irvin S. Cobb and H. C. Witwer. (Photographs of Cobb and Witwer are on pages 52 and 216 of My Story That I Like Best (1925).) The New York Times said
Gladys Murgatroyd and “One Round,” figures in Mr. Witwer’s “Leather Pushers” series, which later were made into movies, were among the most popular characters created by Mr. McGurk’s pen. He and Mr. Witwer, during their period of collaboration, never met but worked together by long distance telephone.
McGurk was one of several artists who appeared in the 1924 film, The Great White Way

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said McGurk drew “Forty-Second Cousins” from 1922 to 1928. Russell Patterson pitched in from August 30 to September 13, 1925.

McGurk was the head of the household in the 1930 census. Living with him were his sister, Katherine, and niece, Frances McDonnell. The New York Times said he retired from the Hearst organization in the mid-1930s.

McGurk passed away on January 8, 1939, in Philadelphia. The death certificate said the principal cause of death was bronchial pneumonia and the secondary was heart failure. He was laid to rest at the New Cathedral Cemetery in Philadelphia. News of his estate was covered in the Philadelphia Inquirer, January 26, 1940, and February 17, 1940

Selected cartoons featuring Kayo Tortoni, Charlotte Russe and Thomasina Crib
October 24, 1921: Kayo Tortoni, Charlotte Russe
October 25, 1921: Kayo Tortoni, Charlotte Russe
October 27, 1921: Charlotte Russe
October 29, 1921: Kayo Tortoni
November 7, 1921: Charlotte Russe
November 12, 1921: Kayo Tortoni
November 21, 1921: Kayo Tortoni
November 28, 1921: Charlotte Russe, Kayo Tortoni
November 29, 1921: Charlotte Russe, Kayo Tortoni
December 1, 1921: Charlotte Russe, Kayo Tortoni
December 3, 1921: Charlotte Russe, Kayo Tortoni, Thomasina Crib
December 7, 1921: Charlotte Russe, Kayo Tortoni
December 9, 1921: Thomasina Crib
December 10, 1921: Charlotte Russe
December 12, 1921: Kayo Tortoni
December 24, 1921: Charlotte Russe, Kayo Tortoni, Thomasina Crib
January 4, 1922: Thomasina Crib
January 8, 1922: Kayo Tortoni
January 10, 1922: Kayo Tortoni
January 11, 1922: Charlotte Russe
January 12, 1922: Kayo Tortoni
January 14, 1922: Kayo Tortoni
January 16, 1922: Charlotte Russe, Kayo Tortoni
January 18, 1922: Charlotte Russe
January 19, 1922: Kayo Tortoni


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Thursday, May 20, 2021


Obscurity of the Day: Forty-Second Cousins


Back when being a sports cartoonist was an actual thing -- most major papers had them -- J.W. McGurk was enough of a standout that he was snapped up by Hearst. His cartoons were characterized, to my eyes, by a rough-and-tumble masculinity, a muscle-flexing virility that emphasized the athleticism of sports. 

That makes it quite unexpected that McGurk also produced for Hearst a Sunday page of cartoons that emphasizes practically the polar opposite -- quietly delicate and sophisticated gags about social and interpersonal quirks of behavior. And this wasn't a case of trying to fit a round peg into a square hole -- McGurk's feature was to my mind quite artistically and humorously successful, even if it couldn't find a lot of newspaper clients. 

The feature debuted on February 5 1922*, and did not have a running title until long into the run; originally each week had a title related to that week's common theme of the cartoon vignettes. It wasn't until the first week of 1926** that McGurk or his syndicate decided that a running title might help with sales. The title became Forty-Second Cousins, and seldom was the feature seen outside of Hearst-owned papers, before or after the title addition. 

One interesting vignette about the feature is that it was taken over for three weeks (August 30 to September 13 1925**) by a young Russell Patterson, presumably subbing for the ill or vacationing McGurk.  

Another minor oddity is that the feature was syndicated under one of the Hearst-owned syndicates, Star Company, for the first three years of the run, but after that was copyrighted to the New York American, Hearst's east coast flagship paper. Syndicated material was not usually run under this imprint, and it would be interesting to know why Forty-Second Cousins was an exception. 

McGurk's impresive foray into the more genteel aspect of cartooning seems to have been cancelled as of June 3 1928***.

* Source: Washington Times.

** Source: Philadelphia Record, oddly the San Francisco Examiner ran these episodes three weeks later.

*** Source: Columbus Dispatch


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Wednesday, May 19, 2021


Toppers: Righterong?


Ever since I had to rake William Ferguson over the coals awhile back for producing the stinkeroo Glen Forrest, I've been wanting to show a sample of his This Curious World, so you could see what he did so very remarkably well. Drink in that sumptuous art, folks! Panel seven, particularly, is just delightful, almost like a Rockwell Kent woodcut.

This Curious World, whch was a daily fact panel and Sunday feature about nature, ran from 1931 to 1952, distributed by NEA. The Sunday version was added in 1934, and it was produced as a half-page feature with no topper until November 28 1943, when it gained the topper Righterong?, added so that papers could easily run the main strip as a third page if wanted. Righterong? was a quiz feature and ran until the demise of the Sunday This Curious World on May 25 1952*. 

This Curious World came back for a curtain call later, but the Sunday was not revived in that short run. 

* Sources: all dates from NEA archives at OSU.


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Monday, May 17, 2021


Obscurity of the Day: Loony Literature



Quincy Scott didn't spend much time in the ranks of the comic strippers, just 1905-1907 as best I can tell, but his limited contributions are pretty choice in my opinion. His final feature, created for the Sunday funnies section of the New York Herald, was titled Loony Literature

You might assume with a title like Loony Literature that you're in for parodies of classic novels, but what Scott had in mind was wordplay cranked up to Edward Lear-ish levels. It generally comes off wonderfully, as soon as you switch gears mentally to read on Scott's level. This is several levels above the typical fare of the Sunday funnies in 1907, which was mostly prank-pulling kids, hobos, country bumpkins and that sort of lowbrow stuff. 

Scott gave co-credit to his just-wed wife, Ella Allen Scott, on the strip. What she contributed could have been art or writing, as she was also an artist. The location of her credit in the bottom example, however, would seem to indicate a credit for writing.

Loony Literature ran only from April 7 to June 16 1907*, far too short a run. 

After his bout with the comic strip game, Quincy Scott got more into writing, then served in World War I. Later he became editorial cartoonist for the Portland Oregonian in the 1930s and 40s.

*Source: Ken Barker's New York Herald index


This is outstanding. Thanks for throwing light on such a hidden gem. I will be seeking out more of this!
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Sunday, May 16, 2021


Wish You Were Here, from Jim Davis


Here's another Garfield card from Argus Communications, this one is IDed P5510. This one's a real hoot, gave me a good chuckle.


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