Saturday, October 02, 2021


Herriman Saturday: February 18 1910


February 18 1910 -- Post office clerk Joseph Billings either celebrated a wedding or failed at an attempted robbery, depending on who you believe. If you believe Billings, he at the very least chose a very peculiar way to send off newlyweds. He shot off several rounds at the post office in the early morning hours, then sent off a rented cart and horse team careening driverless out of town, and hid for hours in the post office as a posse searched for the cause of all the ruckus. Mazel tov?


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Friday, October 01, 2021


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Sylvia Sneidman aka Sylvia Robbin

Portsmouth Herald, July 6, 1948

(This is an update of the profile posted on March 26, 2012.) 

Sylvia Sneidman was born on November 16, 1909, in Baltimore, Maryland, according to East Hampton Star (New York), January 26, 1989, and a 1931 passenger list at 

In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Sylvia was the youngest of two daughters born to Maurice and Rose. They lived in Baltimore at 2820 Parkwood Avenue. Her father was a traveling salesman. 

The 1920 census said the family lived in Newport News, Virginia at 76 33rd Street. 

The Sneidmans were residents of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at 5821 Phillips Avenue, according to the 1930 census. 

The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), July 10, 1931, reported the Maryland Institute students, including Sylvia, had reached Europe‎. She returned from the trip on August 14, 1931, in New York City, as recorded on the passenger list.

Sylvia found work at the Pittsburgh Press. The June 20, 1934 edition published her fashion drawings. The Star (Wilmington, Delaware) published her illustration for a serial story on May 12, 1935. 

Flapper Fanny Says was a daily panel created by Ethel Hays. Gladys Parker was the second artist on the series, starting March 21, 1930, which added a Sunday page. Sylvia did the daily from December 9, 1935 to June 29, 1940. The series was distributed by NEA. 

Sylvia’s marriage was covered in the Press on April 17, 1937. 
Former Pittsburgh Artist Weds in East

Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Sneidman, of Shady Ave., have announced the marriage of their daughter, Miss Sylvia Sneidman, to Dr. Sidney Robbin, son of Mr. and Mrs. Robbin of New York City. The ceremony took place yesterday in New York, where the couple will reside.

The bride is a graduate of the Maryland Institute of Art, where she was winner of a traveling scholarship on which she toured Europe. Formerly a member of the art staff of The Pittsburgh Press, she is now an artist for Newspaper Enterprise Association, handling fashion drawings and such features as “Flapper Fanny,” used daily in The Press and other newspapers. Dr. Robbin is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.
The move to New York was an opportunity for Sylvia to join the art staff of the Associated Press (AP). 

The 1940 census recorded Sylvia, her husband, and housekeeper in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, at 3760 88th Street. In 1956 they moved to Montauk, Long island, New York. 

One of her fashion drawings was printed in the Evening Leader (Corning, New York) on July 3, 1946. 

Editor and Publisher, March 1, 1947, announced Don’t Do That was available, “AP Newsfeatures has started distribution to afternoon papers of a weekly panel on personal deportment, ‘Don’t Do That’, written by Women’s Page Editor Dorothy Roe and drawn by Sylvia Robbin.” The panel began in the Jersey Journal (Jersey City, New Jersey), on April 10, 1947 (below). The series ended in the 1950s.

Below are samples of Sylvia’s art of AP material.

Omaha World-Herald, 3/12/1947

San Antonio Express, 12/18/1949

Democrat and Chronicle, 1/15/1950

Independent-Press-Telegram, 7/7/1955

In 1950 Sylvia produced How Christmas Began for the AP. 

Editor & Publisher, February 10, 1951, said the AP distributed ten health strips titled "The Latest On...", written by Alton Blakeslee and drawn by Sylvia. Editor & Publisher, March 10, 1951, announced another short feature by Sylvia, “The First Holy Week,” three-column panel drawn by Staff Artist Sylvia Robbin, is offered in six installments by AP Newsfeatures for release March 19. The test is a condensation from St. Matthew.

Sylvia produced “The Works of Christ” according to Editor & Publisher, March 22, 1952. 

Santa and the Flying Pup” was written by Lucrece Hudgins Beale and illustrated by Sylvia. It ran in the Evening Star (Washington, DC) from December 3 to 21, 1953. 

Sylvia was featured in an AP series of do-it-yourself projects. The December 20, 1953 Lewiston Morning Tribune (Idaho) showed how she used tiles to decorate a table top. 

In December 1955, Beale and Sylvia produced “Santa and the Dumdiddy”.

In December 1956, Beale and Sylvia produced “Santa and the Secret Room”.

The April 27, 1959 Dispatch (Lexington, North Carolina) featured her drawing of a table and various stools made of driftwood and stone. 

Sylvia contributed four illustrations (here, here, here, and here) to the second edition of the Montauk Guide and Cook Book (1959).

The East Hampton Star, December 31, 1959, mentioned Sylvia’s holiday card. 
Dr. and Mrs. Sidney Robbin of Montauk send a pretty card which I think Sylvia Robbin must have designed (she is an artist) showing the Montauk peninsula complete with deer, Indians, and swans; the land in white, ponds and ocean in black dotted with snowflakes; the Light sheds its beams on land and sea; there are seagulls, a fish, and a fishing boat.
It’s not clear when Sylvia retired. 

Sylvia passed away on January 21, 1989 in Southampton, Long Island, New York. Five days later an obituary appeared in the East Hampton Star.
Sylvia R. Robbin, who lived on Es­sex Street in Montauk for 33 years, died Saturday at Southampton Hos­pital. She was born Nov. 16, 1909, in Baltimore, and grew up in Newport News, Va., and Pittsburgh. 

Mrs. Robbin moved to Montauk in 1956 with her husband, Dr. Sidney Robbin, who set up a practice there. Dr. Robbin died in 1979. In 1942, when he became a Lieutenant Col­onel in the Army Medical Corps, his wife joined the Associated Press in New York, where she worked as a staff artist for 11 years. At that time, she also did drawings for a cartoon strip called “Flapper Fanny” in the New York World-Telegram. 

She was a graduate of the Maryland Institute in Baltimore, from which she received a European scholarship in costume design. 

Funeral arrangements were being made by the Williams Funeral Home, East Hampton. There were no imme­diate survivors. 


Do you have any more chapters of Santa and the Dumdiddy?
You can find all 17 chapters of the Dumdiddy here:

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Wednesday, September 29, 2021


Obscurity of the Day: The Latest On ...


In February 1951 Associated Press science and medicine writer Alton Blakeslee contributed a series of ten short articles about the latest advances in the treatment of various diseases. For some reason the news service decided to present them in the form of comic strips which seems like a remarkably unlikely choice considering the serious, even grim, subject matter.The series went under the title The Latest On... and seems to have been distributed as a batch of ten with no particular directions as to presentation dates. Some papers ran them daily, some weekly, but most ran them haphazardly. Therefore I cannot offer definitive start and end dates.

Sylvia Robbin (nee Sneidman) did a beautiful job on the strip, respectful and clear without sacrificing dashes of her lovely clean-line style. Sylvia, for that's how she generally signed herself, had done a fine job taking over on Flapper Fanny back in the 1930s, holding her own against two superb predecessors, Ethel Hays and Gladys Parker. After the war she worked out of the AP bullpen, contributing style illustrations, spot cartoons, and illustrated the syndicate's Christmas stories. 

Much more on Sylvia Friday, with Alex Jay's Ink-Slinger Profile.


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Monday, September 27, 2021


Selling It: Uncle Abner Says


At first blush you'd think Uncle Abner Says, a panel that ran from 1936-38, is just another one of those ubiquitous panels of cracker-barrel wisdom like Abe Martin, Ching Chow or their many copycats. When you look over the gags, though, you find that ol' Abner is a bit of a one-note local yokel. He's pretty gosh darn unhappy about the gov'ment, specially the way they pick his pocket with them goldurn taxes. And not just his pocket, by cracky, he's fuming over the way that Roosevelt feller is taxing big corporations, too!

Hey, wait a minute now. A bewhiskered rustic like Abner complaining about taxes? Well, sure. But concerned about corporations? Hmm, that seems a bit out of character. I hate to even suggest it of such a kindly old soul as Abner, but .... could he be on the take?

I hate to be the one to break the news, but it's true; Abner is a shill. He doesn't say a word that isn't bought and paid for by secret interests. Not surprisingly, those interests just happen to be big corporations. To lay all the cards on the table, Uncle Abner Says was a production of Six Star Service, a newspaper syndicate created by the National Association of Manufacturers*, a trade association and lobbying group of big businesses. They sent out propaganda material like this to newspapers free of charge: the newspaper filled some space with something mildly entertaining for free, and the manufacturers got their message out surreptiously, without running ads that few would bother to read. You might call it a win-win situation, except there were losers involved -- the newspaper readers who got a daily brainwashing session from what seems like an innocuous panel cartoon. 

This sort of hidden advertising material was usually sent out in small batches, but in the case of  Uncle Abner Says it was a full blown daily panel that ran for a very long time. I can track it from June 22 1936 to April 30 1938**, an unheard of almost three year run.

For almost the first year the feature was unsigned, but finally in March 1937 Nate Collier was allowed to start signing his work. I'm a big fan of Collier, but his talents, which skew to the goofy, are utterly wasted on this panel. But hey, it put food on the table at the Collier household, no foul there. I also feel sorry for Nate if he was tasked with creating all these gags, which get pretty darn monotonous in their one-note dirge for lower taxes. Not only did Nate have to write six gags a week on the same subject, but undoubtedly had to submit them for review to some corporate minister of propaganda who last smiled when Herbert Hoover was elected.  

* Source: reported in Pittsburgh Press, June 26 1936.

** Sources: start date from Belvidere Republican, end date from Edinburg Courier.


Hello Allan-
Odd you should, (in jest, naturally) mention a possible "corporate minister of propaganda" who would have some sort of oversight to a N.A.M. project. The Trotskyite weekly "THE MILITANT" shrilly decried said project, citing the Abner componant with feigned indignation that it was a COMIC STRIP! FOR CHILDREN!Like it was pornography or something. They concluded that Goebbles would be green with envy.
Obviously they didn't ever really see what they were outraged about, or care, really. The effectiveness of the panel utterly negligable. Goebbles would not be impressed. That The Militant made this observation in 1944,eight years after the N.A.M. news release about the project, and six years after Abner ended, makes one wonder what they're bothering about.
Collier, however, was happily content to keep putting out toons for the N.A.M.,with a new batch of one-shot editorial panels offered by them just after the war. Don Herold contributed too.

Being nearly a decade late to the protest, I guess one could perhaps forgive The Militant for having bigger fish to fry in their goal to foster a worker's utopia. Normally I'd be interested to read an article like you've uncovered, Mark, but having indexed decades worth of The Daily Worker, I've seen how their reporting can drain the interest out of any subject with their monotonous Marxist droning. I imagine The Militant was just as bad or worse.

Hello Allan-
Though, if we were to be strictly in keeping with seeking obscure strips, There's an untapped Pyrite mine of them in the leftist papers like the various iterations of the Daily Worker, the New York Call, etc. I used to have a batch of them, and they are indeed, joyless things. Though they look like regular comic strip art, the funny, cartoony characters do cringemaking treks to join the Wobblies or to Tom Mooney rallies, or kids that tell'em where to get off at a Dies committee hearing. Maybe the funniest part is they're so deadly serious about it.
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Sunday, September 26, 2021


Wish You Were Here, from August Hutaf


This is another in August Hutaf's 1907 collection of apple cards produced for the A.B. Woodward Company. 

The Baldwin apple is practically forgotten today, but was once one of the most popular apples in North America. Baldwin apples tended to be on the smallish side, quite hard but delicious. They were prized also for shipping well, being very resistant to blemishes, and keeping for long periods. Not just a hand fruit, they were also standouts for baking and making cider.

According to Wikipedia, the Baldwin apple is lost mainly because of a bad New England winter in 1934 which wiped out most of the trees. Red Delicious and other apples took the Baldwins place in the market, and the New England Baldwin orchards were never replanted. Few Baldwin trees are left, but it could stage a comeback as an heirloom variety.


When Raymond Baldwin (successfully) ran for Governor of Connecticut in 1938, he issued campaign pins that featured his name on the background of an apple. It's highly likely that folks in Connecticut in that era got the joke.

The Great Hurricane of 1938 probably didn't do the apple orchards any favours, either.
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