Saturday, February 05, 2022


Herriman Saturday: March 14 1910


March 14 1910 -- Just a few days ago, Herriman submitted a cartoon in which he put forth the idea that Fireman Jim Flynn was biting off more than he could comfortably chew by agreeing to a 45-round battle royale with Sam Langford. In what appears to be a complete 180 degree turn, four days later his cartoon claims that Sam Langford is going to be mighty sorry he poked a stick in the hornet's nest that was Fireman Jim Flynn. 

How will it all work out? Well, let's just say the smart money was betting on Sam.

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Friday, February 04, 2022


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Billican

Billican was the pseudonym of Wilfred Canan who was born William F. Canan on May 9, 1888, in Missoula, Montana. The birth information was on his World War I draft card. Canan’s birth name is based on the 1900 U.S. Federal Census and his book, How to Get By In and Out of a Small Town as a Cartoonist (1919). On page seven, the next to last line says, “P.S. His name is William Canan”. Page twenty-seven has a short piece by Philo (pseudonym of Carl Brockway) who wrote
Billican, god of fun, for things as they ought to be, and a contraction of the name Bill Canan, staff cartoonist of the Fargo Daily Courier-News, whose work also appears in all the Nonpartisan dailies and weeklies in about ten states and reaching approximately 300,000 readers. 
In the 1900 census, Canan was the oldest of five children born to William H. Canan and Katherine Spillane, who married in February 1887. Canan’s father was a foreman at the railroad round house. The family resided in Saginaw, Michigan at 634 North Second Street. 

The 1903 Saginaw city directory listed Canan, a student, and his father at 4276 North 3rd Avenue. The same address was in the 1904 and 1905 directories. During these two years, Canan was an apprentice at the Pere Marquette Railroad.  

The 1907 Grand Rapids, Michigan city directory listed both of them as machinists who lived at 637 Jefferson Avenue. The Northern Pacific Railway Company Personnel File, at, said Canan worked for the company from June 3, 1907 to February 22, 1911. 

The 1910 census recorded the Canan family of eight in Yellowstone County, Montana.

By 1913 Canan used Wilfred as his first name as seen in the Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 3, Musical Compositions, 1913, New Series, Volume 8, Number 3. 
Do it again; words and music by W. Canan. Washington, H. Kirkus Dugdale co., inc. [4340 
© Feb. 10. 1913: 2 c. Mar. 13, 1913; F 308589; Wilfred Canan, Jamestown, N. D.
Canan was mentioned in Duluth, Minnesota, newspapers. 

Duluth HeraldJune 14, 1916
... He is Wilfred Canan, known as “Billican,” a good live Elk. ... 
Duluth News-Tribune, May 19, 1917
Who’s Who at Brainerd
... Members of the Brainerd Symphonic orchestra as named went to Staples this noon to play in the concert there this evening. They included ... Beatrice Morrison, Wilfred Canan, Robert Gemmell, cellos ...
Duluth HeraldAugust 11, 1917
Brainerd—Wilfred Canan, cartoonist, for a time employed on a local paper, has accepted a position with a Fargo daily.
Duluth News-Tribune, November 27, 1917
Two Brainerd Boys “Hitting Ball” in “Fourth Estate”
Brainerd. Nov. 26.—On the staff of the Courier-News of Fargo, N.D., are two brained boys who are making good. Wilfred Canan, cartoonist, with the nom de plume of Billican and his pictures tickle the fancy of Fargo people and the northwest generally. 

Another is Carl Brockway, at one time pioneer letter carrier of Brainerd, whose walks circled the globe several times. Brockway now writes under the name of Philo,” and has a column daily of jokes, paragraphs, verses, etc., illustrated by “Billican.”
Duluth HeraldJuly 24, 1918
Wilfred Canan, the “Billican” of Brainerd and Nonpartisan papers of North Dakota and Minnesota, for which he is cartoonist, is in the city on a two week’s vacation. 
Cartoons Magazine, October 1918, published a W. L. Evans School of Cartooning advertisement featuring Canan’s letter.

On June 5, 1917, Canan signed his World War I draft card. His address was 1001 Kingwood in Brainerd, Minnesota. Canan’s occupations were musician and illustrator. His description was tall and slender with blue eyes and light-colored hair. He claimed a physical disability of the lower limbs. 

Billican cartoons from 1918-19 in the Fargo Courier-News

The 1919 Fargo, North Dakota city directory listed Canan as a cartoonist residing at the Donaldson Hotel. 

According to the 1920 census, Canan was in Fargo at 521 1st Avenue. He was a newspaper cartoonist. 

Canan was the publisher of The Goat which had an entry in the Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 2, Periodicals, 1920, New Series, Volume 15, Number 1. 
Goat (The) A periodical in behalf of the organized farmers and workers of North Dakota. 32 p. illus. 11 by 8 1/2 inches. © Wilfred Canan, Fargo, N. D. [3369
v. 1, no. 1, Jan., 1920. © Jan. 28, 1920; 2 c. Feb. 16, 1920; B 456041.
The Grand Forks Herald (North Dakota), July 23, 1921, said
William Canan, better known as “Billican,” cartoonist for the Nonpartisan league,  told friends before leaving Fargo for Brainerd last night that things in the Nonpartisan league had become “too strong” for him, and that he was leaving the state and league work “thoroughly disgusted.”

“Billican” was originator of the Nonpartisan league goat around which was builded the slogan, “the goat that can’t be got.”
The 1922 Brainerd, Minnesota city directory had Canan’s address as 1001 Kingwood Street. 

The National Leader (Minneapolis, Minnesota), July 1923, published four illustrations by Canan. The introduction said 
We call your attention to the four pictures in this issue by Billican. Billican, by the way, is William Canan of Brainerd, Minn., who is a rheumatic cripple. 

But Billican is not crippled in mind, and he talks to a vast audience with his pictures.

We sent him proof sheets of the story on the National Producers Alliance and asked him to draw some pictures that even the small boys and girls on the farm would understand. We gave him no other suggestions. Billican tells a simple but powerful story in these four pictures.
The Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 4, Works of Art, 1923, New Series, Volume 18, Number 1 had this entry. 
Canan (Wilfred) Brainerd, Minn.
Balance of power. [Drawing of elephant and donkey see-sawing over pork-barrel with goat in center] © 1 c. Dec. 26, 1923; G 67422.
Some of Canan’s 1924 cartoons for the Daily Worker can be viewed here

The 1926 and 1927 St. Paul, Minnesota city directories said Canan resided at 321 Robert Street and worked on circular letters. In the 1928 he lived in Minneapolis at 314 South 8th Street and worked for the Krieg Letter Company.

Canan had an entry in the Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 1, Group 2, Books, 1928, New Series, Volume 25, Number 7. 
Canan (Wilfred)* Minneapolis. Mimeogravure in a nut shell. Mimeogravure. Zip’s art-ad service, v. 3, no. 6, June, 1928. © May 1; 2 c. July 16; aff. July 30; A 1085815.
Apparently Canan passed away on April 3, 1929, in Los Angeles, California. The California Death Index, at, has someone named Wilfred Canan born about 1889. 



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Wednesday, February 02, 2022


Obscurity of the Day: Woman's Wit and Feminine Fancies

June 15, 1902 -- Unsigned but by L. de B.

July 31 1904 -- signed by F. Neydhart
May 21 1905 -- left signed F. Neydhart, right by "L. de B."
July 9 1905 -- by Frank Nankivell
June 4 1905 -- by Frank Nankivell

June 24 1906 -- signed Ryder Gifford

If you don't really care about researcher shoptalk, jump down to Part II.

Part I -- This feature is a case study in how it is darn near impossible to get your newspaper indexes absolutely correct, even when you are sitting in a research library with a full set of neatly organized microfilm reels at your side. 

When Ken Barker documented this New York Herald feature he got the start and end dates wrong, did not cite a creator, and offered only two of the four titles under which it ran. Why? Well, those multiple titles are the first problem; when cartoonists cannot decide on a consistent title, the poor researcher is already at a disadvantage. Add in that this feature often ran with no title at all (at least 50% of the time is my estimate) and the poor researcher is pretty badly outmatched. 

All these problems aside, the researcher can often overcome them all if the feature has a continuing cast of characters. Just look for the characters, and don't worry about the ever-changing title. Unfortunately tis feature did not have running characters - -- it merely consists of gag cartoons featuring generic pretty girls. 

Failing all that, if the creator is consistent, and better yet, takes a byline, you can still pull some semblance of order out of the chaos. This feature went through four different hands, and never carried a byline. So it pretty well represents the newspaper indexer's worst nightmare, an almost untrackable feature. Don't get me wrong, though. If a researcher had unlimited time to go back and pore over the same New York Herald microfilm multiple times, each time with the benefit of having learned something more about the feature's wild and wooly ways, it could be done.

When I wrote the index entry for this feature for my book I recognized that it ran longer than Barker cited, and I added some but not all of the creator information he missed. Most of the creators signed their names rather illegibly, and I imagine Barker just threw up his hands after endless staring at the blurry microfilm trying to tease the information out of it. I am lucky enough to have a small collection of tearsheets of the strip, where the signatures are a bit easier to suss out when a bunch of them are compared side by side. 

My book listing, though, is still woefully incomplete. And guess what -- this post is still not going to cross all the T's and dot all the I's. But between my own collection, the information I found from Ohio State University, and a digitized paper online that ran the Herald's feature for awhile, this is the best I can do right now. If someday the New York Herald is digitized by a proper website*, and the Sunday comics made it to the microfilm consistently (another big if), I'll nail this puppy down, I swear. 

Part II -- In the 1900s it was not at all unusual to have one-shot material in your comic section, and it wasn't unusual for a group of gag cartoons covering the same subject (say, baseball or shopping or whatever) to be run together. So when the New York Herald ran an untitled gag cartoon featuring very well-drawn voluptuous women on April 13 1902**, the newspaper reader wouldn't have particularly expected to start seeing the feature practically every week thereafter. The Herald did continue the feature, though, and the reader would have become accustomed to seeing the same artist represented each week, sporting the scrawled signature that I can best identify only as something like "L. de B." On May 25 1902 the feature first gained its original sometimes title, Those Herald Square Girls.

On September 7 1902***, the feature gained a new title, Woman's Wit and Feminine Fancy, and was promoted to a full page of cartoons. The full page would last through the end of the year, but in 1903 the feature would more often be cut back to the size it pretty much ran from then on, between a third and a half page. During this later period,that could consist of three or four cartoons, and often they were artfully arranged on a full page, where the rest of the space was taken up by text gags.

1903 also saw a new artist on the feature; someone who signed themselves F. Neydhart began drawing the Herald's resident beauties on April 12***. Neydhart had a very different style than "L. de B.", but they were both quite accomplished in penning pretty young things for the Sunday comics section. Just before Neydhart took over the reins, the title was also cut back to the simpler Feminine Fancy on March 29.

Neydhart decided to change the title again, to Fancies of the Fair, in mid-1904.  For the longest time I thought the cartoons were supposed to occur on a fairgrounds, and I wondered whether there was a World's Fair in New York at the time (without bothering to actually check, of course). It only took a few decades before I realized that "fair" referred, of course, to the fair sex. Duh.

Neydhart had the reins for about a year and a half, bowing out on December 11 1904 only to be replaced by the artist he had originally supplanted, "L. de B." As you can see in the samples above, though, Neydhart reappeared at least once later; good thing since I had none of his earlier work in my collection to show you. "L. de B" was not back for the long haul, though, and was replaced by Frank Nankivell on June 4 1905. 

I've never been too taken with Nankivell's work, always felt his illustrations were a bit fussy and overdone, but he really shone on this feature, turning out some of the best work of his life, very crisp and decorative, if still a tad stiff. Nankivell put another personal stamp on the feature by renaming it Feminine Fancies starting in late 1905 or early 1906.

Nankivell spent less than a year on the feature, though, ending his run on February 11 1906****. He was replaced by the final artist on the feature, someone whose signature seems to be "G. Ryder." This artist has now been IDed by Sara Duke as Ryder Gifford. Gifford's work was absolutely stunning, the greatest in a fine parade of cartoonist-illustrators on the feature. How he has escaped the remembrance of illustration lovers I can't imagine. Ryder's term on the feature was unfortunely short, and apparently no one in the Herald's stable was willing to follow him/her. Feminine Fancies ended on November 18 1906****.

Any further information, including date corrections and artist IDs, are of course eagerly sought.


* The Old Fulton Postcards website has the paper, but their absurdly bad and impressively unfriendly interface makes it impossible to find the material. Buddy, pass your digital material onto someone who can make it accessible, please!

** Source: Ohio State University New York Herald archives.

*** Source: Los Angeles Herald, adjusted back by a week for running late.

**** Source: Houston Post.


Ryder Gifford?
Cartoonist or staff artist. In 1902, he was employed by the San Francisco Daily Morning Examiner.

Info from: “Personnel of the Press: Daily Morning Examiner,” San Francisco Blue Book; the Fashionable Private Address, San Francisco: Charles C. Hoag, 1902, p. 457

Sara W. Duke, Curator, Popular & Applied Graphic Art, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540-4730 sduk at loc dot gov
I was able to find a few bylined drawings by "Ryder" in the SF Examiner of 1901-02. I gather he wasn't altogether fond of his last name. His art was not quite as good as our Ryder of 1906, but it was on its way. His far messier signature of these years does seem to resolve as "G Ryder", so I think you have found our artist.

A general search on Ryder Gifford came up with a few tantalizing tidbits. An 1897 article on newspaper artists has him working for the New York World. I found a 1901 article meantioning him as an 'eastern artist and art critic' just recently relocated to California. Much later, in 1925, I find a reference to him living in Bridgeport whose residence was known as "The Studio in the Woods". He and his wife are mentioned often in the Bridgeport papers through the 1950s, but never with anything substantial that I could find.

Thanks for clearing up that mystery!
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Monday, January 31, 2022


Toppers: Star Wars Scrapbook


While the classic toppers started fizzling out in the 1940s, and the last remaining holdouts, like Gasoline Alley's Little Brother Hugo, finally bit the dust in the early 1970s, we have a little problem with cutting them off then. The whole idea of toppers is that they are self-contained features that can be lopped off by your friendly neighhborhood features editor. With that loose definition -- a sub-feature that comes with a Sunday comic that can be lopped off if space is unavailable -- it can be argued persuasively that toppers have continued on. 

Take, for example, the Star Wars Sunday strip. Most papers ran it as a third, but if you wanted to run it in a more complete format, you'd get the title panel plus a panel feature called Star Wars Scrapbook. Some would call this a "drop panel", but I prefer to reserve that term for panel(s) of the main strip that can be dropped without affecting the gag or storyline. Even though features like Star Wars Scrapbook existed well after the 'topper era', they certainly seem to be the same thing. 

Star Wars Scrapbook did not start concurrently with the Star Wars Sunday strip in 1979, but was added quite a bit later, shortly after the strip was taken over by writer Archie Goodwin and artist Al Williamson. The topper panel first appears on April 26 1981, and continued until shortly before the demise of the strip; the last Sunday bearing the feature was apparently October 23 1983*. Why it was dropped before the end of the Sunday strip itself (on March 11 1984) I have no idea.

There wasn't much to the feature, which merely offered up portraits of various characters and bits of tech from the Star Wars mythos, so you can certainly see why cut-happy features editors rarely let that top tier make it into their Sunday sections.


* All dates from the Star Wars Wookieepedia website.


Hello Allan- An oft used alternate term for "Drop Panel" we often used was "Trash Panel."

The Flash Gordon strips done by Jim Keefe in the late 1990s-early 2000s had a similar "topper, that ran the length of the strip, often actually presented as three panels. They featured a picture of the cast heroes or villians, but there were only the same two or three alternates endlessly repeated. Of course, very few papers used this, I guess you could call it a "Drop out row."
All the Marvel (Spiderman, Hulk, Conan and Howard the Duck) strips did the same thing with having the same topper every six weeks. For the entire Spiderman Sunday run you would see art by the first artist John Romita Sr.
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Sunday, January 30, 2022


Wish You Were Here, from Richard Outcault


Here's another card from Outcault's 1903 Valentine's series, published by Raphael Tuck. It is uncommon to find these undivided back cards without handwritten messages written across the front. Although the user of this card was nice enough to leave the front unmarred, the post office -- thank you very much -- felt the need to slap a cancellation stamp on it for no reason at all.


That's the bleed through of a canacellation on the obverse, isn't it?
Nope; they stamped that pore li'l gal right in the pigtail. That's gotta hurt.
Take a closer look- In the place for the date, you can see a backwards letter "F", presumably because this would be mailed in February, and below it seems to be a backwards number 3, as in the time of day the cancel was imprinted. Towards the left, within the outline, near the "Y" in Outcault's message, you will see the second componant of the bifurcated year as used in this style of cancelation, looking like a backwards "07"; id est, 1907.

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