Saturday, June 11, 2022


Herriman Saturday: April 7 1910


April 7 1910 -- Anyone who reads George Herriman's work knows that he has a great fondness for peppering his works with references to Roman and Greek history and mythology. Today, faced with having to produce yet another strip about the upcoming Fight of the Century, Garge goes off the deep end and produces a strip that you may need a degree in Ancient History to decode.


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Friday, June 10, 2022


Obscurity of the Day- Strenuous Bobby


W.W. Denslow's signature feature in his stint with the McClure Syndicate was Billy Bounce, but he did try out a few other series. This one, Strenuous Bobby, is certainly the least of them. It ran just three times* from April 20 to May 18 1902**. 

Our title character's name comes from Theodore Roosevelt's famed admonition that people should seek the strenuous life, overcoming hardship and succeeding through hard work. In the context of the strip, it merely means that Bobby will enter battle with superior forces and come out the winner. In the first instalment of the short series, Bobby meets and captures a goat, Willie Whiskers, after an hour-long battle royale. In the second, Bobby breaks Willie Whiskers to harness, and in the third the pair, now compatriots, take on a mean bulldog (shown above). 

It seems like this would have been the jumping off point for a longer series, but perhaps Denslow, or his syndicate, realized that he wasn't really suited all that well to creating his own material*** -- he was much more successful adapting the works of others. It is probably for this reason that Strenuous Bobby was dropped and Denslow began adapting The Water Babies into comic form for the syndicate.

* In Douglas G. Greene and Michael Patrick Hearn's biography of Denslow, they claim a fourth episode, but I can find no evidence of it in the New York Press or Boston Post, my best sources for early McClure material.

** Source: New York Press

*** Although Denslow is the purported writer on Billy Bounce, my bet is that he worked with an anonymous collaborator.


Was Roosevelt, then, also the inspiration for Strenuous Teddy of the Kin-der-kids?
Yes, there were a number of strip titles and characters that used 'strenuous' at the time, all referencing back to TR.

....and don't foget Hy Gage's "Strenuous Roosevelt fun with the white house kids" whichactually featured Teddy as a character.
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Wednesday, June 08, 2022


Selling It: It's a Wonderful, Wonderful Feeling!


Gin has long been a spirit that could benefit from some positive press. In the 18th century, England practically became a nation of raving alcoholics because of its unregulated cheapness, prompting William Hogarth's famed print "Gin Lane". Then, during the raj, Brits in India needed to take the infamously bitter quinine to stave off malaria, and it was found that the only drink in which it could be sufficiently masked was in rotgut gin, for which they eventually acquired a masochistic fondness. 

So coming into the 20th century, especially outside England, gin was saddled with some baggage. The liquor might well have been practically ignored had it not been for the gin martini, that most famous of cosmopolitan cocktails, which came into fashion in the 1920s. If you wanted to appear sophisticated, no other cocktail carried with it the high-end man-of-the-world panache of the martini. 

American gin distillers like Kinsey Distilling Corporation knew that people want to drink martinis, but that the strong and bitter taste of gin tends to weed out the weak-willed. So their advertising tells us that Kinsey offers "a genial gin, smooth, delightful and delicious."

Kinsey's newspaper ad campaign "It's a Wonderful, Wonderful Feeling", which debuted in November 1944, sought to reassure the public that they could reap all the social benefits of drinking martinis but without the pain of so doing if they would opt to make them with Kinsey Gin. In order to reinforce this concept of diffident sophistication, they made a brilliant choice in recruiting William Steig to add cartoons to the ads. 

Steig was the perfect choice because he was well-known for his cartoons in The New Yorker (there's the sophisticated angle), but among the alumni of that magazine he could be considered one of the more accessible and approachable (there's the genial angle). Exactly the virtues Kinsey was looking to mirror in their booze.

Evidently the ad campaign was a real winner, because it continued appearing in papers regularly with new episodes until April 1947, a tremendously long run. 

Kinsey Gin is apparently still available today, but the name has been sold and resold to various companies, so it may bear no resemblance to the spirit offered in the 1940s.


Was it Briggs or Webster who had characters celebrate small victories by singing "Ain't it a grand and glorious feeling"? In any case, the rhythm of the headline brought that to mind; suspect the advertising writers were purposely echoing what was likely a still-remembered catchphrase.
That was Briggs.
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Monday, June 06, 2022


Obscurity of the Day: Them Was the Happy Days


Dwig's greatest period of invention and production of comic series came in his years with the New York World, where he was a dominant force at both the Sunday and weekday evening papers from 1909 to 1913. 

From the middle of that period we have Them Was the Happy Days, a strip that ran in the New York Evening World  from March 16 1911 to May 10 1912. Dwig's run on this strip was in fits and starts; in the first few months it ran 2-3 times per week, then ramped up to practically daily for awhile. At the end of October 1911, though, Dwig apparently tired of it, and it is rarely seen from then until April 1912, when it retruns for awhile appearing about once a week. 

If the frequency changed a lot, the gags most certainly did not. The strip concerned two old 'friends', a big galoot named Alf and a shrimpy fellow called Jimmy. The vast majority of the strips cut deeper and deeper furrows in the same plot; Jimmy is reminded of some past mistreatment by Alf, and then Jimmy goes ballistic on Alf with the tagline, "Them was the happy days!" A perfectly serviceable gag, I'll be the first to grant, but beaten to death by the constant repetition. 

Thanks to Cole Johnson, who provided the scans.


Cute reference to Outcalt (Outcault) in the first one.
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Sunday, June 05, 2022


Wish You Were Here, from F.M. Howarth


Here's another one of those giveaway hidden picture cards that were offered in Hearst newspapers of 1906. This one doesn't say whether it is the type where you reveal the picture with water or heat. I think the former, though, were limited to the 'blackboard' series, so I guess this belongs to the "Li'l Arsonist" series. 

Looks like this card was cut from the sheet with garden shears! I have a whole bunch like that. Here'[s a tip -- if you are planning on saving something for over a century, go ahead and use a little care cutting it out.


Hello Allan-
This might be one that brings out the image with heat, it would have instructions for doing so on the reverse, that you could run a hot iron over it or hold it near a flame, helpfully adding not burn it.
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