Saturday, October 29, 2022


Herriman Saturday: April 30 1910


April 30 1910 -- They sure did take the census seriously in 1910. 

A census-taker came to the Los Angeles residence of J.H. Todd, a man who seemed to be in his 60s. When asked his age, Mr. Todd replied that he was seven years old, due to the amazing properties of "The Elixir Of Life", a mineral water for which he is a salesman. He claimed that every time he partook of the water that his life would begin over again, and that he typically imbibed it every seven years -- he was about due for his next dose. 

The census taker found no humor in this, and called a policeman to witness Mr. Todd's obvious false witness to a census-taker. The deputy, also a man of no humor, arrested Mr. Todd, who was obliged to pay bail to get out of jail. 

You have to hand it to Mr. Todd for being a truly devoted fan of the product he sells. When called before the district court in October of that year, he stuck to his guns that he was seven years old. The judge fined him $100 (a quite substantial amount in 1910). Todd paid the fine on the spot. 

But maybe Mr. Todd was the smart one -- how much "Elixir of Life" did he sell because of all the free publicity he was given?


This is a rare example of a front-flip, the reverse of the usual backwards flip-take. I must have seen it elsewhere but I can't think where.
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Friday, October 28, 2022


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: A.C. Fera

Adolph Christian Fera was born on September 14, 1877, in Danville, Illinois, according to his Social Security application at His parents were Charles A. Fera and Mary E. Gilman who married on October 26, 1875 in Terre Haute, Indiana.

In the 1880 United States Census, Fera, his parents and younger brother, Gilman, lived in Danville. Fera’s father was a merchant. 

Apparently Fera served during the Spanish-American War. His name appeared in the Official Register of the United States, Officers and Employees of the Civil, Military, and Naval Service, July 1, 1899, Volume 1

On August 23, 1902, Fera married Miss E. Baunn in Alexandria, Virginia. It was the first of three marriages. 

The beginning of Fera’s cartooning education and career is not known. The Billings Gazette (Montana), July 26, 1907, said Fera was a cartoonist on the Chicago Examiner. In the book, Artists in California 1786–1940, the author, Edan Hughes said “Fera settled in Los Angeles in 1909. For many years he worked there as a cartoonist for the Hearst papers.”

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Fera’s strips include What You Lafin’ At? (1909); Oh, There Goes My Car (1909); Just Boy (1914, continued by Doc Winner in 1926); and An Embarrassing Moment (1916, with Fred Locher). 

In the 1910 census, Fera lived with his father and aunt in South Pasadena at 1218 Fremont Avenue. Fera’s occupation was newspaper cartoonist. That same year a collection of his cartoons was published under the title, Post Cards of a Tourist (Mr. ‘Skinny’ East): Cartoons of Southern California. Below is a partial description from Art Books, 1876–1949 (1981). 
The cartoons used in this volume were originally published in “The Los Angeles Express” excepting six drawings which appeared in “The Los Angeles Herald.”
Almost seven weeks after the census enumeration, Fera married Dorothy V. Quincey on June 10, 1910 in Los Angeles. Fera’s third marriage was to Mabel L. Jamieson on February 8, 1913 in Los Angeles. 

Fera signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. He was a Los Angeles-based cartoonist working for the Newspaper Feature Service which was in New York. He was described as tall and slender with gray eyes and dark hair. 

Editor and Publisher, April 24, 1919, published a King Features Syndicate advertisement that included Fera’s Just Boy

The 1920 census said Fera had two sons, Gilman and Donald. The family of four lived in Los Angeles on Western Avenue. 

Editor and Publisher, April 30, 1921, reported the American Newspaper Publishers’ Association convention dinner at the Friars Club. Fera was one of the Hearst stars to attend. 

Fera was included in Our American Humorists (1922). 

The Sierra Madre News, March 23, 1928, said Fera was a member of the Cartoonists Dinner Club. 

In 1924, Fera was a registered voter. The Republican resided at 943 South New Hampshire Avenue. The same address was recorded in the 1930 census and 1932 Los Angeles city directory. 

Fera has not yet been found in the 1940 census. Fera’s son, Gilman, signed his World War II draft card on October 16, 1940. He lived with his parents in Los Angeles at 1463 West Washington. 

Fera was mentioned in King News: An Autobiography (1941). 

Fera passed away on June 15, 1941 in Los Angeles, according to the California Death Index. 


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Wednesday, October 26, 2022


Toppers: Alexander Smart, Esq., Daffydoodles and The Elmer Game



Maurice Horn described Elmer as "genial", which is probably the highest praise it is ever likely to receive. It seems to be one of those strips that stayed in papers due to inertia. The strip was about a 10-year old kid who got into relatively genteel comic strip boy troubles and escapades every Sunday. Under its original creator, A.C. Fera, the strip had a modicum of life, oddly benefiting from the cartoonist's flat, scratchy style. But when Fera for some reason left the strip and it was handed over to Charles "Doc" Winner in 1926, it became so formulaic that you can accurately extrapolate the entire thirty years' worth of Winner Sundays based on any one example. 

When all the Hearst Sundays gained toppers in 1926, Winner (who was still ghosting the page under Fera's name until late 1926) tried out a few candidates, but finally settled on Alexander Smart Esq., starting with the July 4 1926 page. The character was not an attorney, so I assume that Winner used the term "esquire" in the British sense of someone untitled but of social importance. The strip was just as formulaic as Elmer itself; Alexander tries to outsmart someone, or to attack some problem with his supposed high intelligence, and everything backfires. 

When other Hearst Sundays started adding multiple toppers, Winner added Daffydoodles on July 31 1932 It was a feature in which Winner would illustrate puns and other funny turns of phrase. Originally a single panel, it eventually grew to most often have four single-panel gags. Shortly after the feature began Winner began to credit the ideas to reader submissions. Given that he never told readers how or where to send in their submissions, my guess is that Winner made up a lot of the gags and reader names, but I must confess a spot-check of one unusual  name seen above, Dorothy Ann Starry, came up with an actual person. 

Soon after Daffydoodles was added, a second topper began, called The Elmer Game. This large panel was, I think, the best thing about the Elmer page. Each week Winner would explain a simple game that kids could play with a minimum of equipment and setup. For kids looking for something to do on Sunday afternoon The Elmer Game must have been a real boon. It ran from January 1 1933 to June 9 1935, losing out to an expanded set of weekly Daffydoodles

An interesting bit of trivia about Elmer and its toppers: while the main strip never merited a reprint book, and certainly Daffydoodles and Alexander Smart Esq. didn't either, The Elmer Game did. The book was titled Games Of Fun and was issued by K.K. Publications in 1934.

During World War II a lot of strips lost their toppers, or at least found fewer and fewer papers willing to give space to the typically second-rate material. Alexander Smart, Esq. and Daffydoodles seem to have succumbed to this trend. The latest I can find them running is on July 30 1944 in the Nebraska State Journal. But they could have been produced longer, and the papers that ran them became so few as to evade my radar. Anyone have any later dates?


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Monday, October 24, 2022


Obscurity of the Day: Little Willie Gettit


Little Willie Gettit has one simple desire in life -- to procure a dime; said dime to be invested in candy and sweets. Willie's family feels that such investments are not worthwhile, yet somehow they always end up giving Willie the dime. Why? Because Willie has an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time. With his amazing sense of timing one can only imagine what heights Willie will one day reach as an adult. 

When George McManus moved over to Hearst in 1912 he began experimenting with new ideas in his weekday strips. Of course, the one that made him one of the most famous cartoonists in the world was Bringing Up Father, but among his other weekday offerings was this one, Little Willie Gettit. With a repetitive gag it didn't have the legs for a long life, but McManus made it delightfully fun while it lasted, dropping it as soon as the gag started to get stale. It ran from September 25 1913 to January 17 1914*. Little Willie Gettit has the distinction of being McManus' last weekday strip before he put all his eggs in one basket and concentrated on Bringing Up Father on weekdays.

* Source: Jeffrey Lindenblatt's New York American index.


I love these obscurities that were drawn by well-cartoonists before (or maybe after) they hit it big. Just highlights how it sometimes takes several ideas before they hit the jackpot.

This is a pretty delightful strip, all told, but yeah, I can't see this idea running for a long time.
Hello Allan-
In another morning Hearst paper, The Chicago Examiner, Willie appears as late as 11 April 1914.
If anyone could bear seeing more of Willie's one-note saga, look at this old stale blog post:
Well, you never know; the NY American might not have been microfilmed that day, or it was just those layabouts in Chicago running an oldie but goodie. If you happened to know the actual strip that ran that day, we could triangulate by flying to New York, spend a day at the NYPL, and maybe come up with an answer.

Aaaaah, sounds like a delightful research trip. Maybe a few moments extra to go looking for the perfect slice.

By the way, Nark, are you any relation to Mark? Maybe his evil twin spreading disinformation about poor ol' Little Willie Gettit?

Hey! Quit pickin' on me!
I'll go but I don't remember if The New York American in 1914 have two days per reel. This will take many hours or even days.
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Sunday, October 23, 2022


Wish You Were Here, from Albert Carmichael


Here's another Carmichael entry from the Samson Brothers 1910 "If" series, less picturesquely known as Series 262.


This is quite a different Carmchael than the Dave Eastman product.
This one always leaves me to marvel at how such a poor cartoonist could be so successful. This sleepy fellow pictured has a bed that looks like it could accommodate only midgets or babies, but it's working for him because he apparently has tiny legs. The unexplained smoke rings are a nice touch.
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