Saturday, November 18, 2023


One Shot Wonders: One Thing That Sticks in Danny Long's Noodle by Will Sperry


Way back in 2012 Cole Johnson sent me this strip that he clipped out of the San Francisco Bulletin of January 20 1912. He wondered if this was a one-shot cartoon or part of a series starring this Danny Long fellow. 

I never looked into the matter until recently, but then I noticed that the Bulletin is now available at Well, as it turns out, Danny Long isn't a cartoon character at all, but rather the manager of the San Francisco Seals. Thus the gag makes perfect sense, and additional review of the paper reveals that Will Sperry was their sports cartoonist, apparently just in 1911-12 based on a quick perusal. 

Sperry's early cartoons for the Bulletin are nothing to write home about, but by 1912 he had quickly developed into a pretty darn fine cartoonist as evidenced by our sample. What happened to Mr. Sperry, then? Well, I'm no expert at tracking but I found a few tidbits. Seems he went to Europe when World War I broke out and served valorously in relief of Belgium, being cited for bravery on several occasions. When the U.S entered the war, he took a commission with the expeditionary force. When the war ended he elected not to come back to the States but rather to live in France. After that I lose track of him. I wonder if he got back into art over there in Europe once his war hero days were over?


I wonder. There is a listing for a William Alexander Sperry, Jr. in the draft registrations section of Ancestry (giving a birth date of June 4, 1890), commercial artist living in SF, and I found a William Sperry in the 1920 census living in San Anselmo, CA (just outside SF), occupation, commercial artist for a daily paper. At least as of 1920, he had a wife named Lucy. The 1930 census has William and Lucy living in San Francisco. Be interesting if there were two William Sperries as commercial artists in SF.
The September 1, 1937 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, page 13, carries an obituary (brief) for William A. Sperry, Jr., beloved husband of the late Lucy Sperry, who died on August 31, 1937, and was noted as a native of San Francisco. If this is him, he died quite young, only about 47.
The October 2, 1918 edition of the San Francisco Examiner, page 6, notes that "William A. Sperry" of the editorial department had joined the field artillery at Camp Kearny (located in San Diego). This, of course, was a year and a half after the US joined the war.
The December 23, 1914 Stockton Evening Mail, page 5, has an article about Will Sperry serving in Belgian relief -- but that's a Wiliam *H.* Sperry. William Hatfield Sperry was born on in Stockton on June 28, 1885 according to his 1914 passport application, and as of 1914 was living in Klamath Falls, Oregon, occupation: manufacturer. In the 1910 census, he was still living with his father George and family, as a law student. So I don't think the Belgian relief guy is the guy who did that strip.
Yeah, yeah, I know. One more thing. The July 24, 1915 Modesto Morning Herald, page 17, carries a strip entitled "Oh! Nevermind!" (rather Herriman-esque, if you want my view) credited to Will Sperry. This, at a point when I think the "other" Sperry was in Belgium. The strip pops up in the Morning Herald on in August, too.
Did I mention I'm no expert at genealogical tracking? Thanks EOCostello for the effort you're putting in to find "our" Mr. Sperry, even if it does strip him of his war hero status! -- Allan
Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]