Saturday, July 22, 2023


Herriman Saturday: June 12 1910


June 12 1910 -- A bittersweet announcement goes with this post. As we come to June 1910 in our complete reprinting of Herriman's LA Examiner cartoons, we have reached his final month with the paper. Yes, believe it or not, Herriman won't be at the Examiner for the Fight of the Century on July 4. Instead he'll be in New York starting a little strip called The Family Upstairs before the month is out, and finally carving out his exalted place in the history of newspaper cartooning.

This Stripper's Guide series has been running since June 2 2007, believe it or not. It has taken us a decade and a half to chronicle all of Herriman's (major) cartoons for the Examiner from 1906 to 1910, roughly three times as long as it took Herriman to produce them. 

There is now just one last cartoon left. Be here next Saturday!

Today's cartoon, yet another about the upcoming Fight of the Century, was run a week after his last cartoon, probably indicating that it may have been set aside earlier to run in this Sunday edition.


Even allowing for perspective, Johnson is made to look a lot taller then Jeffries, though they were about the same height.
I think perhaps Herriman means for these two characters to represent the fight's fanbase factions, not the fighters themselves. --Allan
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Friday, July 21, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: The Smithers' Baby


When it seemed like every second feature in 1900s comics was a Katzenjammer Kid rip-off, it is oddly reassuring to sometimes find an imitator who at least tries to be original about what they copy from. Here today we have Smithers' Baby, a klunky rip-off that fails to sufficiently crank up the level of raucous zaniness properly to match George McManus' Newlyweds and their Baby, a huge hit in the New York World

This me-too feature was by Frank Collier, whose only credits I know about came from the Boston Globe in 1906 to 1911. He had a number of short-lived series, but his bread-and-butter feature was Smithers' Baby which ran sporadically in the Sunday section from May 6 1906 to January 8 1911*.

What Frank did with the rest of his time on Earth is pretty much unknown to me, but I have found slight evidence for him still being in Boston in 1927, and still being referred to as a cartoonist.

* Source: All dates from Dave Strickler's Boston Globe index. 


So I knew about Dave Strickler's L. A. Times index,
but not his Boston Globe index.
How many papers did Dave index?
Hi DD -- Decades ago Strickler offered to do some indexing for my project when he was on a research trip to the Library of Congress. I asked him to do the Boston Globe of the 1900s, some New York Journal years and a few other things. The indexes he produced have not been made publicly available as far as I know, but their data is cited and credited in my book, American Newspaper Comics.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2023


Toppers: Holly of Hollywood


Keeping Up With The Joneses was already quite a venerable daily strip when it added a Sunday page on January 3 1932. The daily began in 1913, almost two full decades earlier. Associated Newspapers, the distributor, was primarily a syndicator of dailies, so it is perhaps not surprising that it took one of their better-known strips that long to take the plunge into colour. Or maybe the wait was for creator Pop Momand to find enough able assistance to take on the extra work. Who knows...

Whichever it was, the Sunday Keeping Up WIth The Joneses was not exactly a gangbusters success, but it did get enough clients to be kept running until both the Sunday and daily were cancelled in April 1938. In this seven-plus year run the strip had one and only one topper that ran with it every single week for the entire span, titled Holly of Hollywood

In the earliest few strips, the svelte tall beauty Holly was an aspiring Hollywood actress, but after just a few months she set her sights considerably lower and became a waitress in a greasy spoon. Holly might have been attractive, but her personality left something to be desired -- she was vain, self-absorbed, and lazy. From this Momand eked out the gags of this one-tier usually three panel strip. Typical situations involved her smarting off to the restaurant customers, sassing the other help, or going out on first dates (one can imagine second dates were pretty rare). 

Holly of Hollywood ran from January 3 1932* to April 10 1938**, the same running dates as the main Sunday page. For some reason for most of those years the name Holly in the title panel was lettered within double-quotes -- I have no idea why.

* Source: Brooklyn Times, via Jeffrey Lindenblatt.

** Source: Brooklyn Eagle


Are there any surviving recordings of "the funnies read over the radio"? It seems to miss the point.
I remember hearing one of LaGuardia's readings on those old time radio on cassette tape things that were so popular for awhile. (Yeah, that was a few years back). The reading was trying to be dramatic and entertaining, he described what was going on in the panels.

The concept mainly came about because of newspaper strikes. If your paper was on strike, the radio station would get the proof sheets and keep you up to date on what was happening in the story strips. I think the other shows that read the funnies were more a way to cheaply fill air time. Why the papers would advertise them is a bit of a mystery to me. Maybe they thought the kids would get hooked and make papa switch papers to get the funnies they'd heard on the radio?

No real mystery to this. It used to be a very common tradition for parents to read the comics to their children (with appropriate voices, of course) and radio stations often stepped in with a canned equivalent as a promotional tie-in with a local newspaper. King Features had a syndicated radio show, The Comic Weekly Man, which dramatized comics from the Puck Sunday section until as late as 1953.
You can hear a long version of Fiorello reading the comics here:
There were many comic section readers avilable for radio listeners in the 1920s-50s. Usually this would be on stations that were owned by a specific newspaper, who would, natch, only do that paper's weekly offering.
The term "canned", in radio jargon, was applied to ready-made, syndicated stuff, like "The Comic Weekly Man", who was reading it for the whole chain. Hearst had many "canned" programmes from the 1930's to 50s. I myself own one such disque, an episode of "Jungle Jim" on one side, and something from "The American Weekly" on the other. It's 16" wide. Basicly, a "canned" comic reader could only happen with Hearst's "Puck" section, because pretty much all other papers were unique, and would have to have a production tailored for them.
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Monday, July 17, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: According to Hoyle


Harry Hershfield came up with some great strip ideas in his earlier years -- Homeless Hector about an endearing stray dog; Dauntless Durham of the USA, a satire on melodramas, for instance-- but once he settled on the Jewish businessman motif with Abie the Agent in 1914, he gave the impression of being a one-trick pony from there on out. 

Abie the Agent was never a big hit known in the hinterlands, but in certain metropolitan areas, specifically those with a substantial Jewish population, Abie was a perennial favorite. But when Hershfield had a contract dispute with Hearst and jumped ship in 1929, it seemed like either he could no longer work outside the genre he had created, or his new employers wanted only more of the same from him. 

His first new gig was with the New York Evening Graphic, producing Meyer the Buyer for a very short time. This was an outright copy of Abie, the only ever so slight nod to originality being a different occupation for the protagonist. 

After getting away from the slimy MacFadden organization. Hershfield went the other direction, going about as upscale as you can by signing on with the New York Herald-Tribune. For them he created today's obscurity, According to Hoyle

The phrase "according to Hoyle" refers to the de facto standard rulebooks to card games, initially penned by Edmund Hoyle waaaaay back in the eighteenth century. The phrase came to mean essentially 'playing by the accepted standard rules' and entered the idiom. I mention this for no very good reason, because the name of this strip seems purely arbitrary -- there is no theme of card-playing, or playing by the rules whatsoever. I guess Hershfield just thought it was a catchy title. 

What the strip is about is another businessman, this one named Hugo Hoyle. He is yet another doppelganger for Abie the Agent with the important exception that he's been stripped of his Jewish dialect and Yiddishisms. In other words, he was Abie without any distinctive personality at all. Why make Abie a boring goy in the new strip? My guess is that the Herald-Tribune, a paper that served the elites of New York City, felt that their mostly Protestant upper-class readership would not take kindly to a Jew in their paper. This was the 1930s and anti-Semitism was most certainly not limited to Germany; in fact in US whitebread households it wasn't an uncommon belief that the Great Depression was actually caused by Jewish businessmen. 

Hershfield produced the feeble According to Hoyle half-page Sundays from March 4 1934 to July 28 1935. He seemed not to know what to do with it, so he just recycled his Abie the Agent material with the heart and soul of it completely absent. Negotiations finally reopened with the Hearst organization, perhaps with Hershfield now somewhat more malleable in his contractual requirements, and According To Hoyle was put to bed. Abie the Agent, now a little tired with age, was brought back for a final run. Unfortunately by then the strip seemed to have lost its way and clients for the revival were few and far between.


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Sunday, July 16, 2023


Wish You Were Here, from John T. McCutcheon


Here is card #6 in the McCutcheon "A Boy In ..." series, which Eddie Campbell tells us totalled 32 different cards. The copyright on our last entry, #30, was 1903, and this one is copyright 1905. Since they're all divided-back cards (though our user today hadn't got the message she could write on the back) so were published in 1907 or later, that tells us that the copyrights presumably refer to the original publication dates of each of the cartoons.


From what I gather, McCutcheon did this series for the Chicago Record-Herald starting in about 1902, and I've seen various specimens from 1903 on. So I think your belief as to original publication date is right.
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