Saturday, October 28, 2023


One-Shot Wonders: The Chess Playing Automaton by Ens, 1897


Who can resist a robot strip from 1897? Not me, that's for sure. Even when the gag falls about as flat as a blindfolded man trying to negotiate an obstacle course. This one appeared in the New York Journal on April 4 1897.

This strip really gives the impression that the cartoonist planned a series. Check out the vignettes in the headline area. Doesn't that seem to say "Hey, wait 'til you see all the great gags I'm going to pen about this robot." But sadly, it seems never to have been. (On the other hand, I don't know that anyone has good enough files of the early Journal Sunday sections to make that call for certain.)

The cartoonist of this one-shot is a fellow I know only as "Ens". Sometimes there's a little more scribble after the ENS letters in his cartoons, or in this case some sort of stick-figure. He only did two series that I know of, both very short runs in 1904 for World Color Printing. We haven't featured either of them on the blog as yet. If anyone has an idea of "Ens"s identity, I'd be thrilled to know about it.


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Friday, October 27, 2023


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Rome Siemon

(An earlier profile was posted in 2018.) 

Jerome Emil “Rome” Siemon was born on August 8, 1900, in Rock Island, Illinois. His first name, Jerome, was recorded in the 1910 United States Census and Social Security application. The middle name was on his World War I and II draft cards.

According to Illinois marriage records at, his parents were Peter Siemon and Emma Johnson who married on September 25, 1899 in Rock Island County, Illinois. The 1900 census was enumerated in June. Siemon’s mother was living with her mother, Anna, siblings, niece and nephew in Rock Island at 613 Ninth Street. The whereabouts of Siemon’s father is not known.

The Rock Island Argus, December 17, 1906, said “Romie Siemons [sic]” was one of the guests at a birthday party. 

The 1910 census said Siemon and his mother, who was divorced and a nurse, were living with his maternal grandmother and aunt in Rock Island at 613 9th Street.

The Rock Island Argus, January 20, 1914, published the names of the Hawthorne School eighth grade graduates. “Romie Siemon” was one of 35 graduates. The name Romie was used in city directories and in later censuses. 

The 1916 Rock Island city directory said Siemon was a clerk residing at 613 9th Street. The 1916 Davenport, Iowa city directory listed Siemon as Rock Island resident working as a clerk at R. G. Dun & Company. The 1917 Rock Island city directory said Siemon was working at a Rock Island manufacturing company. 

According to the Rock Island Argus, August 10, 1918, Siemon was a jazz musician. 
Surprised on Birthday.
Jerome Siemon was pleasantly surprised at his home, 613 Ninth street, Thursday evening, by the members of the Jazz orchestra, of which he is the leader, the occasion being his birthday anniversary. The evening was spent with Jazz music and later refreshments were served. They presented Mr. Siemon with a purse of money, wishing him many happy returns of the day.
Siemon signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. His home address was 1125 3rd Street A in Moline, Illinois. He was a clerk at the Rock Island Plow Company. He was described as medium height and build with blue eyes and brown hair. 

The 1919 Moline directory said he was a clerk at the “Peo Power Company” in Rock Island. His address was 1125 3rd Street A, and in parentheses was the name of his wife, Olga.

Siemon’s address was the same in the 1920 census. He and his mother were counted together but not his wife whose status is unknown. Siemon was employed at a power company. Siemon’s address in the 1920 directory was 1809 3rd Avenue.

Bix: Man & Legend (1975) said Siemon was a pianist in the Plantation Orchestra. When the band’s cornet player went home, he was replaced by Bix Beiderbecke. Bix: The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story (1998) chronicled Beiderbecke’s gigs including with the “Plantation Jazz Orchestra” in 1921 and 1922 (see pages 59 to 61). Siemon is quoted several times in the recollections.

On July 24, 1923, Siemon married Beatrice Vogel in Clinton, Iowa as recorded in the Iowa marriage index at The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois), August 1, 1923, said 
Mr. and Mrs. Romie Siemons [sic] of Moline left for Chicago this morning where they will make their home. Mr. Siemons has accepted a position in that city. The young couple were married Tuesday, July 24, in Clinton the nuptials coming as a surprise to their many friends. Mr. Siemons is a son of Mrs. Emma Siemons and his bride, who was Miss Beatrice Vogel, a daughter of Thomas Vogel of Rapids City. 
According to the 1930 census, the couple resided in Moline at 1602 3rd Avenue. Siemon was a hotel manager. In a few years Siemon moved to the West Coast.

In 1940, Siemon, his wife, two sons and mother were at 6336 1/2 Homewood Avenue in Los Angeles, California. Siemon was a hotel manager and his wife a hotel maid. The census said Siemon was  in Los Angeles in 1935 and his highest level of education was the eighth grade. 

On February 14, 1942, Siemon signed his World War II draft card. His address was 1248 Cherokee Street in Los Angeles. He was employed at the St. Paul Hotel. Siemon was described as five feet eleven inches, 180 pounds with blue eyes and brown hair.

Siemon’s address was unchanged in the 1950 census. He was a hotel manager. 

Information about Siemon’s art training has not been found.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Siemon drew the panel Collection Day Chuckles from 1948 into the 1950s for the Newspaper Boys of America. The panel appeared in the Owosso Argus-Press here, here and hereIn 1949, Siemon produced Little Moonfolks for N.E.W.S. in Beverly Hills, California. The Catalog of Copyright Entries, Third Series, Volume 3, Parts 7–11 A, Number 1, Works of Art, etc., January–June  1949 had this entry: “Siemon, Rome © The little folks of Circleville. [Caricatures] Print. © 4Feb49; K19004.” In 1952 the Associated Press was syndicating Little Moonfolks

The Dispatch, December 4, 1952, explained Siemon’s involvement in their Christmas fund raising. 
Rome Siemon, the fairly widely known cartoonist who got his start in his working life pounding a piano in a nickel movie in Rock Island (he was just a kid and his family was poor) apparently has been doing some Christmas shopping and thinking of poor orphan youngsters. For several years Mr. Siemon, who lives in Hollywood, Calif., has been, taking time out from a busy working career to draw cartoons to help the Moline Good Fellow Christmas fund sponsored by the Dispatch. Rome knows what it is to be up against it at one stage in his career that was in Moline he found the piano playing picking so poor that he thought he was lucky to get a part-time job as a LeClaire hotel elevator operator. If Siemon’s cartoon plea appeals to you, send a contribution to this Christmas program to bring some cheer to needy children and widows to Good Fellow Fund, Moline Dispatch, or drop in with buck or two (or more) and some one at the Dispatch office will be glad to take it.
Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 said Siemon did lettering for Western Publishing in the early 1950s into the 1960s. In the Jack Kirby Collector #71, Spring 2017, Mark Evanier said 
…Mike [Royer] learned to letter from Mike Arens. Mike Arens learned lettering largely from a man named Rome Siemon, who was the house letterer at Western Publishing, on the West Coast books for years….
The Grand Comics Database has many of Siemon’s credits here and hereHeritage Auctions sold two pages of Siemon’s unpublished comic book story for Harvey Comics. 

Siemon passed away October 6, 1969, in Los Angeles according to the California death index. He was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park


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Wednesday, October 25, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: Doctor Spook's Explorations


Any long-time reader of this space knows that I am a big fan of Albert Carmichael, who in my humble opinion was one of the premier cartoonists in the category of those who simply Draw Funny. Drawing Funny isn't about technical expertise, though it doesn't hurt, it's just a knack some cartoonists have for injecting a sense of fun, animation and joyfulness into their work. In Carmichael's case, his ability shines through even in a series as otherwise lame as Dr. Spook's Explorations

In this short-lived New York Evening World strip we have a typical nebbish (his profession as a doctor is never really a plot point) who  thinks he has found something wonderful (like a well-behaved child, a car that doesn't break down, etc.) and in panel four is disappointed. That fourth panel always ends with the caption "DID HE?", a sort of rimshot that succeeds in adding nothing. Yet I gladly suffer through each episode just to enjoy Carmichael's playful handling of people and settings. 

Dr. Spook's Explorations was a weekday strip that ran from September 7 to 30 1909. There were a total of seven episodes.


The whole Cook v. Peary thing is a fascinating story. Cook was found out, and humiliated, pretty quickly. Peary, with the backing of the National Geographic Society, got the laurels, and it was decades before his account was challenged.
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Monday, October 23, 2023


Magazine Cover Comics: Pretty Polly


In a dream team matchup, Nell Brinkley and Carolyn Wells got together in late 1928 to create the Sunday magazine cover series Pretty Polly. Brinkley did her customary beautiful job delineating those signature well-noodled beauties, while Wells spun a story in vignettes of a girl who feels that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 

Polly emulates women in professions she admires, takes on the personality of admired film stars, and  it just never works out well for her. Naturally in the final episode, Polly fails to be a copycat and immediately finds true love from a tall, dapper gent who falls in love with the real her. 

Pretty Polly started out under the banner of King Features Syndicate on November 18 1928*, and switched over to another Hearst syndicate, International Feature Services, on February 17 1929. The series concluded on March 3**.

A bookkeeping note about this feature as it is listed in my book. I claimed then that there was another series of Pretty Polly that ran in 1927. This was based on a sample from that series I (supposedly) had in my collection. Well, since then I have combed through the collection looking for this 1927 Pretty Polly to no avail, and also failed to find any supporting evidence from online sources. At this point I'm pretty darn sure that the sample I supposedly have is a mistyped record or a cross-linked listing from some other series. 

* Source: Philadelphia Bulletin

** Source: Cincinnati Enquirer


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Sunday, October 22, 2023


Wish You Were Here, from C.M. Payne


Here's a rare postcard from the collection of Mark Johnson featuring the Coon Hollow Folks, C.M. Payne's headline strip for the Pittsburgh Gazette-Times. There's an interesting story to that strip, hit this link to read the whole bizarre tale, or at least as much as I've been able to unravel of it.


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