Monday, May 20, 2024


Obscurity of the Day: Petey, the Growler, the Old One and the Goat


The Detroit News had some really interesting homegrown material in the 1900s and 1910s. Unfortunately I have never had the opportunity to take a long leisurely indexing run through the microfilm, and as far as I know, the paper does not yet exist on the web. So for now all I can offer is based on the samples from my personal files. 

Burt Thomas had pretty much just arrived at the Detroit News in 1906 when he penned the series Petey, The Growler, The Old One and The Goat. My few samples are from September of that year, and though a daily-style strip, seemed to have run only in the Sunday editions. If the present samples are a fair indicator, Thomas's black kids use the near-required mushmouth dialect and the typical moon-faces, but otherwise they are just a group of kids having some fun and inevitably getting into trouble. 

I don't know if Detroit had a large black population in the early 1900s (the major influx of blacks apparently happened in the 1910s and later) but by comparison with how blacks were represented in many other black strips this was practically an outreach to Detroit's black community. 

UPDATE: Jeffrey Lindenblatt informs me that the News is indeed on the web, but unfortunately at the GenealogyBank website, whose slowness and bad interface make indexing a practically impossible job. Sigh. I did manage to get running dates for this series though; it ran from August 19 1906 to October 21 1906 on the Sunday children's page. The first two installments were accompanied by long text stories by "N.T", but the strips can stand on their own. Thanks Jeffrey!


Where did the idea come from, that goats always eat tin cans?
As of 1900, the black population of Detroit was a little over 4,000, representing about 1.4% of the city's population. Later figures are 5700/1.2% (1910), 40,800/4.1% (1920), 140,000/9/1% (1930), 300,000/16.1% (1950). Source:
By the way, as of 5/20/24, this interesting Thomas-related item, a "Mr. Straphanger" cartoon, is up on eBay:
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