Friday, June 14, 2024


Obscurity of the Day: The Clown Folks


Perhaps the most daunting job you could ever have as a newspaper cartoonist is to be chosen as the  replacement for Winsor McCay. And that's the thankless task tackled by Ap Adams* when Winsor McCay jumped ship from the Cincinnati Enquirer. McCay had drawn the minor classic A Tale of the Jungle Imps for the Enquirer for a little less than a year before the inevitable happened and he was summoned to the big time in New York City. 

Faced with an empty page of their Sunday comics, which were a combination of syndicated and local content (two pages versus one page), the Enquirer picked "Ap" Adams out of the art bullpen and handed him the reins to the local page on November 15 1903.  Initially he collaborated with "Felix Fiddle", the writer of the Jungle Imp tales, whose real name was George Randolph Chester. The first few episodes of The Clown Folks were very prose-rich productions, just like the Imps tales. Then 'Fiddle' decided to change over to a more normal comic strip approach, with one line descriptions under each panel. 

I'm guessing that Adams decided that Mr. Fiddle's services were of dubious use when he was writing just a few short captions, and on the Sunday page of January 24 1904 the name Felix Fiddle is dropped for the remainder of the series. Neither Fiddle nor Adams was at this point very adept at comic strip writing, so Enquirer readers probably didn't notice much difference. 

What Adams lacked in writing chops he made up for with lovely art. It wasn't good enough to make anyone forget McCay, but it was delightful on its own terms. While The Clown Folks didn't last long, ending on April 19 1904, Enquirer readers would enjoy the delightful art of Adams on a succession of Sunday strips lasting until late 1908.

* I have seen Mr. Adams' full first name given as Apworth, Anthorp, and Apthorp. I have no idea which is correct.




Another reason to fear clowns.
I did locate his death certificate. He died July 16, 1952 in Renovo, PA, and it lists his full name as William Apthorp Adams, born November 2, 1871 in Cincinnati, occupation, retired artist and newspaperman. (Father, Michael Cassley Adams, mother Frances Hall.) His obituary in the July 19, 1952 Philadelphia Inquirer has "William A. Adams" in the headline, but William Apchorp [sic] Adams in the text. His grave marker (which lists his vital dates as 1872-1952) lists his name as William Apthorp Adams. His 1918 draft card (occupation, cartoonist, living in Brooklyn) lists his name as William Apthorp Adams, born November 2, 1872. His October 5, 1896 marriage record in Hamilton County lists his name just as William A. Adams. I say go with "William Apthorp Adams" as his full name.
Thanks EOCostello!
Post a Comment

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

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]