Saturday, June 22, 2024


One-Shot Wonders: A Frank Nankivell Page Border, 1897


The inside pages of 1890s newspaper comic sections were often full of written jokes with the comics artfully, or inartfully, scattered about the page. This example is an interior page from an early New York Journal Sunday comic section, January 3 1897. Frank Nankivell offers an impressive page border with dozens of cartoon figures cavorting about. The large upper middle strip is by someone who, I swear this is what I see, signing himself Badfish. The middle two panel strip is unsigned. The panel cartoon at the bottom is quite badly printed, but I think it might be by E.W. Kemble. 

As was normally the case with these interior pages, only limited colours were used. In this case it seems to be two - green and red. Not using black as one of your colours might have seemed like a good idea, but I doubt that even when hot off the press with nice white paper that pages like this were easy on the eyes. Having yellowed over the century plus since, I had a heck of a time teasing out the detail from this page to make it even somewhat legible, so apologies for it being hard to read.


"Badfish" is probably Bodfish (I only know the name because there's a town in California called Bodfish, after someone named that.)
Don't you think the second cartoon might be by Bodfish as well? Both are very skilled in facial expressions and otherwise. He might have been a specialist in snapping tree gags.
Is this the first "Man stranded on a desert island with a single tree" cartoon?
On further investigation, this must be New York artist William P. Bodfish, of whose art there are numerous examples out there, e.g.:

He seemed to use again and again the same composition, going diagonally from front to back, usually left to right.
Thanks for the ID!
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