Saturday, January 27, 2024


One Shot Wonders: The Native, the Hair Restorer and the Snake by J.B. Lowitz, 1897


It's amazing how ubiquitous black characters were in the comics sections of the 1890s. There was plenty of garden-variety stereotyping and outright racist strips, of course, but then there was also an obsession with gags about exotic animals, primitve lands and jungles. And those strips generally included black characters, too -- Africans theoretically, though just about anyone from exotic climes was depicted pretty much the same way, no matter the specific location. So between these strips about exotic lands, and the constant dirge of stereotyping of American blacks, these early comic sections are absolutely brimming with black characters. It comes across to these modern eyes as oddly obsessive, a compulsion to uphold the race constantly to ridicule. Did people of the 1890s really need these racist tropes reinforced constantly? Was there a worry that if there was no constant drumbeat of race hatred that people would forget to be racists?

This strip by J.B. Lowitz ran in the New York Journal comic section of March 14 1897.


Speaking of stereotyping any and all people with dark skin — they almost always speak with the deep South (USA)version of the mangled "negro" English. Even if they are supposedly Cannibals from the African Jungle, they speak with the "Yas Massah, ah sure do likes dat dere cornbread" accent. It's as if that way of speaking is endemic to any "darkie", no matter where from.
And it wasn't just comics. Whites filled their homes with all sorts of objects featuring Black stereotypes--from cookie jars to toys to salt & pepper shakers and so on. There is a whole museum--The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Imagery in Big Rapids, Michigan--devoted to these objects. I always wondered why Whites who wouldn't want to associate with Blacks in real life would want to be surrounded by their images.
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Friday, January 26, 2024


Obscurity of the Day: The Education of Master Tommy Pip


During Ed Carey's years with the McClure Syndicate his bread-and-butter feature was Simon Simple, but he was also doing various fillers. One of the least distinguished of those was The Education of Master Tommy Pip, a rip-off so thorough of Buster Brown that the kid even writes a long-winded 'resolution' in the final panel of each strip. 

The Education of Master Tommy Pip appeared occasionally in the Otis F. Wood copyrighted version of the McClure Sunday sections from December 17 1905 to June 25 1906*. A few episodes were also reprinted in 1912 McClure sections**. 

* Source: San Francisco Chronicle

** Source: Battle Creek Moon-Journal


Possibly a double ripoff, also appropriating the title of Charles Dana Gibson's "The Education of Mister Pipp".

It's a series of captioned drawings, circa 1899, following wealthy Mr. Pipp on a European tour. He's not a mischief maker but a small old man, mostly reacting to events and bowing to the will of his formidable wife and his pretty daughters. "Education" is supposedly the justification for the trip, but it's mostly sightseeing and society.

The series is reproduced in at least two collections of Gibson drawings. Perhaps it was out in book form so the title would still be familiar.
Great catch DBenson, thanks for pointing that out.
For anyone curious, I recently scanned and posted the full book, The Education of Mr. Papp by Gibson at my site. Feel free to peruse or download.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2024


Mystery Strip: Sonny Boy and Troubles


Here's a real headscratcher from my collection. I have a bound portfolio of these strips, titled Sonny Boy and Troubles. Each full-page colour strip is copyright by Alltone Company and dated 1924. The art, however, is uncredited. The binding, which offers no additional information, is what I might call semi-professional. Probably not something done on someone's kitchen table, but also probably not destined for retail sale, either. The pattern-decorated boards are bound with a gauze strip which covers the stapled spine. The book is 12.25" wide and 16.5" tall. Each of the 12 leaves is printed on one side only. 

The Alltone Company that copyrighted these strips may be one I tracked down from this era in Milwaukee Wisconsin. They were some sort of printing concern. 

The simple stories vary between fantasies like above and the more mundane. They are all told in rhyme. The writing is good enough for what it is and the stories are imaginative given that they are just eight-panels with no continuity from page to page. The art is sometimes a bit stiff, but the layouts and especially the sumptuous colouring make each page a real beauty. 

I can find only one reference on the web to this material: three eBay listings by a single seller offering individual pages of strips that appear in my book. The seller claims that their pages were associated somehow with a grocery store in Minnesota (found there by the seller I assume?). The seller says his are on "cardboard poster" stock. Mine are on slick coated paper. His sheets are a bit taller and skinnier than mine. The skinnier width might be because the stapled binding has been cut away, but the photos clearly show that his pages have a taller top margin than mine. 

It seems a shame that no one took credit for these impressive pages, and of course, the mystery of how and why they came to be is tugging at me. But I'm all out of avenues to pursue. Anyone have any ideas?


Hello Allan-

Here's a few ideas- They are made to show off the abilities of the printing company, in production of advertising mats. This shows what high grade work they could put into magazine or newspaper adverts.

It might also something to show possible clients for some kind of tie-in with a local merchant; an ad every week with a colour comic strip on the back, in a free in-store flyer or junk mail.
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Monday, January 22, 2024


An Obscure Syndicate: Madison Features Service

We love H.T. Elmo here at Stripper's Guide, not because he was a great cartoonist ... because he wasn't ... but for his enduring and unassailable belief that there was some way to cadge a living from all those weekly newspapers published in the country. Elmo had his fingers in a lot of different pies over the years, but he always returned to the weekly syndicate concept despite undoubtedly never making any decent money out of it. 

In 1949 Elmo came up with a new and unusual concept for a weekly feature syndicate. Rather than try to get money out of the newspaper owners (a task akin to panning for gold in your bathtub water) he would offer his cartoons for free, with the very small caveat that in exchange for using the cartoons the newspaper would give him a little ad space. A barter system, in other words. Ad space is worth money, even in crummy weekly papers, so the plan seemed to make a lot of sense. The only problem was that Elmo had nothing to sell in this ad space. 

But luckily Elmo had friends who did. The Baron family of Wappingers Falls, New York, who were in the drugstore business, had come up with an ointment for dogs with mange. They called the stuff Goodwinol (after a vet named Dr. Goodwin who helped test the stuff). The Barons and Elmo got together and formed a company called Madison Features Service (why Madison? I haven't a clue.) Elmo would produce the cartoons and do the marketing to newspapers, and the Barons would pay him to do this in exchange for all the free ad space being given to Goodwinol.

The syndicate was formed in November 1949. Elmo got the ball rolling with a list of early adopter clients and then sent promotion material to weekly papers all over the country. And here is that mailer:

Front Cover

Back Cover

Initial Fold-Out Page
Main Promo Fold-Out

Okay, so the mailer isn't the easiest thing to read, considering it breaks every rule of layout you can think of. But you have to give this mailer points for a sense of frantic energy, I suppose. In the midst of the breathless screaming type, the details do emerge. The syndicate was offering a menu of features, and you could have one of them in exchange for 6 column-inches of spaces, or you could get two or more for 4" per feature. So if you took all four (the pictured features would turn out to be the only ones available), you'd get a half-way decent partial page of comics, and in exchange you owed Madison Features 16 column inches of ad space. 

Looking at the four features offered, you just might discern a certain sameness to the art. Of course that's because Elmo was producing them all himself. But as was his habit, to make the operation look bigger (or utterly ridiculous to those who have eyes) he assigned ghost names. The Fumble Family he took for himself, while The Totsy Twins was assigned to Ben Baron, The Latest Laugh to "Nibby" (or to Leah Baron in the copyright submission), and World-Wide Wonders to Howard (or Howard Baron in the copyright paperwork). The Barons, of course, were the family paying the bills to get this venture off the ground. 

The promo package also shows that the syndicate already had a pretty nice sounding client list. New York, Miami, Jacksonville ... wow! But of course they were all tiny papers. The most interesting one in the group is the New York Enquirer. This is the paper that would become The National Enquirer just a few years later in 1952. In the 1920s and 30s, I am told, it was a weekly that tried out new ideas for Hearst, ones he didn't want in his regular papers yet -- not even the Mirror! For that reason I'd LOVE to see some issues, but they are about as scarce as author-signed copies of the Bible.

Unfortunately, not one of the papers in Elmo's ring of mastheads seems to be available online, but I did manage to find a few papers that took the bait. The earliest I can find is the New York Age (a black paper), that ran some strips in December 1949. Others straggled in during 1950. Despite the small sampling I can pretty confidently say that the scheme did not work out nearly as well as planned. Luckily for us, Elmo loved to number his strips, and since the highest numbered strip of any of these I can find is #24, less than a half-years worth of weekly strips seems to have been produced. That certainly doesn't bespeak a big success. 

But why didn't the scheme work out? I mean, on the face of it the deal was not a bad one, and weekly papers are notorious penny-pinchers, so why didn't they take the bait? It turns out that it wasn't so much that they didn't take the bait, but when they did they failed to play by the rules set out by Madison Features. In all the papers I found that ran the features, I found almost none of them printing the Goodwinol ads! They accepted the strips (all of'em), ran them, and when it came time to print the ads, they rarely even bothered. 

No doubt the Barons were devastated by the unscrupulousness of these publishers, but I bet Mr. Elmo wasn't quite so surprised. After all, he'd been trying with little success to wring money out of weeklies for years. But I imagine even so he was at least a little taken aback that the baseness of these publishers went beyond even tight-fistedness with actual money to reneging on easily-kept promises. But bizarrely enough, it never stopped him. Elmo would be back again later, knocking on the weeklies doors again and again. 

One little piece of good news to end this little story. Goodwinol survived their initial marketing misery, and the company is still around today, offering an entire line of pet and livestock animal care products.


I loved this piece! Hilarious and obscure--my cup of tea. Thanks for the sleuthing and write-up!
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Sunday, January 21, 2024


Wish You Were Here, from Little Nemo


Nemo, Impy and Flip wade in the East River, a decidedly unhealthy pursuit, in this card from the Little Nemo series. Can you identify which McCay strip holds the original version of this scene?


This is from October 6, 1907.
Thanks Brian!
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