Saturday, May 18, 2024


One-Shot Wonders: H.T. Webster Gag Cartoons, 1903


At about age 17, H.T. Webster moved to Chicago to attend an art school. Unfortunately the art school shut down shortly after he arrived. Faced with needing to earn a living, he found that the Chicago Daily News was a ready market for cartoons. The News carried a half page or more of cartoons and strips, crammed in and printed very small, for their back covers. It was a great page if you had real sharp eyesight. The list of neat stuff that appeared there goes on and on. 

Webster failed to make any big impression at the Daily News, but they bought plenty of his cartoons, and he even started a few short-lived series. Here we have a few cartoons from 1903 that show that early Webster cartoons are almost impossible to identify without the signatures. 


The umbrella title for the Chi'News syndicated pages of tiny cartoons was "WHERE THE LAUGH COMES IN."
Post a Comment

Friday, May 17, 2024


Obscurity of the Day: Exploits of Mamma's Angel Pet


Norman Ritchie, who signed himself "Norman", even to the quotation marks, was the yeoman cartoonist of the Boston Post. His main duty at the paper was editorial cartoons, but when comics came into fashion his job description was broadened to include them as well. 

Ritchie would eventually become quite adept at producing funnies, but in the early days of his new job he was still feeling his way. Exploits of Mamma's Angel Pet was in this early period, and you'll find in the sample above a gag that perhaps had some possibilities, but Ritchie couldn't zero in well enough on the important facts of the case and the gag ends up falling flat. 

Exploits of Mamma's Angel Child ran in the Boston Post Sunday comics section from October 16 1904 to April 9 1905.


I'm puzzled by the term "song sheet." This usually means "sheet music," but to the kids it seems to mean something else. Did the theater put a group of singers behind a panel with holes in it and have them stick their heads through the holes to sing? I googled extensively but only came up with sheet-music related results.

Maybe the girl saw some sheet music with head shots of performers on the cover. Cutting up the screen makes it resemble the cover montage. Seems far-fetched.

Does anyone out there know what she's talking about?
Smurfswacker, my take was the same as yours -- that the reference was to the head shots of the performers on sheet music, a not unusual design. But if so, Norman Ritchie really botches the gag by the mention of the matinee in panel three. Ritchie might have seen a vaudeville number that 'brought a song sheet to life'in that way, but unless it was a celebrated thing at the timne, he should have confined himself to the original source material. --Allan
From The Monroe Journal of May 24, 1900 describing an "illustrated song sheet" on the stage:
"The 'song sheet' is a white drop on which is painted the musical staff of five lines, and is punctured with holes representing notes which give the music of the chorus. The drop serves as a background for the performer who is to sing the song. Through the holes in the canvas the heads of colored men with melodious voices protrude, and they sing the chorus in harmony."
Here are photos from The National Magazine, vol. 9, no. 2, Nov. 1898, pp. 148, 149, and 151, of the front and the back of a song sheet in action:

The article is "The Vogue of the Vaudeville", by B. F. Keith.
Post a Comment

Wednesday, May 15, 2024


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: William Paul Pim

(An earlier profile was posted in 2016.) 

William Paul Pim was born in Freeport, Pennsylvania, on December 1, 1885. The birth date was on his World War I draft card. Who Was Who Among English and European Authors, 1931–1949, Volume 3 N–Z said he was born in Freeport. Who’s Who in America, Volume 22, 1942–1943, said he was born near Freeport. Pim’s parents were Ira Lester Pim and Mary Ella Dougherty. 

The 1900 United States Census recorded Pim as the oldest of two children. The family lived in Buffalo, Pennsylvania, where his father was a farmer.

Who’s Who said Pim graduated from Cabot Institute (Carbonblack, Pennsylvania) in 1903, and studied photo-engraving at Bissell College in Effingham, Illinois in 1906.

Pim’s residence in the 1910 census was Cleveland, Ohio at 1854 East 18th Street. His occupation was commercial artist. Who’s Who said Pim had a studio in Cleveland until 1914.

From 1915 to 1917, Pim resided in Birmingham, Alabama, where he was a cartoonist for the Birmingham News. He married Lenna E. Hales on July 16, 1917. Cartoons Magazine, October 1917 reported their skyscraper wedding. 
The top floor of the highest building in the South was selected by W. Paul Pim as the stage for his wedding ceremony recently. Mr. Pim, who is the staff artist of the Birmingham (Ala.) News, was married to Miss Lenna Hales of the News’ advertising staff. The ceremony took place on the twenty-fourth floor of the Jefferson County Bank building, the headquarters of the Newspaper Club. The groom is well known throughout the South for his cartoon work. He has been on the staff of the News for two years, having come to Birmingham from Pennsylvania and Ohio. Immediately after the ceremony the young couple embarked on a honeymoon tour through the East.

Who’s Who said Pim was with the Cleveland Plain Dealer from 1917 to 1918. While in Cleveland, he took the life class at John Huntington Polytechnic Institute

On September 12, 1918, Pim signed his World War I draft card which had his address as 130 North 73rd Street in Birmingham, Alabama. He was an artist with the Birmingham News and described as medium height and build with gray eyes and brown hair. 

Cartoons Magazine, July 1918, said
Pim Boosts Tank Recruiting
If you see a tank recruiting poster that is particularly impelling and gives you an impulse to go run a tank, the chances are that Pim did it—W. Paul Pim of the Birmingham, Alabama, News.

The poster shows a large tank, with a soldier on top of it, and a large United States flag in the background, over which is written the legend “We’re Berlin Bound,” while the caption extends a cordial, Primesque invitation to “get in a tank and treat them rough.”
Pim moved from the News to the Birmingham Ledger where he worked from 1919 to 1920.

In the 1920 census, cartoonist Pim and his wife made their home at 4303 Avenue E in Birmingham. 

Pim’s art training included the Federal Schools’ courses as explained in The Federal Illustrator, Summer 1926.
Federal Course Helped Paul Pim “Put His Ideas Across”
There is a reason for this which is well voiced by no less an authority than W. Paul Pim, of the George Matthew Adams Service.

Mr. Pim has for years been a favorite with the readers of the Birmingham newspapers and acquired fame outside his city through his work on the old Cartoons Magazine, but he himself says that he never really began to advance in a big way until he became acquainted with the Federal Course.

A few years ago he was instructing a class of war veterans, and as the government furnished them with Federal School textbooks, he became interested in the course, and soon became vocational director for the school in the Birmingham district.

Shortly afterward he placed his first national syndicate feature, “Baby Mine,” with the George Matthew Adams Service. In addition to this he now has a very successful five column comic strip, “Telling Tommy,” with the Cosmos Newspaper Syndicate, Inc. All of this progress was made since his association with the Federal Schools. 

Let Pim tell it in his own words: “I have had a good many years in newspaper art work,” he writes, but when it came to putting across something really worth while, the suggestions and advice of men like Herbert Johnson, John T. McCutcheon, Sidney Smith, Fontaine Fox, Frank Wing, Clare Briggs, Frank King and others which I found in the Federal Course proved an invaluable aid.”

Mr. Pim five years ago had reached a point in his career that would be regarded by many as a very safe and substantial one, but he was not satisfied. If he could find the material in the Federal Course an aid to him, how much more beneficial it is to you students who are just beginning. There is a wealth of information for you here.
Who’s Who said Pim started, in 1921, an advertising art studio. He was a commercial art instructor at Birmingham-Southern College from 1922 to 1931. The school’s newspaper, Gold and Black, November 9, 1922, reported Pim’s appointment to the faculty. 
Noted Artist Is Added to Faculty
Paul Pim Will Conduct Course On “Hill”
Official announcement was made from the president’s office of Birmingham-Southern College Thursday morning of the addition to the college faculty of W. Paul Pim, local artist, nationally known for his art work and the now famous “Baby Mine,” which is running in The Birmingham News and 60 other daily publications of the United States. The announcement made by President Guy Snavely, is but another step in Birmingham-Southern’s policy of affording an opportunity to the student body of the college to come in contact with masters in the various lines of artistic endeavor.

The course to be offered by Mr. Pim will be conducted Saturday morning for three hours, in the form of a one-hour lecture period and two hours of work in the art laboratory. The course will emphasize commercial art, cartooning in all its forms and illustration work. It was stated by the college authorities that two hours of regular college credit would be given those successfully completing the work. The course will begin with the opening of the second semester of the college year.

Mr. Pim, who did his art study at two of the well-known art institutes of the country, the John Huntington Institute, Cleveland, and the Bissell College of Pohtographic [sic] Engraving of Illinois, worked for a number of years as an artict [sic] on various Cleveland daily papers and was art editor of The Birmingham Ledger and other Southern newspapers. Since suspension of The Ledger, he has conducted a commercial art business in Birmingham and recently became nationally famous by the creation of “Baby Mine,” which first ran in the Birmingham News.

The art course at Birmingham-Southern, which will be conducted by Mr. Pim, will be open to anyone wishing to take the work, but is planned primarily for those wishing to enter the commercial art game, regular college students and the school teachers of the district. Especially is the course planned to fit the needs of the school teachers of the city and county, and it will give numbers of them an opportunity to become more familiar with the art work, which is a part of their duty in the regular grade teaching. The course will be part of the regular extension school work.

In speaking of the course Dr. Snavely said: “Birmingham-Southern is delighted to have the creator of ‘Baby Mine’ on the college faculty. We feel that in Mr. Pim we have a talented artist, competent in every way to conduct the course that we have planned. Birmingham-Southern is following in the wake of the larger institutions of learning of the country in adding nationally known men to its faculty. This is done to give to the students of the college an opportunity to come in contact with men who stand out in the life of the nation. We feel that the education of no student is complete until he has had some opportunity to come In contact with artists of the first rank, whether it be in the field of art, music or literature. We congratulate ourselves on securing the services of Mr. Pim.”
1925 La Revue yearbook

During the 1920s and 1930s, American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Pim produced Baby Mine, Masterpieces of Great Literature, Telling Tommy, and Next

The Fourth Estate, July 15, 1922, said 
“Baby Mine” Contest Pulls Great Response in Birmingham.
“Baby Mine,” by Paul Pim of the George Matthew Adams Service, is being featured by the Birmingham, Ala., News. Recently the News offered a prize of one dollar for letters on “What your baby says” to be printed daily with the Paul Pim cartoon.

Eight hundred answers were received the first week, which nearly swamped the contest department. The answers were so surprisingly good that the News decided to make a feature page on Sundays of those that were not prize winners. The first of these pages appeared Sunday, July 2, with a large lay-out showing Paul Pim at work in his studio.

At a recent dinner of the Birmingham Rotary Club Pim made a hit with a chalk talk, his subject being “Baby Mine.”
Printers’ Ink, May 17, 1923, said
New Advertising Business Formed at Birmingham, Ala.
B. A. Davey and Associates is the name of a new advertising business which has been formed at Birmingham, Ala. The officers of the new company are: B. Davey, president; Baxter Eastburn, vice-president; and Morton Simpson, secretary-treasurer.

Mr. Davey formerly had been advertising manager of the Birmingham News. Mr. Simpson recently had been advertising manager of Loveman, Joseph & Loeb, Birmingham department store. Mr. Eastburn had been with the J. Bloch & Sons Clothing Company, also of Birmingham.

W. Paul Pim is art director of the new company.
The 1930 census recorded Pim in Birmingham at 4300 9th Court. 

In 1939, Pim wrote Telling Tommy About Mother Nature’s Curious Children, the first of seven Telling Tommy books. Telling Tommy About Famous People in Their Youth (1940); Telling Tommy About Days We Celebrate (1941); Telling Tommy About Famous Inventors (1942); Telling Tommy About Our Good Neighbors (1943); Telling Tommy About Things We Use (1946); and Telling Tommy About Pilgrims Progress (1957). 

According to the 1940 census, self-employed artist and writer Pim was a Birmingham homeowner at 4300 10th Avenue. 

The 1950 census, enumerated in April, said Pim was at the same address and “unable to work”. 

Pim passed away July 26, 1950, in Birmingham. Many newspapers published the Associated Press obituary. 
William Paul Pim, Author, Cartoonist
Birmingham, Ala., July 26 (AP)—William Paul Pim, whose sketches for children became nationally known, died at midnight after a long illness. He was 65 years old.

The artist drew the “Baby Mine” and “Telling Tommy,” syndicated features. He was author of a series of illustrated stories about Tommy.

Born in Freeport, Pa., he came here in 1915 and worked as a newspaper cartoonist. During the first World War he was with The Cleveland Plain Dealer and then returned here.

Mr. Pim began the “Baby Mine” series in 1921 after opening an advertising studio. The “Telling Tommy” features followed.

Surviving are his widow, Mrs. Lenna Hales Pim, and a sister, Mrs. Roy Van Dyke of Freeport.
Pim was laid to rest in Forest Hill Cemetery

Further Reading and Viewing
Stripper’s Guide, The Newspaper Feature Service Romantic Cartoon Series, Part 9 (1927–1928)
The Kiwanis Magazine, July 1923
The Kiwanis Magazine, August 1924


Comments: Post a Comment

Monday, May 13, 2024


Obscurity of the Day: Telling Tommy


Cartoonist W. Paul Pim is quite the enigma, at least to me. I have seen artwork of his that is very good. and yet his biggest successes looked like the above, which I consider quite awful. He seemed to like drawing little kids, and yet could not draw a cute kid any more than Elmer Fudd could catch a wabbit. 

It's just weird. Pim seemed to be able to draw realistic stuff okay, yet when he switched over to cartoony mode he was a car wreck. And yet his longest-running features were cartoony, or partially cartoony like this feature, Telling Tommy.

This strip was meant to be instructional; Tommy asks wise ol' Dad a question, and Dad proceeds to feed him some 'facts' on the subject. I put the word facts in quotes, because if you were to get all your information from Tommy's dad, you'd fail a lot of tests in school. Both our samples above offer incorrect information. The one about rabbits is just misleading -- rabbits are actually much more common than hares in the U.S., and most all rabbits and hares molt twice a year, not just the show shoe hare. 

The second strip is more egregious; the Canadian national anthem at the time, and for many years to come, was God Save The King. The Maple Leaf Forever was a patriotic song of some popularity, but never an official national anthem. 

The most amazing thing about Telling Tommy, after its loose grip on the facts and feeble art, is its longevity. This is the sort of strip that you figure might have lasted a year or two before lack of clients shut it down. But Telling Tommy, believe it or not, was actively syndicated for almost a decade and a half! It was a comparative rarity the whole time, but it just kept chugging along.

The strip debuted with the Cosmos Newspaper Syndicate on June 1 1925*. Cosmos was a small syndicate that was active in the mid-20s. I know little about them, but they had an interesting habit of introducing new features only to have them defect to other syndicates. Telling Tommy followed that plotline. The amazing thing is that none other than King Features Syndicate took it over. It's hard to imagine Telling Tommy rubbing shoulders with the likes of Bringing Up Father, Barney Google and Happy Hooligan, but it really did. King took over with the release of August 23 1926**.

The strip just could not be stopped. Although very few newspapers ever ran the darn thing, King offered it until 1939***. I can't offer a specific end date, because the last samples I've seen are from 1937. 

And yet, amazingly enough, this was STILL not the end of Telling Tommy. In the same year that the strip finally went belly-up, Pim got the Cupples & Leon publishing company to rework some of his strips with some additional text matter under the title Telling Tommy About Mother Nature's Curious Children. This eventually led to a six book series, the last of which was not published until seven years after Pim's death.

And there's yet another footnote. In 1943, General Features syndicate was barely out of their diapers when they decided to see what they could do with Telling Tommy. What they came up with was to offer the strip as a three-times-per-week advertising strip for department stores****. New and revamped material was created so as to make their subjects tangentially related to department stores and their value in the war effort. The idea seems a little hare-brained, but I'v actually seen the strips used as ads by a few department stores. 

Okay, I think I've finally covered all the bases on Telling Tommy. If there's more to the story I'm not entirely sure I want to know about it. (Okay, fine, yes I do. I'm a glutton for punishment.)

* Source: Editor & Publisher, July 25 1925.

** Source: Editor & Publisher, August 21 1926. 

*** Source: Editor & Publisher Syndicate Directories.

**** Source: Editor & Publisher, November 27 1943.


There is a little bit more. There was also a "Telling Tommy" card game, from 1934. I have a copy somewhere in one of my boxes. It was a quiz game, with questions and answers, and artwork from the strip. It has some period charm, but was probably not much fun.
As of this comment (5/14/24) you can find a copy of that card game here:
Not exactly giving it away, are they! I wonder how many of the card games 'facts' are as suspect as those in the strip?
Post a Comment

Sunday, May 12, 2024


Wish You Were Here, from Walter Wellman


This is card #1022 in Walter Wellman's probably self-published series of cards from 1907. What young fellow, separated from his gal who is probably away with her family, wouldn't be thrilled to receive such a card. Nicely done Walter, who was not generally all that adept at drawing pretty girls. You nailed it! Sadly, this card was never posted -- an opportunity forever lost.


Comments: Post a Comment

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

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]