Saturday, May 25, 2024


One-Shot Wonders: Herriman Gag Cartoons, 1901


Here we have a collection of miscellaneous gags from the McClure comics section of December 15 1901. Some are about Christmas, befitting the publication date. But Herriman's contributions are evergreen items, probably stuff he'd been carrying around in his portfolio for months looking for some pigeon to buy them. 

Besides Herriman, whose cartoons are at the upper left and right, we have a Marriner gag (top center), and a two-panel A.D. Reed gag on the bottom. I have to give Reed the nod for best gag, though Herriman's wordplay in the upper right gets points for ingenuity.


Do you think the top left cartoon was reversed on purpose or by accident?
Most likely just a print shop mistake, but maybe the image fit better that way. If the latter, they could have been decent about it and fixed the signature.
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Friday, May 24, 2024


Selling It: Horrible Husbands of the Forties

 If the Ivory Soap ad writers were correct it was utter hell to be a housewife in the 1940s. Imagine this: a wife with the perfect hourglass figure, a face that Hollywood starlets would envy, a boundless desire to please her husband, and a work ethic for housework that borders on the monomaniacal. And yet, her husband can see only that her hands are a bit red and rough from doing the dishes with strong washday soap (whatever that is). And not only does hubby notice only this tiny flaw in his goddess of domesticity, but he is repulsed, disgusted, and downright nasty in his reaction to this imperfection. 

These ads shouldn't have been hawking dish soap. They should have been touting divorce attorneys.

Ivory Soap used the "red 'n' rough" terminology in their ads for years, but the version in which Red and Rough become actual characters seems to have been limited to these ads by Paul Fung, which ran from about March to June 1944.


Fung did a lot of ad comics. He even had a series where he brought back Dumb Dora to sell Ry-Crisp about 1943-4.
Limited run, of course, by the untimely death of Fung Sr.
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Wednesday, May 22, 2024


Obscurity of the Day: Charles Dana Gibson's Latest Pictures


I know that Stripper's Guide readers need no introduction to Charles Dana Gibson, perhaps the most celebrated and successful penman of his day. So I can go directly on to the sad fact that after becoming the top illustrator/cartoonist of the 1890s, a legend in his own time, his popularity was on the wane by the mid-1910s. He was still a respected illustrator, of course, but his work no longer inspired quite the level of adulation and awe it once had. The fickle public had moved on.

So in 1915 he was no longer the latest fad, but Gibson's name was still a draw. Life Magazine tried to capitalize on it by offering a series to newspapers with the simple and direct title Charles Dana Gibson's Latest Pictures. The series did not sell tremendously well, and I'm guessing that was because the pricing of the feature reflected Gibson's worth more circa 1900 than 1915.

The series offered was ten weekly drawings*, each accompanied by the humorous poetry of Boston Post newspaper writer/humorist Joe Toye. Many papers that took the series unceremoniously lopped off Mr. Toye's verses, leaving the pictures with a certain lack of context. The drawings were wonderful, of course, and the seldom seen verses by Toye weren't bad either. But sales were underwhelming, and the series came and went, the last time such a newspaper offering would be made of Mr. Gibson's drawings. Although some copyright slugs noted 1914 as the publication year, actually the earliest known running dates for the series are January 24 to March 20 1915**.

* Some mentions claim that there would be twelve installments, but ten seems to have been the actual number.

** Source: Atlanta Constitution, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, etc.


Ahhh, the old "coppers courting housemaids" trope!
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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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Sunday, May 19, 2024


Wish You Were Here, from Albert Carmichael


Carmichael produced a whole series of cards (Taylor Pratt & Company Series 668 of 1910) based on the 1908 hit song "Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?".In this case we only need but look up.


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