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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Friday, June 21, 2024


Obscurity of the Day: What's The Use?


Hard for me to believe that we've not offered George Westcott a moment in the spotlight yet. He penned a goodly number of series for the New York Evening Telegram from 1905 to 1911. Oh, well, I suppose that would be the reason ... finding tearsheets of Evening Telegram material is like discovering a double-yolk egg -- it happens, but it's a mighty rare occurrence. The paper's material was offered in syndication, but it is so rarely seen I'd guess that there was little effort put into marketing. 

I don't know much about Mr. Westcott. A few tidbits have surfaced, though -- in 1905 when he debuted with the Telegram he was supposedly just 19 years old. He graduated from Yale with honours. He claims to have penned and published a duplicate of Charles Dana Gibson's famed "The Eternal Question" before Mr. Gibson did his. All these factoids come from a promotional piece done for Evening Telegram features in 1907, the only bit of marketing I've ever seen. 

Today we look at What's The Use?, an inspired bit of off-the-wall slapstick and wordplay that should whet anyone's appetite for more of Mr. Westcott's offerings. Sadly, this is the only decent sample I have to show -- the rest in my files are blurry microfilm prints. In each installment the unnamed fella in the stove-pipe hat corners some unlucky mark and proceeds to rhyme his way into their bad graces, generally ending up physically assaulted. The feature ran on occasional weekdays from April 25 to September 12 1910.


The Buffalo Courier Express, May 26, 1955, carries his obituary. His full name was George Edwin Westcott, Jr.. Between 1941 and 1955, he was the editor and publisher of the Waterville Times (Waterville being a small town in Oneida County, in north-central New York). The obituary mentions work he did for the New York Herald ("where he turned out 600 sketches of Wall Street figures in the early 1900s") and also notes he did work for Judge. Waterville was his home town, having been born there on April 13, 1881. His WWI draft registration card lists him as a commercial artist, working on his own account and for R.H. Macy & Co. Apparently, in 1902, he did win a prize in elementary anatomy at Yale's School of Fine Arts. The 1920 Yale Alumni directory (available on lists him as being a non-graduate of the School of Fine Arts, class of 1902, having attended 1901-1902.
Thanks for the bio EOCostello!
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Wednesday, June 19, 2024


Selling It: National Health Agencies PSAs for 1964


The National Health Agencies was an umbrella organization for medical charities. It was created in the mid-1950s along with several other umbrella organizations to raise money from government employees. It was created to simplify fundraising from these employees, who had before been bombarded with many campaigns for many different organizations. In practice, of course, it just created a new layer of bureaucracy in which money intended for charitable purposes was swallowed by middlemen. Unlike the more familiar United Way, which was eventually disgraced by financial scandals, as far as I know the NHA was never outed for hinky finances. The NHA was eventually renamed Community Health Charities, and then all these organizations were further conglomerated as Combined Federal Campaigns.

Cartoonists and their syndicates were sometimes tapped to do PSA art for charitable organizations, and in the 1964 NHA fund drive many contributed panel cartoons. Above are some of the panels produced for that drive.

Here's an easy quiz for you -- just name all the characters above. I can't imagine Stripper's Guide readers not acing this quiz, but in case you're stumped just hover your cursor over the image that has you beat, and read the file name, where all will be revealed.


It's rare for PSAs to ever be original artwork, The ones King Features produced years go were also existing material, usually random panels from already published strips from somewhere in the last few years before. Sometimes they seemed rather poorly chosen and the new word balloons had to really contort to make sense in the context of the charity's message.
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Monday, June 17, 2024


Obscurity of the Day, Revisited: Terry and Tacks


Well, once again your senile ol' Stripper cleaned up some mouldy oldies for Obscurity of the Day only to find out that it already got featured here, in the case of Terry and Tacks a decade and a half ago. Oh well, as the popular saying goes, a happy life depends on a new dose of Terry and Tacks every decade or so.

So let's see if I can tell you anything about the strip that wasn't covered back when my blog was just a wee little infink. Hmm...

Okay, here's sumthin ... Joe Farren pretty much disappears off my radar after the 1910s, and it turns out that's because he got a job in the New York Times art department in the 1920s -- no series comics coming out of there of course. And a decade later I found a sports cartoon penned by his kid, Joe Farren, Jr. Who he was working for I dunno, looks like a grade-Z syndicated thing, an evergreen panel about Joe Louis. 

Factoid the second ... I think I've now nailed down the reprint runs of Terry and Tacks in the World Color Printing sections. How about July 15 1923* to March 15 1925**, and October 6 1929 to June 22 1930***. Dates have been 'normalized' to Sundays as some of these papers printed their Sunday sections on other days.

* Source: Pomona Progress

** Source: San Luis Obispo Tribune

*** Source: Mexico Intelligencer


The February 11, 1964 New York Times has a very brief obituary for Farren, Sr., which mentions "Terry and Tacks." It notes he did work for the Boston Post, Boston Globe and Boston Herald, the last-named being a sports cartoonist. Joseph A., Jr. is mentioned as having survived him.
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Sunday, June 16, 2024


Wish You Were Here, from Rose O'Neill


Here's another Rose O'Neill card, published by Gibson Art Company. As usual, no copyright dates on these cards. This one was postally used in 1922.


Happy Easter, Allan!
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