Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Obscurity of the Day: The Roly Polys

I've made no secret that I'm not a fan of Paul West's art, but in the feature The Roly Polys he shows off a surprisingly great facility for caricature. Why West chose the genre of paper dolls to comment on major news stories of the day, like the Spanish-American War and the Boer War, I cannot fathom, but I have to admit it's kinda neat stuff. Even Governor Teddy Roosevelt makes an appearance. 

The Roly Polys was an occasional feature of the New York World's Sunday comic section from September 10 1899 to July 1 1900. Our samples above are from the collection of Cole Johnson -- unfortunately a little tattered, but this is some really rare stuff. A little bit of the poetry portion is chewed up, but as with all West's versifications, you ain't missing much.


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Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Fern McLellan

Fern McLellan was born Fern A. Gordon* on November 14, 1888, in Ontario, Canada. Her birth date is from the Social Security Death Index. The birthplace was published in California and Californians, Volume 3 (1930). She was six years old when her family moved to California.

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census said McLellan was the oldest of two children born to Christopher, a hardware salesman, and Mary. The family resided at 119 South Grand Avenue in Los Angeles, California.

California and Californians said McLellan “was liberally educated, attending the Occidental Preparatory School, the College of Fine Arts of the University of Southern California, and had further training under Mr. Judson and at the Otis School of Fine Arts under Mr. Schrader.”

In the 1910 census, housewife McLellan was married to Gardner Wheeler, a salesman. The couple lived in Los Angeles; the street name is illegible. According to the 1930 census, McLellan was 20 years old (around 1909) when she married.

The 1920 census recorded three children, ages four to nine, born to McLellan who was an artist at a furniture store. Her husband was an abstractor at a title company.

Publications in Southern California Art 1, 2, & 3 (1984) said “From the mid 1920s she was listed as a commercial artist with Kenneth L. McLellan” California and Californians said “In her work as a commercial artist Mrs. Wheeler is associated with Mr. Kenneth L. McLellan. They are doing famous art illustrations, and are regarded as among the cleverest of the art illustrators in the West. They have built up a large clientele, doing work for individuals as well as for some of the largest agencies including Barkers, Lord & Thomas and others. Mrs. Wheeler’s inclination is for illustrating in the children’s world.”

At some point McLellan divorced her husband and married Kenneth McLellan.

The 1930 census recorded the McLellans, both self-employed commercial artists, in Los Angeles at 2446 North Gower Street. McLellan’s ex-husband lived down the street at 2490.

McLellan drew the weekly series Dr. Tinker Claus the Toy Mender which was written by Harold Debus. The series ran from April 3, 1932 to July 2, 1933 in the Los Angeles Times.

McLellan has not yet been found in the 1940 census. Her first husband passed away in 1944.

McLellan passed away February 2, 1967, in San Bernardino, California, according to the California death index at The Social Security Death Index did not have the day of death. McLellan was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Her second husband passed away the following year.

• McLellan’s name is incorrect in the first sentence at AskArt. The family name is incorrect in the second sentence. McLellan has another entry at AskArt. The year, 1924, in incorrect in the third sentence. McLellan was in Los Angeles since the 1900 census.

—Alex Jay


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Monday, October 16, 2017


Obscurity of the Day: Dr. Tinker Claus the Toy Mender

If you're in L.A. there's no way to tell when it's Christmas time by the weather -- you need the benefit of a shopping mall or at least a calendar -- and apparently the Los Angeles Times had the benefit of neither of these handy indicators. That's the only reason I can think of that they would decide to start running a Christmas comic strip in April.

On April 3 1932, a weekly strip debuted in the Sunday Junior Times kiddie section titled Dr. Tinker Claus the Toy Mender, credited to the team of Harold Debus and Fern McLellan. With no obvious clue to which partner did what, I snooped around a bit and found Mr. Debus' byline on a few news stories, so I'm assuming that Ms. McLellan was the artistic half of the team.

Each week the feature offered a short tale about a group of anthropomorphic toys and their benefactor and friend, Santa's brother, Dr. Tinker Claus. The length of the typeset stories makes the feature more of an illustrated story feature rather than a strip, but I'm giving it a pass.

In 1933 the Junior Times section was reduced to a single page, and that entailed a reduction in space for Dr. Tinker Claus. In May the Times reduced the illustrations from four to two, and on July 2 1933 the final installment was printed, though that episode ended with the promise of another story next week. Although I am unaware of any newspapers taking the feature in syndication, perhaps the feature ran longer elsewhere.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017


Herriman Saturday

Monday, May 17 1909 -- Herriman is referring to a 39-round fight that happened way back on December 30 1908 between Al Kaufman and Jim Barry at Jeffries' Arena. Barry's corner threw in the towel early (it was a 45-round scheduled fight) because their fighter had reportedly broken his hands (!!!!) back in the 30th round and could no longer punch, but just dance around. I'm not sure what his point is about the referee. Any boxing history buffs who can decode this cartoon?


For what it's worth, the referee was Charles Eyton (based on a December 28, 1908 article in the SF Call I located), and he seems to have been a respected referee, to the point where there's even a tobacco card of him (in the T218 series). He also seems to have refereed championship bouts after 1908, so it's not yet clear to me what might have gone wrong. He has a wiki entry:
I've found an account of the fight in the December 31, 1908 issue of the Los Angeles Herald. From reading the account, it seems that Eyton stopped the fight when Barry's corner threw in the towel, much to Barry's own dismay. It doesn't say so explicitly, but I think this must have been a controversial decision in the 39th round, and I can imagine the crowd was not happy. It was, supposedly, a great fight, based on what I see in the account. Eyton was Australian by birth, which may explain part of the gag in the upper left corner of the second panel; that also might be the towel being thrown in.
(1) He's actually New Zealand by birth, but lived in Australia.

(2) Here's a copy of the 1910 tobacco card (front and back) that shows Eyton, so you can compare it to the caricature:
Geez, hard to believe there'd be carping FIVE MONTHS later about a fight being ended after 39 of 45 rounds. And why blame the ref when the guy's own sidemen apparently threw in the towel?

Well, at least I now get the Australia angle!

Thanx, Allan
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Friday, October 13, 2017


Wish You Were Here, from Albert Carmichael

Here's another Carmichael card from the "I Love My Wife, But Oh You Kid" series (Taylor & Pratt Series 565), published 1909. These Carmichael card are going to get a lot of play here on Fridays for awhile, as I discovered a whole cache of images of them.


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Thursday, October 12, 2017


King News by Moses Koenigsberg: Chapter 11 Part 1


 King News by Moses Koenigsberg

Published by F.A. Stokes Company, 1941

Chapter 11

The Ordeal of the Red Hankerchief (part 1)

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The first automobile murder on record lent occasion for a typical Chicago American news raid. At daybreak on November 19, 1904, in a muddy ditch off Archer Road, two miles north of Lemont, near Joliet, Ill., a man was found sitting bolt upright in a stalled car, his hands frozen to the steering gear. He had been dead for hours. An ugly hole in the forehead told the manner of his death. A shot from behind had killed him instantly. Identity of the slain driver was traced through the vehicle’s license number. He was William, son of John W. Bate, a well-to-do Chicagoan living at 1562 Kenmore Avenue. All these facts were published in the local dailies of the Saturday on which the body was discovered. Several circumstances suggested to me the possibility of bottling up the developments of this story for use in the Evening American on Monday.

A preliminary inquest was held by Deputy Coroner John W. Buell, with Dr. Joseph Springer, coroner’s physician, in attendance. Both these officials were beholden to the American. They were confidential members of my auxiliary staff. Discreet application of pressure kept them in seclusion over the week-end. So no further details of the tragedy at Lemont got into the morning papers of either Sunday or Monday. Meanwhile, a select squad was organized—as lusty a band of brigands as ever scuttled a competitor’s scoop or looted a hold of photographs. In charge was Jack Lait, by now a battle-scarred veteran. Under his direction were Carl Pancake, George Pratt and our irrepressible camera man, Nathan Meissler. Deputy Coroner Buell arose Monday morning to find himself in the hands of this marauding crew.

Such records as are available on the subject show that Buell resisted the onset. But the vigor of his resistance decreased with each quarter-hour in the corner saloon across the street. While he manfully coped at the bar with two of his abductors, the other two were speeding to the American office. They carried a bag full of intriguing items that Deputy Coroner Buell intended to deliver to his chief, Coroner Traeger. A challenging announcement occupied a conspicuous position on the first page of our next edition. It promised that in its following issue, the Chicago American would present exclusively two full pages of pictures, love letters and other documents taken from the body of the victim of the mysterious automobile murder.

The ensuing journalistic eruption fell outside all rules of classification. Its seismic violence rocked the coroner’s office. The reverberations reached me. Shortly after eleven o’clock that morning, Coroner Traeger was at my desk. He seemed on the verge of tears. “Why have you done this thing to me?” he asked in a tone so reproachful that it marred my triumph. “All the other newspapers think I helped to cook it up. Mr. Lawson himself telephoned me. He charged me with the most outrageous things, malfeasance in office, among them.”

Traeger’s reference was to Victor F. Lawson, publisher of the Daily News and then dean of Chicago newspaperdom. Together with the editors of the Evening Post and the Evening ]ournal, Lawson suspected the coroner of favoring the American because of its political support. Traeger’s predicament stirred my sympathy. But the need for shielding his deputy held me mute. The coroner had called to get the various, articles, reproductions of which were advertised to appear in the American. He was shocked by a denial that they were in my possession. “If you make another search of your office,” I told him, “I’m sure you’ll find them.” He did.

Three different photographs of Bate, one of his mother and one of his sweetheart, with half a dozen tender missives from the girl and a variety of written memoranda were included in the promised double-page display. Readers were urged to study the facsimiles. Among them a clue to the assassin might be found by one or more persons to whose notice the connecting link would never have come otherwise. This is a useful formula. Public service is becoming livery for a sensational newspaper spread. It “takes the curse off” blatant emotionalism. Most often, it is sincerely fashioned. Sometimes, it actually produces definite results. At least, it improves malar accommodations for some editorial tongues.

America’s first automobile murder was never solved. The motive was lost in the same shadows that swallowed the mysterious Mr. Dove, Bate’s patron on his last drive. The taxicab was then a novelty. Bate, twenty-five years old, had become a chauffeur for the Dan Canary Automobile Company, much as he might have started a dozen years later as an airplane pilot. At 9:25 on the evening of November 18, 1904, he was stationed in a Toledo touring car at the Auditorium Hotel. A well-dressed, blond young man stepped out of the hostelry carrying a suitcase. The doorman heard him tell Bate his name was Dove. Three minutes later the Toledo started on “a trip into the country.” Not another scintilla of evidence was found to explain how William Bate became Number One on the endless list of automobile murder victims. 

 A behind-the-scenes share in a hitherto unpublished chapter of political history came to me in the spring of 1905. It was the sidetracking of an issue of major importance. When the municipal ownership movement reached its zenith, it devolved on me to serve as intermediary between heads of the opposing camps. The outcome cast a penetrating light on the ways of American politicians.

A program for public ownership of public utilities had stirred torrid controversy in practically all the states. Tom L. Johnson had attracted countrywide attention to Cleveland with his fight for city proprietorship of transit facilities. But in 1905, Chicago became the cynosure of all advocates and opponents of the cult. The nation’s second metropolis was forcing a settlement of this hotly debated problem. It was the climax of the long and bitter struggle between those who favored the retention of franchises by the traction corporations and those who demanded the reversion of these rights to the people.

Edward F. Dunne and family
The Democrats nominated Judge Edward F. Dunne for mayor. The Republicans chose as his adversary John Maynard Harlan, son of a justice of the United States Supreme Court. But regular party lines were dimmed by the fury of a battle that resolved itself into a “last stand on basic morals.” The “legions protecting the sanctity of contracts” rallied under Harlan against “the forces of beneficent change” under Dunne. Judge Dunne declared municipal ownership the only issue before the voters. His journalistic support was limited to the Hearst press—the Evening American and the morning edition, which had become the Examiner. Harlan had the backing of the seven other local newspapers, the Tribune, Record-Herald, Inter-Ocean, Chronicle, Daily News, Journal and Post. His noonday and evening speeches never omitted mention of the “two Hearst assassins.”

The color and pungency of the campaign brought indications of a close race. A pre-election poll was organized. My call for experts in such undertakings assembled a special staff. Infinite thoroughness was exacted. Two methods were employed. Each was devised to balance the other—a personal interrogation corps against a system of postcard ballots. We closed the tabulations four days before the election. The result was never published. It gave Harlan a lead of approximately 12,000. Dunne was elected by a plurality of 24,248.

The upset of a most elaborate statistical enterprise was not permitted to go unchallenged. It was important to determine whether the American was the victim of a casualty or a conspiracy. An intensive check-up was prosecuted. From that analysis a permanent guide was extracted. Its value was confirmed to me by kindred experiments in different communities in subsequent years. It directs the withholding of faith in the accuracy of any unofficial poll on moot matters.

Neither the form of the question propounded nor the range of individuals subjected to the questionnaire can exclude the deceptive factors produced by nuances of human nature. The defect cannot be cured by percentage allowances for changes of sentiment, by oblique approaches or by any of the stratagems yet contrived. The impasse is caused by an unascertainable volume of elements that temper the sincerity or adulterate the cooperation of the respondents. Among these unbalancing agencies are vague or illusory fears of private consequences, a desire for approbation, a recalcitrant perversity, resentment of fancied intrusion and a disposition to “outsmart the busybodies.”

On the Thursday following the election, Rafael R. Govin asked me to dine with him at the Congress Hotel. He was recognized as spokesman for the money behind Chicago’s streetcar systems. The securities were embraced in two corporations—the Union Traction Company and the City Railway Company. A protective committee acted for each. Govin was officially the chairman of one and unofficially the adviser of the other. The personnel of these bodies included Marshall Field, John J. Mitchell, Walter G. Oakman, Harlow N. Higinbotham, Norman B. Ream, P. A. B. Widener, Charles Steele, Oakleigh Thorne, Levi Z. Leiter, Nelson Morris, James B. Forgan, Ernest A. Hamill and Byron L. Smith. This was a roster that would sound like an organ recital at almost any bankers’ meeting. Also under Govin’s wings were the Chicago holdings of J. P. Morgan and Charles T. Yerkes. In his regular job as managing member of H. B. Hollins & Co., 15 Wall Street, New York, he represented the Widener-Elkins Syndicate, second to none in municipal railways banking.

Govin had singled me out, during my reportorial service on the Chronicle, as “the newspaperman who had made the most thorough study of the city’s transit problem.” We became dear friends. His dinner invitation was not unusual. But it was the prelude to what he described that evening as one of “the most momentous moves in American finance.” It was an offer to establish forthwith the municipal ownership of Chicago’s transit properties.

“Our people have become convinced that Chicago really wants to own its public utilities,” Govin said. “The sentiment of the community was expressed so clearly last Tuesday that we have decided to accept the verdict. This is not a sudden resolution. It is the result of conferences that were held during the campaign. The bitterness of the political agitation was beginning to dislocate confidence in other fields of investment. Our economic system can readjust itself to a definite program better than it can bear continued uncertainties. We had agreed that it was most important to get this question settled and to be prepared for the settlement.

“So now we are ready for an immediate liquidation of the municipal ownership issue. We have arranged a proposal so fair, so liberal and so sportsmanlike as to be safe from any possible suspicion. That is why I have invited you here tonight. As a chief executive of the newspaper that championed his cause and as a friend of Mr. Dunne you have been selected to submit our proposal to him. We have boiled it down to an irreducible simplicity.

“You are authorized to tell Mr. Dunne that we will turn over to the city of Chicago all our interests, lock, stock and barrel, on terms to be fixed by a board of appraisal of such a character as to be above any possible reproach. We nominate as members of that board, Former President Grover Cleveland, William Randolph Hearst and a member of the federal judiciary to be chosen by those two.”

Govin was accustomed to deal in hundreds of millions. The greatness of this transaction impressed him less than its collateral significance. Its completion would mark a historic milestone in the development of political economics. As for me—all sense of proportion merged into the superlative story. No feeling of individual responsibility oppressed me. The sovereignty of news frees its servants from inner shackles.

There was no dinner with Govin. Instead, there was a conference with the mayor-elect. Dunne had agreed over the telephone to see me as quickly as cabs and elevated railroads could get me to his home in Lakeview. My memory holds no interview more exasperating and disappointing. It was not my stint to debate municipal ownership. My task was confined to an explanation of the means for prompt fulfilment of the pledge on which Dunne had won his election. My views—if any existed—on the wisdom or folly of that program were never mentioned. Three hours of strenuous argument left only one conclusion. Dunne was vastly more interested in prolonging than in curtailing the controversial vitality of the platform which he had carried to its high-water mark.

Reiteration of one question dominated the presentation of my thoughts. “What message,” Dunne was asked, “will you have two years hence—at the next election—when the voters consider the outcome of your campaign promise?” The answer was repeated a dozen times. “Don’t worry,” it ran in effect. “I shall be in position to report satisfactory progress. I have my own ideas. I refuse to be swept off my feet.” At midnight, the hopelessness of my mission grown unmistakable, I bade Dunne adieu. I never spoke to him again.

Dunne’s course followed a classic pattern of American politics. His ambitions outran his performances. The extent and intensity of interest manifested in his candidacy for mayor of Chicago brought him a false perspective. The adulation of misguided friends and supporters conjured in his mind visions of the White House. Three years remained until the next presidential campaign. The municipal ownership issue had lifted him to national stature. It must not sink into the quiescence of a practical solution. It must be kept alive to sustain the eminence of his position.

A Homeric dose of exquisite irony was administered two years later, when Dunne ran for reelection. His slogan was “immediate municipal ownership.” He was defeated. That didn’t abate his rostrum ardor for the immediate conversion of public utilities into the public domain. His political path was paved with that pledge. He did reach the governorship of Illinois in 1913. Then his high aspirations came to rest on a shelf alongside Chicago’s mandate for municipal ownership.

There was little time for chagrin over the shunting off of a scoop, no matter how monumental, in the year 1905. The news throttle was wide open. A number of stories that broke in that period grew into newspaper traditions. One yielded me especial gratification. It recorded a contest between journalistic and police methods in the transcontinental pursuit of a fugitive murderer.

On Thursday, July 13th, the slashed and battered corpse of a young woman was found on the Arlington Golf Links at Belmont, near Boston. By nightfall, the authorities of a dozen states were on the lookout for her husband, John Schidlofski. It was learned that on July 12th he had bought railroad transportation from Boston to Los Angeles. The Boston American ascertained the numbers of two tickets sold to a man answering Schidlofski’s description. Superintendent Joseph E. Shaw of the Massachusetts Metropolitan District Police took charge of the official chase. He notified the proper agencies at all intersecting points of railways operating between the two coasts. Shaw felt sure he had laid an inescapable trap.

Observation had shown me that general notices elicited only routine or perfunctory responses. Schidlofski had a good chance to slip through Superintendent Shaw’s net. On the other hand, those unaccustomed to personal telegrams are put on edge by wires addressed specifically to them. A yeast of flattery raises a reciprocal importance between sender and recipient. On this theory, Walter C. Howey was assigned to obtain the full names of all train and Pullman conductors scheduled for westbound trips during the current week on trunklines running between Massachusetts and California. He was also to get the complete addresses of railroad baggage agents in the same area. Howey was a brilliant reporter. He rose in later years to managing editorships in Chicago, New York and Boston. To the list he compiled, forty-seven identical messages were wired. They read substantially as follows:



Thirty-six hours brought no reply. Meanwhile, detectives searching trains at Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City and elsewhere found no trace of the hunted man. Apparently, he was outwitting all pursuers. Schidlofski had passed into the limbo of my forgotten efforts, when at 1:16 o’clock Sunday morning this telegram reached me:




The whale we had thought gone now suddenly hove into view, transfixed on the harpoon we had considered lost. Hurried study of time tables indicated that Pullman Conductor Kiser was aboard Train Number1 of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. Its next stop was marked at La Junta, Colo. There our gloating was cut short. The sole telegraph operator handling public traffic in La Junta had “shut up shop” for the night at nine o’clock. With our prey in sight, we were powerless to effect a capture. It would be criminal to let Schidlofski pass beyond La Junta without informing the nearest authorities. Probably alarmed by Kiser’s search, he might slip away at any moment. And his escape could then be charged to my intermeddling. Was my psychological experiment to cost me a season of nose-thumbing?

The Santa Fe Railroad owned and operated its own telegraphic system. Could it be persuaded to transmit a dispatch for delivery when Train Number 1 reached La Junta? Even if such a message were actually sent—in violation of prohibitory federal regulations —what could it accomplish? The Santa Fe would not forward to any of its employees from a mere journalist a direction to take into custody one of its passengers. The illegality of such a step was not the only obstacle. There were too many possibilities of damage suits and worse consequences from a false arrest.

No matter how unpropitious the prospect, it was my last recourse. The headquarters of the Santa Fe’s superintendent of wires was in Chicago. F. W. Keeler was in charge. It is gratifying to make this record of his cooperation. Possibly I was oversanguine about the rewards he might expect from the Santa Fe’s board of directors. At least, he gained the approval of his own conscience for risking his job to comply with “the most irregular and extraordinary request” of which he had ever heard. He turned over to the Chicago American a thousand miles of main wire. The line was looped from a sending instrument near my desk into the dispatcher’s office at La Junta.

It was my duty to compose such instructions as would bring about the desired action with a minimum of liability to the Chicago American. This was attempted in a series of telegrams that read in substance thus:










It is worth noting that nobody was asked to perform an individual act. Reliance was placed on the power of suggestion. A dash of mystery, mixed with a call for cooperation, makes a potent stimulant in the wide open spaces. It brought the fruition of my strongest hopes in the odd case of John Schidlofski. There was no waiting for a reply from La Junta. The Chicago American published a Sunday morning edition. It was in this issue that our scoop appeared under the streamer heading: “Schidlofski Found.” The story went to press before Santa Fe Train No. 1 had reached La Junta. It was printed verbatim within the hour in the Boston American, the name “Chicago” being changed to “Boston” wherever it occurred.

A marplot voided my enjoyment of the celebration that followed in a nearby restaurant for night-working journalists. He plumped a most untimely question. “What would happen,” he asked, “if that fellow on the train proved that he wasn’t Schidlofski, after all?” The query exerted on me all the virtues of an acute attack of insomnia. The late Sunday opening of newspaper wires prolonged its influence. Relief came in a brief special at noon. The man spotted by Pullman Conductor Kiser was actually the much-sought Schidlofski. When seized, he made a break for liberty. He was not recaptured until several shots had been fired. Then he made a full confession of the murder of his wife. The satisfaction this afforded me contrasted with the mortification it heaped on Superintendent Shaw in Boston.

Final report on the Schidlovski murder
The Sabbath had unloaded on him the vials of a concentrated journalistic wrath. The Boston Post, Globe, Herald, ]ournal, and Advertiser made a quintuple onslaught. They berated him for the Boston American’s scoop. In an endeavor to soften their rancor, he made an irreparable blunder. He denied that any newspaper was in any way entitled to any credit for the apprehension of Schidlofski. He insisted that the arrest had been made in accordance with his own well-laid plans and that it signalized their effectiveness. That was past toleration. The next afternoon, the Chicago American published an affidavit that I wired to Boston for simultaneous publication in the Boston American. It read in effect as follows:



Corresponding statements from the other members of the posse were accompanied by a deposition from the County Clerk of Otero County, setting forth that attested copies had been deposited in his files. As a sort of rivet for this clincher, W. S. Brons, the Chicago American’s wire superintendent, added a sworn testimony. It averred that he personally telegraphed all the messages that had gone to the railroad employees and possemen at La Junta and that he had witnessed their origin. Superintendent Shaw, discredited as a police official, became the butt of ridicule.

He died suddenly a short time afterward. Published details of the manner of his passing were meager. The feeling prevailed that it was of his own choosing. It set a damper on the glee of our victory. Several months after Shaw’s death, Schidlofski was electrocuted at Charlestown State Prison.

Chapter 11 Part 2 Next Week   
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Wednesday, October 11, 2017


Obscurity of the Day: Sweetie Pie

The NEA syndicate tried to keep their newspaper clients happy with an array of features, many of which fit into the "me too" classification. Their mostly small town and suburban newspaper clients wanted to look like the big papers, and that meant providing them with features that resembled those in the big leagues.

Sweetie Pie by Nadine Seltzer is a good example of that. The panel cartoon about a little girl premiered on April 19 1954, and it mimicked a number of features then doing well in major papers. First and most obviously, Sweetie Pie is a female Dennis the Menace. The art style owes a lot to Hank Ketcham, too. Other strips to which Sweetie Pie owes a debt are Jimmy Hatlo's Little Iodine, and Lucy van Pelt from Charles Schulz's Peanuts. Sweetie Pie does not succeed in its mission as well as any of these strips, but then an imitation is never as good as the original -- rather like 'artificial jewelry' as seen above.

Sweetie Pie did its duty for NEA but never managed to distinguish itself as anything more than what it was, a "me too". The daily panel ended on May 8 1965, and the feature was transferred to NEA's weekly pony service, Community Enterprises. There it continued to be offered for another whole decade, ending on April 4 1975. The weekly version may well have been reprints for all I know; vanishingly few papers ran it from the weekly service, so it would be tough to figure that out.

The intriguing aspect of Sweetie Pie isn't so much the feature itself but its creator, Nadine Seltzer. She has no other comic strip credits that I know of, so she has been a cipher to me until I chanced upon a 'life sketch' written about her by her daughter and her pastor. It sounds like the lady had quite a tough life -- her younger years read a little like a Grapes of Wrath tale, and it seems a small miracle that she apparently managed to get to Glendale College where she earned an art degree. When she began Sweetie Pie, though, a promo sent out by NEA has her stating that she was a self-taught artist, so that's a bit odd.

The real bombshell in the essay, though, is the statement that Seltzer did not draw the feature: "she was a cartoonist partner with the artist that drew Sweetie Pie, a popular daily panel that appeared in national papers in the 1950’s and 60’s. Occasionally Nadine would ink the artwork, but mostly she wrote the quippy caption." 

Why would someone with art training need a partner to draw the panel? Given the low rates paid by NEA, how would that even make economic sense? And most intriguing of all, who was this partner? I'm no art spotter, and I can't even take a wild guess as to who it might be. Although the art is not drop-dead gorgeous, it is certainly more than competent. Did Seltzer get some local pal to do the drawing, or did NEA assign someone to the task? 

Well, here's a nutty idea about who it might be. Did you happen to notice that the newspaper from which I took these samples credited not Nadine Seltzer, but Nadine Turner? I checked many other papers, and none I could find offered that version of the credit -- everyone else cited Nadine Seltzer. Seltzer also never to my knowledge went by that name. Is it possible, by some weird chance, that this paper was offering credit to the artist co-creator? NEA did have two artists working for them by the name of Turner -- Les Turner of Captain Easy and Dick Turner of Carnival. Could one of them have been supplying the art on Sweetie Pie to make a few extra bucks on the side? Realistically, probably not. Neither cartoonist worked in this style, though I don't doubt that either could have adapted to it if needed. No, the credit in that newspaper is probably just a mistake, a case of a typesetter getting confused and nobody catching the error. Still, who knows?


That paper you looking at doesn't read her signature to good, doesn't they!!!
I happen to have the first "Sweetie Pie" paperback in my collection.

It really IS a "me too". I wish I knew who really drew the feature, even though it was probably a staffer at NEA.

Ben Ferron
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Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Les Wathen

Ernest Leslie “Les” Wathen was born in Mount Vernon, New York, on July 22, 1895, according to his World War II draft card and the Social Security Death Index.

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Wathen was the oldest of three children born to Ernest and Louise. Wathen’s father was an Australian emigrant who worked at a brewery. Also in the household were Wathen’s paternal grandmother and three aunts. The family lived in Mount Vernon at 214 Lincoln Avenue.

The 1910 census recorded the Wathen family on Cottage Avenue in Mount Vernon. Wathen’s parents worked in a millinery store.

According to the newspaper The State (Columbia, South Carolina), February 27, 1983, Wathen studied at the Art Students League in New York City.

The State said Wathen served in the Spanish-American War and World War I. Wathen signed his World War I draft card June 5, 1917. His home address was 115 Crary Avenue in Mount Vernon. He was a commercial artist at the McGraw Hill Publishing Company in New York City. He was described as tall and slender with blue eyes and brown hair.

Wathen’s mother was the head of the household in the 1920 census. In the household were Wathen, his two siblings and maternal grandparents. Wathen was an art director with a publishing house. They resided in Mount Vernon at 28 Urban Street.

The Sate said Wathen was a rotogravure editor for the Washington Post and Buffalo Courier Express. According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), Wathen drew In Our Hometown for the Washington Post where the strip ran from April 17 to October 9, 1921.

Wathen married Viola Frew on June 28, 1924. Their marriage was reported in the Buffalo Courier (New York) on the 29th. The paper said the newlyweds “are taking a motor trip in the east and will be at home after September 1, at No. 1 Elmview place.”

The 1930 census said Wathen, his wife and daughter Mary made their home in Lakewood, Ohio, at 1500 Bunts. Wathen was a salesman with a lithograph company. Ten years later, Wathen had the same job but a different address, 20695 Stratford Avenue in Rocky River, Ohio.

On April 25, 1942, Wathen signed his World War II draft card. His employer was Strobridge Lithograph Company at 1900 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio.

Lakewood city directories from 1951 and 1958 listed Wathen as a Strobridge Litho division manager.

Wathen passed away February 25, 1983, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, according to The State which published an obituary on the 27th. The paper said Wathen was an editorial cartoonist for Sun News and a member of the Cleveland Advertising Club.

—Alex Jay


Sun News would be the Myrtle Beach (SC) paper, lof of folks from Cleveland snowbird in that area.
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Monday, October 09, 2017


Obscurity of the Day: Doctor Funshine

In the 1960s there was a major push to get kids interested in science. Would have been nice if we had wanted to stimulate the creation of future scientists purely for the betterment of mankind, but mostly it had to do with beating those darn Commies into space. Whatever the reason, science was now being billed as cool and fun, and the image of the nutty professor was giving way at least a little to the image of scientists as blazing a bold path into the future.

Most social changes end up being reflected on the comics page, and the popularization of science was no exception, spawning features like Our New Age and Frontiers of Science. At the San Francisco Chronicle, Bill Weber came up with a feature that was much better suited to stimulating the imagination of the kiddies -- he got them directly involved. Doctor Funshine debuted there on December 10 1961, and featured science experiments that kids could do at home. It sported delightful '60s modern' art, a host who looked like an impish Albert Einstein, and really top-notch writing. Sometimes the science experiments were offered in a relatively straightforward manner, but the Doctor really shined when they were couched within a mystery or problem-solving tale, like the top example above. Having Doctor Funshine get out of traps via the creative use of science really brought the topic to life. Who knows, maybe the creators of the TV series MacGyver were SanFran kids of the 60s.

Weber's strip was originally carried only by the Chronicle, but eventually the decision was made that Chronicle Features, their syndication arm, would offer it to others. Doctor Funshine went national on February 10 1963, and picked up a modest but respectable number of clients. Strangely, the Chronicle itself stopped running the strip in 1964, though I can't imagine why. Maybe this was the writing on the wall that the strip was not going to make it, but it did run at least into 1966 elsewhere. The latest I've seen it is March 27 1966 in the Arizona Republic, where it had been demoted from the Sunday section onto a weekly kids' page.

I think Bill Weber's creation was absolutely delightful, but maybe it would have done better in some other form -- a book series, maybe? I guess it just wasn't flashy enough to compete against Peanuts and Beetle Bailey in the Sunday comics.


Back when my paper ran Doctor Funshine (The Philadelphia SUNDAY BULLETIN), I always thought of it as one of the lesser items in their large (three part) section, along with the ads, crossword puzzle and "Let's Sew!". If something wasn't an adventure continuity or shooting for a laugh, we kids suspected it might be some boring PSA or something good for you. Maybe a lot of others did too.
When i was in the business, things like Doctor Funshine were sold to editors convincing them to carry educational features to show they, and their papers were good citizens.
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Saturday, October 07, 2017


Herriman Saturday

May 14 1909 -- This is Peter Maier, the owner of the newly formed PCL baseball club, the Vernon Tigers. Vernon was at this time sort of a tiny spur city of Los Angeles, existing mainly because three railroad lines came together there. Although Vernon was small, it had one very big thing going for it -- the sale of liquor was legal there, unlike L.A. which was dry at the time. The city fathers of Vernon built a baseball stadium abutting Doyle's Tavern, formed a ball team, and sat back to watch the cash roll in. More on the Vernon Tigers here.

I have no idea what the deal is with Bolerio the horse. A team mascot?


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Friday, October 06, 2017


Wish You Were Here, from Hans Horina

German immigrant Hans Horina, who did a lot of cartooning for the Chicago Tribune in the 1900s, also did a lot of postcard work. Here is one he did for the J.I. Austen Company of Chicago; this one labelled on the reverse as A-282. This card was postally used in 1911.


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Thursday, October 05, 2017


King News by Moses Koenigsberg: Chapter 10 Part 3

 King News by Moses Koenigsberg

Published by F.A. Stokes Company, 1941

Chapter 10

Biggest Local News Story of the Century (part 3)

link to previous installment   link to next installment

A diverting glimpse into the inner workings of the Hearst organization early in my city editorship furnished the clue to a number of puzzles in subsequent years. The whimsicality of the incident sharpened its significance. James O’Shaughnessy became managing editor overnight. The day before, he had been a reporter on the morning edition. O’Shaughnessy was a gentleman of high character. Years later he was a popular figure in national advertising circles. He told me of his appointment with a sheepish grin. It was not of his choosing. In fact, it embarrassed him. He was blindly obeying instructions. The order had come from Mr. Hearst. As for his duties—he didn’t know where or how to start. He would have to rely on my guidance. Noon arrived before the mystery cleared.

O’Shaughnessy was appointed managing editor to avert trouble, fear of which had been planted in W. R. Hearst’s mind by Fred W. Lawrence, brother of the redoubtable Andrew M. The latter had been divested of authority over the evening paper. He was publisher of the Morning American. Fred, also shifted from the afternoon staff, was a sub-editor under Andy. He had not put aside his interest in the publication from which he had been transferred. Perhaps it was sustained by a sense of loyalty to Mr. Hearst. Maybe it was only an urticant disposition to meddle. Something of both may have entered into the dither he professed over the streamer in red ink across the top of the first page of the Evening American's last issue. It wasn’t the crimson type that caught Fred’s eye. That was a regular feature of the edition. It was the subject that excited his concern. The story involved the elopement of a Roman Catholic priest. His companion was the wife of Mike McDonald, a Chicago “gambling king” and underworld nabob.

The item came from a local press association. Its accuracy was not questioned. It was the display that jolted Fred into what was either the suffering or the simulation of a panic. The possible consequences were too dire to leave in the hands of the regular editor. Hearst was taking the waters at Mount Clemens, Mich. Fred got him on the long-distance telephone. The conversation began with a review of trying days they had experienced together in California. Fred, who had been a member of the San Francisco Examiner staff at the time, reminded his chief of the hectic ordeal that paper underwent because of the disapproval of a group of Roman Catholic leaders. He was afraid that even a worse situation confronted the Hearst dailies in Chicago. Fred painted a melancholy picture of the storm that was sure to burst in the morning.

W. R. Hearst

The impression this made on Hearst was indicated by his action. He instructed that somebody of good standing as a Roman Catholic, with a distinctively Irish name, be immediately installed as managing editor of the Chicago American. O’Shaughnessy fitted the description. His presence on the job would be the best answer to any criticism that arose. Of course, Fred Lawrence’s prediction failed. The day went by without a flicker of Roman Catholic anger. It was O’Shaughnessy who that night set Hearst’s misgiving at rest. He welcomed relief from the humbug into which he had been thrust. O’Shaughnessy found no pride in his one-day career as a managing editor. He didn’t enjoy serving as a “stall.” There were several lessons for me in his experience. One dealt with priority of access to W. R. Hearst’s ear.

My first face-to-face meeting with Hearst, a few days later, left me midway between a laugh and a gasp. It was in February, 1904. He was then a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. “The great white chief awaits you in the throne room,” announced W. S. Brons, whose numerous duties included secretarial service to visiting executives. Brons found a sly enjoyment in using the two phrases he had put together. “The great white chief” was a tribal offering of fellow-braves from California. It spread through the organization. It sparked a friendly banter as often as it streaked an unctuous sycophancy. “The throne room” was wholly ironic. It referred to a cramped cubby-hole, with a second-hand roll-top desk, a pine table and several unpainted chairs. The Chicago American's sanctum, it was the only inclosed space on a floor of 10,000 square feet on which the shouts of a hundred workers vied for hearing with the clatter of dozens of chattering typewriters, a score of clicking telegraph instruments and a battery of engravers’ planing and routing machines.

It is difficult to conceive an antithesis more marked than the contrast between the paltriness in that Spartan cell and the aesthetic tastes of its temporary occupant. Yet all of Hearst’s editorial offices, with the exception of the San Francisco Examiner, were similarly furnished for years. That was not his choice. It reflected efforts of lieutenants to show him how economically they operated. His preference was finally given effect by a revision of business policy. It was decided that the Hearst establishment should present a front more in harmony with the magnificences and magnitude of the owner’s aims. That would help to refute the assertions of impermanence made by hostile critics who pointed for proof to “a flimsy and shoddy set-up.”

The purpose of “the throne room” summons was never disclosed. “The great white chief” shook my hand in greeting, murmured, “Never mind, thank you; I must hurry to catch my train,” and moved toward the door.

“But, Mr. Hearst, what shall I do with this correspondence?” Brons asked in evident agitation, indicating a stack of papers on the table. “It has been accumulating for several days.”

“I’ll show you,” came the answer with an impish grin, as Hearst pushed the heap of typewritten sheets and unopened envelopes over the edge of the board into a waste-basket. “Don’t bother. Every letter answers itself in a couple of weeks.”

The hugeness of Hearst’s frame as he glided past diverted me for a moment from Brons’s bewilderment. There, on the toes of a dancing master, with the suppleness of a lightweight boxer, moved the biggest publisher in America—biggest physically and biggest in extent of operation. Did his brain match that great body? A decade elapsed before a satisfying answer came to this question. Meanwhile, there could be no doubt about the range of Hearst’s temperament. A fleeting contact had revealed a volatility at amazing variance with all the other signs of his nature. It betokened contradictions destined to challenge many of the world’s mightiest.

Hearst’s visits to Chicago were frequent that spring. He spent much time with “Andy” Lawrence, his chief factotum in politics in that period. Andy was handling preparations to capture the Democratic national convention in St. Louis in July. A number of state delegations, including Illinois’, had been instructed for Hearst. There was hope in some quarters that William Jennings Bryan would swing his own followers to the Californian’s forces. Bryan was deeply indebted to the publisher. Perhaps no other twenty men had contributed as much aid to the Nebraskan’s two campaigns for the presidency. In addition to great sums of money, Hearst had given the support of newspapers with the largest circulations in New York and San Francisco. On July 1, 1900, he inaugurated the Chicago American for the putative purpose of rallying the Middle West to the Bryan standard.

The activities of Hearst’s political advisers brewed a sour potion for me. My professional code prescribed “singleness of devotion to newspaper duty.” It required “complete independence from divergent accountability or commitment.” And every day Hearst was becoming more deeply involved in accountabilities and commitments divergent from my conception of newspaper duty. Selfish considerations gave force to ethical directions. Any impairment of my employer’s journalistic leadership might abridge possibilities of my own career. So, the bee that hummed presidential tunes in Hearst’s ear buzzed penitential notes in mine.

During the quarter of a century of my membership in the Hearst organization, I never wrote, nor did I ever direct the writing of, one article or story intended to advance Hearst’s personal ambitions in politics. I never assumed a duty that required advocacy of a partizan program. Whenever or wherever political matters arose in the sphere of my responsibility, they were assigned to an editor who received specific instructions to report directly to W. R. Hearst. The soundness of this course for me was emphatically affirmed when, at the end of twenty-five years, it qualified my reason for withdrawal from the Hearst service.

My adherence to that path was the fruit of an alliance between profound disgust for the chicanery of politicians and a passion for journalistic freedom from prejudicial bias. It was given point by a curious incident at the Democratic national convention of 1904. Handling the news staff at that gathering brought me one more fetid whiff of inside politics. Clarence S. Darrow had been chosen as the spokesman for Illinois to second the nomination of W. R. Hearst. We lacked an advance copy of his speech. All other efforts to get it having failed, the task fell on my own shoulders. The convention had taken a thirty-minute recess. The hall was half empty. Search discovered Darrow sitting alone in a dark corner. He was in a grouch too thick for talk. He wasn’t going to do any speaking that night. Why? The answer was up to John P. Hopkins, chairman of the state delegation.

Hopkins was a notable figure. Reputedly a millionaire, he had introduced kid-glove methods to the ward heelers of Chicago. They were awed by the silk hat from which he was inseparable. I found him beside the Illinois standard in conversation with a group including Roger C. Sullivan. It was Sullivan who gave the word “boss” its real meaning to the Central West. Hopkins was Sullivan’s foil. With other machine leaders, both had accepted the primary instructions for Hearst as a bitter pill. A few blunt questions hoisted the steam gauge. Hopkins sneeringly explained that the Illinois delegates, at a special caucus that afternoon, had elected Free P. Morris, of Watseka, their nominating spokesman. That left Darrow out.

Morris had openly opposed Hearst’s candidacy at a meeting of the Committee on Rules the day before. Now, his choice to speak for the man he flouted was a travesty on the will of the electorate. Morris was standing behind Sullivan. Addressing him, I asked: “How can you square what you did yesterday with what you are doing today? Isn’t this a trick against the voters who sent you here?” Morris’ tongue was not so ready as Hopkins’. “How dare you come into this delegation and insult its members?” demanded the gentleman who never forgot his silk hat. “Get out of here before you’re thrown out!” Mr. Hopkins’ face was a deep purple; Mr. Sullivan’s was a speckled white; and Mr. Morris’ an olive green. The surrounding crowd was agape.

Mr. Hopkins should not have been startled by the response. It was automatic. It was the universal retort of the challenged male from schoolboy to oldster. Whether the actual verbiage ran “Let’s see you try it,” or “I dare you to try it,” or “Come and do it yourself,” it slipped into the groove supplied by every language for such occasions. But this banality carried a cracker. It was a pledge to remain on hand to gather “all the facts to which the people of Illinois were entitled.” That put a crusher on Hopkins’ topper. Literally. It was a lamentable finish of a really fine specimen of lustrous headgear. Hurling his hat to the floor, Hopkins stamped on it. On the stage, the gesture would have been a comedy wow. Here in the center of a national convention, it was too ferocious to be altogether funny.

“I’ll drive you out of Chicago!” Hopkins roared.

The Chesterfieldian hero of “Hinky Dink” Kenna and “Bathhouse John” Coughlin was making a show of himself. The intensity of his rage should have daunted me somewhat. Perhaps it did. But an answer to his second threat came from the same mechanism that clicked off my reply to his first bluster.

“If you do, I’ll bid you farewell in the county jail!” was flung out in a voice that seemed too hoarse to be mine.

Andy Lawrence afterward asserted that he had saved me from serious injury. Perhaps my gratitude on that score was wanting. If any rescuing were needed when Andy rushed onto the scene, it was for Hopkins and his companions. They seemed on the verge of prostration. Apparently, they detected in me hostile potentialities beyond the range of my own cognizance.

Darrow made his speech. The Hopkins-Sullivan clique had planned to use him as a whipping boy. They detested Lawrence even more than Hearst. By humiliating Darrow they purposed to show Hearst that Andy’s pretense of controlling the Illinois delegation was mere buncombe. This schedule was broken up by an attack of cold feet. Kicking a silk hat has been known to induce such a seizure. Details of the episode were important to me chiefly as strands of the net that afterward entangled my most difficult problem in the Hearst realm.

It was at this 1904 convention that William Jennings Bryan exhibited his finest sample of political adroitness. Twice he had led his party to national defeat. Conditions were not propitious for a third trial. He must hold on to the reins without taking the risk of a ride. Let another jockey make a losing effort. The novice would be sure to handle his mount differently. He would discard the free-silver whip. He would finish far behind the marks set by Bryan. Then Democracy would be in better fettle to muster once more behind “the peerless leader.” The Nebraskan never dropped a stitch in the weaving of this program. He didn’t make the mistake of sponsoring an aspirant who might be nominated. Instead, he espoused the hopeless and innocuous candidacy of United States Senator Francis Marion Cockrell of Missouri.

Bryan did not ignore his debt to Hearst. He made what the publisher’s friends called “the left-handed finesse of a tender of payment.” At the end of his speech placing Cockrell in nomination, he added as if by way of postscript:

If it is the choice or wish of this Convention that the standard shall be placed in the hands of the gentleman presented by California, the man who, though he has money, pleads the cause of the poor; the man who is best beloved, I can safely say, among laboring men, of all the candidates proposed; the man who more than any other represents peace; make Hearst the candidate of this Convention, and Nebraska will be with you.

On the first roll call, 997 delegates being entitled to vote, 194 were announced for Hearst. On a later ballot he received 263 votes. That was the closest he ever approached to his life’s highest ambition. But he kept trying for the goal a dozen years after Bryan had ceased to be a real contender.

Millicent Hearst
The discord between the Chicago American’s “throne room” and its imposing owner was stressed by the girlish elegance of the brunette beauty who sat beside him. She was his bride of a year. Millicent, daughter of George L. Willson, “champion buck and wing dancer of America,” she was known to several members of the staff. They had written pleasant notices of her charm as one of the two Willson sisters, a theatrical team of moderate success. This was during the reign of the Gibson girl—that model of femininity in which was concentrated such glamor as no subsequent type has attained. Its creator, Charles Dana Gibson, idealized a woman above the average height. Millicent Willson’s admirers credited her with more points in carriage and feature than she wanted in stature to conform with this ideal.

Hearst’s political satellites had rejoiced over his marriage. The mantle of domesticity might serve as an armor against his traducers. They were myriad. Their energies were applied mainly to painting him as an unrivaled voluptuary. Some of their tales depicted him as a sort of Haroun al Raschid, combining within himself the distinguishing attributes of Lothario, Don Juan, Lovelace and other front-line libertines. One of the most persistent fictions included the name of a yacht on which he was pictured cavorting along the Nile with a hundred Broadway nymphs. But the role of a devoted husband did not silence Hearst’s detractors. It merely detoured the vehicles of their malice.

Chapter 11 Part 1 Next Week   
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Wednesday, October 04, 2017


Toppers: Dizzie Lizzie

It took a long time for Gene Byrnes, the creator of the very successful kid strip Reg'lar Fellers, to get on the topper bandwagon. While most Sunday strips had gained toppers by the late 1920s, Byrnes resisted until 1934*. He could do that sort of thing because he owned the copyright to his strip, and if a syndicate wanted him to do something he didn't want to do, he could easily shop his feature to another distributor, something he did regularly, especially in the 1920s.

In 1934, though, the pressure to do a topper finally became great enough that Byrnes conceded. A lot of that pressure would have been in the nature of plain ol' dough-re-mi. A Sunday that could be split up into two halves was very attractive to newspapers, for two reasons. Number one is that it gave them the opportunity to replace one feature with a lucrative half-page ad, and number two is that the 'feature count' wars were on, and a strip and its topper counts as two features. So on the masthead, where a paper wanted to wow customers by saying their comic section had "50 Great Features", they got two (or even three) for the price of one in a full page strip with topper(s).

Anyway, back to Reg'lar Fellers. Many cartoonists when forced to do a topper looked back at old series they had done, and resurrected one for the topper. Byrnes, who had lots of those under his belt, went a different way. He reasoned that his snails and puppy dog tails-fueled boy strip should offer something from the distaff side to even things out. And though he did three different toppers over the ensuing life of Reg'lar Fellers, every one of them featured a girl as the star.

Dizzie Lizzie, featured today, was the second of those three strips. It debuted on August 11 1940, replacing the long-running Daisybelle. And in a classic case of burying the lede, I'll finally get around to telling you that Mr. Byrnes' involvement with this topper was minimal or nonexistent, and the feature seems to be a wholly original work of a Byrnes assistant ... the great George Carlson (read much more about Carlson here at the Comics Journal).

Although some say that Carlson was ghosting the whole output of Reg'lar Fellers at this time, I don't see his hand as strongly in the main strip. Perhaps that's simply because he was obeying the restrictions of following Byrnes' style. Dizzie Lizzie, though, is pretty pure Carlson, complete with strong graphic design and wacky gags. Early strips in the series are extremely striking (see samples in  part 2 of the Comics Journal article), while later ones, like the example above, have toned down a little, maybe at the behest of Byrnes.

Sadly, Dizzie Lizzie didn't last all that long. It appears to have ended around August 1942 (exact date unfound thus far) when the Reg'lar Fellers Sunday was revamped into a half-page/tab set-up. As best I can tell, no topper would be used until February 1944, when a new girl strip, Zoolie, was added to make a convenient set-up for papers wanting to run Reg'lar Fellers at a third-page size.

* not counting Draw It Y'Self, a small panel offering that could arguably be considered a drop panel as opposed to a topper.


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Tuesday, October 03, 2017


Obscurity of the Day: The Late, Late War

Fred Fredericks, later to find success as the long-time artist on Mandrake the Magician, tried at least three times to break into the comic strip big time by leveraging his interest in American history. His first attempt was The New Jersey Patriots, which he self-syndicated with limited success circa 1959.

That strip seems to have gotten the small syndicate Adcox-Lenahan interested in him, and he offered them a historical strip of an entirely different stripe, a gag feature about the Civil War. I wonder what anyone could find to laugh about regarding a war that was responsible for the violent end of over a half-million American lives, but then again I also find the popularity of Hogan's Heroes mind-boggling. It's not that war cannot be the subject of humor (Bill Mauldin's Up Front comes immediately to mind), but The Late, Late War seems far too jaunty, too cartoony, about it for my taste.

Whether my opinion is shared by the nation's newspaper editors I don't know, but The Late, Late War was spectacularly unsuccessful for some set of reasons. In fact I am amazed that the feature got beyond the sales stage with what was apparently a vanishingly small client list. After thinking for many years that The Late, Late War might well be  a myth, I finally found a short run in the Hayward Review, and Alberto Becattini says that it also ran in the Elizabeth Daily Journal. No one to my knowledge claims that it ran longer than a few months, so my run in the Review, from June 6 to August 27 1960 may well be complete.

Fredericks regrouped from the failure of The Late, Late War and came up with his third American history strip, Under the Stars and Bars, which was also about the Civil War and distributed by Adcox-Lenahan. The new strip took a serious tack, relating the historic events of the war, but also failed to ignite a lot of newspaper interest.


Oh wow, very interesting obscurity! I only know of Fredericks from "Mandrake", so seeing him do something a lot more overtly cartoony is an interesting sight
Re: the first panel of that junior officer bringing the General captured intelligence in the last strip shown - instantly brought to mind Frank (Short Ribs) O'Neal.
Fred Fredricks was a real American history buff, and that he tried several history-themed strips can attest to that. His most successful was UNDER THE STARS AND BARS. he told me that he had completed a few full stories and was ready to go in 1960, but it was held back so to coincide with the centennary of Fort Sumpter in April 1961. for a tiny syndicate, and for (like New Jersey Heroes before it,) a regional appeal series, it did well enough to limp into 1962. He had some stories completed for anoother, Northern appeal series, but it didn't attract enough interest to bother launching it.
As for the overly cartoony nature of "The Late Late War", It was after all, a hundred years on, and amidst all the anniversaries then unfolding, it would seem like a harmless enough thing to kid along. Look at the strip our fellow correspondent DD Degg cites- Short Ribs all history gags. Recall a panel called "Our Ancestors"? same thing. If we can laugh at the brutal Ancient Romans, or the ruthless Conquistadors, or the bloody Mongol hordes,Fredricks's whimsical Civil war bunglers can't offend anyone. At least they shouldn't. We've been kidding the civil war a long time. Tonight on TCM they showed "The General". That was a funny film, a comedy epic. It's over ninety years old. If we can't see the humor in history, then I guess they'll have to cancel "Hagar".
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Monday, October 02, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Ben F. Hammond

Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Hammond was born in Clinton, Missouri, on May 31, 1883, according to his World War II draft card which also had his full name.

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, “Frank Hammond” was oldest of three children born to “J[ohn]. B.” and Ada. Hammond was a potter and his father a carpenter. The family resided in Clinton at 719 Lincoln.

Hammond’s art training was mentioned in a profile in the Wichita Eagle Sunday Magazine, August 24, 1969.

Hammond came to The Eagle in 1912, doing cartoons and other artwork. Born in Clinton, Mo., in 1883, he took some classes at the Kansas City Art School in newspaper art and cartooning. He began his cartoon career on The Kansas City Journal in 1909.
Editor & Publisher, March 29, 1919, had this account of Hammond’s art instruction and early work in newspapers.
After he had spent some time and some money in the Art Institute in Kansas City, the Kansas City Journal decided it could use some of his work. Later he went to the Denver Times. At this point, Victor Murdock, who was then in Congress, decided he wanted to get out of politics. Some wise bird advised him that quickest and surest was would be to employ a cartoonist on his paper—the Wichita Eagle. Murdock secured Hammond and the plan for getting out of politics surely and swiftly proved a grand success, but by this time Hammond’s cartoons had become a feature of the Eagle, so he stuck to it.
Like many aspiring cartoonists, Hammond contributed to his school yearbook. The July 1915 issue of Cartoons Magazine had this report of Hammond’s first newspaper job.
It was Judas Iscariot who denied his Master, but it remained for Frank Hammond, now cartoonist of the Wichita Eagle, to deny the pride of his heart. This was in the shape of a little high-school annual published in his home town, Clinton. Mr. Hammond had illustrated it, and the more he looked upon his work the better he liked it. It would be, he thought, the open sesame to a position as cartoonist on a metropolitan daily.

Accordingly he took the book, together with a portfolio of sketches, and presently stood before “Doc” Norberg, grand mogul of the Kansas City Journal’s art department. “My heart sank,” says Hammond, “when he began to turn the pages of the annual. His expression was so utterly disapproving that I denied the authorship of each picture in turn. Finally we came to the last page, and in desperation I was forced to claim for my own the very worst of all the bad drawings in the book.

“Norberg laughed, and told me that he could see from my anxiety that I was endeavoring to cover up my crime. The pictures, he said, were not so bad as they might have been, and he gave me a chance on the strength of them.”
In Cartoons Magazine, May 1915, Hammond spoke about his path to becoming a cartoonist.
I was born in Clinton, Mo., May 31, 1883. My birthplace unfortunately has been razed, and a lumber yard now marks the spot. At the age of 19 I left home and tried everything that came along, from selling installment goods and soliciting portrait enlarging, to traveling with street fairs and barnstorming theatrical companies. I turned my spare moments to the study of drawing, and a hot municipal campaign in my home town gave me my first chance as a cartoonist.
The Missouri marriage records, at, said Hammond married Elsie Blanche Shaw on September 23, 1907 in St. Charles, Missouri.

The 1910 census recorded magazine cartoonist Hammond, his wife and fourteen-month-old daughter Geraldine in Kansas City, Missouri. They boarded with the Nutt family of ten.

At some point Hammond moved to Wichita, Kansas. The 1912 Wichita city directory listed cartoonist “Benjamin F Hammond” at 183 North Market.

The 1915 Kansas state census said Wichita-resident Hammond had a two-year-old son, John B.

Cartoons Magazine, November 1918, reprinted one of Hammond’s cartoons.

Wichita Eagle cartoonist Hammond signed his World War I draft card September 12, 1918. He was described as medium height and build with gray eyes and “nut brown” hair. His home was at 1602 North Holyoke in Wichita and remained unchanged into the 1940s and possibly longer.

The Wichita Eagle magazine said Hammond “became famous in Wichita for his reading of the Eagle’s comic strips each Sunday morning on KFH Radio. For more than 25 years, ‘Uncle Ben,’ as he was known on the radio show, brought the comic strip characters to life for generation of Eagle readers.”

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Hammond syndicated Hoots and Quacks from 1941 to 1942.

Hammond illustrated the books Hippocrates Jones (1916), Horse and Buggy Days (1927), The Cry of the Newsboy (1928),  and When You and I Were Boys (1931).

According to the Wichita Eagle, Hammond retired November 1, 1965 and donated his artwork to the Wichita Historical Museum in 1969.

Hammond passed away April 25, 1970, in Wichita. An obituary was published the same day in the Wichita Eagle.

Further Reading and Viewing
Iowa Digital Library
Wichita Photo Archives (scroll to the bottom)
Wichita State University, University Libraries Special Collections & University Archives

—Alex Jay


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Saturday, September 30, 2017


Herriman Saturday

May 12 1909 -- The suffrage movement in Great Britain is at a fever pitch, though it will not be victorious until nearly a decade hence. A notable convert to the cause is Madame Nordica, an opera star, who after talking with suffrage leader Katherine Mackay vowed that she would stop singing and put all her efforts toward the movement. Apparently the fervor wore off, as she continued her singing career until her death in 1914.


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Friday, September 29, 2017


Wish You Were Here, from Albert Carmichael

Here's an interesting pair of postcards; the first is from Taylor Pratt & Co.'s Series 569 of 1910, the second is from their Series 571 copyrighted 1911. Somehow I assumed that the monocolor cards were generally produced by lesser manufacturers, but here we have the color card maker also doing the el cheapo gray wash card. Wonder if there was a price difference when purchased off the rack?


Carmichael could really be hideous. That can't be a foot- legs don't end square in the centre of a flat iron, do they? I suppose they use the one-legged storks just for use in lame gags. The melted monstrosity face on the guy looks like inspiration for Basil Wolverton.
Critiqueing aside, I have seen this cheapo repro arrangement sometimes in my old post card collecting days. My assumption is that the company might indeed make two versions, a half cent for the black and white one, a penny for full color. (Most cards of any type were black and white.) Also, an older design might merit a black and white reissue later. (Notice here that the later version has motion lines added to the hat and cane.)

In the Post Card fad era, there were so many new designs constantly appearing, few were rerun. There didn't seem to be "old standards" or perennials. Guess this one was good enough to do twice, but it's unusual.
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