Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Edward and Irene Geller

The story of Edward Joseph Geller and his wife, Irene Caplan, is sketchy. A family tree at has the birth, marriage and death information for Geller. He was born in Toronto, Canada, on June 11, 1893. Geller married Caplan on December 25, 1932, in Detroit, Michigan. They had a daughter, Shoshana in 1933.

A border crossing document at said Geller entered the United States at Detroit on April 30, 1917. The manifest said Geller was a cigar salesman and listed his father, Samuel Geller at 51 Pelessier Street, Windsor, Ontario. From 1908 to March 31, 1917, Geller had been in Chicago, Detroit and Kansas City, Missouri. Geller’s destination was Detroit where his brother Max lived at 185 Delmar Avenue.

Geller has not been found in the censuses.

The 1942 Royal Oak, Michigan city directory listed Geller as a Detroit Free Press salesman who resided at 4320 Hampton Boulevard.

The Detroit Free Press, February 23, 1951, reported the Freedoms Foundation medal awarded to Geller. 
Edward Geller, creator of “The Story of An Ambitious Man” which appears in The Detroit Free Press Sunday comic section, was presented an honor medal by Freedoms Foundation. The feature won second place in the cartoon strip category. 

Geller was among 850 individuals and organizations honored for “speaking up for freedom.” Presentation of awards and the principal address were made by Gen. Omar N. Bradley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

…Geller does the research into the lives of his subjects. He is aided in writing the stories by Len G. Shaw, drama editor emeritus of the Free Press. Cartoonists are Frank Williams and William Fanning, of the Free Press, and Max Rasmussen, commercial artist.

Geller, 57, has been a creator of special pages for the Free Press for 15 years. He lives at 3298 Virginia Park with his wife and daughter, Shona.
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Geller created The Story of an Ambitious Man Who Made Jobs for Thousands Through Free Enterprise for the Detroit Free Press. He was assisted with the writing by his wife and Len G. Shaw. The artists were Frank Williams, William Fanning, and Max Rasmussen. The series began December 7, 1947.

The family tree said Geller passed away in 1954 in Detroit. However, the Free Press, October 16, 1955, had this line: “For space on these pages, phone Edward Geller, Detroit Free Press”. A death notice or obituary has not been found for Geller.

A family tree at said Caplan was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 7, 1899. According to the Social Security Death Index, Caplan passed away June 1968, in Huntington Woods, Michigan. 

—Alex Jay


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Tuesday, June 27, 2017


Obscurity of the Day, Revisited: The Story of an Ambitious Man Who Made Jobs For Thousands Through Free Enterprise

We previously covered this series, The Story of an Ambitious Man who Made Jobs for Thousands Through Free Enterprise, way back in 2007. Ah, 2007, I remember it well. Innocent days when we used to say things like "worst President ever," not realizing just how soon we'd be practically longing for a POTUS who didn't even know what a tweet was.  But I digress...

This series with the ridiculously long title profiled famous entrepreneurs, and banged the drum for free enterprise without government intervention or restriction. Each episode took pains to throw in a sermon to the effect of how these giants of industry were terrifically interested in the welfare of their workers and their communities, and that lining their pockets was merely an annoyance they put up with while focusing on the greater good.

This stuff played really well when the series debuted on December 7 1947. The United States was just starting to go down the rabbit hole of the Red Scare, and this sort of thing was eaten up like meat at a paleo diet barbeque. The nation's youth were in peril to succumbing to the siren song of Communism, so it was important to keep reminding Junior that our system is the best. Teaching the righteousness of big business was of especially great importance in the home of the auto industry, Detroit, ground zero of American giant corporations.

The series was produced for the Detroit Free Press by "E. and I. Geller". Back in 2007 I knew the E was for Edward, but it was much later that it came to light that the I. was for Irene Caplan Geller -- his wife? Sister? That I dunno. Art was rarely signed, but articles about the series reveal that the art was provided by Frank Williams, William Fanning and Max Rasmussen (Rasmussen did very few, and he did sign). Edward Geller was assisted in the writing duties by Free Press literary critic Len G. Shaw.

Although I say that the series was produced for the Free Press, Cole Johnson sent me the above samples to prove that it did appear elsewhere (these 1951 samples are from the Wichita Eagle), and the gimmick evidently used was to get businesses in town to sponsor the page (that's how it worked in the Freep as well). To the credit of the Eagle, they ran a line above the full-page strips saying the page was an advertisement.

In 2007 I said that the series ended in 1952, but boy was I wrong. While the weekly series ended on July 13 1952, it merely dialed things down. Monthly appearances would continue in the Free Press from August 21 1952 until January 27 1957, with a long hiatus and then final appearance on August 25 1957.


Would that final date actually be 1972? Or did time go backwards?
— Katherine Collins
Oops, no, my flying fingers meant to type 1957. Nice to know someone read to the end of the post, and wasn't nodding off by then!

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Monday, June 26, 2017


News of Yore 1927: Modish Mitzi Creator Jay V. Jay Unmasked

[this article appeared in a number of newspapers in 1926-27; this particular version came from the Springfield (MO) Daily News, January 11 1927]

 Jay V. Jay Not One Alias, But Three

Talented New York Girls Are Both Authors and Characters in "Modish Mitzi" --  Popular Fashion Feature

"Modish Mitzi," the clever fashion strip starting today in the Springfield Daily News is the work of three New York girls -- two fashion writers and an artist. They are Laura Johnson, who is the artist; and Virginia Vincent and Jeannette Kiekintveld who divide the task of gathering information, working out ideas and writing the stories. "Jay V. Jay" is their triple signature.

Not only are they the authors of "Modish Mitzi," they are the characters as well.

"It makes the drawings more human," explained the Jay V. Jays. "Laura Johnson insisted upon being the heroine so she could give herself all the clothes she liked best. Virginia Vincent is Pretty Polly because she's two years younger than the rest of us, and she is pretty and she likes fluffy, frivolous things to wear. Jeannette Kiekintveld is Adelaide the Catty Blonde because she is blonde, but she is allowed to have very stunning clothes  to make up for the slur on her disposition."

But though neither Mitzi no Polly nor Adelaide  looks as though she had ever had a serious thought, these three young business women have thorough knowledge of fashions --- and fashions are a serious business.

"Modish Mitzi" is a successful fashion artist who has done illustrating for many of the best known magazines and largest firms in New York. "Pretty Polly" and "Adelaide" between them have piled up a really formidable amount of experience in writing about fashions for newspapers, magazines, importers and fashionable shops.

"What are the things one must know about fashions?" repeated the Jay V. Jays. "Dozens of things. How they come and why they go. When they are fads and when they are styles. What stays in New York and what goes all over the country. What is becoming to whom. That's only a beginning.

"Fashions," concluded the Jay V. Jays with a collective smile, "fashions are our business and we are not modest -- we think," they said firmly, "that we know a great deal about them."


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Saturday, June 24, 2017


Herriman Saturday

February 19 1909 -- Illegal Chinese lottery tickets are found by the L.A. cops, and a whole group of Asian-American suspects are hauled into court. They maintain unanimously that the tickets are merely cards with poetry written on them. Their explanation unravels when each is brought into the court separately and asked to translate the verse.


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Friday, June 23, 2017


Wish You Were Here, from Gene Carr

Here's a Gene Carr postcard from the Rotograph Co., issued in 1906. The gag goes over my head -- can anyone parse the century-old stereotypes here well enough to explain it? I'm guessing it's a St.Patrick's Day card, but why the fat Dutchman leading the parade???

As long as explanations are being called for, what in the heck is that faceless refugee from a genetics experiment gone wrong in the lower left? Yipes!


This on Wikipedia:
Maybe the very idea of the Dutch / Germans leading the Irish in any context was meant to be comical, like a stereotypical Scotsman buying the drinks.

The critter lower left was likely meant to be a dog with his head turned to watch the Dutchman, as the boy is. The concealed face, combined with the unfortunate color choice and unnatural proportions (comparable to the other big-headed dog, with the same deformed back legs), add up to a creepy visual.

Also: Why is the little boy staring at the Dutchman's crotch?

Guessing 111 years after the fact, I'd say Carr did his four main figures and a bit carelessly tossed in the boy and dogs to indicate a parade, or at least a public spectacle.

In the vernacular of the time, the term Dutch often refers to Germans, but it would seem here they mean actual Hollanders or their descendants.The Irish are associated with Roman Catholicism, and their pet color is Green. The Dutch were associated with Protestantism, and their color of choice was orange, from the royal house of Orange. The color Orange became a "Protestant Color" in the endless "Troubles" in Ireland, the Protestant factions battling the Catholic ones during St. Patrick's day festivities, a serious bone of contention being which color would be associated with St. Patrick, the patron saint of all Irishmen.
The gag here is that to think that the dutch would lead the Irish in a parade, with the Irishers wearing Orange instead of Green sashes, is a fantastic expression of impossibility, like "The day pigs fly!". I realize the prominent color in this card is actually Yellow, an oversight by Rotograph, I'm sure, but the point of the gag would be understood in 1906.
Thanks Donald and Mark for the primer on 1900s stereotyping. I wasn't aware that the Dutch were symbolic of Protestantism. Armed with that info, I suppose I get the gag, barely.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017


King News by Moses Koenigsberg: Chapter 5 Part 2

 King News by Moses Koenigsberg

Published by F.A. Stokes Company, 1941


At The Editorial Valhalla (part 2)

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Disgust over the Kansas City Sunday Sun only heightened my pride in the Evening Star. But a disillusionment was at hand. Salaciousness was not the only ogre that leered at the sacredness of the sanctum. Corruption stalked a newspaper in various disguises. One of these masks was unexpectedly lifted by a bit of diligent reporting. Upheaval of my own office resulted.

A new Bexar County courthouse was in course of construction at a cost of $240,000. George Dugan had come from Kansas City to land the job. He was a common type of the times. A promoter and manipulator of public work enterprises, he “knew all the angles.” Otto P. Kroeger, an amiable young San Antonian and member of a prosperous family, was in position to enlist local capital. That would, in turn, command political influence. Dugan picked Kroeger as his partner. They got the contract. Some of the unsuccessful bidders did not accept their defeat gracefully. They alleged various irregularities. The county commissioners ignored these accusations until specific charges were filed. A formal complaint set out certain violations of agreement by departures from the specifications. Official action could be no longer evaded. Public hearings were ordered. They were held by the county court, consisting of the judge and four commissioners. This was the same tribunal that had awarded the contract.

The Evening Star covered the inquiry in considerable detail. A dozen building specialists consumed four days discussing the dimensions of stones best suited for the making of concrete. There was general accord on one point. Rock fragments as large as four inches in diameter were satisfactory. Indeed, they might be more advantageous than smaller elements. The commissioners were evidently pleased with the course of the investigation. They indicated to me privately their cordial approval of the thoroughness of my reports. Their urbanity did not excite my suspicion.

On the fifth day a bombshell burst. A barrel of mud was dumped into the investigators’ tank of whitewash. An expert violated the agreement by which he had been permitted to testify. He demolished the testimony of all his predecessors on the witness stand. The contract with Dugan & Kroeger specified stones half the size of those actually used in the making of the concrete. Broken rock cost much less than cement. The bigger the fragments, the less would be the proportion of cement entering into each cubic foot of the mixture. Use of the larger stones caused an inferior product at a greater profit to the contractors.

It did not occur to me, at the moment, that this exposure spelled my first reportorial contact with “big time” graft. The external facts alone constituted important news. One expert had torn into tatters a fabric woven under oath by a group of his colleagues. That was the basis of my story in the Evening Star. There was no allusion to sinister implications underlying the disclosure. It wasn’t needed.

Neither of the other two dailies in San Antonio had been represented at the actual sessions of the commission. They had relied on the clerk for an account of what happened each day. This was not an unusual practice. Reportorial staffs were too small to afford attendance at meetings that seemingly promised nothing beyond a technical inquisition. The Express and the Light received regularly the county board’s versions of the testimony adduced. It hadn’t dawned on me that this might have been assured by special arrangement. Nor had any inkling reached me of any reliance on the Evening Star to publish reports satisfactory to the county board.

So, it was a complete surprise that afternoon to run afoul of a ton of irate officialdom. The clash literally upset me. The county commissioners had been in a huddle on Main Plaza. All of them, save one, were unusually large, heavy men. As I approached them, a whimsical notion occurred to me for a paragraph about the weightiness of office-holding problems. Here, in less space than a lariat’s loop, was massed 2,000 pounds of the subject. In a blink the whimsicality faded into arresting realism.

Commissioner Dwyer grabbed my collar. Yanking me into the center of the group, he let loose a blast of billingsgate. The sulphurous quality of his tirade compelled more attention than its meaning. His companions joined in a chorus of interpretation, much noisier but no more lucid. The scene bordered on the ridiculous. An angry effort to break through the cordon of abuse produced a slapstick comedy. Three of my bulky vilifiers, reaching around each other to halt me, fell in a most undignified sprawl. That they had carried me with them did not ease their discomfiture. Our disentanglement was the signal for adjournment.

The impromptu party had been neither a social nor a political success. It did bring to my attention a rather sharp dissatisfaction with the Evening Star’s one-man news-staff. But what qualifications did these men possess to pass on my professional ability? Repeated references to a “double cross” had mystified me. Dark hints of the paper’s impending doom had aroused my concern.

Hamilton, Callan and Nordhouse received me as if at a funeral. At first they were too morose to talk. But bit by bit the facts were matched together. Adam Maurer had provided our “bank roll.” He was a building contractor. Others in his line of activity were also contributors to our operating funds. Maurer and his associates had looked forward to a newspaper that would serve their interests. “We want to advance the substantial and constructive elements of the community,” had been Maurer’s explanation to Nordhouse, Hamilton and Callan. And with that statement of a highly laudable program, the three were content.

These inner workings of a Texas daily in the ’90s were not peculiar to the section or to the period. They have been paralleled by journalistic undertakings throughout the country. They are reviewed here as a composite illustration of numerous counterparts. Maurer had not explained that there were any special interests to foster. He had outlined his financial and business connections. He had assumed these facts would afford sufficient guidance for the editorial policy of his newspaper organ. None of my associates had revealed to me the identity of our financial sponsor.

None of them had intimated to me that there were any “sacred cows” to safeguard. While the county commissioners were upbraiding me in Main Plaza, Maurer was berating my partners in the Evening Star office. He had never been there before. He never returned. His mission was to sever all relations with the newspaper. The Evening Star had lost its angel.

In the midst of our doldrums, the landlord entered. He had served as unofficial treasurer. All daily collections had been entrusted to him and Maurer’s check covering the weekly deficits had been made out in his name. He doled out the cash for wages and current expenses, retaining for himself the amounts due for presswork, newsprint and rent. Thus, the bank records would show nothing beyond a considerable business between Adam Maurer and W. L. Winter. These tactics not only limited Maurer’s liability, but they would enable him, if he chose, to disavow responsibility for the Evening Star. And now Winter told us, “We come to the end of the rope on Saturday.” It was a calamity. But it was also the end of a comprehensive course in finance, politics and newspaper promotion. Never again would my name appear on a payroll defrayed from an invisible source.

At Winter’s urging, we set out to “dig up a new bank roll.” Two friends, Dan Lewis and Emmet Kehoe, responded readily to my solicitation. Dan, in his late thirties, was a member of a wealthy family with extensive land and cattle interests. He insisted he had “no ax to grind.” Some time later, Dan’s brother, Nat, became a candidate for sheriff. Kehoe, chief of the fire department, disclaimed any motive in helping me beyond “putting the Evening Star on its feet and the opportunity for a profitable investment.” Time and circumstances attested his sincerity. For immediate needs, Lewis handed me $300 in cash and Kehoe wrote a. $200 check. Sunday afternoon, Nordhouse, Hamilton and Callan met me with Winter. None of my associates had been able to raise any funds.

Winter was deeply impressed with my $500 plus the assurance that enforceable contracts would guarantee whatever money was needed up to $4,500 more. That was a considerable amount of capital at the time. Hardly more than a decade earlier, Joseph Pulitzer had bought the St. Louis Dispatch with a down payment of $2,500. A couple of years later, Henry J. Hearsey found $2,250 an adequate stake for the establishment of the New Orleans States. Winter took charge of the meeting.

“We must have a clean slate,” he announced. “If you continue with the name of the Evening Star in my plant, I must be protected against claims from anybody on account of past transactions. If necessary, I shall extend a reasonable credit provided the wages and expenses are not increased without my consent. But I won’t stand for any squabbling. I’ll deal with one person only. I’m sure Koenigsberg’s backers will want him to be that person. Therefore, he must act as publisher.”

Four months were to elapse before my fifteenth birthday. It was the winter of 1892-93. But there was no misunderstanding of my new estate. It was not a prize captured by newspaper talents. It was a responsibility growing out of exigencies that friends had helped me to meet. So, my first job as a publisher, even at that age, afforded me small sense of achievement. There would have been more of a thrill in a big scoop. There was one real triumph. The Evening Star had been saved.

It was neither advisable nor expedient to make any public announcement. When the occasion arose, however, the Evening Star would proclaim its independence of all political parties. The new publisher could not be dissuaded from this course. He set up for his newspaper a rule to which he pledged his own lifelong adherence. Professional manipulators controlled partizan politics. It was a game playable only by insiders. The individual or the newspaper that blindly served a political organization was in the same category of dupes to which belonged the victims of the three-shell fraud. They were the pawns of the sharps. Partizan fences were screens for sculduggery. The fervor of election campaigns was whipped to a white heat in order more firmly to intrench the leaders of both sides. Then, when the voting was over and the tumult and the shouting died, the real innings of the bosses began. While the voters were immersed in other matters—while their heads were turned—the spoils were traded and shifted and graft traps were framed for the mutual benefit of those who would again make ugly faces at each other when the stage was set.

Was not ample proof of all this supplied by my own experiences? Did not a Republican district attorney procure my indictment for criminal libel as a backfire to protect Democratic officeholders? And now, was not my present position traceable to a political hippodrome that went amiss? Had it not required both Republicans and Democrats to arrange the set-up that was knocked down by the Evening Star’s courthouse disclosure? No matter how sophomoric may have been the mind that pursued this reasoning, the conclusions have stood the test of time.

Journalism was caressing my fondest hopes. The Evening Star was forging ahead. Then Major Mose C. Harris came to San Antonio. His coming marked a turning-point in my newspaper career. Dan Lewis told the facts bluntly.

“Mose Harris has bought the Evening News," he announced in a tone in which one might recite an obituary notice. My apparent lack of concern nettled him. “You don’t seem to know much about him,” he resumed. “If you did, you’d lie down and turn over. He’s bad medicine for anyone he doesn’t like. And if I helped you to stay in the field as his competitor, he wouldn’t like either of us. It’s much better to have him with us than against us. And I’m fixing it the better way.”

The Evening Star was to fade out. Lewis had already effected a deal with Major Harris. It converted Lewis’ investment into a one-third interest in the Evening News. This was to be in the name of Koenigsberg, who would be taken over with the same drawing account that he had been receiving.

In his early forties, a scant five feet and six inches in height, compactly built, Mose C. Harris had the air of a man with an arrested bent for foppishness. He was a baldish dandy whose appearance suggested the dandruff he didn’t have. Dancing brown eyes belied the laziness of a drawl. The straggling ends of a small, sandy mustache sought refuge between lips too full to conceal. His voice fluctuated between a throaty purr and a deep rumble. It was an admirable vehicle for a voluminous magniloquence. His presence alternately denied and affirmed his reputation as a daring soldier of fortune. But his speech left no doubt about the vigor of his brain.

Only those soliciting favors addressed Harris as “Major.” He was invariably referred to as “the Majah.” Because of his own pronunciation, he could not resent the implied banter. “Rest assured that San Antonio will be just as responsive as other communities that have indulged a keen appetite for my offerings,” he boasted. “Once, I published a paper behind barricaded doors and for eleven days the good citizens came up under the guns to buy each issue.” This was more than braggadocio. Less than five years before, this swashbuckling journalist had been the central figure in one of the strangest newspaper dramas ever enacted.

A tramp compositor, Harris “came up from the printer’s case” to the writing staff. His trenchant pen kept him constantly in hot water. The javelins of his caustic scorn were loosed as readily by a baby’s prattle as by a politician’s declamation. His piquant individuality found a fitting background in the turbulent Hot Springs of the late ’80s. There he launched the Horseshoe. Its contents consisted of spicy comment.

The Arkansas resort was seething with a struggle for control of gambling privileges. Three Flynn brothers dominated the field. They owned a string of saloons with gaming-rooms overhead. Their competitor was Jim Lane. Cures effected by the waters from springs on the abutting government reservation drew visitors from all sections of the country. The end of Central Avenue, the principal street, was being hewn from a mountainside under a federal contract involving several hundred thousand dollars. The town was a gamesters’ El Dorado with all the bustle and vividness of a western mining camp.

The Horseshoe espoused the Flynns’ cause. A score of shootings over a period of months had enlivened the gambling competition. Then Lane sent to New Orleans for reinforcements.

Major Billy Doran, a notorious gunman, responded. He brought with him a gang of “trigger sharps.” The feud reached its climax in a street battle the desperateness of which is still a saga of the South. Doran and his gangsters lay in ambush opposite Billy McTague’s saloon. The Flynn trio approached in a hack. Jack Flynn was killed by the first shot. The driver, with half a dozen bullet holes through his body, toppled to the ground. His last gesture wedged the frightened horses against the curb. The carriage was literally riddled into splinters. It fell apart. The two surviving brothers became exposed targets. Frank Flynn, his hand shattered by a revolver bullet, dropped beside Jack’s body. Billy Flynn, his chest pierced by a rifle ball, grabbed Frank’s Winchester. His gun spitting fire at each step, Billy drove the Doran gang to cover. He was standing alone in the blood-spattered street when a posse, hastily organized by Police Chief Toler, arrived.
Doran and his followers, several of them badly wounded, were marched to the courthouse.

That night, law-abiding citizens organized the Committee of Safety. It formed a military organization. Flintlock muskets with bayonets were carried for show. Revolvers in hidden holsters were carried for emergency. The plant of the Horseshoe was converted into an armed fort. A barricade was erected behind the front doors, which had been further secured with a lattice of iron bars. Since the building backed against a mountain, there was no rear ingress.

The Horseshoe, which had been issued weekly, became a daily the next afternoon. It was an eruption of fire and brimstone. Harris had dug out of the slime and slush of Hot Springs politics the semblance of a righteous cause. He charged that the Flynn brothers had been shot down in furtherance of a conspiracy of corruption. A scheme had been hatched whereby illicit profits accrued under the government contract for the excavation of Central Avenue. Sites owned by favored property-owners were selected. The blasting of rock from these building lots greatly increased their value. Use of this stone by the contractors saved for them the large expense of transportation from other points. Jim Lane had engineered the deal. Municipal officials shared his profits. The Flynn brothers demanded part of the gains. Their removal followed. The Horseshoe presented all this in the form of a serial.

Each edition was a chapter of absorbing interest to Hot Springs. Harris, armed with a repeating rifle, stood on guard beside the barricade while buyers of the paper thrust their coins through the iron bars in exchange for their copies. Food and supplies were lowered to Harris on a rope through the skylight in the building roof. A note was handed in by a reader. It announced the flight of Hot Springs’ mayor. “The Majah” rejoiced. Later that afternoon he learned that the police chief had decamped. Harris drank a pint of champagne in celebration. But the Horseshoe’s allegations were disturbing the peace of many substantial citizens. The Committee of Safety sent word that it would be a salutary measure for Harris to seek an abode remote from Hot Springs. That was on the tenth day. The next afternoon, the Horseshoe published a resume of “The Revelations,” with an announcement that a copy was being sent to each member of Congress. A furor ensued. Harris was attacking the community’s tenderest spot. If a scandal touching the government contract reached Washington, it would cause a Congressional investigation. That might mean a suspension of the work. The danger of such a disaster was appalling. Harris must be stopped.

The Committee of Safety assembled outside the office of the Horseshoe. Fifteen men with fixed bayonets formed a half-circle in front of the barricaded doors. In the background crowded most of the citizenship of Hot Springs. The posse commander, carrying a sword, called to Harris to “come forth.” Several moments elapsed before “the Majah” presented himself. There was a wry grin on his face. In his best public meeting manner, he asked, “To what am I indebted for this extraordinary attention?”

“We are here,” the man with the sword answered sternly, “to give you safe escort out of Hot Springs. Your presence is an instigation to riot. Our best citizens agree that your absence is necessary for the preservation of peace. We shall protect you against violence on the way to the railroad station. But you are warned that we will not be responsible for your safety if you attempt to return.”

“It has been a custom in the valley,” Harris intoned as if delivering an address, “both on the arrival and the departure of a distinguished citizen, to accord him the compliment of a brass band. I call for a brass band.”

“Hang the----- !” came a chorus.

“Under the circumstances, we’ll dispense with the brass band,” announced “the Majah,” apparently less ruffled than an orator who has just been hissed.

The men with the bayonets formed a hollow square. In its center, Mose C. Harris was marched to the railroad yards. There he was put aboard a switch engine that had been waiting with steam up. That was in the fall of 1888. Harris afterward filed suit for damages in the federal court at Little Rock. He was awarded a verdict of $1,200. The Committee of Safety defendants paid the judgment.

The story of the Hot Springs episode revived my hopes. Here was an editor who had “defied the intrenched forces of iniquity even to the bayonet’s point.”

Chapter 5 Part 3 Next Week   
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Irma Harms

Irma Harms was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 20, 1882, according to a 1900 passport application and a 1924 passenger list at The 1880 U.S. Federal Census recorded Harms’ family in Euclid, Ohio. Her father, Louis, was born in Germany, and mother, Hulda, in Russia. The couple’s first child was named Hulda who was followed by Irma. Louis’ first wife, Judith, had four children and died in 1870. Additional information about Louis can be found in the Memorial Record of the County of Cuyahoga and City of Cleveland, Ohio (1894).

Harms was raised in Euclid which was named in her mother’s 1896 passport application. Some time later they moved to Cleveland.

Harms and her mother traveled to Europe in early April 1900, about two months before the enumeration of the 1900 census. The passport application said Cleveland was their permanent residence. The application had Harms’ first name as “Emma”. They returned to the U.S. in early 1901. A passenger list said they sailed on the S.S. Graf Waldersee from Hamburg, Germany, on January 13, 1901. The ship made stops in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Plymouth and New York.

The Cleveland Leader, February 18, 1902, reported the Eastern Cuyahoga branch of the Ohio state Board of Agriculture’s annual farmers’ institute in Euclid. The evening entertainment included Harms who played a piano solo and a violin duet.

In the 1910 census, Harms and her mother lived in Euclid, Ohio on Euclid Road. Harms was unemployed. They were recorded as a separate household while residing in the same place as Harms’ oldest step-brother, farmer Charles, and his family.

The Sandusky Star-Journal (Ohio), March 10, 1928, said Harms was student at the Cleveland School of Art and later studied with cartoonist C.N. Landon. She was listed as an illustrator in a Landon School advertisement. During World War I she did pen-and-ink illustrations for the Cleveland Press.

According to the 1920 census, unemployed Harms lived with her older half-sister and widow, Julia, and her family in Sandusky at 502 West Market Street. Harms’ occupation was artist in the 1921 city directory.

In February 1924, Harms visited Cuba.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Harms drew Gabby Gertie from September 1927 to 1935. A trademark application was recorded in the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, February 5, 1929. 

Ser. No. 270,420. Irma Harms, Sandusky, Ohio. Filed Aug. 1, 1928.
Gabby Gertie
For One-Column Daily Illustrated Epigram Series. Claims use since Aug. 22, 1927.
Newspaper artist Harms continued to be part of Julia’s household in the 1930 census. The 1930 city directory said she was a cartoonist. In the mid-1930s, Harms moved. A 1937 directory listed the artist at 1835 Willowhurst Road in apartment 101.

The Editor & Publisher said Harms produced a daily strip, The Patsy, for the Thompson Service in 1933. It’s unclear if the strip was published.

The 1940 census recorded Harms’ address as 1875 Willowhurst Road. The cartoonist did not work and had no income in 1939. 

Harms passed away October 13, 1952, in Cleveland, according to the blog Sandusky History

—Alex Jay


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Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Obscurity of the Day: Gabby Gertie

In the 1900s and 1910s, it was practically a law that every syndicate had to have a Katzenjammer Kids copycat. In the 1920s, it was flapper panels. Although the International Syndicate of Baltimore was barely even registering a heartbeat by 1927, even they managed to distribute a Flapper Fanny competitor. Theirs was titled Gabby Gertie, and it was penned by Irma Harms. Ms. Harms provided some decent art though I wonder how much of it was actually cribbed from Ethel Hays. She also sometimes managed a decent gag, but often the captions offered more of a mystery than a chuckle. I offer the above examples as proof, three of which elicit from me a "huh?"

The feature debuted on August 22 1927 as a daily panel, but since many of International's clients were small papers, you'll also see it often appearing weekly or somewhere in between. In 1930 it seems like the syndicate may have given up the daily version and cut the panel back to weekly frequency, as it stopped running in daily papers that year. The writing was on the wall, and the syndicate seems to have given it up in September of 1931.

That wasn't quite the end of Gabby Gertie, though, as the backstock of the panel seems to have been sold to Western Newspaper Union. You can find the panel popping up as late as 1935 in little weeklies.


Panels like this drive me crazy until I figure them out. Some of these are real head-scratchers.

1. "Her baring is worn way down" puns the low-cut bare-backed dress and worn machinery bearings. I can't figure out what the second part has to do with it. "Her cash won't pay the bills." Another pun? Cache?

2. I had to Google for this one. "Heart balm" is a term for the money won in a breach-of-promise lawsuit (for our younger readers, it used to be possible in some states to sue someone if they promised to marry you but backed out).

The next three are understandable. Not particularly funny, but understandable.

6. "The girl who makes funny faces and strips.": The woman at the drawing board is drawing comic strips. She also removes some of her clothing (strips) in shady places but she doesn't remove too much. She knows where to draw the line...and drawing the line brings us back to cartooning. It's actually rather clever. Just not very funny.
Beating your head against those captions, you're really taking one for the team, Smurfswacker!

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Monday, June 19, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Charles Okerbloom Jr.


Charles Irving Okerbloom, Jr. was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on August 13, 1908, according to the Pennsylvania, Birth Records at, and a news report from the University of Arkansas. Okerbloom’s full name was on his marriage certificate and in publications from Ohio State University and the University of Arkansas.

In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Okerbloom was the youngest of four children born to Charles and Huldah. Okerbloom’s father was a Swedish emigrant and accountant, however, the next census said he was Swiss. The family resided in Harrisburg at 621 North Fifteenth Street.

The 1920 census recorded the Okerbloom family of seven in Columbus, Ohio, at 351 West Seventh Avenue.

Okerbloom graduated from North High School in 1926. The 1926 Polaris yearbook said his nickname was Chuck who was on the Polaris art staff, and member of Hi-Y and the Art Club. Okerbloom continued his education at Ohio State University. The 1928 Makio yearbook said he was in the Pen and Brush Club and the Sigma Chi fraternity.

The Magazine of Sigma Chi, July 1937, published an article, in part, about Milton Caniff. Caniff’s influence on Okerbloom was told.

…Columbus was full of cartoonists, and so was Ohio State. The late Billy Ireland was interested in Milt’s work and Milt valued his counsel very highly. Milt mixed with the campus artists who fraternized at the Sun Dial office—the University’s humorous publication. Clayton Rawson, Jon Whitcomb, Reamer Keller, and the late Don Barley—they were all Sun Dial artists at that time. Along with Milt, they all passed through the same halls where the late George Bellows had walked during his Ohio State days. Then later, along came Chuck Okerbloom [Alpha Gamma ’30], Noel Sickles, Bill Dwyer, and Charlie Raab, who became Sigma Chi pledges through association with Milt. All these young artists have since attained prominence of varying degrees in their chosen lines of art, and for the most part, Milt gave them all endless encouragement.

Milt’s interest had a profound influence on Chuck Okerbloom’s early Ohio State days. Chuck was no great shakes as a cartoonist when Milt sponsored him for pledging at Alpha Gamma. But he was a good tennis player. This made him an athletic prospect—and his cartooning ability was considered unimportant by most of the members. So Chuck was pledged, and because freshmen weren’t eligible for tennis, but were eligible for Sun Dial, Milt was assigned the task of guiding Chuck toward campus prominence as a Sun Dial cartoonist.

From the beginning. Milt coerced Chuck into turning at least one acceptable Sun Dial drawing to him every week. He figured that anyone as prolific as all that would certainly be well-represented in every issue of The Sun Dial. So Chuck dutifully carried out his weekly assignment, sometimes doing only one—and sometimes doing two or three drawings, and Milt selected the best ones for submission to the Sun Dial. In a short time, Chuck was better represented in the campus humor publication than was Milt. So Milt, when it was no longer necessary to enforce the mandatory requirement, dropped it, letting Chuck be responsible for his own submissions. But at this time, Milt advised Chuck that if he worked hard, he would some day be art editor of the Sun Dial—and he impressed on Chuck’s freshman mind that it was a high campus honor to be the Sun Dial’s art editor—not to mention the fact that in those days the job paid around $700 a year.
The 1929 Makio yearbook listed Okerbloom as art editor of the Sun Dial. Caniff was on the art staff, too.

The 1930 University of Minnesota yearbook, The Gopher, said “Cornell and Young were the only Minnesota representatives at the Conference [tennis] meet. Young lost a hard fought match to Charles Okerbloom….”

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Okerbloom was one of five artists who drew Radiotics, later retitled Radiomania. The NEA series began in October 1927 with Joe King, followed by Art Krenz, Dorothy Urfer, Okerbloom, and George Scarbo. The series ended about five years later.

According to the 1930 census, unemployed Okerbloom lived with his parents in Columbus at 351 West 7th Avenue.

The Ohio County Marriages, at, said Okerbloom and Margaret Elizabeth Clymer were married on December 30, 1933 in Franklin County, Ohio.

In the 1940 census, Okerbloom and his wife were residents of Iowa City, Iowa, at 1215 Yewell. Okerbloom was a state university fine arts instructor, and his wife was an assistant professor at a state university.

During World War II, Okerbloom enlisted in Texas on December 4, 1942 and served in the Army Air Corps. According to Okerbloom’s Application to State of Iowa for World War II Service Compensation, he served in the “510th Basic Flying Training Squadron U.S. Air Corps” and “Headquarters Squadron 73rd Bomb Wing 20th Air Force”. Okerbloom was honorably discharged December 1, 1945.

The University of Arkansas said Okerbloom “served as an associate professor at both the Ohio University and the University of Tulsa. An accomplished cartoonist and painter, Okerbloom joined the Department of Art at the University of Arkansas in 1953, reaching the rank of full professor in 1963. He retired in 1969. His works are in collections and art museums in Dallas, Texas; Tulsa, Okla.; New Orleans, La.; and Columbus and Toledo, Ohio. His artwork is also in the permanent collection of the State University of Iowa.”

Okerbloom passed away April 6, 1999, in Springdale, Arkansas. He was laid to rest at Middletown Cemetery.

—Alex Jay


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Saturday, June 17, 2017


Herriman Saturday

February 16 1909 -- American industrialist Henry Clay Frick is in Paris and wants to go see a Wilbur Wright demonstration flight out on the coast. He and his entourage arrive at the train station only to find out that the train is fully booked. Frick insists that they add a special luxury car to the train, saying cost is no object. The French, not realizing how serious those words are to an American multi-millionaire, said it was impossible and sent the train on.

Instead Frick simply ordered a special train, just for his party. They got to see Wilbur Wright at the mere cost of approximately $1200 American dollars. In today's money I'd guess that to be something like $75,000. A mere bagatelle....


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Friday, June 16, 2017


Wish You Were Here, from Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg's Foolish Questions postcards were a huge hit, but he also produced a set under the running title The Ancient Order of the Glass House. These were issued by the same company that did his Foolish Questions cards, which offers only their logo, intertwined initials B and S, as identification (Barton Spooner?). While the Foolish Questions cards were series 213, these were series 212, presumably meaning they were issued earlier. This particular example was postally used in 1910.

By the way, I just stumbled upon Paul Tumey's essay about Goldberg's Foolish Questions. Recommended reading!


BS= Samson Bros., NY.
I've seen similar sets to this (annoying people), which makes me wonder if these were based on a certain newspaper strip or not.
Hi E. --
Rube's comic strip for the Mail didn't have an over-arching running title, but did use many running titles for various recurring themes. Although I don't have a bunch of pre-1910 strips here to look at, I'm confident that this was one of his recurring themes in the Mail series in that era.

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Thursday, June 15, 2017


King News by Moses Koenigsberg: Chapter 5 Part 1

 King News by Moses Koenigsberg

Published by F.A. Stokes Company, 1941

Chapter 5

At The Editorial Valhalla (part 1)

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“Thermopylae had its messenger of defeat, but the Alamo had none.” This is one of the inscriptions marking the historic Franciscan mission in the heart of San Antonio. It is the unofficial city slogan. Cavilers have decried the sentence as too sanguinary to be coupled with a civic outlook. It does not appear on the municipal crest. But its epic theme echoes through the programs of community convocations. The heroic last stand of 180 Texas volunteers against 3,000 Mexicans under General Santa Ana is San Antonio’s most sacred legend. Memories of two of the martyrs, Davy Crockett and James Bowie, were intertwined in schoolroom lessons. But the spirit they should have infused was absent from my return to San Antonio.

Apprehension was routed by annoyance. There would be no trial for libel. The indictment had long since been dismissed. At my father’s instance, no notice of the dismissal was forwarded to me. He reckoned shrewdly. My belief that the case was still pending might be turned to useful account. His theory was verified when Frank Ellinger told of seeing me in a prize-ring. Shook & Vander Hoeven, who had been unwilling to interfere with my work in journalism, felt differently about a pugilistic career. They subjected Ellinger to stringent questioning. His report was convincing. The cunningly worded wire was sent to drag me from an ignoble pursuit.

Tom Vander Hoeven was genuinely distressed by my explanation. But he comforted himself with a dig at my gullibility. “You were smart enough to broaden your training for journalism,” he said, “but you’re not yet smart enough to analyze a telegram. Study that message. A clever newspaperman should have asked for more facts before acting.”

My reappearance in San Antonio was highly opportune. Jeff Nordhouse considered it talismanic. Jeff was the typographical “swift” of the Southwest. He was the winner of a number of speed contests in type-setting. With Joe Hamilton and Chris Callan, fellow-typesetters, he had procured financial backing for an afternoon paper. The office would be in the printing plant of W. L. Winter, on Soledad Street, opposite the courthouse, in the center of town. All mechanical arrangements were perfected, but it remained to provide the contents of the publication. The frame was ready, but the picture was missing. The first issue had been delayed by lack of a news staff. Now, Jeff believed, my arrival at this critical point was an augury of certain success.

A new partnership of four was formed—Nordhouse, Hamilton, Callan and myself. Joe Fonda, a combination bookkeeper and circulation manager, with J. B. Pond, advertising solicitor, completed the staff. Fonda drew $12 and Pond $18 a week. Pond was the patriarch of the organization. At thirty-five, he was a veteran of canvassing campaigns of every description throughout the South. His high salary was a concession to his larger domestic responsibilities.

The Evening Star was launched with a flourish. Scores of acquaintances handled the free distribution of the first issue of 5,000 copies. That was expansive promotion in those days. The newspaper itself was palpably amateurish. But the dearth of professional polish was abundantly offset with enthusiasm. There was no perspective of experience to cramp its style or daring. Many readers found its leaven of juvenility refreshing. They were indulgent even to its sallies of sophomoric wit, such as this editorial paragraph:

There was a classic forecast of the stellar course of San Antonio's new daily newspaper. A proper sympathy will find it in this stanza by Lord Byron:

. . . ’Tis sweet to hear
At midnight on the blue and moonlit deep,
The song and oar of Adria’s gondolier,
By distance mellow’d, o’er the waters sweep;
’Tis sweet to see the evening star appear. . . .
No matter what color my face may turn now at the record of such callowness, it was great fun at the time. And the circulation figures gave approval to our gladsomeness. At the end of three months, the Evening Star claimed the largest circulation of any afternoon paper in South Texas. There were two local competitors, the Light and the News. The Times had passed out. The Light kept its figures secret. We credited it with 2,000 subscribers. The News was negligible. It was not any scintillating quality that attracted readers to the Evening Star. Such popularity as it gained was the fruit of sheer toil. Never had so many items of local information appeared in a single issue of a San Antonio daily as were regularly offered in each edition of the Evening Star. We had no telegraphic service. So, the growth of our subscription list could be attributed almost wholly to one factor, the copious volume of neighborhood news.

Intensive coverage of a small town’s happenings is an onerous undertaking. It involves real risks and frequent hardships. The intimacies of a limited population exaggerate the importance of near-by events. They magnify to the subject of untoward tidings the adverse effects of publication. Suppression is often demanded as a right of neighborly obligation. Newspaper penetration of privacy is at times held intolerable.

San Antonio’s population in 1892 exceeded 35,000. It was the chief entrepot for the trade between the United States and Mexico. It spoke with metropolitan majesty; but it whispered with small-town cant. The newspapers treated stories involving domestic infelicity with excessive delicacy.

The “shush-shush” of clubwomen critics resounded between the lines. So, a city-wide sensation followed when the Evening Star presented a full column of details of the petition for divorce filed by Mrs. Clarence Lyons. The Express used the item the next morning in much smaller space.

The defendant was a superintendent of mechanical operation. The plaintiff, the former Mary Klockenkemper, was the daughter of a prominent jeweler. Publication of the divorce action drove Lyons into a frantic rage. Death alone, he swore, could expunge this outrage. Despite an almost incoherent fury, he investigated personal responsibility for the published news. Major culpability was fixed on me. If my story had not been printed in the Evening Star, he concluded, the suit would not have been mentioned in the Express. Still, that didn’t excuse Bill Blunt, night editor of the morning paper. It would require the life-blood of both Blunt and Koenigsberg to wipe out this disgrace.

“Personal Safety in the Southwest” was the caption of an article that had appeared in the Evening Star a few weeks before. The material around which it was written came to me from Jacobo Coy, described in the feature as “the eminent authority on the strategies and dynamics of private warfare.” It was a rather strained effort at humor. But it ended on a note of seriousness. Coy outlined “three rules of conduct for the peace-lover.” They read: “1. Avoid the habit of wearing a gun. The reputation of going armed justifies the other fellow in shooting on sight. 2. A weapon should be used only for self-defense. If actual danger necessitates the carrying of a firearm, cut that danger to the shortest possible duration. 3. Don’t let a grudge smolder. It may flare up when you’re least in readiness.”

No better counsel seemed available. The first injunction was superfluous. But the second and third applied to my complication. At three o’clock that afternoon, the crack of a pistol shot halted me. It was in Losoya Street, in front of the Express office. The explosion seemed underfoot. Another crash snapped my eyes to the spot, scarcely six steps away, where Bill Blunt lay motionless on the pavement, a smoking revolver alongside his outstretched hand. Over Blunt, his body sagging and his arms pinioned from behind, tottered Clarence Lyons. A reddened dagger slid through his fingers to the asphalt. The strong arms clasping Lyons dragged him up and away from Blunt. Their owner’s face had been hidden by Clarence’s shoulders. Now, as he turned, I recognized Frank G. Huntress, Jr., a bright young attache of the Express.

Huntress had been in the office of the Express when, through a window, he saw Lyons attack Blunt. He leaped over a counter to stop the fight. Blunt went down at the first knife thrust. Lyons sat astride him. The blade rose and fell again before Bill could draw his revolver. Then, with his elbow on the pavement, Blunt fired. Huntress reached them as the first shot sounded. Both Lyons and Blunt survived their wounds.

Providence chose Blunt instead of me to answer for publishing a divorce story. Else this chronicle might not have been written. Huntress’s intervention probably averted a fatal outcome. His deportment that day was of a piece with his career. He rose to the proprietorship of the newspaper on which he started as a route boy. In 1918 he launched the San Antonio Evening News. Adding it to the Express, he became the most successful publisher in the extensive field that his two dailies have continued to serve with dignified vigor.

While individual vengeance sufficed for divorce stories, lynching was not uncommon in the South for other kinds of publicity. Timorous forerunners of modern gossip columnists were favorite prey. They clung to the shelter of anonymity. Even their output was largely anonymous. Theirs was pale piffle compared with the racy reports of Broadway commentators a generation later. Yet these fugacious pedlers of tattle were hunted out with stern relentlessness. The hunters often followed a wrong scent. There were more innocent victims of mob violence than actual offenders. Most of the real culprits kept under effective cover. And there was scant palliation for the mistakes. “Skunk-chasing isn’t a nice sport or an exact science,” ran the apology of one administrator of lynch law in North Texas. “If you’re a good citizen you’ll take the bad medicine without a whimper and help us find the right subject for a good dose.”

Sharp warnings were delivered in doubtful cases. In some instances the admonition was limited to a lecture in the center of a group under a cottonwood tree. There was a noose around the chief listener’s neck. The rope end hung across an overhead branch. An occasional tug emphasized the speaker’s remarks. At times a kangaroo court convened in solemn session. If the defendant failed to refute the accusation, ostracism was decreed. A liberal coating of tar and feathers prepared him for a bouncing ride out of town on a fence-rail.

The publication of personal innuendo was commonly regarded as an abhorrent form of literate degeneracy. If the insinuation pointed to impropriety or unseemliness, street-corner crowds discussed the need for a vigilance committee. If it took a pornographic twist, a neighborhood convulsion ensued. Conservators of public morals saw the pillars of decency smeared with filth.

Printing of such material was held lower than common pandering. Reputable daily newspapers steered clear of gossip bearing the faintest tinge of indecorum. But the Southwest was blanketed with a highly successful scandal sheet. It gained the largest circulation until then attained in the region. More than 100,000 copies of the Kansas City Sunday Sun were sold weekly. Its eight pages were devoted exclusively to the mention of persons—whose full names were usually withheld. Separate editions were printed for different sections to afford adequate coverage. The “local gleanings” of a single locality occupied from one to two columns.

No copy of any issue was purchasable on the day after arrival. It was the Kansas City Sunday Sun that precipitated the transient vogue for lynching bees. Rewards were privately offered for identification of its correspondents. In constant jeopardy of life or limb, these hounded scriveners plied their surreptitious operations for a pitiable pittance. Few, if any of them, received as much as $20 a week for their hazardous work.

Time has made an ironic jest of their tribulations. Communities that once tarred and feathered them in later years would have indulged their most atrocious offenses as vapid prattle. Beside the untrammeled licentiousness of some gossip columns of the 1930s, their effusions would read like idle chitchat. The Kansas City Sunday Sun observed at least a modicum of decency. It did not drag the marriage couch under the spotlight. It left to the private scrutiny of bridal couples the calendars of their maternity plans. It supplied no publicity percussion to widen a marital breach. It hastened no domestic crash with affirmative predictions. It did not speculate about a prospective bride’s choice of a second husband before the consummation of her first nuptials. It did not champion vulgarity against modesty. It offered no approval of debauchery. It did not cultivate a special wit for the exploitation of sex perversion. It did not lift the veil that still screened some of the valid privacies of life. Good taste was yet a social entity.

The Kansas City Sunday Sun concentrated on masculine peccadillos. It found intimation more attractive than exposure. The curiosity of readers was whetted with incomplete descriptions of individuals. The method promoted a game of identification. As much interest was generated by guiding recognition of the principal as by telling the details of an escapade.

A typical item brought me into an exciting collision with its central figure. The paragraph read: “There’s a fire department officer the sound of whose last name has a meaning directly contrary to his day-off didos. Look out, C. Better take your badge back from that San Saba Street red-head. Her Government Hill meal ticket may get sore and turn it in.” The meaning was perfectly clear to Charlton Wright. Busybody friends made sure that his wife didn’t miss it. A family crisis resulted. Embarrassment for other members of the department, with the same surname, was averted by the single letter “C.”

None of this reached me until the following Sunday. Then, at noon, a distraught husband thrust me into the wretched drama. A handsome fellow, in the dress uniform of a fire captain, hailed me outside the Evening Star office. He had been waiting on the opposite sidewalk. No one else was in sight. Instead of a helmet, he had an ornate shako. He was holding it in both hands. The angle at which he carried it forced a queer clumsiness as he crossed the street. Nothing was said until he was less than an arm’s length away. Then he asked: “Is your name Koenigsberg?”

His arms flung apart at my answer. A long-barreled pistol emerged from the tasseled headpiece. Its muzzle was pressed against my stomach. The shako, swung out of the way in his left hand, slipped from his fingers and rolled along the pavement.

The man’s face was startlingly white. His eyes protruded. His lips moved, but there was no sound. There was a drumming in my ears. It bore an eerie echo of the voice of Jacobo Coy. It formed into phrases of a warning Coy had once spoken. “The man who intends to shoot doesn’t waste time talking to you about it,” he had said. “He shoots. You’d be fairly safe if he gave you a chance to argue.” Wouldn’t this fellow talk? My own tongue was paralyzed. The seconds stretched into what seemed like immeasurable time. Then, at last, a queer noise came from the twitching mouth. It was both a croak and a scream. “You’ve got just one minute to pray, you----- .”

The words were chilling, but the voice quavered. It broke into a sob. The man was trembling as if with ague. My numbed senses sparked into action. Hope flashed through the darkness that had closed around me. There was more of hysteria than murder in this fellow. He had talked. We might reason together. If only his trigger finger would hold steady long enough. Speech came to me in a torrent.

“What’s eating you? Are you insane? Who are you? You must be crazy to think of killing a man without letting him know why. What good would it do you? What have you got against me?”

A vortex of emotion charged the outburst with a harshness of tone that no studied effort could have produced. It shocked my own hearing. It stirred the man with the gun. His left hand arose as if to brush something away from his forehead. A paroxysm twisted his features. He seemed to be gulping for utterance. At last he spoke in labored wheezes. “A ----- that breaks up homes and ruins other people’s lives has no right to live.” There was no direct menace in this. It was a general statement. The man was arguing. Feeling, rather than reason, brought these facts to my consciousness. A growing relief restored control of my voice. “What makes you think I have done such things?”

The question acted on my assailant like the flick of a whip. He was plainly nonplussed. A sudden doubt had evidently beset him. Slowly, wonderingly, he put it into a query: “Aren’t you the Kansas City Sun correspondent?”

The vehemence of my denial was palpably convincing. The figure in front of me seemed to shrink. The gun sank until the muzzle pointed downward. Tears were streaming down the man’s cheeks as he muttered: “My friends told me they had checked up on it. They told me you were the regular correspondent. I don’t know what kept me from shooting.”

The distracted man was Charlton Wright. The paragraph in the Kansas City Sunday Sun had disrupted his family. He was crazed with grief. There was a momentary resentment of the excruciating strain to which he had subjected me. But anger could not endure against this tortured host of unhappiness. Wright fumbled around for a moment in a daze. Then he reversed his revolver and silently presented the handle to me. The proffered gun was not accepted. Instead, Wright’s shako was lifted from the pavement and handed to him.

In the ineffaceable memory of that Sunday noon encounter is stamped one of the criterions of my newspaper code. It was wrought out of conclusions drawn from Charlton Wright’s trying experience. He may have been a philanderer. He may have deserved punishment of some sort. Neither his innocence nor his obliquity was at issue. The force of the printed word had ripped a domestic establishment into shreds. There was no relief for the victims. Legal measures could not restore the shattered home. The odium of that outrage contaminated the source from which the daily newspaper derived its physical existence. Through printer’s ink flowed the same power that on one hand exerted inestimable good and on the other imposed incalculable harm.

The malevolent elements of that power must be filtered for the protection of legitimate journalism. This could be accomplished by the adoption of a principle that was formulated for incorporation in my table of professional commandments thus:

Legitimate news, comprising those elements of public intelligence the publication of which embraces the fundamental purposes of journalism, may not be suppressed; but any other communication or comment touching matters apart from the public welfare is unfit for publication, even though true, if it may inflict an injury or a wrong not susceptible to redress at law.

Such a law of procedure would inherit for journalism a nobler quality of ethical leadership. It would cramp the style of a number of columnists, but it would enhance the prestige and expand the influence of many newspapers. It would reduce the space surrendered to eroticism. It would close countless avenues to the seepage of scandal. It would remove a formidable impediment to the inculcation of good taste.

Disgust over the Kansas City Sunday Sun only heightened my pride in the Evening Star. But a disillusionment was at hand. Salaciousness was not the only ogre that leered at the sacredness of the sanctum. Corruption stalked a newspaper in various disguises. One of these masks was unexpectedly lifted by a bit of diligent reporting. Upheaval of my own office resulted.

Chapter 5 Part 2 Next Week   
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Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Dorothy Urfer

Dorothy A. Urfer was born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1905 according to a family tree at Urfer had an older sister born January 4, 1904.

In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Urfer was the third of four children born to Fred and Pearl. Her father was a jeweler who operated a jewelry store. Also in the household was Urfer’s maternal grandmother. They resided in Center, Indiana, on School Street.

The Urfer family grew by two members in the 1920 census. Their home was at 201 Wheeling Avenue in Muncie, Indiana. Urfer’s father managed a furniture store.

The 1925 Muncie city directory listed Urfer as a dental assistant at 301 Western Reserve Life. She continued to live at home.

Urfer sent a letter about dolls to the magazine Science and Invention which answered her questions in the July 1927 issue (see page 262, Patent Advice, “Protecting and Marketing a Suggestion”). Urfer’s interest in dolls would resurface later in her life.

At some point, Urfer moved to Cleveland.

Urfer worked for the NEA. American Newspaper Comics (2012) said she was the third of five artists to draw Radiomania which was started by Joe King in November 1927. Art Krenz was next. Urfer’s stint started in 1929. She was followed by Charles Okerbloom and George Scarbo. Urfer’s next NEA series was Annibelle which she dew from December 29, 1929 into March 1936. It was continued by Virginia Krausman.

On August 31, 1935, Urfer married NEA cartoonist Joseph “Joe” King. At the time, Urfer’s
address was 1644 Robinwood Avenue. King resided at Quad Hall on Euclid Avenue.

Urfer worked on other NEA projects such as books of poetry.

According to the 1940 census, Urfer had a two-year-old son, Timothy. The family of three lived in Weston, Connecticut.

In 1953 Urfer wrote and illustrated The Little Red Bicycle. Urfer may have illustrated Mary Alden’s Cook Book for Children. The 1955 book had pictures by “Dorothy King”.

Urfer’s husband passed away January 24, 1980. The death notice mentioned three more children, Heather, Heidi and Stephen, and one grandchild, Mistianna. A research paper was dedicated to Urfer and her husband in 1982.

New York Magazine, February 25, 1980, profiled Urfer who was repairing dolls in New York City. The profile included a photograph of Urfer and one of her Annibelle strips.

The date and place of Urfer’s passing has not been found.

—Alex Jay


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Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Joe King

Joseph B. “Joe” “Joel” King was born in Newark, New Jersey, on September 16, 1904. His birthplace was recorded on a passenger list and marriage certificate. The birth date is from the Social Security Death Index.

The 1910 U.S. Federal Census recorded King and his parents, Clifford, a hotel waiter, and Edith, in his paternal grandparents’s household. The grandparents were George, a carpenter contractor, and Emily. They all resided in Los Angeles, California at 529 Daly Street.

Canton, Ohio was King’s hometown in the 1920 census. He and his mother were part of his maternal grandmother’s household. The address for Katie Stauffer, her son, Milton, King and his mother was 2111 Ninth Street SW.

King attended Canton’s McKinley High School. The Canton Repository, April 27, 1923, reported the results of the poster contest.

The rewards in the annual W.C.T.U. poster contest at McKinley high school were made last Thursday afternoon at the school where the posters have been on exhibition for Visitors’ week. First prize of $5 was awarded to Joseph King, a senior…
King’s relationship with the Repository was revealed in the December 13, 1925 edition of the Repository.
Joseph King, formerly photographer and cartoonist with The Repository and graduate of McKinley high school in 1922, [sic] has illustrated a children’s book entitled, “Mother Goose Secrets,” which has been published for the holiday season by Small, Maynard and Company.

The author of the book is Mrs. Barbara Webb Bourjaily, former newspaper woman in Dayton and Cleveland, who has told in a style to interest young and old alike…
Some of the Mother Goose Secrets art can be viewed here.

Canton city directories for 1923 and 1924 listed King as a cartoonist. He was an artist in the 1925 directory.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said King drew What Does Your Child Want to Know?, from 1926 to 1927, for the Bell Syndicate. The writers were C.E. Brown (1926) and Barbara Bourjaily (1927).

At some point King joined the staff of the Newspaper Enterprise Association. King was the first of five artists on Radiotics which started November 1927. King was followed by Art Krenz, Dorothy Urfer, Charles Okerbloom and George Scarbo.

Hal Cochran wrote The Tinymites which debuted October 8, 1926. The first two artists were Larry Redner and Irving Knickerbocker. King did the illustrations from February 19, 1930 to 1931. George Scarbo was the next artist. Cochran also wrote The Clownies which was drawn by King from 1931 to April 1933. The next artist was Scarbo. King also produced two toppers for The Clownies: Animal Cracks ran from July 17, 1932 to April 1933, and Comic Zoo started September 11, 1932 and ended March 12, 1933.

For the Central Press Association, King drew Gabby which was written by William Ritt. It had a short run from July 29 to October 26, 1935. King filled in on two Sundays (March 29 and April 5, 1936) of Frank Buck’s Ted Towers Animal Master which was syndicated by King Features.

King married Dorothy Urfer on August 31, 1935, according to the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Records and Indexes. Some time after the wedding, King left Cleveland.

King, his wife and son, Timothy, were residents of Weston, Connecticut in the 1940 census. King was a self-employed artist.

The Repository, August 1, 1943, reported King’s rush job for Ladies Home Journal and his career.

A graphic continuity of pictures dramatizing a condensed version of Walter Lippman’s book, “U.S. Foreign Policy,” has been drawn by Joe King, former Repository photographer…

Tracing the story of United States commitments from the time it became a republic and its power to protect these commitments, which basically involve the nation’s foreign policy, the graphic condensation of the column’s 40,000 word book covers seven pages in the magazine. The continuity is credited to Joel King, the name he now uses to identify his work.

…Artist King worked as a photographer for The Repository in 1924–25, quitting to do free lance work as a cartoonist. He at one time was on the NEA staff at Cleveland and has illustrated several books. Two issues ago he had a two-page spread in Look magazine and has prepared some material for Women’s Home Companion. In addition he does cartoons and illustrations for various advertising and War Bond campaigns and recruiting drives for the armed forces.
Official Directory, American Illustrators and Advertising Artists (1949) had an entry for King: “Joel King 774 Second Ave. New York 17, N. Y. Illustration Rep. Tom Holloway”

Books illustrated by King include Nip Ahoy (1954), The Missing Mitt (1955) and Leave It to Herbert the Electrical Mouse (1958).

The listing in Who’s Who in Commercial Art and Photography (1960) suggests that King worked at home: “KING, Joel GA 6-2001 P.O. Box 57, Hawleyville, Conn.”

A public record at had King’s address and phone number from 1974: “98 Riverside Dr #6C, New York, NY, 10024-5323” and “362-4636”.

King passed away January 24, 1980. A death notice appeared two days later in the New York Times.

King–Joseph B., on January 24th, 1980. Husband of Dorothy. Father of Timothy, Heather, Heidi and Stephen. Also survived by 1 grandchild, Mistianna. Private services were held.

—Alex Jay 


About TED TOWERS, In Holtz book are indicated as by King all the Sundays from March 28 1936 to April 5 1936.
But the correct first Sunday by King was February 23 1936.
Anyway, his Sundays were several and not only two.
"Books illustrated by King include Nip Ahoy (1954)...and Leave It to Herbert the Electrical Mouse (1958)."
That's quite a jump - from adult swim
to the kiddie pool

Any idea why he went from Joe to Joel?

Maybe he thought everyone would think Joe King was a pseudonym?
Joe King, Fay King, Dick Heumer.

I always thought Oscar Samuel Hitt should have signed his work "O. S.Hitt".

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Monday, June 12, 2017


Obscurity of the Day: Radiotics / Radiomania

We've been covering several of NEA's weekly features lately, of which Radiotics is another. Unlike those others we've been discussing lately, however, this one was not offered only with the NEA's weekly Pony Service, but was included in their regular offerings for dailies. Radiotics was meant to be a part of newspaper radio pages, which were mostly once-a-week affairs, hence the frequency of this panel.

Unfortunately, this weekly panel was recorded only spottily in the NEA archives at Ohio State University, so in order to track its many artist changes, I've had to rely on newspaper sources, which are anything but reliable with these weekly panels, so take the dates with a grain of salt.

Radiotics debuted in October 1927, seemingly a rather late entry in the radio panel sweepstakes. However, it is probable that it was intended by NEA as a continuation of their weekly radio strip feature Bugs which began in 1924 and had ended the previous month. Since that was a strip and this is a panel, though, I'm calling them separate features.

The first artist on Radiotics was the wonderfully named NEA bullpenner Joe King (get it? get it?), who had a pleasing drybrush style.

by Joe King

You'll notice that the sample of Joe King's work above is titled Radiomania, not Radiotics. That's because NEA changed the title of the feature in 1928, presumably because Associated Editors was distributing a radio panel feature by Fred Neher with the name Radiotic. Amazing that two creators would come up with the same awful dissonant sounding name, but at least NEA had the sense to change to the much more pleasing Radiomania.

Joe King penned the feature until April 1929, when he handed the baton to Art Krenz. Krenz was NEA's resident sports cartoonist, but evidently hadn't built up enough tenure yet to avoid this assignment. He was better at talking his way out of doing it, though, because he only produced it for about a month.

by Art Krenz

In May 1929 Dorothy Urfer took over, possibly her first assignment for NEA (she began Annibelle later that year). It took her quite awhile to palm Radiomania off on someone else -- her stint lasted until September 1930.

by Dorothy Urfer

Replacing Urfer was a fellow by the name of Charles Okerbloom Jr. He had a very nice mature cartooning style, but I know of no other work he did for NEA or any other syndicate. He later became known as a fine artist and spent many years as an art teacher. A real loss to newspaper cartooning, imho.

by Okerbloom
Okerbloom's first stint on Radiomania only lasted about a month, and then NEA go-to guy George Scarbo took over. The always overworked Scarbo lasted through much of November-December 1930, until he was able to pass the ball back to Okerbloom. Okerbloom then handled the panel from January until October 1931, when Scarbo had the panel dumped back in his lap. Scarbo kept at it until February 1932, when the feature was finally taken off the air.

by George Scarbo

One important postscript about Radiomania is that the dates I'm citing are rather oversimplified. Although I can find no paper that ran the panel with anything approaching a perfect consistent record, I see so many instances of old panels being reused after the initial stint by Joe King that I'm pretty confident in saying that none of the subsequent cartoonists produced the panel every single week. I believe that NEA was not above re-running old panels of this feature on a pretty frequent basis. Therefore you'll see Okerblooms, Scarbos, Urfers and King panels appearing well away from the dates I'm citing above.


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