Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Don't Let the Camera Fool You
That unfortunate decision means that a serious Polly collector has only one format that affords them a complete version of Sterrett's strips: the broadsheet full. To make matters much worse, by 1936 full page versions of strips were getting scarcer and scarcer, as most broadsheet newpapers switched to using half-page format Sunday strips. A few major strips would still rate a full page in the late 1930s, but frankly Polly (as much as we appreciate the strip now) was not really an A-lister back then. In a nutshell, finding Pollys from the late 30s and 1940s with toppers intact is as tough as finding a Dilbert t-shirt at the King Features Syndicate's Christmas party.
To give you an idea of the scarcity -- while I am by no means a Sunday Polly collector, I do know to snatch up late Polly fulls when I happen to chance upon them. Yet I have just two fulls from 1938 and later in my collection.
Okay, so now the preamble is finally out of the way. Why I am telling you all this is to make sure you can properly appreciate the rarity of what you see above. Collector Greg Matthews sent me this image, asking why this topper titled Don't Let The Camera Kid You (or Reel Life / Real Life) wasn't included in my book. I was, of course, very surprised to see that Sterrett, seemingly out of the blue, decided to run a different topper in 1939 for awhile, and asked Greg for any information he could offer. Greg told me, based on his own collection of Indianapolis Star fulls, plus Sandusky Register material he found online, that this topper ran off and on in 1939, on these dates: 7/16, 7/23, 7/30, 8/13, 8/20, 9/24 and 10/1/39.
So there you have it. Just goes to prove that even a relatively popular strip from a major syndicate can be the source of an obscurity of the day, and an especailly rare one at that. I don't doubt that there are other rare late Sunday toppers out there that have so far escaped my detection. Have you seen one?
Big thanks to Greg Matthews for the information and the scan!
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Alex Raymond Wants to Help You Gain Weight, Part 2
I don't think this is Raymond. Both pages look like they were made up with swipes from Secret Agent X-9 strips. Lettering is *not* by Laurence Crossley (Raymond's uncle), who did a wonderful job on Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, and X-9. It might be Austin Briggs ghosting for Raymond, but lettering doesn't look like Briggs' either.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Alex Raymond Wants to Help You Gain Weight, Part I
Once Sally puts on those va-va-voom pounds, she consents to wed Doctor Blake, who so kindly drew a logical line from A to B for her. But Sally's not just logic impaired. She's also unclear on the idea of engagement, as apparently Doc's having a tough time "keeping Sally to himself". For shame Sally!
Anyhow, the effectiveness of iodine-enhanced weight gain (which apparently is a real thing) is not our question today. No. The question regards the art on this Sunday comics advertisement from 1937. Is it by Alex Raymond, or Raymond-inspired (swiped, to be blunt about it). My question: which is it?
Tomorrow we'll have another ad from this series, also highly Raymond-inspired in the execution.
Labels: Advertising Strips
The girl in panel two (first panel of story proper) hardly looks Raymondesque.
The artist seems to have trouble with hands/fingers. Certainly hid them in this sample.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Sunday, August 23 1908 -- Long Beach is hosting a spiritualist convention, over a thousand 'spook charmers' (the Examiner's term) in attendance. A further thousand curious onlookers came to view the proceedings at an entrance fee of fifteen cents apiece.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, September 26, 2014
Sci-Friday starring Connie
Labels: Connie Sci-Friday
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Otho Cushing
In the 1875 Rhode Island State Census, Cushing’s paternal grandfather, George W. Cushing, was the head of the household. Cushing was the second of three sons born to Harry and Martha. His father was in the U.S. Army. They resided in the town of Warren on Washington Street.
The Cushing household was recorded, in the 1880 census, in Providence, Rhode Island at 5 George Street. Information regarding his childhood schooling has not been found; in Life magazine, he said: “…In my boyhood I was hurried from post to post, from North Carolina to Alaska.” He graduated from the Bulkeley School in New London, Connecticut in 1887, according to a listing on page 19 of the 1888–89 school catalogue.
Cushing said his art studies began “…in Boston at the Art Museum and later at the Academie Julien, under Constant and Laurens.” On December 16, 1891 he applied for a passport while in Paris. Earlier he had departed from the U.S. on October 7, 1891. He intended to return within three years while he took time to travel. His description was five feet eight-and-a-half inches with hazel eyes and brown hair. A passenger list at Ancestry.com said he arrived in New York, from France, on May 16, 1892. Painter was his profession. At some point he went back to Europe and returned, as a student, to Boston in September 1893.
Sometime after his return, he was an assistant in freehand drawing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The MIT Annual Report of the President and Treasurer, December 12, 1894, said Cushing and others “…have terminated their connection with the Institute.” The school’s yearbook, Technique 1895, listed him as an instructor.
The Boston Herald (Massachusetts), May 12, 1895, noted his flair for dancing:
Mr. Otho Cushing, so well known here, and Miss Augusta Hunter gave a Spanish dance at the big society entertainment in Newport on Tuesday night for charity which brought down the fashionable house.And the December 17, 1899 edition said:
Mr. Otho Cushing, formerly of Boston, brought down the house at every performance of “The Lady from Chicago,” given by the “Stroller” in the Astoria ballroom last week, by his dancing with Miss Emily Hoffman. It could not have been excelled on any professional stage. Mr. Cushing made almost as much of sensation as he did by his appearance in the historically correct, but rather realistic and airy, costume of a 14th century court falconer at the famous Bradley-Martin ball.The Herald reported Cushing’s first exhibition on July 31, 1895:
Boston figured prominently at an art reception given yesterday at the Deblois cottage by Maj. H.C. Cushing, U.S.A., formerly of Boston, and now one of the assistants to Col. Warring in the street cleaning department in New York, and Mrs. Cushing, in honor of their son, Otho Cushing, a rising young artist, who exhibited his pictures for the first time. Mr. Cushing showed portraits of his father and mother, Miss Mary L Barnard and Miss Gretchen Welch of Boston, Miss Bradhurst and H. Archie Pell of New York, Count Longay of Buda Pesth, Baroness Danckelman of Vienna, Miss Jessie Hunter and Mrs. George H. Norman of this city, Mrs. T. Owen Berry of Asheville, N.C., and O.W. Budd, U.S.A. The portraits were universally admired by those who viewed them, including many of the summer residents and army and navy officers and their wives.Cushing’s signature was one of over 100 on the “Belfield Table Scarf.” His signature is at “nine o’clock.”
Six drawings by Cushing were published in Life’s Comedy (1898). He contributed a drawing to Corks & Curls (University of Virginia, 1899) which appeared on page 34.
The 1900 census recorded artist Cushing, his parents and two servants in New Rochelle, New York on Wild Cliff street. A March 8, 1901 passport application in Athens, Greece, showed that Cushing departed the U.S. on February 14, 1901. He intended to do further traveling for two months.
Brush and Pencil, February 1903, devoted five pages on Cushing’s drawings. For the New York Herald he produced several panels: Marriage a la Mode a Century or Two After Hogarth, November 8, 1903 to January 24, 1904; A Week End Party, January 24 to February 26, 1905; When Diana Came to New York, April 23 to July 2, 1905; and The Evolution of Mrs. Newgold, August 27 to October 8, 1905.
The New York Times, October 15, 1942, said Cushing went to Paris and was art editor of the European edition of the New York Herald. His panel, The Owl, the Maid, and the Boy, for the European edition was reprinted in the February 21, 1904 stateside edition.
After his work for the New York Herald, Cushing joined the staff of Life magazine. His cartoons of President Theodore Roosevelt, parodying the adventures of Ulysses, were collected and published as The Teddyssey in 1907.
The 1910 census recorded Cushing, a magazine illustrator, his widow mother and younger brother, Nicholas, in New Rochelle at 18 Neptune Place. Cushing’s father had passed away July 2, 1902, according to the New York Herald. The 1915 New York State Census recorded the Cushings at the same address. About a quarter mile away, on Mt. Tom Road, were the illustrators Frank and J.C. Leyendecker. In the 1918 New Rochelle City Directory, Cushing’s address was 4 Harbor Lane.
During World War I, the Times said Cushing served “…overseas as an Army Air Corps captain, supervising the camouflaging of American airfields on the Western Front.” HIs name was listed in Aerial Age Weekly, March 24, 1919, and Air Service Information Circular, June 5, 1920.
Cushing has not yet been found in the 1920 census. His residence remained unchanged according to the 1929 directory. The 1930 census recorded Cushing, his mother and brother in Manhattan, New York City at 117 West 58th Street, where they rented an apartment. Sometime before 1940, his mother passed away. Cushing and his brother had returned to their New Rochelle home according to the 1940 census.
Cushing passed away October 13, 1942 according to the Times. The obituary in the New York Sun, October 15, 1942 said:
Funeral services for Otho Cushing, artist and cartoonist, will be conducted at 2:15 P.M. tomorrow at the George T. Davis Memorial, 14 Le Count Place, New Rochelle. Mr. Cushing died on Tuesday [October 13] in New Rochelle Hospital. He lived at 4 Harbor Lane in New Rochelle and was 71 years old.
Mr. Cushing was best known for his work in the old Life magazine. He drew humorous drawings of persons in ancient Greek costume and did a series of cartoons on the activities of President Theodore Roosevelt. In recent years he devoted his time principally to water colors, many of them on historical subjects.
He was born at Fort McHenry, Md., a son of the late Major Harry Cooke Cushing and Mrs. Martha Wetherill Budd Cushing.
He studied at the Boston School of Fine Arts and the Julian Academy in Paris, and served for many years as a professor of drawing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the staff of Life. In the world war he was made a captain in the Army Air Corps.
Surviving is a brother, Nicholas Cooke Cushing of New Rochelle, a naval architect in New York.—Alex Jay
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Robert S. Grable
Robert Sterling Grable was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 8, 1871, according to his death certificate.
In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Grable was the fifth of eight children born to Joseph and Maria. His father was a carpenter. The family lived at 1110 North Twenty-fifth Street in St. Louis. Information about Grable’s education has not been found. The St. Petersburg Independent (Florida), February 13, 1937, profiled Grable and said:
Grable started out in business as a newsboy, selling papers on the street. He later became circulation manager of the St. Louis Star, and then climbed the ladder of success on higher.St. Louis city directories listed Grable, his occupation, employer and residence. The earliest directory listing, found so far, is from 1889 and said his trade was “Candy” and he resided at 2707 Madison. The following year he was a collector at the Sayings Company and at the same residence. In 1891, he was a clerk at the Star-Sayings Company. Grable had the same position in 1893 and lived at 4106 Lucky Street.
Grable married Leelah Robards February 12, 1894. The St. Petersburg Times (Florida), March 12, 1944, said the couple “…met at a Louisville, Ky., Sunday school February 12, 1893….”
In 1895 Grable had moved up to superintendent of circulation at Star-Sayings and his home address was 4049 Juniata. Grable was the manager of circulation at the St. Louis Star in the 1897 directory and moved back to 4106 Lucky Street. Bold capital letters highlighted his rise to Assistant Business Manager in 1899.
In the 1900 census, Grable and his wife Leelah lived with his parents and five siblings at 4106 Lucky Street. Grable’s occupation was assistant manager at a newspaper. The same address and title was in the 1901 city directory. A brief news item in the April 14, 1906 issue of the Anaconda Standard (Montana) mentioned Grable as the “general manager of the World Color Printing company of St. Louis.”
A number of cartoonists supplied material to World Color; they include Johnny Gruelle, Carl Ed, Rube Goldberg and George Herriman.
In the 1910 census Grable was publisher of the newspaper; he and his wife had their own home in St. Louis, 4957 Fountain Avenue.
Grable’s occupation was printer in the syndicate industry as listed in the 1920 census; he lived at 219 Portland Terrace in the Carondelet neighborhood of St. Louis.
Where and How to Sell Manuscripts (1920) had this listing:
The World Color Printing Co., 714 Lucas Avenue, St. Louis, Mo. Manager, R.S. Grable. Publishes daily and Sunday mat features, including colored comic supplements. Prints four pages of magazine features complete, fiction page, clever stories, fashion page, crochet lesson, sketches from life, and features for children, such as “Bedtime Pencil Pictures,” “Three Little Pigs,” “Uncle Joe,” “Grandma's Yarns,” etc. Payment by arrangement.A similar but shorter description was found in How to Sell Manuscripts (1920).
Grable’s name appeared in advertisements published in Editor & Publisher, January 22, 1921 and April 22, 1922.
Grable’s fiftieth birthday party was reported in the January 6, 1922 edition of the Boyden Reporter (Iowa). Artist Cobb Shinn drew pictures on the large paper hats given to the 75 children at the party.
1922 was a pivotal year for Grable. A history of World Color said:
World Color Press was founded in 1903 when the owners of the St. Louis Star formed a company to handle the color printing for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the World's Fair to be held in their city the following year. They named their wholly owned subsidiary World’s Fair Color Printing, expecting to disband operations at the conclusion of the event. After the fair closed, however, they shortened the company name to World Color Printing and continued to do business as a commercial printer, focusing on a new and unique product, the color “funnies” section of the Sunday newspaper. Under the leadership of Robert Grable and Roswell Messing Sr., two senior employees from the Star who purchased the company in 1922, the fledgling organization grew steadily over the next two decades as the popularity of the Sunday color comic section increased. By the early 1930s, the company’s profitable niche business had grown to include printing contracts with papers from Florida to Hawaii.In 1930 Grable was the proprietor of a newspaper publishing company; he lived in Central, St. Louis County, at 761 West Kirkham Avenue. The Printing Trades Blue Book (1936) had this company description:
World Coloring Printing Co., Inc. (est. 1900), 420–428 De Soto av.; tele. COlfax 2250. Robert S. Grable, pres.; Roswell Messing, v.-p.-treas. and buyer; J. Clarence Taussig, sec. Publishers and printers of comic supplements, rotagravure art sections, etc.; rotogravure printers.The Independent, March 10, 1945, noted the company’s expansion into printing comic books.
History of the comic books only dates back to the late thirties, according to Grable. It was in 1938–1939 that his company put in new buildings and equipment to take care of the new field in comic literature.According to the 1940 census, Grable resided at 761 Kirkham Road in Glendale, St. Louis County, and was president of a printing company.
The paper shortage during World War II affected World Color Printing. An excerpt from Grable’s letter to the Sioux County Capital (Iowa) was published on the front page July 27, 1944.
Due to manpower shortage and other conditions over which we have no control, we are forced to discontinue 7-Star Comic as of July 15th. We regret the necessity of discontinuing the service but it just can’t be helped.Eventually, comic books became World Color’s main business. The Times, February 12, 1958, said:
No longer in the newspaper comic business, it is now the largest printer of comic books in the country, Grable explained. Among its publications are Dagwood, Mr. District Attorney and Casper.Grable’s wife, Leelah, passed away April 10, 1958.
Grable passed away April 27, 1960, in Kirkwood, Missouri. The death certificate said the cause was “massive acute myocardial infarction”. An obituary was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the following day; it is available at the St. Louis Public Library. Grable was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
News of Yore: World Color Printing Chief Chronicled
All of the following stories are from St. Petersburg (FL) papers, which wrote them because Grable was a prominent snowbird in that community.
Thanks so much to Paul Moore for these!
Labels: News of Yore
Monday, September 22, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: The Pet Set
Doug Borgstedt was pushing retirement age when he and his wife Jean came up with the idea for a newspaper cartoon series targeted towards pet owners. This was, though, by no means Doug's first foray into cartooning -- far from it.
Doug Borgstedt had a varied cartooning career. I'm told that before World War II he produced editorial cartoons for the Philadelphia Evening Ledger, then the Philadelphia Bulletin (though he omits these credits in a 1964 E&P article). In the 1960s he was syndicated nationwide by King Features and later by Copley Press as an editorial cartoonist. Meanwhile Borgstedt drew up lots of gag cartoons, and his work appeared frequently in high profile magazines like Saturday Evening Post, The New Yorker and Collier's. During World War II, Borgstedt was in the army and worked on Yank magazine.
With his editorial cartooning career winding down, Doug evidently was looking for other opportunities when he and wife Jean decided to collaborate on this self-syndicate panel series, The Pet Set. Pets certainly gave them lots of gag opportunities, and the panel is pretty consistently funny. The art, presumably by Doug, gets the job done but nothing more (but Borgstedt was never much for style -- he was more concerned with the ideas).
The daily series is hard to track. It is a rare paper that ran the feature consistently, but Mark Johnson reports the earliest he's discovered is January 17 1973 in the Philadelphia Bulletin. A reprint book of the cartoons (Pet Set Cartoons -- 1977 by TFH Publications) cites copyright dates starting in 1972, so there may be earlier appearances lurking out there.
The feature was advertised in E&P until 1983, though I have my doubts that the Borgstedts actually produced a decade's worth of material. My bet is that they were selling material that was already in the can for a good part of that time.
I'm not saying you're wrong. Just wondering why you think that.
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Saturday, August 22 1908 -- The local Democrat's convention proceeds pretty quietly. Herriman finds nothing exciting to report, so sketches faces again today. You, I and Herriman all agree we're ready for this boring convention to wind up, and thankfully, it has.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, September 19, 2014
Sci-Friday starring Connie
Labels: Connie Sci-Friday
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Magazine Cover Comics: Betty's Office Romance
Here's Betty's Office Romance, a magazine cover comic series distributed by Hearst's Newspaper Feature Service. You know the drill by now regarding the subject matter (don't worry, they live happily ever after).
I've stated here before that I'm pretty convinced that Philip Loring, who is credited on a handful of these magazine cover series, is actually Paul Robinson working undercover. It helped my theory, I always thought, that this Loring fellow never bothered to sign his work. So naturally what do I pull out of my collection but this sample, which is signed. Oh well. I still stick with my theory.
Betty's Office Romance played out on Sunday magazine covers from October 19 1930 to January 25 1931.
Labels: Magazine Cover Comics
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Fatty English
Charles H. Spencer, whose delightfully noodly, loose cartooning style I find very appealing, apparently got into and out of the profession in short order. His only known series, a whopping two of 'em, are with the Philadelphia Inquirer, both in late 1906. Today we look at Fatty English, also known as Mr. English, about a rotund British big game hunter. English is dead set on bagging himself an African lion, assisted by his stereotypical jet black guide. His hunting expedition is under surveillance from the local king, Vilkilloo III, who appears regularly to extract some tax revenue from the bumbling duo.
Fatty English ran from September 30 to December 2 1906.
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!
"'Tad,' Cartoonist, Dies In His Sleep.". New York Times. May 3, 1929. "Thomas A. Dorgan, Famous For His 'Indoor Sports,' Victim of Heart Disease. Was A Shut-In For Years. Worked Cheerfully at Home in Great Neck on Drawings That Amused Countless Thousands. His slangy breeziness won immediate circulation. It was he who first said 'Twenty-three, Skidoo,' and 'Yes, we have no bananas,' 'apple sauce' and 'solid ivory.' Other expressions that are now part of the American vernacular include 'cake-eater,' 'drug-store cowboy,' 'storm and strife,' 'Dumb Dora,' 'dumb-bell,' 'finale hopper,' 'Benny' for hat and 'dogs' for shoes."
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Sandy
After a very short stint at the lackluster New York Globe, Percy Crosby's career took a big step up at the New York World in 1911, where he became an important producer in their cartooning bullpen. Between 1911 and 1914, Crosby produced over half a dozen series for the World's Sunday and weekday papers.
Although Crosby produced some of his earliest kid comics for the World, predicting his later masterwork Skippy, he also produced some soon forgotten but excellent series like Sandy (He's Game For Anything). In his small quarter page space in the World's Funny Side comic section, the Sandy strips didn't get a lot of room for character development or plot. In six small panels the cocksure Sandy would take a devil-may-care attitude, and then would be taught a lesson in humility. It was nothing unusual for the comics page, and the gags did not have any extra special spark. What did spark like mad was Crosby's still-evolving drawing style. He showed off his artistic chops by producing well-designed layouts, and exhibiting a flair for humorous anatomy.
Sandy ran from September 15 1912 to February 2 1913.
The heyday of newspapers, magazines was so fertile.
Today, the best/best paid artists are.... ? Doing graphic novels, comic books, computer graphics.
Thankyou for celebrating this wonderful artform.
Where can color comics be seen? A few compilations and....... here. Other places?
I'll have to check out your links.
Monday, September 15, 2014
More of Tad's Bunk
We discussed Tad's Sunday series And His Name Was Bunk awhile ago, and I mentioned that Tad was not one to let a good character languish. The dog Bunk was used in his sports and other cartoons for years afterwards. Here's a few samples from Cole Johnson of his weekday appearances. The top one is from 1907, before the Sunday series, the bottom one is from 1908, after it.
The top cartoon is especially interesting as it comments on the 'celebrity trials' of the day -- you may be familiar with the Evelyn Nesbit/Harry Thaw trials that captured the fascination of the whole country, but that was just a particularly memorable one in a long line. The sensational New York newspapers kept a constant vigil for trials that could make for lurid headlines, and covered them to a degree that makes the O.J. trial seem positively sane and sober by comparison.
That reminds me, I'd like to make a reading suggestion to you -- The Murder of the Century by Paul Collins. It tells the story of one of the first trials that was run just as much in the pages of New York's yellow journals as in a courtroom. In fact, if not for the New York Journal and World, the case most likely never would have even identified a suspect to put on trial. I resisted buying this book for quite awhile because of the tagline on the front saying that the crime "sparked the tabloid wars". Of course there were no sensational New York tabloids for more than twenty years after the trial, and that line gave me pause as to the quality of research that went into the book. When I finally succumbed I was treated to a great read that was very well researched. I imagine some marketer insisted on that idiotic line, and I shouldn't have damned the author for what I now see as well-meaning but factually incorrect marketing fluff.
Oh, one other thing -- notice the behatted dog in the bottom cartoon? This is an early appearance of another Tad mainstray (sorry!), Silk Hat Harry, who would be in the Tad spotlight during much of the teens.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Friday, August 21 1908 -- The local Republican political convention is over, and now it's time for the Dems to have their go. The drama isn't cranked up quite as much, so Herriman mostly just doodles faces, but he does comment on the divide between the Dems who represent well-to-do precincts (the silk stocking league) and the more impoverished sections (the scullion league). Loving the guest appearance by Teddy, who would indeed have enjoyed adding the term 'scullion' to his political lexicon.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, September 12, 2014
Sci-Friday starring Connie
Labels: Connie Sci-Friday
(the Native sounds almost like Little Beaver "Yes, Red Ryder, I fix 'em quick!)
Cool apparatus in the lab.
My father was an electrical engineer and loved to see all of the scientific stuff in Monster movies....bubbling and sparking... me too!
Joakim Gunnarsson last year on his blog posted the version of a portion of this Connie storyline that appeared in Famous Funnies #93. Nice chance to see how comic books adapted strips during the era when that was their bread and butter.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Harry Hershfield
Harry Hershfield was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on October 13, 1885, according to his World War I and II draft cards. In Comics and Their Creators: Life Stories of American Cartoonists (1942), Martin Sheridan wrote:
Hershfield was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but soon moved to Chicago, where he attended school. A few months’ study at the Chicago School of Illustration provided him with all the art training he ever had.Coulton Waugh, in his book, The Comics, said Hershfield worked at the Chicago News before he was 15 years old. The World Encyclopedia of Comics’ profile of Hershfield, by Bill Blackbeard, said: “…[Hershfield did] newspaper sports and feature-story comic art first on the Chicago Daily News in 1899 at the age of 14.”
According to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Hershfield’s family was in Chicago, Illinois. He was the fourth child of Mikel and Annie, both Russian emigrants, and his birth was recorded as “Oct 1885”. The household included eight children and was located at 293 West 12 Street.
The Chicago School of Illustration was operated by Frank Holme. Hershfield’s teacher may have been Holme, Joe Carll or John T. McCutcheon.
The New York Times, December 16, 1974, said:
…After completing high school, he went to work for The Chicago Daily News for $2.50 a week to draw pictures of news events.
In 1902, when he graduated to being a cartoonist, he presided at a farewell banquet for another newspaper artist. From that point on he had a steadily growing diet of chicken and a widening audience to go with his developing repertory of jokes.Regarding Hershfield’s employment at the Chicago Daily News, Sheridan said:
…[he] progressed from copy boy to cameraman, reporter, and finally sports cartoonist. During that time the comic artist began to experiment with a strip called Homeless Hector, telling of the difficulties of a lost dog.American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Homeless Hector ran from January 4, 1906 to October 20, 1908. The strip returned and was syndicated by National News Association from July 22 to December 3, 1912.
Waugh provided some details about Hershfield’s work and employer.
In 1902 the belltower in the Piazza San Marco in Venice collapsed. For a cover story featuring other imperiled structures, young Hershfield retouched what he took to be an off-angle photograph of a tower. The first edition of the morning paper showed the Tower of Pisa miraculously straightened. As Hershfield recalls, “I was given two weeks to complete my education.” He also made line drawings from photographs and covered breaking stories with on-the-spot sketches, including the famous Iroquois Hotel fire in 1903. At the time, most staff artists did both cartoons and illustrations and their efforts were considered “fillers.”According to American Newspaper Comics, Hershfield’s Chicago Daily News strips include: War’s Ebb and Flow from January 3 to February 14, 1906; Bill Slowguy from February 8, 1906 to October 19, 1908; Adventures of a Fly from November 4 to December 3, 1907; Christopher’s Luck from October 16 to December 23, 1907; Tiny Tinkles from January 7 to 16, and February 11 to 20, 1908; The Luck of Christopher from February 18 to June 2, 1908; and The Fortune Teller from April 15 to September 16, 1908. In 1905 Hershfield also filled in for some of C.F. Batchelder’s panel cartoons.
Luck began to shoot at him [Ripley] as soon as he got to the Bulletin office. He lost his job. That was the lucky part of it—because he immediately got a better job across the street with The Chronicle. Harry Hershfield was the star cartoonist of that paper and was busy illustrating a series [probably The Piker’s Rubaiyat] for W.O. McGeehan. Mr. Hershfield preferred to do sporting pictures and persuaded Harry B. Smith, the sports editor, to put the newcomer on trial doing McGeehan’s stuff.
“The boy’s good,” said the wily Hershfield, enthusiastically. “It’s only fair you give him a chance.”About Hershfield’s Journal editor, Arthur Brisbane, Waugh wrote:
Hershfield once asked Brisbane if he considered a cartoonist a newspaperman. “Would you call a barnacle a ship?” was the reply. Brisbane, however, aware of cartoonists’ ability to attract readers, once cut off their signatures in order to reduce their personal following and thereby their salary demands. Hershfield took the issue directly to Hearst, who not only restored the signatures but ordered bylines as well. This credit has become standard practice since.Hershfield has not been found in the 1910 census. When Desperate Desmond ended in October 1912, it was followed by Dauntless Durham of the USA, running from January 22, 1913 to January 31, 1914. Hershfield’s next, and best known strip, Abie the Agent, began February 2, 1914 and ended in 1940. Waugh wrote:
Abie Kabibble was a middle-class businessman and paterfamilias, a role with which more and more Americans could identify. Although minorities had been fair game for satire in the past, a cast of Jewish characters using dialect was a touchy endeavor. That Hershfield was able to make their qualities and traits universal is a tribute to his skill, gentle wit, and humanity.
The couple was in the 1915 New York State Census; residing at 109 West 45th Street in Manhattan, where Hershfield was a cartoonist.
The New York Dramatic Mirror, May 27, 1919, published a story on how Hershfield entered vaudeville.
Harry Hershfield has escaped being a ham. Mr. Armour and Mr. Swift, there is just so much less pork for you to sell. Why? Read on. Harry is known by his cartoons, accompanied by the nom-de-plume Abie, the Agent, throughout Manhattan and the provincial press. He has attempted and succeeded as a monologist.
It was at the 305th Infantry benefit held at the Hudson Theater. In the language of the Drama League he nearly busted everybody’s sides. It was rumored that one old maid, going through such contortions, cracked her glass leg to such fine atoms that sliding feet caused a whisper to circulate that Mr. Hoover be sent for at once because some one had hoarded so much sugar in her stocking that it had burst. Strange to say, Harry, up to the last second’s shaving before he was introduced by Louis Mann, had planned a revival service. No, don’t call for the hook. Nothing so dreary as hitting the sawdust trail. Drawing one or two of Abie the Agent’s carryings-on, was the blue print he had handed to Tom Oliphant of The Evening Mail, who carpentered the benefit together—and a job of mortising he did, too. But genius zigzags like lightning. Hastily he scribbled twenty of his own jokes on a slip of paper and stepped forth before a Sunday evening audience. He crossed out each joke with a lead pencil, padding the intermissions with impromptu lines. The real joke was that the audience thought it was rehearsal routine. The next morning Park Row was what Broadway is on the day after a footlight explosion—and such things do not happen to “hams.”The 1920 census said Hershfield was at the same address found on his draft card and did newspaper work.
Hershfield’s residence, in the 1930 census, was in Manhattan at 251-257 West 104th Street. When Hershfield left the Hearst organization because of a contract dispute, he created Meyer the Buyer which appeared in the Evening Graphic from February 15 to May 9, 1932. About two years later, his strip According to Hoyle ran in the New York Herald-Tribune.
The New York Times, February 16, 1934, reported Hershfield’s bankruptcy filing with liabilities of $16,289.
On April 27, 1942 Hershfield signed his World War II draft card which had the same address in the 1940 census. He had an office at the Daily Mirror newspaper. He stood five feet seven-and-a-half inches and weighed 152 pounds. He had blue eyes and gray hair.
On July 2, 1945, Hershfield read the daily newspaper comic strips by invitation of Mayor La Guardia during the newspaper delivery man strike.
Hershfield passed away December 15, 1974, in New York City. The New York Times reported his passing the following day. Blackbeard’s overview of Hershfield’s non-comics career said:
…Hershfield quickly developed a marked reputation as a humorous writer and raconteur quite apart from his repute as a strip artist. For a number of years in the late 1910’s, Hershfield wrote weekly short comic pieces presumably narrated by Abie, under such titles as “Abie on Conversation,” “Abie on Summer Snapshots,” etc., which ran on the editorial and feature pages of newspapers, many of which did not carry the Abie strip at all. In 1932, he became a columnist (“My Week”) for the N.Y. Daily Mirror, and, later in the 1930's, began to broadcast theatrical criticism, scripted for Hollywood studios, and joined the radio cast of Can You Top This? a 1940’s show tailored for comic raconteurs. His ethnic dialect stories, largely about Irish, Jewish, and German types, were marked by wit and good taste. A toastmaster who was always in great demand, Hershfield has also authored such books as Laugh Louder, Live Longer (Grayson, 1959): a title which seems to have been happily prophetic in his case....
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In Their Own Image: New York Jews in Jazz Age Popular Culture
Rutgers University Press, 2006
* The Piker’s Rubaiyat was written by William F. Kirk, of the Milwaukee Sentinel,in 1904. His profile and The PIker’s Rubaiyat were published in the National Magazine, July 1904. William O’Connell McGeehan was inspired by Kirk’s piece and wrote his version for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Meyer the Buyer
Whether that is a reflection of the somewhat flagging sales of the Abie strip I don't know, but the concept of a Jewish character headlining a comic strip definitely seemed to hold a lot of interest to other newspaper publishers. I'm guessing that had to do with the large Jewish population in New York, and Hershfield's name recognition.
As soon as Hershfield walked away from Hearst, he accepted a berth doing a very similar strip, Meyer the Buyer, for a concern called Ace Feature Syndicate. According to Hershfield in Martin Sheridan's Comics and their Creators, "during that time I had an offer to draw for the now defunct MacFadden publication, New York Graphic. It was a fabulous salary that I refused. As they didn't intend to pay it, they could afford to be extravagant."
The problem with that statement is that it appears as if Ace Feature Service was just a covert name for MacFadden, as the only paper I've found that ran Meyer the Buyer was, in fact, the New York Evening Graphic.
Although Hershfield is a little foggy on who he worked for, it certainly seems he may remember correctly about MacFadden's inability to pay. Meyer the Buyer first appeared in the Evening Graphic on February 15 1932, and ended less than three months later, on May 9. Was the short run of the feature a result of MacFadden not coming through with a promised salary?
Meyer the Buyer was very similar to Abie the Agent, except that where Abie was a car salesman, Meyer worked as a buyer -- what we call these days a purchasing agent. The two characters looked very similar, except that Meyer's moustache is a black smudge rather than a series of vertical lines. Both spoke in a stereotypical Jewish dialect sprinkled with Yiddishisms. Although the strip had no time to catch on in the Graphic, evidently Hershfield wasn't done with the character when he left, as a short-lived radio show about the character began in August.
After Hershfield's adventure with MacFadden, he took some time off from the comic strip life and pursued other entertainment avenues -- not hard for Hershfield, as he was a multi-talented performer. In 1934 he came back to strips with According to Hoyle in the New York Herald-Tribune. His reappearance in newspapers seems to have rekindled the relationship with Hearst, and it wasn't long before Abie the Agent was resurrected for a final five year run.
Thanks for posting the MEYER THE BUYER strip, first one I've ever seen! Was the strip Sunday only? Just curious,