Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Herbert Johnson


Herbert Hollingsworth Johnson was born in Sutton, Nebraska, on October 30, 1878, according to his World War II draft card. His full name was found on a family tree at Ancestry.com.

In he 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Johnson was the youngest of two sons born to Joseph, a broker, and Mary. The family resided in Sutton which was their home in the 1885 Nebraska state census. In the state census, Johnson was the second of four brothers. At some point, the Johnson family moved to Lincoln, Nebraska.

In the Evening Public Ledger (Pennsylvania), February 4, 1919, Johnson said he and Clare Briggs both studied at the Western Normal College in Lincoln, Nebraska. At the time, Johnson was fourteen and Briggs, seventeen.

The Omaha World-Herald, (Nebraska), October 18, 1936, said Johnson attended the University of Nebraska.

At the university he became cartoonist for all school publications. Professors at the university recall how Johnson attended a history examination, turned in a paper with several historical cartoons drawn on blank sheets of paper, received a perfect grade for his effort.
The University Missourian, (Columbia, Missouri), May 20, 1914, published Johnson’s account of how he became a cartoonist. Previously, he had been a clerk and stenographer.
“At seventeen,” Mr. Johnson says, “ I drifted into the office of the cartoonist of the Denver Republican, Mr. Wilmarth. He seemed to take it for granted that I was looking for a job, which I was not, at least not a job as an artist; it never occurred to me to show him some of my sketches, which I did.”

Mr. Johnson was hired and began his career as a cartoonist....
Johnson’s early career was recounted in the San Diego Union (California), August 8, 1926.
…Johnson’s first experience in cartooning began with the Denver Republican, and his first “sit” lasted two months. Then he trekked to Chi[ago] looking for a job and later went to Kansas City, where he hooked up with the Journal of that city. Later he returned to Lincoln, Neb., and entered the state university, taking his degree. Then he drifted out to California….

“In California I walked over the greater part of the state, working at all sorts of day labor jobs. I worked as a snow shoveler in the Yosemite valley, shoveled dirt, did teaming, wrangled horse, and one time rode 75 miles in one day and 50 the next, driving 21 herd of horses. I rambled through most of the state.

“In July I moved on to Lake Tahoe, stayed a short time and then wandered on looking for work. Finally I landed as circulation man on the Arizona Daily Citizen at Tucson. This didn’t last long…as the paper changed hands and I had an opportunity to go back to the Kansas City Journal that fall I decided to move again. I remained there a year as the head of the art and engraving department.

“Then I decided to try my fortune in New York, and arrived in that city Jan. 1, 1903. The first week I was there I made five drawings and submitted the batch to Life. When I went back the next morning the office girl told me that one of them had been accepted and that I would receive a check for $45 by mail within a few days. I thought I misunderstood the number of pictures accepted and asked her to repeat it. She replied that one had been accepted. I was dumbfounded. I had an idea that the best I might receive would be about $5. Well, the next week I had some more drawings to submit and sold one for $80. The next week I didn’t sell any, and the week following I sold some more and soon was drawing regularly for that publication.”
In 1905 he moved to Philadelphia, going with the North American and later to the Saturday Evening Post [in 1912]…

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Johnson produced the Sunday strip, Eph Jackson, for the North American from December 3, 1905 to February 11, 1906.

Johnson was counted twice in the 1900 census. The cartoonist was named in his parents’ household in Lincoln, Nebraska, at 1705 M Street. Johnson resided in Kansas, Missouri, at 920 Locust Street.

In the 1910 census, Johnson was a resident of Philadelphia and lived at 6333 Drexel Road. He married Helen two years ago and had an eight-month-old daughter. His mother-in-law was part of the household.

Johnson’s address was unchanged in the 1920 census. The cartoonist had two daughters, Herberta and Katherine.

In the 1930 and 1940 censuses, Johnson and family were residents of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, at 232 Second Street Pike. Johnson continued cartooning at the Saturday Evening Post.

On April 27, 1942, Johnson signed his World War II draft card. He and his wife resided on Morningside Farm in Huntingdon Valley. The card did not name an employer; Johnson was probably retired.

According to the family tree, Johnson passed away December 6, 1946 in Abington, Pennsylvania.

Herbert Johnson

Further Reading

Sutton Nebraska Museum
Herbert Johnson—Sutton’s Political Cartoonist

University of Missouri Bulletin

Volume 15, Number 20, July 1914
Journalism Week, 1914
The Power of the Cartoon

New York Tribune
February 6, 1916
The Cartoonist’s Art

The Toronto World
March 31, 1918
The Women’s Art Association

Cartoons by Herbert Johnson

—Alex Jay


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Monday, June 27, 2016


Heritage Auction Items

It's time for another weekly Heritage Auction of items from my collection. This time the Heritage folks went heavy on the Platinum comic books, plus a smattering of other neat items. With a big holiday weekend coming up, I'm guessing that some bargains will be had while many folks are busy celebrating the 4th by eating too many hot dogs and drinking too much beer. Here's the link to the items on Heritage's website, and here are my very informative annotations regarding the items they are offering:

One more big beautiful batch of weekly syndicate proof books, this one is 147 books from NEA (Alley Oop, Robotman, etc) and covering January 2000 - October 2002

A set of 4 highly detailed 2-D metal sculptures of famous Italian comics characters in original boxes. This was a gift to me from Martin Mystere writer and comics scholar Alfredo Castelli of Italy.

A giant batch -- in fact a comic book storage box full -- of duck books from Gladstone -- there should be a number of complete runs of various titles in there

A group of four harder to find Platinum books -- Dolly Dimples and Bobby Bounce by Grace Drayton, Tailspin Tommy, Smitty in very rare dustjacket (not pictured), and a rare original content Cupples & Leon, Tom & Jerry the Jolly Plumbers drawn in a delightful animated cartoon style.

Another four scarcer Platinums -- Freckles & His Friends Famous Funnies, Captain and the Kids Famous Comics, Skeezix and Pal (from Gasoline Alley), and Gasoline Alley (not pictured)

2 platinum books from the Treasure Box series -- Reglar Fellers and Smitty

 A group of six harder to find Platinum books, these ones mostly in the fragile oversized category -- Hawkshaw the Detective, Hans und Fritz, Latest Adventures of Foxy Grandpa, Harold Teen Color & Paint Book, The Story of Happy Hooligan, and a coverless copy of the rare and valuable 1907 Newlyweds and their Baby.

I have asked Heritage to withdraw this lot and reconsider the EXTREME rarity of some of the items. But in case they don't, this is a major collector alert. Along with the three Gulf Funny Weekly sections and the very rare Buttons & Fatty in the Funnies (fragile format and had very limited distribution) are two VERY IMPORTANT early original content comic books. We've talked about the rarity, mystery and importance of The Funnies on this blog at length, and this is the only copy I have ever been able to lay my hands on despite a quarter century of looking. PLUS, included with it comes a large batch of color and black and white photocopies of issues contributed to me for research purposes by other collectors. Second is a copy of Comic Cuts, also so rare it's the only one I've been able to find. It is said to be the direct predecessor of the DC comics line in that Major Wheeler-Nicholson was inspired by this short-lived series to start his foray into comics publishing. What can I say except FIND ANOTHER COPY -- GOOD LUCK!

Very early Platinum hardcover comic, and not listed in Overstreet, The Billy Prunes Cartoons reprints a series of rollicking traveling salesman comics that appeared in the Minneapolis Journal in 1903-1904. Really fun stuff, and of course exceedingly rare.

The Animated Cerebus Portfolio is a collection of 45 color plates by Dave Sim; a delight for aardvark fans.

Jack Kirby's 1972 Gods portfolio, in original sleeve, from back when no one had ever heard of a cartoon art portfolio.

A really neat activity set that allows kids to create their own customized comic strips based on a bunch of pre-drawn characters. A cool idea, but it sure didn't catch on, because I've never seen another. The art is unsigned but really attractive; reminds me a bit of McCay though it isn't him.

Little Jimmy Picture & Story Book, another hard to find Platimun item by Jimmy Swinnerton; really nice condition, and not colored in. 

The great Clare Briggs in a very early book appearance -- 1913. This very large book is scarce but not ridiculously so; however, it is usually found in extremely beaten up and ragged condition. Other than a little bit of handling soiling, this copy is in stunning beautiful shape. 

Not only is The Dumbunnies by Albertine Randall Wheelan a very hard to find Platinum book, this copy is incredible -- almost like it just came off the shelf at the bookstore. 

A collection of 5 Cupples and Leon Bringing Up Father books, including a very sharp copy of the hard to find #24.

A collection of 6 Cupples & Leon Platinum books -- the big deal here is VEP's Clancy The Cop Second Series, which is both in beautiful condition and very scarce.

A group of 5 cartoon instruction related items, including Cartoon & Story Illustration by Robert Peterson, E.C. Matthews Modern Cartoon Course, Lockwood Art School Art Catalogue with a great Nate Collier cover, The Kiddie Cartoonist by Milt Hammer (which actually should qualify as a comic reprint book) and the public service bulletin How Comic Strips Are Made by cartoonist Russ Winterbotham, which is very scarce. 

Heritage has characterized this lot as a bunch of coloring books, which made me do a full Homer Simpson "D'oh" plus face slap. They are actually mostly comic strip reprint books that try to get extra marketing mileage by offering the rugrats a suggestion to color in the pictures after they're done reading. Heritage threw in a 1970s Popeye item (it's kinda neat -- daily comics printed at full original art size), but the rest are fine additions to any really good Platinum collection. I'm not going to describe them all, but I want to highlight a real full-caps RARITY that they threw in without any realization of what it is. I would not be going too far to say that The New York Herald Comic Section Paint Book, which is full of 1915 Herald strips (Mr. Tweedeedle by Gruelle, Snapshot Sam, Colonel Corn, Verbeek's Terrors of the Tiny Tads, etc), might actually be unique. I have never seen or even heard of another copy. It is a small and very unassuming little book that you will likely never have another chance to own in this lifetime. 

Back before the internet made practically every rare book at least somewhat accessible, Rube Goldberg's Chasing The Blues was considered so rare that the folks who ran his estate once offered me a four figure sum for my copy, since they could not locate one for their archives. Well, I guess I should have taken them up on that offer. Today they pop up once in awhile. However, my copy does still have the singular quality that it was originally owned, and doodled in, by long-time King Features cartoonist J.P. Arnot!

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Saturday, June 25, 2016


Herriman Saturday

November 26 1908 -- In the world of Herriman Saturday, it's Thanksgiving today. Let's feast!


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Friday, June 24, 2016


History of Newspaper Syndicates by Elmo Scott Watson: Chapter 6


The Syndicate Enters the Metropolitan Field 1884-1900

The syndicate idea had originated in the country field but within the next two decades it was destined to spread into the field of the small city and metropolitan dailies. When it did that it added two media of service, mats and copy, extended the use of syndicated material to newspapers in every part of the country and brought into existence the "Sunday magazine" or "Sunday supplement."

In 1883 Joseph Hatton, the English novelist, came to this country with the famous actor, Sir Henry Irving, to write the latter's impressions of America—one of the earliest, if not the earliest, example of "ghost writing" in the history of American journalism. Thereupon Irving Bacheller, a young newspaper man, made a proposal to a number of metropolitan newspapers that they purchase one of Hatton's novels for simultaneous publication as a serial story.1 The novel was not sufficiently attractive, however, for Bacheller to carry out his scheme.

After Hatton returned to England he wrote a series of interviews with John Ruskin, Miss Braddon and other distinguished English writers, and early in 1884 Bacheller was successful in selling these to the Boston Herald, the Chicago News, the Washington Post and several other metropolitan papers. Encouraged by his success, Bacheller added other features to his service, which he supplied to newspapers in proof sheets or copy form, and began syndicating a New York letter by Amos Cummings and a Washington letter by W. A. Croffot for weekly publication.

A short time later he took James W. Johnson in as a partner and the operations of the New York Press Syndicate, as they called their enterprise, grew to important proportions in the metropolitan field. Moreover, it expanded into the country field under the terms of an arrangement with the Kellogg Company whereby the latter was able to offer to its patrons the work of the Bacheller-Johnson writers for simultaneous publication with the big city dailies.2

By 1892, Bacheller's syndicate was offering to metropolitan papers each week an amount of material equal in volume to one issue of the Century magazine and the features compared favorably in quality with the reading matter in that periodical. They included short stories by such writers as A. Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Stephen Crane,3 Stanley Weyman and Mary E. Wilkins, and special articles by such notables as Sir Edwin Arnold and ex-President Benjamin Harrison. During the 15 years that Bacheller's syndicate was in operation he was, as he phrased it, "on the payroll of every great American newspaper except the Baltimore Sun and the Philadelphia Public Ledger."4

In the same year that Bacheller got his start, the New York Sun again entered the syndicate field. This time it was under the leadership of its famous editor, Charles A. Dana, who began selling stories by Bret Harte and Henry James, which he had bought for the Sun, to papers in other cities. His syndicating operations, however, were rather limited in their scope and never became so important as those of another man who, like Kellogg and Bacheller, "started on a shoe-string."

In 1884 a young Irishman named Samuel Sidney McClure, then working for the Century Company in New York City, suggested to his employers that they syndicate stories from St. Nicholas and the Century to country newspapers.5 Realizing, no doubt, that an invasion of this field meant bucking stiff competition with the already-established syndicates, they turned down his idea. When he persisted, they suggested that he go into the business himself if he was so certain he could make a success of it.

Despite the fact that McClure had scarcely enough money ahead to buy more than a week's supply of food for himself and his young wife, he resigned from the Century Company and set up his syndicate office in the cramped living quarters of a tiny East Side apartment. Unable to afford printed stationery or announcements, McClure secured a supply of trimmed bulk paper and wrote enthusiastic letters in longhand explaining his scheme to authors and editors. The authors warmly approved the idea, but the editors were noticeably cool toward it. Undiscouraged by their attitude, however, he launched his syndicate on November 16, 1884.

McClure could have bought a story by any of the best writers of the time for $150 but instead he paid (or promised to pay) $250 to H. H. Boyesen for a two-part story. His returns were meager, the total coming to $50 less than its cost, despite the fact that some metropolitan papers paid him as much as $20 each for the right to run the yarn. But the young couple determined to go on with their venture. Mrs. McClure translated French and German stories into English when they could not afford to buy the work of American writers. They gave their material free of charge to one newspaper which set the copy for its own use and supplied them with galley proofs to mail to their other patrons, thus obviating the necessity for writing them out in long-hand or paying a job printer to set up the material and furnish proofs.

Despite every effort and every sacrifice to make their syndicate a going concern, the early part of 1885 found them owing $1,500 to authors and newspapers owing them $1,000. But just at this critical time Harriet Prescott Spofford sent McClure a story with a note saying that she had meant it to be a New Year's present and hoped that it wouldn't be too late. It was a life-saver, for the proceeds of $275 from its sale to newspapers proved to be the turning point in the career of the young syndicate. Soon afterwards John S. Phillips, a classmate of McClure's at Knox College, joined forces with him and began to put some sorely needed system into the business management of the enterprise.6 From that time on it flourished.

At first the material offered by McClure amounted to about 5,000 words a week. Within a year he had increased that to 30,000 words, including cooking recipes which McClure wrote himself under the name of "Patience Winthrop." Among his first authors were Frank R. Stockton, Julian Hawthorne. H. C. Bunner and Henry Harland, who became well-known about that time as the writer of a novel published under the name of "Sidney Luska." Harland held a job in downtown New York in the daytime and did his writing at night, producing thus a novel, "The Yoke of the Thorah," which McClure syndicated as a serial.

At the end of McClure's second year in the business he was offering the work of Octave Thanet, Mrs. Burton Harrison, Sarah Orne Jewett, Brander Matthews, Joel Chandler Harris, Charles Egbert Craddock and Margaret Deland. By 1892 the "S. S. McClure Newspaper Features," syndicated to a large number of newspapers, included new novels by such literary celebrities as Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Dean Howells and Bret Harte; new short stories by Rudyard Kipling, A. Conan Doyle, and Mary E. Wilkins; special articles by Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt; a woman's page and a youth's page. The following year, when McClure's Magazine was founded, management of the syndicate was left largely to a brother, Robert McClure, and its founder devoted more and more time to making his magazine one of the most popular and widely circulated in the history of American periodicals.
[image 3]

The next syndicate in the metropolitan field was founded in 1886 by Edward W. Bok.7 He offered a weekly article on current events written by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, for which he paid the famous minister $250. His success with this feature led to the organization of the Bok Syndicate Press, conducted by Bok and his brother.

Bok had seen that the American woman of that period was an indifferent newspaper reader and decided that the absence of any material of special interest to her was the reason why. Accordingly he secured the right to syndicate "Bab's Babble." A chatty, gossipy news letter published in the New York Star. This feature was instantly successful and appeared in some 90 newspapers throughout the country. He next engaged Ella Wheeler Wilcox, the poet, to furnish a weekly women's letter and he also secured contributions from famous women writers and from men who were able to write on subjects of interest to feminine readers.

Included in his service was a feature of his own, "Bok's Literary Leaves," which at one time was appearing regularly in 45 big city newspapers and which he continued even after he became editor of the Ladies' Home Journal in 1889 and made that magazine pre-eminent in its field. The principal contribution of the Bok Syndicate during its career was to aid in the development of a woman's department or page in the newspapers and to foster its growing importance in American journalism.

In the same year that Bok retired from the direction of his syndicate, Tillotson and Son, the pioneer syndicate in England, established a New York office and began offering American newspapers short stories, serials, a London letter, a woman's letter and a children's letter. Two years later the United Press, a news service, added a "literary department" to its news service. This supplied weekly to papers 10,000 words of "the highest class of Sunday miscellany," including short stories, serials, fashion articles for men and women and special articles.

Primarily, the material supplied by Bacheller-Johnson, McClure, Bok, Tillotson and the United Press was designed for the Sunday editions of the dailies. This was the heyday of the "Sunday supplement" and one journalistic historian has pointed out how profoundly it affected the reading habits of the American people during this period.8 He says:

This is a country in which libraries, large and small, abound and there are probably more collections of books in private ownership not dignified by the title of library. . . . Nevertheless and notwithstanding the fact that the output of "best sellers" is enormous, and that the sale of standard works is on a scale which makes the demand for such publications by other people seem small, it is true that the chief mental pabulum of the American people is the contents of their newspapers. And it may be urged, in response to the adverse criticism this sometimes calls forth, that the best products of modern literature sooner or later, in some form or other, find their way into the Sunday magazine which is at once an anthology, a repository of knowledge, a compendium of history and often history itself. It is the fashion to speak lightly of the Sunday magazine because it is not wholly made up of contributions which a fastidious literary taste could approve and it is said that a cultivated person can find in its columns only a small proportion of matter really worthwhile, but if that is a defect, it is one it shares in common with the greatest library whose shelves harbor a hundred books that are never read to one that is.

The popular judgment concerning the value of the Sunday magazine has long since received the endorsement of the most gifted in the ranks of authorship. There is no writer of consequence today unappreciative of the opportunity it affords to get his works before the people, or who disdains the rewards it offers. It has lifted the man of letters out of the slough of despond and given him a chance in the struggle for existence. It has eliminated Grub Street, and has enabled genius to market its wares at a figure somewhat commensurate with their real value. The author of merit no longer burns the midnight oil in a garret; oftener than otherwise he revels in the blaze of electricity and lives in marble halls, because he is able to reach a world of readers through the Sunday magazine. That he can do so is due in large part to the development of the syndicate.

The success of the Sunday magazine soon led to the use of fiction, special articles and departmental material in the weekday editions of the dailies, for the publishers found that these features were a factor in increasing the circulation of their papers. Their readers enjoyed the entertaining information furnished by this syndicated material and it played a leading role in starting the American public on its way to becoming "the greatest newspaper-reading nation in the world."

The first quarter century of syndicate history found the idea firmly established as a vital factor in American journalism. Like any other new and successful business it had called into existence a host of "mushroom" enterprises. The next period was to see the elimination of some of them or their merger with the more substantial organizations.

*** Footnotes ***
1. Irving Bacheller was born in Pierpont, N. Y., in 1859. After graduation from St. Lawrence University in 1882 he became a newspaperman in New York City. He continued in that work for many years and from 1898 to 1900 was one of the editors of the New York World. One of the most prolific of American writers, he is the author of 26 books published during the period 1890 to 1933.

2. For a list of these writers see the broadside illustrated in this section. Moses P. Handy (not Hanly) was once on the staff of the New York Tribune. He, with Noah Brooks, W. C. Wyckoff and Isaac Bromley, composed the verses of a famous jingle, the refrain of which ("Punch, brothers, punch with care, punch in the presence of the passenjare") and its various parodies enjoyed country-wide popularity. Will C. Ferril, perhaps the last surviving member of this corps of writers, is now (1935) editor of the Colorado Herald in Denver. One of the articles which he wrote for Bacheller, a Thanksgiving piece which appeared under the title of "No Grandmothers There" or "A Land Without Grandmothers," has attained the dignity of a "Newspaper Classic." Ellen Osborne and Eliza P. Heaton were the same person writing women's features under the two names. She was the wife of John L. Heaton, associate editor of the New York World.

3. One of Crane's stories which was syndicated by Bacheller and Kellogg was his famous "Red Badge of Courage." Wright A. Patterson, now editor in chief of Western Newspaper Union but at that time a member of the Kellogg editorial staff recalls that the job of editing the manuscript of this story and preparing it for publication was assigned to him. It consisted of 40,000 words written with a lead pencil on both sides of the paper, without a single capital letter or punctuation mark and without any paragraphing from the start of the story to the finish.

4. These included among others the Boston Herald, Brooklyn Times, New York Mail and Express, Philadelphia Press, Chicago Herald, Savannah News, Louisville Courier-Journal, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Dallas News, Galveston News, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Kansas City Journal, Denver Republican, Salt Lake Tribune, San Francisco Call, Helena Independent, and Portland Oregonian.

5. McClure was born in County Antrim, Ireland, in 1857. He was graduated from Knox College in 1882 and the next year married Harriet Hurd, the daughter of one of the professors at Knox. His first employment in New York City was on the Wheelman, a magazine for bicyclists published by the Pope Manufacturing Company. Next he held a job with the De Vinne Press, going from that organization to the Century Company.

6. Phillips, a native of Iowa, where he was born in 1861, was associated with McClure as manager and treasurer of the McClure's Magazine from its start in 1893 until 1906 when he became president of the Phillips Publishing Company. He was editor of the American Magazine from 1906 to 1915 and since 1910 has been a director in the Crowell Publishing Company.

7. Edward William Bok was born In Helder, Netherlands, in 1863. He became editor of the Brooklyn Magazine in 1882, editor of the Beecher Memorial in 1887 and was editor in chief of the Ladies' Home Journal from 1889 to 1891, serving as vice president of the Curtis Publishing Company after 1891 to the time of his death in 1930.

8. "Journalism in California"—John P. Young.


"...it is true that the chief mental pabulum of the American people is the contents of their newspapers."
Geez, a hundred years later that statement no longer applies, and hasn't for a while.

Liked how McClure endured early strife to eventually succeed.
Though according to a McClure biography he didn't maintain his riches. A 1963 review of Success Story: The Life and Tmes of S. S. McClure http://preview.tinyurl.com/gq5enfg
Hi DD --
McClure's is an interesting story. I've read both his biographies, and there's exactly ONE SENTENCE between the two of them regarding his syndication of comics sections, but never mind. Interesting Reads. In addition to Success Story, I'd recommend My Autobiography, a hagiography ghost-written by Willa Cather. In either one you learn that McClure was one of those "believe in yourself and you will grow rich" fellows. He made a tremendous success almost in spite of his bold and often frankly dumb business moves, but in the end his lack of business smarts was his downfall, and boy did he fall. I enjoy both the Horatio Alger-esque aspect and even the comeuppance for a man who just kept rolling the dice in a game that he didn't even seem to fully comprehend. -- Allan
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Thursday, June 23, 2016


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Milt Story

Information about Milton “Milt” Story is scarce. So far the best source on Story’s life was found in Mel Heimer’s nationally syndicated column, My New York. The column was published in several newspapers including the Lewiston Evening Journal (Maine), August 16, 1956.

Back in the early ’40s, a pleasant young man from Los Angeles blew into town and went to work at the world’s largest syndicate, King Features. His name was Milt Story and I remember him because we had daily wars to see who could wear the noisiest clothes. Freud might have had a name for it, but we had a lot of fun, although I grow pale and shaky now when I remember some of the checks and plaids that decorated us.

Story was an artist and a pretty good one; his aim in life was to draw a successful comic strip. A lot of other talented young men have the same aim. It’s one of the roughest competitive fields in America and when you get KFS to syndicate your cartoons, you have it made. Milt never came up with the King-sized strip.
“So,” he told me today, “I went back to California after five years and, like a brash young man, started my own syndicate, Los Angeles Famous Features Syndicate—or, abbreviated, LAFFS. I guess it was silly, because I had no business sense; all I ever wanted people to do was put me in a corner and let me draw.”

Laffs made out fairly well, but presently Milt got a chance to go east again as art director of a cartoon company. For five years he worked there, but in the back of his mind, of course, was the never-ending dream—a comic strip of his own.

“I didn’t care if, two days after the papers were published, fishmongers were wrapping my strip around three pounds of mackerel,” Milt said. “It was what I wanted.” Next he worked awhile with another cartoonist. He dreamed up a strip which he called Jeepers, dealing comically with life in Merrie Englande. “I put everything I had into it,” he said wistfully, “and I thought it was great. Well, it got into the papers, but it hardly set the world on fire.”

About this time, Story met Reynold Goodman, an Englewood, N. J., manufacturer who deals in plastic acetate. Supermarkets, auto dealers, etc., use millions of Goodman’s glossy, colorful signs. Casually one day, Milt said to Goodman, “Listen, why don’t you produce some sort of dopey, absurd signs, like, THIMK? Never can tell, it might go over in a modest way.”

Well—what I am here to tell you today is that Goodman hired Story as his creative merchandising director. Milt invented something called “Silly Signs,” a cereal firm bought nine million of them to give away as premiums in boxes of cornflakes—and before you could say Blondie, our boy had a tiger by the tail.

“Silly Signs” mushroomed into the biggest manufacturing gadget of the year. Fan mail poured in on Milt from San Diego to Alaska, and soon they were being sold for six for a quarter, Simon and Schuster [sic] put them on 110,000 newsstands. Mitch Miller got Art Carney to record The Silly Signs Song—and Milt Story became a millionaire. Theoretically, anyway; After taxes, he had enough to pay off the mortgage.

“This,” Milt told me, shaking his head, “is something I knocked off virtually on my knee in half an hour. A dozen stupid signs—and whooey, everybody wants them.

"I spend 20 years of my life aiming at becoming a good comic-strip artist—and overnight I become more of a financial success than I probably ever could dream of becoming as a strip artist.
“It couldn’t happen anywhere else than this wonderful country—but tell me this. How does a man adjust to hitting the jackpot—when it’s the wrong jackpot?"

I patted has arm sympathetically and watched him go out the door, sad and dejected. He was on his way to the bank.
Heimer was the author of the 1946 book, Famous Artists and Writers of King Features Syndicate. His death was reported in a 1971 issue of Editor & Publisher
Mel Heimer, television editor and columnist for King Features Syndicate, died February 8 at St. Luke’s Hospital, New York City, after a long illness.

Born in West Hoboken, N.J., Heimer began his career as a newspaperman at the age of 14 as a suburban correspondent for the Mount Vernon Daily Argus. He attended New York University on a scholarship and continued his career at the Westchester newspapers. He moved to the New York World-Telegram as a rewrite man and feature writer. After four years there, he joined King Features and in 1947 he began writing his Broadway column, “My New York.” Continuing that, he also took over as television editor in 1967, writing the weekly feature, “TV Cameos.”

Heimer free-lanced as a short story writer. He has written 14 books on a variety of subjects. His last book, “The Cannibal,” will be published this spring.

After four years there, he joined King Features and in 1947 he began writing his Broadway column, "My New York
In Heimer’s column, it seems Story may have been a California native. As a Los Angeles resident, Story may have worked for one of the animation studios. He has not been found in the census or military records. I think Story may have changed his name* as Kin Platt did; Platt’s birth name was Milton Platkin.

Heimer mentioned Story’s syndicate LAFFS. According to Editor and Publisher, in a 1948 issue, Sunny Cal was a LAFFS panel picked up by some California newspapers. 

The California Chamber of Commerce should be very happy. Milt Story, formerly with King Features in New York, has organized his own Los Angeles Famous Feature Syndicate and put it in business with his gag panel, “Sunny Cal.” Cal’s a “strictly from California kid,” says Story, as the state’s life and background provide the gag materials which could be why the panel starts with a list of California papers.
Around 1949 Story returned to the east coast. Heimer said Story was an art director for a cartoon company. That company may have been the comic book publisher Toby. Story did a few stories and advertisements that appeared in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner

In issue number 70, Story contributed two items: a one-page piece, The Dizz Kids, and a three-page story featuring Tender Foote, which he owned. A 1950 issue of the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office published the following.
Ser. No. 589,520. Milton Story, Orange, N. J. Filed Dec. 17, 1949. 

For Illustrated and Humorous Cartoons Commonly Referred to as Comic Strips.
Claims use since Mar. 18, 1949.
Applicant claims ownership of Registration No. 154,626.

The patent filing revealed Story’s residence in Orange, New Jersey.

According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), Story produced the comic strip, Jeepers, which ran from June 6, 1954 to April 10, 1955, in the New York Herald-Tribune

Heimer said Story’s fortune changed when he met “Reynold Goodman, an Englewood, N. J., manufacturer who deals in plastic acetate.” Goodman liked Story’s idea of producing plastic signs with silly text. One of the clients was the Kellogg Company. The New York Times, January 8, 1956, reported the silly signs.
Fair warning to parents: The Kellogg Company is packing what it calls “silly signs” in its Pep and Sugar Pops. The signs—“Cheer up, everything’s gonna be awful,” “What! You still here?” “The early worm gets the bird” and similar expressions of nonsense—were created by Goodren Products of Englewood, N.J. for premium use. Goodren manufactures what it calls Goodstix, a self-adhering transparent plastic sign, and its premium division, headed by Milt Story, cartoonist, put together cartoon and sign in a five-color three-by-five-inch clear plastic to fit easily into cereal boxes. Considerable promotion will be put behind the offer of the novelty. (Cereal will be included in the boxes carrying the signs.)
There was a Silly Sign trademark here. A photograph of Story surrounded by his Silly Signs is here.

Story saw a future in plastics. Here are the 1956 copyright entries for Goodren’s Eggheads.

Big Chief Egghead, an Eggheads cartoon. Goodren Products Corp. Plastic work. © Milt Story; 22Jun56; K46496.
Egghead the clown, an Eggheads cartoon. Goodren Products Corp. Plastic work. © Milt Story; 22Jun56; K46497.
Harmony Egghead, an Eggheads cartoon. Goodren Products Corp. Plastic work. © Milt Story; 22Jun56; K46495.
Long John Egghead, an Eggheads cartoon. Goodren Products Corp. Plastic work. © Milt Story; 22Jun56; K46500.
Punchy Egghead, an Eggheads cartoon. Goodren Products Corp. Plastic work. © Milt Story; 22Jun56; K46498.
Touchdown Egghead, an Eggheads cartoon. Goodren Products Corp. Plastic work. © Milt Story; 22Jun56; K46499.
More copyright entries for Story appeared in 1957, such as: 
Big Chief Do-Um Nuthin’. [Worried face of Indian boy]. Goodren Products. (Tricky titles) © Milt Story; 16Nov56; K48140.
Big shot. [Man being shot out of cannon] Goodren Products Corp. (Funny fotos) © Milt Story; 26Dec56; K48118.
Foreign flags. Goodren Products Corp. © Milt Story. Belgium. © 15D«c56; K49245. Cuba. © 15Dec56; K49244. Iceland. © 15Dec56; K49246. Turkey. © 15Dec56; K49247
General nuisance. [Boy wearing general’s hat with paint & brushes] Goodren products. (Tricky titles) © Milt Story; 16Nov56; K48135
Story produced some cereal comics in 1963: Cap’n Crunch and the Fountain of Youth and Cap’n Crunch and the Picture Pirates.

Getting back to plastics, Story played both sides of the political parties. In the 1964 presidential election, Banner Brites featured the slogan, “LBJ for the USA”, and Story’s portrait of President Johnson. Story’s Panel Prints had the “Nixon’s the One” slogan and his portrait of Nixon, in 1968. And Story had an entire line devoted to the Republican party.

Here’s another patent for Story in a 1973 issue of Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office.

956,613. Decorite Campaign Kits. Milton Story. SN 392,351. Pub. 1-16-73. Filed 5-17-71. 956,614.
Phone and address directories, at Ancestry.com, have a “Milton Story” residing at 232 Knickerbocker Avenue in Hillsdale, New Jersey, from 1993 to 2002.

An obituary for Story has not been found. The Social Security Death Index has a “Milton Story” from Hillsdale, New Jersey, who was born September 25, 1914 and passed away July 21, 2002. Story’s Social Security number was issued in California.

• This profile was written a few weeks ago. Yesterday’s Jeepers post had a comment from Larry Rippee and Molly Rea who wrote, “Milt Story was also Milton Schwartz. There was a piece on him by Christopher Boyko in Comic Book Marketplace in 2004.” 

An artistic Milton Schwartz was found in the censuses. The 1920 census recorded Ohio native Schwartz as the oldest of two sons born to Samuel and Rosa, both Austrian emigrants. Schwartz’s father owned a shoe repair shop. They resided in Cincinnati, Ohio, at 4159 Witler Street.

They were residents of Los Angeles, California in the 1930 census. Their home was at 326 61st Street. In the 1940 census, the Schwartz’s remained in Los Angeles but at a different address, 131 East 66 Street. Schwartz was a commercial artist.

—Alex Jay


I remember the Cap'n Crunch comic booklets. When it was a new brand, these little comics were included in the cereal itself, wrapped in clear cellophane, as a prize.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Obscurity of the Day: Jeepers

It's been a long time since we covered one of the New York Herald-Tribune's Sunday filler strips here on the blog, so let's rectify that today. As you oh-so-surely recall, from 1942 to 1956 the Herald-Tribune's comic section was punctuated with single-tier sixth page strips. They appeared anytime the section printed a half-page strip and third-page strip on the same page (or equivalent of advertisements).

Some of these strips are pretty forgettable, others (like Harvey Kurtzman's Silver Linings) are minor masterpieces. Fitting well toward the classic end of that continuum is Jeepers by Milt Story, a delightful little fantasy about a doddering old aristocrat, drawn as if he might just have jumped off a Monopoly Chance card, and his devoted servant, Mousely. It was a zany strip that tried to cram as much visual and dialogue humor into its tiny space as possible. The strip appeared just a handful of times in the H-T Sunday section from June 6 1954 to April 10 1955.

I wish I knew more about Milt Story, who exhibits here a great style and flair, but all I can find about him online is that he worked a bit on the Li'l Abner comic books in the 1950s, and designed a few toys. I'm sure there's more to his story, but (I suppose this is a good time to confess), I'm several thousand miles away from my reference library right now and can check him out no further.

Sample strip from the collection of Cole Johnson.


Milt Story was also Milton Schwartz. There was a piece on him by Christopher Boyko in Comic Book Marketplace in 2004.

Thanks for the Jeepers.
Amazing resemblance to Walt Kelly's style in the brush work, and especially, the lettering! Did Milt Story ever work for Kelly? Thanks for posting this rare Strip, Allan.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Art Huhta

Arthur Oscar Huhta was born in Crystal Falls, Michigan, on April 18, 1902. His birth date is from the Social Security Death Index, and his birthplace is from the Masters of Screwball Comics. Around 1905 Huhta’s family moved to the Pacific Northwest.

The 1910 U.S. Federal Census recorded Huhta, his parents and siblings in Seattle, Washington, at 1715 64 Street West. Huhta was the second of five children. His parents, Gust, a tailor, and Adolphine, were Finnish emigrants.

Huhta’s art talent was recognized in the Seattle Times, May 4, 1919, which published the names of the winners in the Painless Johnson Dentists slogan contest. 
Huhta placed eighth and won five dollars. 

According to the 1920 census, Huhta had a job as an office boy at a grain company. He still lived with his parents and siblings in Seattle but at a different address, 5260 Eleventh Avenue Northeast. Seattle city directories for 1920 and 1922 listed Huhta as a clerk at 5911 11th NW.

Huhta was a student of the Federal School’s illustration and cartooning classes. He was profiled, along with other students, in the Federal School’s advertisement in Cartoons Magazine, June 1921.

The Seattle Times’ Junior Citizen section took note of Huhta’s talent on September 21, 1921: “Art Huhta, amateur cartoonist and a generous contributor to the pleasure of Seattle boys and girls, called up yesterday to know if the Junior Citizens had any place for him. We sure have, Art.”; and the November 18, 1922 edition published his cartoon (below).

Huhta moved to Chicago, Illinois in the mid-1920s. Who's Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 said Huhta received additional art training at the Art Institute and the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Huhta teamed up with writer, S.L. Huntley, to produce the strip, Mescal Ike, which ran from December 6, 1926 to August 24, 1940. It was syndicated by the Chciago Daily News followed by Associated Newspapers. Huhta also assisted on The Nebbs comic strip. His name appeared in the August 2, 1937 strip (below). Other Huhta comic strips are Dinky Dinkerton Secret Agent 6 7/8 plus its topper Hokum Hotel, and Wild Rose. Dinky Dinkerton and Mescal Ike appeared in comic books. Alberto Becattini said Huhta was a ghost artist on Mostly Malarky. In The Funnies: 100 Years of American Comic Strips (1995), Ron Goulart said Huhta was “ghosting Tiny Tim, and producing a series of original Dick Tracy comic books.”

In Comic Book Artist Collection, Volume 3 (2005), Mike Grell said Huhta “was one of the animators who worked on Fantasia, in the dinosaur scene.”

In the 1930 census Huhta was married to Taublee, a Romanian emigrant who was naturalized and the proprietor of a millinery store. They resided in Chicago at the Sovereign Apartments, 6200 Kenmore Avenue.

Huhta was a Chicago resident in the 1940 census which listed his three sons, Richard, James and Arthur. The family of five lived at 6535 Minnetonka Avenue. Huhta’s occupation was commercial artist.

Huhta’s illustrations appeared in magazines including Flying, January 1945 (credit on page 160), Practical Builder (reprinted in Hamburg Sun magazine, Sun Suburban, May 19, 1960) and Popular Mechanics, March 1961.

The listings in Who’s Who in Commercial Art and Photography (1964) included Huhta: “Huhta, Art DE 2-1854 333 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 1, Ill.”

Who's Who of American Comic Books said Huhta was a teacher at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.

Huhta passed away October 14, 1990, in Cook County, Illinois, according to the Social Security Death Index.

Further Reading
Masters of Screwball Comics
Mixed Nuts #1

Mixed Nuts
More Screwball Dinky Dinkerton and Art Huhta

—Alex Jay


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Monday, June 20, 2016


Obscurity of the Day: Wild Rose

(Final strip of the series)

Journeyman cartoonist Art Huhta struck it big in 1946 when the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate accepted not one but two of his features -- quite the jackpot. Mostly Malarky, a daily panel that he ghosted for Wally Carlson, and Wild Rose, a Sunday-only strip, both began in April of that year.

While Mostly Malarky became a modestly successful feature, Wild Rose struggled to find an audience, a look, and a voice. When Huhta began the strip about a backwoods beauty, he labored mightily to draw it in a semi-realistic manner (see top sample). The art was delicate and lovely, but it proved to be more than Huhta, who was much more comfortable drawing in the bigfoot manner, could produce on a weekly basis. By mid-1947, Huhta had all but given up and reverted to his native style.

When the strip debuted on April 7 1946 it also featured a continuing storyline. Huhta tried to blend a light dose of hillbilly humor with overly serious plots, and the combination was just plain klunky. Odd thing was that this wasn't the only post-war CTNYNS debut strip to be like this -- we just covered  John West here recently, which was basically the male equivalent of Wild Rose -- enough with the serious hillbillies, guys! I have to wonder if the powers-that-be at the Tribune in 1946 were big fans of radio's Lum and Abner, because that seems to be the tone both strips strove for. Eventually Wild Rose changed its tone to something more akin to Li'l Abner, and then eventually pretty much dispensed with continuing storylines altogether.

So it took a long while, but eventually Huhta got into his comfort zone, with bigfoot art and straight gag format, but while the strip was now on an even keel, it still wasn't a feature that was going to exactly wow newspaper editors. Like many of CTNYNS's post-war Sunday strips, it may well have never managed a single sale outside of the Tribune-owned newspapers.

In 1951, Carlson and Huhta got CTNYNS to add a Sunday page to their Mostly Malarky offering, and that put the writing on the wall for Wild Rose. She got to finish out the year, ending on December 30 1951 (final strip shown above).

You can read more about Wild Rose and Art Huhta over at Screwball Comics, and see lots more samples of the strip at Ger Appeldoorn's Fabulous Fifties blog.


Thanks for the referral and the background information. I see you haven't done Dinky Dinkerton yet. That may fit with this quite well. Both Wild Rose and John West seem to me as a fan of Milt Caniff style realism a sample of that other stream of realism that runs through te forties, which I can The Chicago style for myself. They do not use shadows or live drawing skills (like Foster) as a means to create reality, and seem to have a more cartoony basis. Others in that corner I include are Invisible O'Neill. It doesn't get interesting to me until it gets to Dick Moores' Jim Hardy (which was earlier of course).

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Sunday, June 19, 2016


Heritage Auctions Closing Today

This week Heritage Auctions is offering some nice original art from my collection (currently at bargain prices -- Roy Crane color pieces under $100?!?!?), plus some 'slabbed' comic books, and some more great research and reading material. Here is the link to the Heritage website auctions.

Lovely Bart cartoon for a 1901 issue of the Minneapolis Journal; perfect item for the wall of your library.

I was a big fan of Larry Marder's TALES OF THE BEANWORLD back in the day. I purchased this amazing special drawing from him, featuring all the major characters. Nicely framed.

(7 photos above) -- a great collection of Roy Crane material -- a childhood drawing (!), a panel from Wash Tubbs, and most importantly a set of amazing huge watercolored portraits of his Buz Sawyer cast.

A delightful zany daily from the great George "Swan" Swanson's High-Pressure Pete

No baseball fan could resist this superb J.W. McGurk cartoon about the plethora of sluggers coming into the baseball world in the 1920s.

Two Our New Age originals, one a Sunday by Fawcette, and the other a daily by Ray Evans.

$alesman $am by C.D. Small, maintaining the familiar lunacy of this classic strip.

Two more Spuddle's Sport Shoppe pages by the great Russ Johnson -- I think these are the last of the collection. Have you gotten yours yet?

How wacky cool is this? In Things To Come, Jim Bresnahan predicts electronic dictionaries, but can't bring himself to consider the possibility that storage methods will ever get any smaller.

Another set of United Features proof books. Apparently unwanted and unloved by auction buyers. Wish I could take them home, where they were much prized.

(2 photos) group of 12 excellent and some hard to find books about comics and comics history.

Mega-huge lot of 81 issues of The Comic Reader. I bought these for the great but unattributed comic strip column -- really wish I knew who did that!

A group of 18 fanzines from the 1970s-2000s.

Group of 42 issues of the classic Love & Rockets by the Hernandez Bros.

Big batch of neat stuff here -- Comics Journals, Comics Revues, auction catalogs, Honk #2 (with Bill Watterson interview) and more.

Two comic strip printing plates from the International Cartoon Co. of the 1920s, Just Humans by Gene Carr and Little Julius Sneezer by Baker.

Complete set of Fantagraphics E.C. Segar Popeye books, both dailies and Sundays.

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