Halloween Special : Cartoonist Death, Dismemberment and Insanity

Here’s a special edition of News Of Yore just for the ghoulish:

Fourth Estate 6/6/1914
Robert Bruce McClure, formerly head of the McClure Newspaper Syndicate. New York, was found dead in his Yonkers home Saturday of a gunshot wound. His family believes he was shot accidentally while cleaning a gun. Mr. McClure was a brother of S.S. McClure, publisher of McClure’s Magazine, and the two founded the McClure Newspaper Syndicate which they disposed of a short time ago. [actually they were tricked into giving up control of the company by a group of sharp investors, which might explain that ‘accident’ – ed.]

Fourth Estate 4/4/1914
S. Frank Yeager, who has been connected as a cartoonist with the New York World, Boston Globe and St. Louis Republic, has been committed to the Western Washington Asylum for the Insane of Steilacoom by Court Commissioner Westover in Chehalis. Mr. Yeager was found on the streets acting queerly and with a bundle of pencil sketches under his arm of scenes in California.

Washington Post 11/26/1905
Louis Dalrymple, the cartoonist, whose wife is a Baltimore woman, was removed from his home at 138 East 29th Street this afternoon, to a Long Island sanitarium. He is said to be violently insane, and small hope is given for his recovery. His condition had given much anxiety to his friends for several weeks. He brooded, they say, over the troubles caused by his divorce from his first wife, formerly Miss Letitia Carpenter, of Brooklyn. He became violent to-day, and was found wandering in the street near his home.

Dalrymple was married to Miss Carpenter about fifteen years ago, at the time when his work was making him well known to the public. Shortly after the marriage Mrs. Dalrymple obtained a divorce. The court denied Dalrymple the right to marry again in this state and awarded $75 a week alimony to his wife.

Seven years later Dalrymple married Miss Ann Good of Baltimore. The wedding took place in New Jersey. He moved to Greenwich Connecticut. In the years that followed he worked at different times for papers in Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Then he drifted back to New York. He had become a prey to all kinds of hallucinations, and was so changed that his friends hardly knew him. [Dalrymple was one of the best artists working for Puck and Life in the 1890s-ed.]

Washington Post 8/18/1900
Ernest Wilkinson, cartoonist for the Atlanta Constitution, died suddenly of heart disease this morning at Afton, where he was spending the summer. He was about 25 years of age.

Washington Post 9/12/1910
John E. Scanlon, aged 47 years, a cartoonist, was found dead in his studio in the business section of the city today. He had evidently been dead for several days. Two bottles of laudanum, one filled and the other partially empty, were found in the room. It is not known whether Scanlon committed suicide or died from natural causes.

Fourth Estate 3/10/1917
Albert Beck Wenzell, painter and magazine artist, died on March 4 in Englewood N.J. in his fifty-third year. His work was well-known to readers of Life, Heart’s, Truth, Scribner’s, Ladies Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post.

Fourth Estate 11/25/1916
DeVoss Woodward Driscoll, well-known cartoonist, died in a Dayton hospital on November 22, aged 43 years. He had been ill about a month. He originated the mule Maud cartoons. [no, he didn’t, but he did have a very colorful career otherwise-ed]

Fourth Estate 7/15/1916
“Bud” Fisher, the creator of the Mutt And Jeff comic strip, escaped with a broken rib when his automobile overturned near Saratoga, N.Y., pinning him under the steering gear.

Washington Post 10/2/1904
George Kerr, famous a few years ago as a cartoonist and illustrator, is dead at the Soldiers Home in Dayton Ohio. He served in the Northern Army throughout the war, and at its conclusion became an illustrator for an eastern magazine, going later to a New York comic paper. He was a friend of Thomas Nast.

Washington Post 10/23/1914
Roy W. Taylor, a cartoonist, who has made thousands laugh and think, died at the home of his mother, Mrs. A.L. Marshall, on Tuesday. He was 36 years old. The funeral was held at 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon at the home, and the body was taken to Richmond Indiana, the old home of the family, for internment.

Mr. Taylor was on the staff of the Philadelphia North American. He had been suffering for some time from Bright’s Disease, and a few weeks ago, when it was seen that he could not survive long, he came here. Mr. Taylor also had been attached to the staff of the Chicago Tribune and the New York World. His most popular work was done for the Sunday comic sections. [a descendant of Taylor tells me that he in fact died of alcoholism – ed.]

Washington Post 3/1/1918
Robert Carter, cartoonist of the Philadelphia Press, died suddenly in a hospital to which he was taken last night when he became suddenly ill from an arterial ailment. Mr. Carter was 44 years old.

Washington Post 10/10/1915
Stewart W. Carothers, a cartoonist for the Chicago Herald, fell to his death from a fifth story window of a downtown hotel early Monday. Two of his companions said he was sitting in the window seeking relief from a headache when they retired. It is believed he lost his balance. He was unmarried.

Washington Post 7/2/1922
Thomas Cyril Long, widely known among newspaper men of the South and East as “Cy” Long, creator of a new comic cartoon strip in which Southern negroes are the figures, was killed by lightning late today at Newton South Carolina, his home town, while participating in an amateur baseball game.

Washington Post 1/29/1919
Leon A. Searl, a newspaper and motion picture film cartoonist, who had been employed on the Kansas City Star, the Denver Rocky Mountain News, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Press and the Evening World and Evening Telegram of New York, died yesterday of acute indigestion at his home. Mr. Searl was 27 years old. He specialized in comics, and was the originator of “Bugs In Movieland” and “Mr. And Mrs. Homebreaker.” [actually the features referred to are Bugville Closeups and Mrs. Timekiller; and as pointed out by a correspondent it is much more likely that he was 37 years old, not 27 – ed.]

Fourth Estate 2/7/1914
Henry Richard Boehm, an illustrator, shot himself through the heart Sunday in his home in Briarcliff Manor N.Y. Boehm was engaged in newspaper illustrating until about three years ago. He worked for the New York Herald, did some work for the Evening World and was employed on the New York American for several years.

Fourth Estate 12/27/1913
D. C. Bartholomew, better known as “Bart,” a cartoonist for the New York Globe, died last Friday at his home in White Plains.

Washington Post 11/13/1890
Mr. James S. Goodwin, aged forty-five, employed as a cartoonist on Puck, and who lived with his wife and family in Mamaroneck New York, while walking along the track of the New Haven and Hartford road, last night, was struck and instantly killed by a train. His body was found this morning by one of the trackmen.

Fourth Estate 1/13/1917
Luther D. Bradley, for many years a cartoonist for the Chicago Daily News, died in Chicago on January 9, aged 64 years. [he was a perennial front page editorial cartoonist-ed]

Obscurity of the Day : Good Scout Andy

This strip ran 1925 – 1926 and was created by Edward McCullough for the Cosmos Newspaper Syndicate. McCullough jumped ship very quickly after creating this strip and took his scouting strip concept to the New York World where he started a similar strip titled Good Scout Today. Cosmos continued the original version, substituting S. A. Booth as replacement cartoonist.

The sample strip is believed to be the final installment, from 11/20/1926. Booth seems like he might be saying goodbye here, though the possibility of continuation is left open. Having the main character head off into the sunset this way was a good way to hedge your bets on the possibility that the strip might be revived. Guess the public never clamored for more of Andy, ’cause he was gone for good.

By the way, karma didn’t let McCullough get away with his syndicate jumping ways. Good Scout Today was cancelled after just two months. Good Scout Andy outlived it by over a year. Take that, Ed!

Obscurity of the Day : Goofus Animals

Goofus Animals was a panel cartoon with verse series, a popular form before poetry in newspapers was deemed old-fashioned. Here the poet, one Herbert Kirk, supplies odes to imaginary creatures, while the great Nate Collier adds the visuals. The feature ran 1930-31.

Nate Collier is one of the great forgotten cartoonists. His obscurity, I suppose, is deserved since he never managed to produce anything of truly memorable value in his many years of producing magazine cartoons and newspaper art. He always seemed to be working for the grade-B magazines and newspaper syndicates, though his wonderful artwork should have led him to greener pastures. Ah, well, that’s life.

Too bad on these samples his signature is printed so small. Collier’s signature is a wonder to behold.

Ad Strips : Mrs. Van Thick

Here’s a head-scratcher of an ad strip. These were run by Graybar Electric, a manufacturer of electrical components (like fuseboxes, outlets, etc) in 1926. If you read these you’ll find that they really make no particular reference to the company’s products. I guess this was the ol’ soft-sell?

Anyway, reason I show these is because they’re credited to one ‘Dick Spencer’, but I’d say they’re actually by Jack Patton, who is most famous for his Texas History Movies strip. It was pretty much par for the course in those days to credit ad strips to fake generic names like that, and part of the fun of them is trying to figure out the identity of the cartoonist.

EDIT: Pablo Medrano Bigas writes to tell me that Dick Spencer really did exist, or at least is most likely not a pseudonym for Jack Patton. He sent me some other advertising art also signed by this Spencer chap. Thanks for setting me straight Pablo!

Obscurity of the Day : Modish Mitzi

What do you get when you combine a fashion column with a comic strip? You get one really boring comic strip, that’s what. Modish Mitzi was the first of the genre that married the two forms. As you can see from the sample (which is believed to be the very first strip, appearing on 11/19/1923), there is a polite nod to the convention of telling a story, but the strip is actually just a vehicle for discussing dress fashions. The orchestrator was one Jay V. Jay, presumably feeling safe from critics hiding behind a nom de plume. It is a pseudonym, I presume…

Believe it or not, someone must have actually liked this idea, because, incredibly, Modish Mitzi ran for over 15 years. On top of that it even spawned imitators. A few other titles of this genre are The Stylefinder Family, noteworthy for expanding its horizons to fashions for the whole family, and The Connoisseur, singled out for discussing etiquette and high society in addition to the fashion basics. But easily the most bizarre of the lot is Comrade Kitty, which discussed proletariat fashions in the socialist newpaper The Daily Worker.

Obscurity of the Day : Make-A-Comic

Here’s a short-lived reader participation strip from 1925. Each strip first ran in the paper with empty balloons and readers were solicited to send in their captions, $5 to the winning entry. The strip would then run a second time with the winning captions added. As you can see from our sample, which is about par for the course, the competition was not particularly fierce. The strip’s creator obviously recognized that the entries weren’t too hot, so he added a text piece below each installment — it displayed more humor than anything that appeared above.

The creator of this strip is Ray Hoppmann, a journeyman cartoonist who bounced around most of the lesser syndicates. Although he has many and varied credits, there’s not one series in his resume that wouldn’t easily qualify for our obscurity of the day.

Interesting tidbit – this is the only strip ever distributed by Readers Syndicate (at least that I’ve found). They had a few panel cartoons, but, as their name implies, they specialized more in text material.

More from Mencken

Came upon another interesting passage from H. L. Mencken’s wonderful book Newspaper Days 1899-1906. Again, highly recommneded for any student of the newspaper game. Too bad Mencken hates cartoonists, though, as you’ll see anon:

“Save on a few metropolitan papers, the Sunday editor of today is not much concerned about his pages of colored comics, for they are supplied by syndicates, and most of them are printed by outside contractors, far from the office. But in 1901 there were no syndicates [not true – ed.] and every paper had to prepare and print its own. This work, untrained as I was, gave me endless torment, for I quickly found that comic artists were a temperamental and nefarious class of men, that engraving departments were never on time, that pressmen had an unearthly talent for printing colors out of register, so that a blue spot intended to represent an eye usually appeared clear outside the cheek, and that plates plainly marked red were often printed as yellow, and vice versa. The first page of the color sheet, in those days, was seldom given over to comics [he means the color magazine section here, some papers had the the comics as part of the color magazine rather than as a separate section-ed], which were still regarded as somewhat infra dig.; its more usual adornment was a large picture of a damsel in an hour-glass corset and trailing skirts, labeled “The Summer Girl,” “The Spirit of Thanksgiving,” or something of the sort. The artists who drew these sugar-teats were even worse characters than the concocters of comics, and needed more policing. If one of them delivered a drawing on schedule he was sure to be non est when the time came to block out the color plates, and if he did the color plates promptly it always turned out that he had done them wrong. There were weeks when I spent at least two-thirds of my working hours wrestling with these criminals. They were, taking one with another, very affable fellows, and they used to try to mollify me by presenting me with large colored drawings of beautiful gals without any clothes on, but my professional relations with them were usually strained, and it never gave me any pain when I heard that one of them had broken a leg or got soaked for heavy alimony by his wife. Toward the end of 1902, happily for my sanity, syndicated comics began to appear, and I need not say that I subscribed to them with cheers.

“The very names of the first ones are now forgotten — Simon Simple, Billy Bounce, the Teasers, the Spiegelburgers [these are all characters of the McClure Syndicate – ed.]. Finally came Fooxy Grandpa, and we were on our way. Even so, it was necessary to keep a comic artist or two on call, for now and then the business office sold a quarter-page ad on a comic page, and something had to be cooked up to go ’round it. I not only had to supervise the preparation of this home-made stuff, but also to supply the ideas for it. The only ideas that the comic artists of that age ever produced on their own were either too banal to be used, or too lascivious.”

Obscurity of the Day – Meet The Misses

Here’s a neat Sunday magazine section feature that has a lot of appeal. Meet The Misses ran from 1927-1929, a product of the struggling McClure Syndicate and the pen of Jack Wilhelm. Wilhelm went on to do the art on Frank Merriwell’s Schooldays and a few other strips. No one will accuse Wilhelm of being an exceptional cartoonist, and his pretty girls aren’t all one might expect of a feature devoted to them, but Wilhelm does have one thing going for him – he knows how to design a page for visual interest. This is the first page in the series.

Adventures of Willie Green

I just started indexing the Philadelphia Record of the 1900s, primarily for the start and end dates of their long-running feature The Adventures of Willie Green by Harris Brown. I’ve never seen the strip before, just knew it existed from the reprint books cited in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. Well, now that I’ve seen a few of these strips I have to comment that I’m really blown away by the art, and show you an example. What a lovely style! Reminds me a bit of Herge’s almost clinically clean linework.

Bonus on this example is that we get a look inside the Record’s building (pretty darn elegant, eh?), and we have a visit with the paper’s editorial cartoonist, John De Mar. Note that Harris still needs to learn about reversing camera angles, as panel 5 doesn’t read properly. On the other hand, what a masterful little touch in panel 2 of having the clerk’s word balloon peeking out from behind the partition.

1895 Cartoonist Product Endorsement

I could be way off here, but could this be the very first time a famous cartoonist appeared as a product endorser? And what a product to endorse — one of the patent medicines of the day! I’m not familiar with Paine’s Celery Tonic in particular, but you can bet that this tonic was mostly alcohol, as were most of them. Might even have been a cocaine product. You can read about this and other snake oil products here.

As you can read in the ad, Bernard Gillam was a part-owner and chief cartoonist for the weekly humor and political comment magazine Judge.