Obscurity of the Day: Coffee and Sinkers

You wouldn’t think that orphan children would exactly be a ripe subject for comedy, but there have been a number of comic strips that chronicle an orphan’s quest to find new parents (or just a home to get them off the street!). I don’t know if Coffee and Sinkers is the first of the genre, but I can’t think of an earlier one. One thing I’ll say for certain, though, is that hands down the funniest is Dwig’s Home Wanted By a Baby. I’ll cover that one of these days when I’m feeling very warm and indulgent toward y’all.

Coffee and Sinkers is a McClure Syndicate entry that ran from June 7 to July 26 1903. It was created by the great illustrator Robert Carter, who slummed in the Sunday funnies on a few occasions. Another of his series, Just Little Ones, uses something more akin to his straight illustration style.

Oh, by the way, if you’re not up on your semi-antiquated jargon, ‘coffee and sinkers’ is slang for cheap coffee and donuts. ‘Sinkers’ because if the donuts are overly dense or stale they’ll sink to the bottom of the coffee cup when you dunk ’em. Mostly a Britishism, but apparently popular on our side of the pond a hundred years ago.

This Just In … Mystery Solved!

You may recall that last week we ran some rare Sunday versions of Muggs McGinniss and High Pressure Pete, strips that were previously known only as dailies. We wondered why these 1931-copyrighted Sundays mysteriously appeared in the New York American of October 1 1933.

Well, we have an answer to the mystery courtesy of research by Jeffrey Lindenblatt. He hoofed it down to the New York Public Library to see if he could solve the mystery, and by gum, he nailed it!

First of all, he found that there are two additional High Pressure Pete Sundays that appeared in the October 8 and 15 sections (as alluded to by Grizedo in a response to the original post). Muggs McGinniss appeared only the one time.

He also found that the American increased the page count of it’s Sunday section from 14 pages on September 24 to 16 pages on October 1 and 8, and then to 20 pages on October 15. After that the page count was scaled back to 16. To fill the extra pages, they not only used those old Muggs McGinniss and High Pressure Pete strips, but also ran Buck Rogers and Joe Jinks starting on the 8th, and some regularly appearing strips that were usually run as halfs were run as full pages.

But that leaves the central mystery — why did the American suddenly increase its page count when they were obviously not well-prepared to fill that space? Lindenblatt has the answer to that, too. It was on October 1 that the New York Daily News, the American‘s main competitor, upped the page count on its Sunday section, adding the new features White Boy, On The Wing (soon renamed Smilin’ Jack), Sweeney and Son, Little Joe and the new series of Teenie Weenies. The American had to try to keep up.

Major kudos to Jeffrey Lindenblatt for solving this mystery!

Obscurity of the Day: Milt Gross’ Revolving Title Comic Strip

Here’s a challenge for you wordsmiths out there. For years I’ve been trying to come up with a term to describe a daily panel cartoon or comic strip that uses multiple recurring titles. You know the type I mean — the Clare Briggs, H.T. Webster and Gluyas Williams features are the most famous examples of the genre. For instance, Briggs had in his arsenal When a Feller Needs a Friend, Real Folks at Home, It Happens in the Best Regulated Families, Ain’t it a Grand and Glorious Felling and so on. None of these titles was a feature unto itself, they were each just used regularly on his otherwise untitled daily feature. Some purveyors of  this type of feature would add and drop titles over the years, others stuck pretty much to the same ones, and others (T.E. Powers comes to mind) were like a shotgun, adding and dropping recurring titles constantly.

I’ve called these ‘revolving title’ or ‘multiple title’ features, but those are certainly not terms that come trippingly off the tongue. I often wonder what term the creators themselves used, but in all my reading about the form I’ve never come across a pithy term for the genre. So does anyone know the proper term for these, or failing that, have a suggestion for a term that properly describes them and is elegant and succinct?

Anyhow, while you’re grinding your mental gears on that, take a look at this multiple revolving title (ugh!) comic strip series by Milt Gross. Gross’ short-running series boasted a mere three recurring titles — The Meanest Man, I Did It and I’m Glad, and Draw Your Own Conclusion. Considering it ran for just six months I guess Gross didn’t need to invest in more.

When Milt Gross left Pulitzer’s Press Publishing for Hearst’s King Features around September 1930, he was faced with creating new strips to replace his then-current series; this daily-only strip was the successor to Looy Dot Dope. The new strip probably began on October 6 1930, though the Wisconsin News, one of the few papers to run it, ran it ROP, so that date could be a week or two off. The strip ended on March 28 1931, replaced by Milt’s new daily (and soon to be Sunday) series, Dave’s Delicatessen.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!

Obscurity of the Day: Mr. Dwindle

Herb “Hype” Igoe was primarily known as a sports writer, but he was also an excellent cartoonist. But rather than flap my gums about him, I refer you to Yesterday’s Papers, which offers two biographical posts on the guy; part one and part two.

Igoe concentrated primarily on his writing, but seldom let his drawing nibs migrate to the back reaches of his desk drawer. He contributed both serious and funny sports cartoons to the Hearst papers, and did quite a few spot illustrations, too. What he rarely did was draw a series of comic strips — in fact he only did so once in his career that I know of (actually he has two series to his credit in the Guide listings, but the other was a panel cartoon).

Here is Mr. Dwindle, that one series. It ran in the New York American from December 16 1909 to January 10 1910. It ran as a replacement for the vacationing Bud Fisher’s Mutt and Jeff.

Herriman Saturday

Friday, January 3 1908 — You might find it hard to believe, but Hollywood was once a town of teetotalers. Or rather, it was supposed to be. They had some of the toughest anti-drinking laws around, but Philo Beveridge, the second husband of the founder of the town, flouted the laws with his parties at the Hollywood Hotel (in the story called Hotel Hollywood). Here’s a capsule history of the prohibition laws in old time Hollywood.

News of Yore 1913: Editorial Cartoonist Charles Nelan Profiled

 Back in the Past
by Henry C. Williamson
(Cartoons magazine, June 1913)

From grocery clerk to one of the most influential cartoonists in America is the condensed story of the life of Charles Nelan.

Born in Akron, Ohio, Charles Nelan went through the usual course of schooling and then, able to read and write, went to work for a grocer at a small but sure salary. It is said that he spent most of the salary and much of the grocer’s time in making sketches of the customers who patronized the store. And it was this early work with the pencil that gave birth to his ambition to become an artist.

Confident that he could draw, the young man saved enough money to take him to New York, and as soon as he set foot in that city he asked the first person he met to direct him to the National Academy of Design. There he was enrolled as a student. He proved such an apt pupil that at the end of the first year he was awarded the Elliot medal.

The end of his first year in New York found him without money and he was forced to return to his parents’ home in Akron. His father objected to his continuing his art studies and insisted that the young man return to the grocery wagon. For the following six years young Nelan worked as a grocer’s assistant, but all of this time he was saving his money and was making a close study of human nature. In after years he said that the many odd characters he had met while a grocer’s clerk aided him in his work as a cartoonist.

After his six long years in the grocery Nelan was able to return to the art field and he went to Cleveland, where he obtained a position on the Cleveland Press. This was in 1888.

While in Cleveland he was offered the opportunity to draw cartoons for the Scripps-McRae chain of newspapers and in this way he won fame in the middle west.

In 1897 Nelan was called to New York to take the place of Charles G. Bush, who was leaving the Herald to go to the World. It was on the Herald that Nelan began to make his big hits.

He was a new man on the Herald when the war with Spain broke out and the many stirring days that preceded the declaration of war gave him his opportunity. A book of his Spanish war cartoons was published and enjoyed a large sale.

Following this the Philadelphia North American offered him a splendid inducement to go to the city of brotherly love and he accepted the offer. This was in the fall of 1900.

Factional politics in the state of Pennsylvania was boiling over at the time and Nelan flung himself into the turmoil with great energy. From that time on until the spring of 1904 there was not an issue of the North American without a cartoon by Nelan.

Nelan was especially fond of drawing the character Uncle Sam. He had studied this character until he regarded one of his drawings of Uncle Sam as one of his best pieces. The same might be said of the attention he devoted to the characters John Bull and the G.O.P. elephant.

Nelan’s associates in the North American office remember him as a kind, gentle, big hearted man with none of the disagreeable eccentricities so often found attached to a genius. He was charitable in his judgment and upright in his personal relations, called no man his enemy and tried always to help others.

He died, after a short illness, at Clay Springs, Ga., December 7 1904.

Muggs McGinniss and High Pressure Pete Sundays!?!?!

If you know your strip history, you know that the features Muggs McGinniss and High Pressure Pete were dailies only — they were never Sunday strips. Well, Cole Johnson says different and he has proof. Here, from the Puck section in the New York American of October 1 1933 are Sunday versions of both.

Before you start writing marginalia in all your reference books, though, it should be mentioned that the pair of strips you see here appear to be the only Sundays of these strips ever to see the light of day.

If you look closely, you’ll see at the bottom of each that they are copyright 1931 and include a scrawled-in “No. 1”.  The most likely explanation is that back in 1931 the Central Press cartoonists Wally Bishop and George Swanson were asked to come up with Sunday versions of their respective strips and these were the results. Languishing in the files for two years, for some reason they ended up, out of the blue, printed in this 1933 Puck section. It is unknown if they were printed in all Puck sections that week, or only in New York..

EDIT: Mystery Solved — See this post.

Obscurity of the Day: Hungry Tommy

Back to Hans Horina today. We just introduced him on the blog the other day in connection with Absent Minded Aunt, and I figured since Hungry Tommy often co-starred in the same strips with the muddy-minded matron we should give them both some blog-time. So here are some examples of Hungry Tommy by Hans Horina, which ran in the Chicago Tribune from May 6 1906 to September 15 1907, same running dates as Absent Minded Aunt.

Thanks once again to Cole Johnson for the scans!

If you like Horina’s stuff go take a look at the portfolio of his Tribune work on display at Barnacle Press.

Biography of R.J. Scott by Alex Jay

Roland Jack Scott was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on September 1, 1886. He was the son of John and Mary E. Scott. In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census the family lived at 309 Bright Street, in Indianapolis. They were joined by Mary’s sister, Anna Bussey, and her mother, Beulah A. Bussey.
Scott’s early cartooning career was covered on page 142 of the book, Indiana’s Laughmakers: The Story of Over 400 Hoosiers: Actors, Cartoonists, Writers, and Others (PennUltimate Press, 1990).
Roland J. Scott’s humorous art appeared frequently in The Indianapolis Sentinel in the early 1900’s. Not only did he draw front-page political cartoons, but he also frequently tried his hand at humorous sketches of the various sporting events of that day in the Hoosier capital On Sundays, the Sentinel featured his comic strip, Mr. Lose Out.

He studied with George Frink, staff artist of The Chicago Daily News. Early in his career he was employed by the Indiana Illustrating Company for a year. Following that, he worked briefly for The Anderson Herald and the Chicago Daily News before coming to the Sentinel.
Two sources were identified: “Newspaper Artists and Their Work the Public Seldom Sees,” Sunday Journal, Indianapolis, Dec. 13, 1903, part 3, p. 1; and the Indianapolis Sentinel, Jan. & Feb. 1908 (cartoons).
According to Scott’s World War I draft card (signed on June 5, 1917), he was a cartoonist at the Cleveland Leader. He was described as “tall and stout” with “blue eyes and brown hair”.
In 1920 Scott, his wife, Minnie, and son, Laird, lived on Hawtree Avenue in Howard Beach, Queens, New York City. (Hawtree Avenue was renamed 99th Street.) Scott’s occupation was listed as artist at a film company.
1926 was a particularly productive time for Scott. His panel, Sally’s Sallies, began in mid-April in the Seattle Daily Times. In the same paper, his illustrations for the column, Just Among Us Girls, appeared as space allowed. The earliest one appeared on May 4 (signed RJS), and then somewhat regularly beginning in mid-October.
In 1930, the Scotts lived at 4031 West 163 Street in Cleveland. He was listed as an artist for a newspaper. According to the census, Scott married when he was 28 years old (1914).
Syracuse University (library.syr.edu/digital/guides/s/scott_r.htm) has Scott’s obituary from the Arizona Republic, April 6, 1968.
Roland Jack Scott (1886-1968), professionally known as R. J. Scott, was an American cartoonist and creator of the comic strips Scott’s Scrap Book and Sally’s Sallies.
Originally from Indianapolis, Scott began his cartooning career with the Indianapolis Star circa 1900. In 1921 he made his way west to Phoenix where he worked as a cartoonist for The Arizona Republican (later renamed The Arizona Republic). After stints with papers in New York and Cleveland, Scott eventually signed with King Features Syndicate in 1931. He returned to Arizona the following year where he remained producing his syndicated panels until his retirement in July of 1967. R. J. Scott died April 4, 1968 at the age of 81.

Allan’s two cents: First of all, a big thanks to Alex Jay for researching and penning this bio of R. J. Scott.  A few notes from me:
  •  Sally’s Sallies actually started a bit earlier, on March 1 1926. 
  •  I did not know that Just Among Us Girls started as an illustrated column — it outlasted Ms. Kenney’s text contribution and became a regular panel cartoon under the helm of Paul Robinson.
  •  Has anyone seen this Mr. Lose Out feature in the Indianapolis Sentinel?