Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Bob Dean

Robert Jerome Dean was born on August 28, 1875; his full name and birth date were recorded on his World War I draft card. Two family trees at Ancestry.com place his birth at Buffalo, New York. The New York Times obituary said he was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Ad from Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 10/16/1908
In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Dean was the oldest of three sons born to Charles and Martha. They lived in Titusville, Pennsylvania at 199 Walnut. Nothing is known of how he became an artist and writer. A curious bit of information appeared in the Trenton Evening Times, on July 19, 1932; O.O. McIntyre wrote in his column, New York, Day by Day, “Thingumbobs:…Bob Dean, magazine illustrator, was once a circus contortionist.”
In the 1900 census Dean was married to Laura, who was five years his senior, and they lived with her mother, Anna Cook, the head of the household. The trio resided in Blasdell, New York, which was near Buffalo. Dean’s occupation was insurance agent; his parents and siblings were in the same town. According to the New York Times obituary, Dean was a cartoonist for the Buffalo Times and the Atlanta News. In 1908 he joined Uncle Remus’s—The Home Magazine. 
The move to Atlanta did not suit his wife. The New York Sun published the following article on August 4, 1909:
She Won’t Live in Atlanta
Artist Dean Asks Divorce Because Wife Harks Back to New York.
Atlanta, Aug. 3—Charging that his wife scorns Atlanta and Atlanta people and for that reason refuses to live with him here, Robert Jerome Dean, the artist of Uncle Remus Magazine, has filed suit for divorce on the ground of desertion. 
Dean came to Atlanta from New York in 1905 and his wife followed in a few months. Dean alleges that from the first Mrs. Dean disliked Atlanta, and said she could not live here. Mrs. Dean soon returned to the home of her parents at Blaisdell [sic], N.Y.
She came to Atlanta, however, a second time, but finally declared life was impossible with Atlanta people and then returned to Blaisdell for good. Dean says the only provocation for Mrs. Dean leaving him was that she could not endure the Atlanta spirit.
Detail from ad in Atlanta Constitution, 11/1/1908
The first appearance of Dean’s Zotwots may have been in the October 1908 issue of Uncle Remus’s—The Home Magazine, which advertised the new feature in newspapers; the ad included some of Dean’s verse and an illustration. The magazine, which was based in Atlanta, ran one-third page ads in the Atlanta Constitution newspaper; the ad detailed the contents of the current issue.
In the 1910 census Dean was single; he was one of seven lodgers at 50 Cone Street in Atlanta. His occupation was writer and illustrator at a newspaper. Only this census recorded his and his parents’ birthplace as Tennessee. 
His second wife, Sallie Conwell, was born, raised and educated in Georgia according to the Elberton Star obituary published in November 1969. She went into newspaper work, met Dean and married him.
The February 1913 issue of Uncle Remus’s—The Home Magazine was its last. With the loss of a steady income, Dean looked north and found a new home for the Zotwots. On April 12, 1914 the New York Herald published Zotwots in its Sunday comics section. Zotwots final appearance was on November 1, 1914. Presumably the Deans had moved to New York that year or earlier. By the time Dean registered for the draft, he had been working as an illustrator at the Morning Telegraph newspaper.
Zotwots New York Herald page, 10/11/1914
In the 1920 census the couple lived at 352 West 46th Street in Manhattan. Dean gave his occupation as writer for magazines; artist had been included but crossed out. The Elberton Star obituary reported that, “In 1926 she and Mr. Dean retired to a farm in southern Dutchess [County, New York] where they lived until 1946 when they moved to Hughsonville [New York].”
In the 1930 census, the Deans lived in Wappinger, New York on Hopewell Junction Road. His occupation was artist. The New York Times reported his passing on January 28, 1949:
Robert Dean, 72, Once Cartoonist
Former Artist Here for Herald and Journal Is Dead—Also Worked for Magazines
Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Jan. 27—Robert J. Dean, retired newspaper cartoonist, died yesterday of a heart attack at his home in Wappinger Falls. He was 72 [sic] years old.
Born in Chattanooga, Tenn., Mr. Dean was a cartoonist for The Buffalo Times and later for The Atlanta News. He joined the Uncle Remus Magazine when Joel Chandler Harris was its editor. Later, in New York he was employed by Collier’s Magazine, The New York Journal and The Sunday Herald.
On The Herald he had a weekly page featuring “Zotmot” [sic] Elves, with drawings and verse for children. Later he became associated with the New York Telegraph, eventually becoming its assistant publisher. He left The Post in 1926 to make his home in Dutchess County.
Surviving are his widow, the former Sally [sic] Conwell; a sister, Mrs. Norman Blackwell of Torrence, Calif., and a brother, Jesse H. Dean of Torrence.
According to the Elberton Star, Sallie passed away on November 4, 1969 in a Princeton, New Jersey hospital.
[Alex Jay gathered this biographical material for the upcoming book Forgotten Fantasy: Sunday Comics 1900-1915 to be published by Sunday Press Books.  As with all their books, I can confidently place it in the Highly Recommended list before even seeing it. Thanks to editor Peter Maresca for the Zotwots newspaper page image reproduced above.]

Herriman Saturday

Good news — scanner is back online, weekend posts resume…

Sunday, January 12 1908 — Herriman serves up a rather involved boxing cartoon to the sports page. Lessee … Joe Gans recently fought and beat George Memsic in L.A., and then Memsic beat Rudy Unholz, and Battling Nelson was about to fight Jack Clifford, and … um … oh heck I give up. Like I said, it’s involved. Basically the idea is that Gans is playing puppeteer to the lightweight division in order to choose himself a lucrative bout for the spring.

Herriman’s other cartoon appeared as a small vignette in the full page editorial on the cover of the magazine section. The editorial is some ridiculous rambling silliness about Father Time waking up all the slumbering young men in the new year to, I dunno, go out and do great deeds I guess.

Obscurity of the Day: The Adventures of Willie and Bill

The Chicago Tribune‘s Sunday comic section of the 1910s was a pretty high-class affair. Between Frank King, Penny Ross and Sidney Smith they had some of the brighter lights of the cartooning world gathered together in their pages. One glaring exception was a fellow named Brandt, who had the good sense not to divulge his first name. His artwork was horrendously bad, sticking out like a sore thumb in the Trib’s Sunday section. His only contribution (thank goodness) to the section was The Adventures of Willie and Bill. The premise of the strip is that Bill, the poor kid, and Willie, the rich kid, are fellow prankmeisters. Bill is a little more reticent about pulling dangerous stunts than Willie, who is completely out of control. The gag, such as it is, is that Bill usually suffers all the consequences for their escapades.

Miraculously, this awful strip lasted over a year in the Tribune, from December 24 1911 to January 26 1913. I’m left wondering if Brandt was a relative of McCormick or Patterson — I can think of no other explanation for its longevity. Oh, one noteworthy item — in the third sample above you’ll find a guest appearance by Penny Ross’ Mamma’s Angel Child.

Thanks to Cole Johnson who provided the scans. He’s lucky the scanner didn’t break when it saw these!

And that brings to an end Willie Week on the Stripper’s Guide blog. The point is that cartoonists in the 1890s-1910s had a fascination for that name. Practically every second kid in the comics of those days was named Willie. I don’t exaggerate that I could easily make this Willie Month if I put my mind to it. The habitual use of the name actually causes problems for we indexers. When looking through early material, say before 1905, when series strips were much less ubiquitous, you might have the same artist draw comics featuring a kid named Willie over and over. The question then becomes, “Is it a series?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to put the ol’ microfilm reel in reverse gear because of “Willie problems”. Is it the same kid or is the cartoonist just enamored with the name? Same problem, to a lesser extent with blacks named Sambo and Rastus. All those names were used as shorthand to indicate types, a prized commodity in an art form where brevity truly is the soul of wit.

Obscurity of the Day: What Willie Got

I almost hate to post this one, a sample of What Willie Got by Ferd G. Long. Long is one of my very favorite cartoonists of the era, a brush-wielding dynamo whose sense of humor didn’t have an ‘Off’ button. He produced literally dozens of different series for the New York Evening World over a span of almost twenty years. I was surprised to find that I apparently haven’t yet done a post of any of his series on the blog.

This particular strip of What Willie Got should by no means be taken as representative of Long’s work. The gag falls flat because of a bumbling set-up. I can only guess that Ferd was out late the night before he produced this one. But beggars can’t be choosers, and this sample from Cole Johnson’s archives is likely the only one I’ll ever have from newsprint. The series ran from October 11 to December 16 1909, appearing precisely eighteen times in amongst all the other series he had running.

Obscurity of the Day: Willie Cute

Joseph A. Lemon, one of the anchormen of the McClure Syndicate Sunday sections, was not the most exciting cartoonist by any means. His fussily drawn entries were formulaic and unoriginal. The one strip where he almost breaks out of his box is Willie Cute. While the inspiration is obviously Buster Brown and the Katzies, Lemon’s Willie Cute somehow manages to up the ante. While not a particularly funny strip by any means, this little imp may take the cup for being the rottenest little bastard I’ve ever seen acting it up on the funny pages. Lemon had a moment of (evil) genius when he drew Willie Cute as the ultimate little fey angel, which makes his horrific pranks seem so much worse than when they’re pulled off by little toads like the Katzies. And unlike Buster Brown, drawn on the same general model, Willie never suffers any pangs of guilt at the end of his sprees. No, his only concern is figuring out bigger and meaner stunts.

It’s really no wonder that there was a movement afoot in the 1900s to ban Sunday newspaper comics when we see productions like Willie Cute. Between it, Buster Brown, the Katzies and their scores of imitators, what parent wouldn’t wonder if Junior wasn’t getting inspired by his little Sunday paper friends?

Willie Cute ran in the C.J. Hirt copyrighted version of the McClure Sunday section from April 5 1903 to June 17 1906. The strips were re-used in the section as late as 1912.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!

Obscurity of the Day: Little Willie

In 1908 W.G. “Jack” Farr made his syndicated comic-stripping debut with a short fill-in stint in the World Color Printing Sunday comics section. However, the first strip in the substantial list of his own creations was Little Willie, which had a pretty long run in Hearst’s New York American from February 26 1909 to April 17 1910. Farr showed no particular genius at first in this very conventional strip about a kid who has a bit of an attention span problem. The concept had been done before, many times, and what the American editor saw in it I can’t fathom. But Farr did improve, and though he was never considered a cartoonist of the first rank, he knew how to crank out the funnies, practically taking over the New York Telegram in the mid-teens and chasing off all that interesting content I spoke of last week in the post for Pazaza, It’s Great.

Obscurity of the Day: Adventures of Willie White, Bennie Brown and Bobby Black

In this very early entry by William F. Marriner in the Philadelphia Inquirer we have a trio of unlikely turn of the century pals — a rich white kid, a poor white kid, and a black kid. The series ran from May 20 to September 30 1900. When appearing in strip form they engaged in the standard bits of urban street kid high jinks, but from May 27 to July 22 they were also featured in a hidden-picture puzzle contest. The contest was just to find the objects hidden in the Marriner-drawn cartoon, but it was framed around an adventure story titled Captain Kidd — Hys Cheste, which featured a continuing tale told in verse by Roy McArdell.

Although I’ve assigned the title Adventures of Willie White, Bennie Brown and Bobby Black to the series, that exact title never appeared. The headline-style titles would typically mention some combination of the kids’ names but rarely all three in the same week.

PS — can you find the six hidden objects in the cartoon? I think I did, but I’m not too sure about a couple of them.

Ink-Slinger Profiles: Ole May

(from Cartoons Magazine, April 1913)

When one of art’s disciples and devotees is powered with wide intelligence, broad sympathies, quick perceptions, humor and common sense, loyalty and honor, only two things are lacking to insure success – capacity for hard work and a fair chance, meaning chiefly enough health and strength to make persevering industry possible. Everything else follows.

Ole May, cartoonist of the Cleveland Leader, is one of the living witnesses to the truth of this bit of moralizing. His record is the proof. And every day his work is making that record stronger as well as longer. He grows with his pictorial chronicle of the times. He “arrived” long ago, but he did not stop when he gained success.
This versatile, many-sided newspaper worker is only thirty-nine years old, having been born in Pleasanton, Ia., June 24, 1873, but he has drawn pictures and written “copy” of many kinds in Los Angeles, Houston, Washington, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. As if that were not variety enough, he played four years in the Marine Band, at Washington; spent three years in Armour & Co.’s law department, at Chicago; was a court reporter two years in Colorado Springs and Denver; worked two years for a big coal company in Ohio, and served the Pullman Company in Chicago and St. Louis.

It will be seen that Ole May began early and kept steadily at it after he started. It is hardly necessary to add that his various mercantile, court, law office and industrial “jobs” came before he found his true sphere as a cartoonist. After he began to earn his living
as a newspaper artist he never wandered farther from that field than making pen drawings for a photolithographic concern in St. Louis and drawing pictures for an advertising agency in Chicago. The musical interlude in the Marine Band could hardly be counted a break with the newspapers, for during that period Ole did much art work for the Washington Post. It put him in line for his later positions on the Pittsburgh Gazette-Times and, finally, on the Cleveland Leader. So this gifted artist and humorist has touched life at many angles. He has watched the great human comedy in cities great and small, East, West, North and South. He is a votary of music and devotee of art, a trained writer as well as picture-maker. The breadth of his interests, like the range of his experiences, enriches his work in his favorite field.

Such a man, full of temperament, quick to smile, instant in sympathy, keen in both mental and visual impressions, and vivid in speech, a lover of his fellow men, makes cartoons which come to the readers of the Leader like the morning sunshine. They have weight and “punch” in plenty, but they are pleasant to see, unless some terrible lesson has to be driven home. They appeal to humor, imagination, intelligence and common sense, and they get the answer they seek.

And all the while Ole May is growing and advancing, to the delight of a host of friends. He merits the success he has won and he is sure to go on earning the good things which come his way.—Benjamin Karr.

Obscurity of the Day: Rich and Famous

Stu Hample, in amongst his varied activities as an entertainer, had a long-running panel cartoon titled Children’s Letters to God. In 1976 either Stu ran out of entertaining missives to the Creator, or the last newspapers that ran it finally ODed on the intense sugary sweetness of the feature. Left without a gig, Stu must have prayed just a little too hard for a new entree into newspapers, because he ended up with two of ’em. One was Inside Woody Allen, the other was this feature, Rich and Famous.

Hample was engaged by two competing syndicates, so on King Features’ Inside Woody Allen he chose to work under a pseudonym at first, using his real identity on this feature for Field Enterprises.

Rich and Famous had a good gimmick with its tale of would-be entertainment mogul Bruce Rich. The endless parade of offbeat acts he represents gives the strip plenty of room for comedy. The problem, I think, is that Bruce is such a lazy good for nothing, and borderline cruel to his doting wife Daphne, that he’s a complete turn-off. He really has no redeeming features, and he’s not even an amusing ne’er do well. He’s just off-putting.

Hample undoubtedly would have preferred to make a success of this feature, being lock, stock and barrel his own, rather than the other feature where he was in the comedic and financial shadow of Woody Allen. But it didn’t take long to figure out in which basket his eggs would do best. Rich and Famous started on November 1 1976, and seems to have pooped out less than five months later, on March 12 1977.