Wednesday, March 11 1908 — The Great White Fleet continues to be wooed by Los Angeles. Right now the fleet is down in Coronado Bay near San Diego, doing gunnery exercises, and won’t be leaving there for a month. But L.A. just wants to make sure they don’t forget to visit.
Joe Bowers was the pseudonym of Hugh Joseph Deeney, who was born on April 18, 1894 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, according to his World War I draft card. In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, he was the oldest of three sons born to John and Sarah, both Irish emigrants. They lived in Philadelphia at 3813 Olive Street. His father was a railroad conductor.
Deeney served in the military during World War II, although a draft card has not been found. He was stationed at Camp Blanding, Florida, a National Guard reservation. The Best of Yank, the Army Weekly, 1942-1945 (1980) published his letter:
I am enclosing a picture of me before I got my “rating.” Here you see me as latrine orderly with my helpmate. That building in the background is “it.” Inside, you know, is where all the rumors generate. Well, I must stop now because they are yelling for me. One hillbilly sergeant is shouting, “Deen—ah! Deen—ah! Private Fuss Class Deen—ah! Come yeah out of that thar hut ‘fo ah beats yo’ end off!”
-Pfc. Hugh Deeney
Camp Blanding, Florida
The book, The CCC Chronicles: Camp Newspapers of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942 (2004), mentioned the comic strips in the CCC newspaper Happy Days:
Comics Artist Killed on Camp Rifle Range
Philadelphia, May 12 (AP). Hugh J. Deeney, 41, Philadelphia artist, who drew the comic strip “Dizzy Dramas” under the name Joe Bowers, was killed accidentally yesterday on the rifle range of Camp Blanding, Fla., the War Department notified his family.
Deeney was actually 49 at the time of his death.
By the scope rules of Stripper’s Guide, the series above does not quite qualify for inclusion in my index. However, by the scope rules of art appreciation, I must share these incredible illustrations with you.
Dan Smith, noted illustrator of 1890s-1920s, drew this series called Fairyland for the covers of Hearst’s American Weekly Sunday newspaper supplement in 1926. Although I do include many such series in the Stripper’s Guide listings, I generally limit them to ones that tell a story, typically through a series of drawn vignettes with captions. Fairyland is obviously a series with a common theme, but lacks the storytelling aspect of the series I do include in Stripper’s Guide. Dan Smith’s covers are meant to be appreciated primarily for the beauty of the drawing, not really for a story or gag.
And what beauties they are! These incredible images come from the collection of Cole Johnson, who actually has the original proof sheets to the covers — I am so jealous! The printed covers would have nowhere near the luminosity or sensitive coloring of these proof sheets, which are absolutely breathtaking. Thanks Cole!
Rolfe Memison, aka Rolfe Mason was born Rolfe Julius Memisohn in Berlin, Germany on November 5, 1905. His birthplace was on a 1923 passenger list at Ancestry.com, and his birth date is from the Social Security Death Index and the books, Die Ausbürgerung deutscher Staatsangehöriger 1933-45 nach den im Reichsanzeiger veröffentlichten Listen, Volume 1 (The Expulsion of German Citizens in the Kingdom After the 1933-45 Gazette Published Lists), and Deutschland, Index von Juden, deren deutsche Staatsbürgerschaft vom Nazi-Regime annulliert wurde, 1935-1944 (Germany, Index of Jews Whose German Nationality was Annulled by Nazi Regime, 1935-1944), which recorded his name as “Rolf Julius Israel Memisohn”.
Rolfe, a merchant, sailed with his maternal uncle, Paul Saloschin, and his family, from Hamburg, Germany on October 3, 1923; they arrived in New York on October 14. His uncle lived at 57 East 96th Street in Manhattan. (In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Saloschin was a detective.) America was to be Rolfe’s permanent home.
He has not been found in the 1930 census. At Ancestry.com, a London phone book has a listing for a “Rolf J. Memison”. It’s not known how long he was in London or if he became a British citizen. ListeBerlinL said his mother, “Memisohn, Luise genannt Lucy” emigrated to England in 1937. A profile in Editor and Publisher, October 21, 1939, said:
…Born in England in 1906, Rolfe came to America for the first time in 1923, and it was here that he received his first artistic encouragement. He copied a Rembrandt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, taking two days from his job of packing radio receivers, and the reproduction sold for $5. It determined him on an art career.
Three years later he went to Paris to study art and then came several years of traveling and painting through France, Italy, Denmark and Norway. Then to Spain for five years and back to England when Spain revolted. He continues:
“Last summer I returned to the U. S. to make this my permanent home, and settled in a studio on top of a midget Gotham skyscraper (six floors). It contains a drawing table, easels, Spanish pictures, bullfight posters, two guitars, a black cat and a blond girl with blue eyes named Barbara.
“She’s an Indiana girl, reared in Florida. We were married last year, and she has become a whiz at cooking ‘Paella Valenciana’ and bouillabaisse, and posing in a Spanish shawl.”
Rolfe hid his German roots from the public. His strip, Brenda Breeze, debuted in 1939. At some point he moved to California, where he became a naturalized citizen on August 13, 1943. His name was recorded as “Rolf Julius Memison”, and he resided at 3331 Blair Drive, Los Angeles. When his younger brother, Fritz Theodor Memisohn, was naturalized on August 11, 1944, he changed his name to Frederick Theodore Mason. His mother, as Lucy Memison, was naturalized on March 9, 1945 in Los Angeles. She passed away January 26, 1954. At some point Rolfe adopted the Mason name.
In the 1960s he produced the panel Shopping Around. Rolfe J. Mason passed away July 23, 1985 in San Luis Obispo, California, according to the California Death Index at Ancestry.com.
We still don’t know whether the creator of Brenda Breeze is more properly referred to as Rolfe Mason or Rolfe Memison: for discussion of that question, see these posts (or check back tomorrow, when Alex Jay will present the results of his sleuthing). Whichever last name Rolfe prefers to go by, we now have two features by the guy. In addition to Brenda Breeze, Cole Johnson has sent me some samples of this feature, Shopping Around.
Mason/Memison was evidently casting about for work in the waning days of his long-running Sunday Brenda Breeze feature, and NEA threw him a bone (a very small, dry one) in the form of a weekly panel for their Pony Service. Rolfe came up with a theme with plenty of possibilities; that great American addiction, consumption.
It wouldn’t have made much difference what the panel was about though, because the NEA Pony Service (a bargain service that catered to small weekly papers) offered many good, bad and indifferent strips and panels over the years, and very few subscribing papers used them, for reasons I don’t really understand. Shopping Around is yet another one that fell into that black hole. It was advertised in E&P from 1961 to 1963.
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!
Edmund Marion “Edd” Ashe Jr. was born in Connecticut on August 11, 1908, according to the Connecticut Death Index at Ancestry.com. In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, he was the only child of Edmund and Estelle. His father was an artist. They lived in Manhattan, New York City at 320 West 111 Street. His parents maintained a home in Norwalk, Connecticut, on Wolf Pit Avenue, according to city directories dated 1908, 1910, 1923 and into the 1940s.
Ashe was among the graduates mentioned in the the New York Times, June 10, 1931, article “Carnegie Institute Graduates 750”. He was one of three students awarded the Jansen Prize. The New York Evening Post, November 5, 1932, reported “Mrs. Louise G. Ashe sues for divorce from Edmund M. Ashe Jr., New York illustrator…” Beginning in 1939 he found work in the comic book industry. His credits are at the Grand Comics Database.
The bride attended Ogontz Camp School and the Erskine School, Boston. Mr. Ashe, an illustrator, was graduated from Franklin-Marshall Academy and Carnegie Institute of Technology.
The couple will reside in Westport, Conn.
The couple was listed in the Norwalk Directory 1946 at Wolf Pit Avenue. He continued working for comic book publishers.
In the 1950s, he drew the comic strips Mark Hunt and Guy Fortune. Ashe played a minor part in the formation of the Society of Comic Book Illustrators, according to Of Comics and Men: A Cultural History of American Comic Books (2010).
The date of his move to New Milford, Connecticut is not known. He had a listing in the New Milford Directory 1960. In the 1983 directory he lived at 105 Buckingham Road. Ashe passed away September 4, 1986, in New Haven, Connecticut, according to the Connecticut Death Index. Additional art credits are at Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999. Two of his murals are here.
Tuesday, March 10 1908 — Herriman devotes a huge page-wide cartoon and a text story to the Hen Berry hat mystery that has been played out in the corners of his sports cartoons for a few weeks now (or months in blog time). Unfortunately your sheepish Stripper’s Guide host, who photocopied the LA Examiner microfilm at warp speed, failed to note that the denouement of this narrative was carried out in a text story, so I only had the portion that happened to peak out of the corner of the photocopy. But you, lucky ones, are saved from missing out by Michael Tisserand, who rode to the rescue with a full image of the story. Thank you Michael!! So here is a rare example of Herriman invading the prose portion of the newspaper page:
Wonderful Tile All That is Left of Loyal Friend
“Forty years ago when Hen Berry, then a handsome youth of twenty, and full of that spirit which has since made him a great man, and deprived him of the goodly growth of hair, which was once his make-up, conceived the idea to elevate the social tone of the unpolished West.
“Hen ranked ace high as a maker of hats, and Bradstreets rated him A1, as Bellefontaine’s most prosperous and conservative merchant; his two-story Beavers were in use and in great demand by all the well-known bumboat pilots, and no man who claimed the slightest social prestige among the Ohio River Bottom aristocracy was without some specimen of Hen’s Au Fait dome garments.
“Bellefontaine society was considered depraved indeed when after a function it could not doff its tile and make merry with the bones or use its profound depths in the enthralling game of four, five, six. To this day Hen’s handy work may be recognized in and about Bellefontaine, gracing the conservatories of its most exclusive homes, harboring lace-like ferns or sprigs of scarlet geraniums.”
At this juncture Gooseberry Sprig paused and glancing, blase-eyed, around, spotted the waiter lounging within whispering distance, asked Gustave Widgeon what his favorite mixture was and ordered two of the same.
“One day,” he continued, “that thriving metropolis woke up to find its leading commercial light a departed actuality. After a long, mournful period it was in part relieved to hear that that, true to his ideals, he had established himself in the woolliest regions of the untamed West, to dispense social elevation in the form of tall beaver hats.”
Here the waiter handed out the refreshments, causing Gooseberry Sprig to make a bald-faced attempt to fumble in his pockets very nervous like, but Gustave beat him to it and paid the waiter.
“Strange, old chap, ” he murmured, “but I do believe I left my purse on my escritoire, y’know,” and doing a nifty bit of legerdemain work juggled half the drink into his system, picked his teeth and resumed his tale.
“Poor Hen, he started out like a jay bird after a June bug, and opened up his hattery with great and effusive demonstrations never equaled in the history of Weeping Wolf.
“The merriment waned after a couple of weeks, then Hen settled back to await the tide of high hat customers, and see his ideal dream, the social elevation of Weeping Wolf in actual progress.
“Husky miners would linger around Hen’s elaborate high hat display, then back off across the street, and do a little gun practice, by boring their initials in whatever hat that took their fancy, during which time Hen was behind the steel safe watching the chunks of lead, forty-five size, flattened up against the back wall.
“Hen was more than justifiably peeved when he was one day waited upon by a delegation of the Weeping Wolf Chowder Club, requesting the loan, mind you, the loan, of a few of his choicest dips, as tin cans were not then in use in Weeping Wolf, and the boys had to have something to do a little growler work with at the Chowder.
“Well, the boys got the hats, twelve of them, doing service to the tune of three hundred and ten growlers, before their bottoms dropped out.
“The honest miners returned the remains, and made Hen a member of the Weeping Wolf Chowder Club without dues.
“What with having uncouth miners steadfastly refusing to be socially elevated, and doing other little innocent tricks with his hattery, such as playing shinny with the best in the house, putting bricks under ten dollar beavers to have husky fall guys swat them with number nine hob-nailed boots, and using them to burn Greek fire in celebrative moments when somebody made a strike, ‘Hen’ grew pettish, and peevish, as Weeping Wolf grew redundant with joy, until one fatal day ‘Hen’ announced that the hattery and his lone stand for the social elevation of Weeping Wolf were no more, and that everything could wend its way to the dog pound, for all he cared.
“In this moment of his bereavement did Hen come to notice the friendly little weasel which had taken its abode in one of the now many empty hat boxes which adorned the shop. His misery was lightened when the little animal made friendly overtures of acquaintance.
“Hen aged rapidly, his wondrous growth of hair gradually forsook him, taking away his manly beauty, but adding an intellectual halo, as more and more of his classic dome was revealed.
“He became famed as old Hen the bald hat hermit of Weeping Wolf, and was one of the town’s Sunday attractions.
“One memorable day the weasel, as fool weasels will do, was inquisitive enough to investigate the hat-making machine, unknowingly it started, with an agonizing cry. Hen shouted warning, but alas, too late; all but his pet weasel’s tail hung out of the machine; removing it. Hen found his only friend beautifully molded into as nice a hat as ever was turned out, except that the hat had a tail.
“Cutting off the tail Hen made it into a band and the hat was completely weasel from crown to outermost rim.
“That night a few of Weeping Wolf’s late homers saw Hen beating it out of town, with the queerest concoction of a hat every seen in those parts.
“Weeping Wolf’s social inclinations were never elevated, and the hat business lost a good man for Hen never returned to it.
“Do you wonder now that when Hen trots out the old hat and some imbecile makes foney cracks about it, that his goat rambles? No, never. Hen has hired me, who can truly feel for him, to trail the monster to his lair, and believe me, thus the good work SHALL go on — for I am Gooseberry Sprig, the duck detective – and Hen is a pal of mine.”
Bringing Up Greene
Twenty years ago Vernon Greene was hunched over a drawing board in the offices of King Features Syndicate in New York. In the manner of cartoonists he was scratching his head and groaning as he struggled to think of something funny to draw.
The name originated before World War I when the cartoon started. At that time they were a newly rich family. Maggie had social ambitions, and the strip revolved around her efforts to bring him up to her level. Over 40 years have passed and she’s still trying.
An ardent photographer, Greene has a collection of over 100 cameras. He is rarely seen without three or four hanging around his neck. In between his shows here, he managed to expose several thousand negatives of Japan and Korea. But, despite this enthusiasm for the lens, like all artists he insists that it will never replace the drawing pencil. An incident in Japan definitely proves this.
Frank Livingston Fithian was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in November 1865, according to Who Was Who in American Art (1985), and the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. In the 1870 census, he was the only child of Francis and Sarah; his father was a store clerk. They lived in Philadelphia.
In the 1900 census, Fithian, Marianna and their two daughters lived with his parents in Haddon at 240 Washington Avenue. He was an artist and illustrator. Some of his panel cartoons were published in the Philadelphia Sunday Press. The Times said “Mr. Fithian for more than fifteen years painted many of the cover designs of Judge and also drew illustrations for that magazine as well as Puck (click “The Wreck of the Mary Jane”, page 25), The Youth’s Companion, The Saturday Evening Post, Country Gentleman, Collier’s and other publications.”
In 1910 the census recorded the Fithians in Haddonfield at 232 Washington Avenue. He was a magazine illustrator. Ten years later, he remained at the same address, where he was an artist and illustrator. He designed a toy that was advertised in the Kalamazoo Gazette (Michigan), November 13, 1920 (below).