Jeffrey Lindenblatt called me yesterday to discuss a head-scratcher he’d encountered in his research. He was finding new information on Jack Wilhelm’s That Certain Party strip that indicated it ran much longer than previously supposed. That brought up the question of how Wilhelm could have been handling two daily strips at the same time; the aforementioned strip and Frank Merriwell’s Schooldays. Well, to make a long story short, we did a little bit of E&P research on the phone, and then I delved into my files, and I’ve ended up rethinking the history of the Frank Merriwell strip. Or rather, strips, plural.
The few comic strip histories that mention Merriwell state that it began in 1931. Well, I know better because I have a run that starts in 1928, and I have a contemporary E&P article that tells me that the strip began on 3/26/1928. Case closed? I thought so. Well, case reopened. I’ll spare you the sleuthing involved, and just get to the results – there were two separate strips. The first, titled Young Frank Merriwell, seems to have run 3/26/1928 – 9/28/1928. It was syndicated by McClure and featured art by a very rushed and/or disinterested John Hix. The second run, usually titled Frank Merriwell’s Schooldays, started 7/20/1931 and ended 7/14/1934 (to be replaced by Chip Collins Adventures, discussed at length in this blog entry). It was drawn by Jack Wilhelm from start to end and syndicated by Central Press Association.
As long as I had all my Merriwell strips out, I scanned in the first five strips of the first series to show you. At least I think they’re the first five, but they either ran a week or so late in this paper or there were some introductory strips missing from my run (notice that the numbering starts with #1, though). Fair warning before you start reading – caution – turgid prose ahead! Oh, by the way, the reason for that incredibly moronic subtitle “The Son of His Father”, is that the hero is Frank Merriwell Junior, son of the 1890s hero of dime novel infamy.