The Pioneers should be mentioned in any discussion of early adventure strips, though its short run and storybook style writing is enough to keep it from being much more than a curiosity. It is, though, only mentioned in one of the standard references, Goulart’s Encyclopedia of American Comics (of which more shortly).
The story concerned itself with the trek of a group of families who leave the wilds of Maine to strike it rich in the California gold rush. This is a tale full of possibilities, but in the hands of writer Glenn Chaffin (later to create Tailspin Tommy) it is a real yawner. The art by someone named Lovrien Gregory (also sometimes spelled Louvrien) doesn’t do much to help the cause. Initially the story was told exclusively in captions, but occasional word balloons began popping up later. Our sample strip is one of the few that used word balloons for most of the strip.
The Pioneers began its run on February 12, 1928 and ended January 13, 1929. Ralph Wolfe took over the art chores on 7/22/28, and then the writing on 9/23. Wolfe improved the strip on the art front, but the writing didn’t get much livelier.
I must confess that I’ve not read the strip through to the end, despite having the opportunity, so I can’t say whether it concluded with the group arriving in California or got cancelled in mid-odyssey; my guess is that the strip was intentionally closed-end. The run of the strip comprises 49 episodes based on my dating, so I wonder if there was perhaps an even 50 episodes in actuality (my dates come from a run in the Columbus Dispatch). Being from Bell Syndicate, it should come as no surprise that the strip continued to be sold after its initial running dates, so you may find later ones; the latest I’ve seen run in late 1929.
Jay Maeder, writing in Goulart’s Encyclopedia of American Comics, claims that the strip was running in 1926, and that Glenn Chaffin was not the first writer. If Jay is reading the blog, perhaps he could tell us if this was indeed the case. I’ve never found the strip running earlier than the cited running dates, but maybe I have just never come upon the right sources. Jay, you out there?