News of Yore 1949: Cartoonist-Adventurer Lute Pease Profiled

Lute Pease; Nearly 80, Pens Vigorous Cartoon
By Shirley M. Friedman (E&P, 2/19/49)

Newark, N. J.—Every afternoon, a little, squatty-built elderly man with ruddy skin and youthfully bright brown eyes, heads for the editorial writing section of the Newark News.

Under his white shirt-sleeved arm, he clutches a rough drawing seemingly as large as he. Invariably, the sketch reflects with pungent treatment and facile line his paper’s reaction to events boiling in the political cauldron.

This deceptively plain-looking gentleman is close-to-80-years old Lute Pease, nationally-known cartoonist whose work for 34 years has been reproduced in magazines and newspapers from coast-to-coast. But few of those who admire his work with pencil and brush—often compared to the best in Punch—are aware of Pease’s extraordinary background that springboarded him into caricaturing the world’s great.

A Medley of Adventure
He eagerly recalls a series of amazingly vivid memories that meander blithely over America and back through his Trader Horn-like years before heeding the call of art.

It was a medley of ranching, canvassing, small-business trials, land-locating efforts—”I tried to get in on the ‘Oklahoma Strip’ months before the rush”— freighting with oxen on the White Pass in ’98, five years of Alaska mining, wood-chopping, running a Nome bunkhouse during the time of the ‘Spoilers,’ and being first resident U.S. Commissioner in northwestern Alaska. To say nothing of being the intimate of the great and the near-great the country over.

As a cub reporter-sketch artist (before the days of the halftone) on the Portland Oregonion, Nevada-born Pease, got the famous five-minute interview with Mark Twain which that renowned humorist praised as “the most accurate and best ever written of me.”

Mr. Pease tells of that incident: “You recall his world trip that started in ’96, when he tossed that gray plume of his to the winds of his popularity and set forth to pay the debts of his publisher and rehabilitate his own fortunes.

“The suave, polished old Major Pond was Clemens’s lecture impresario. As everywhere else, he crowded a Portland house.

“Next morning I got to his hotel just as he and the Major were departing for Seattle.

” ‘Get right in with us,’ drawled Mr. Clemens kindly. ‘We’ll have several minutes before they run these bus horses to death getting to the station.’

“I asked if he were going to write ‘Forty Years After.’

“He chuckled, ‘You mean “Forty Years After Innocents Abroad?” ‘No, I’m slower and grown even lazier and I’m going to write an easy-going book. No guidebook, just anything that happens to interest me. I’ll inspect the Equator and wind up a few sections to make a ball of yarning.”

“You’ll remember,”, Pease reminded us, “he afterward called the book, ‘Following the Equator.’

“Well, I got Twain to talking about Tom Sawyer while I tried to sketch him.

” ‘I didn’t create Tom or Huck,’ said he, ‘any more than you are creating Mark Twain with your pencil. I knew them and I drew them from life. You could make me up from memory, but you prefer the life model, because you can make a surer, truer line, can depict the character without the haziness that comes from feeling ’round by guesswork.’

“He had started a striking figure of speech when he had to jump aboard the train. Now, I wanted to get that figure in my interview. So I finished it for him, thinking he’d probably never see the ‘Oregonian’ for months, if at all. Imagine my consternation when I opened a telegram from Victoria a couple of days later; ‘Good enough. You said it better than I could have said it myself!’

“I thought this was sarcasm. Then next day I happily got a letter from Major Pond, enclosing a snapshot he had made of Clemens being interviewed and telling me how pleased the author had been. I often think upon the kindness of that famous man taking trouble about an obscure cub reporter.”

But the cub became the Pacific Monthly editor whose magazine paid Jack London $7,000 for his “Martin Eden”— after it had been turned down by later-to-eat-crow Eastern editors. Pease recalls London remarking:

“When you bought that novel, and paid cash for it, I nearly fainted. I couldn’t believe it of a West Coast magazine. I once had a fight with one of them trying to collect the five dollars they had promised for one of my first things. I got rough in their office and they threw me downstairs.”

Sketching and Roving
Lute can show you, too, a letter from London saying, “Funny about ‘The House of Pride.’ I wonder if some of the disinclination for it is due to the fact that I didn’t kill anybody in it. You. know my reputed formula for a short story is to start with three characters and to kill four before the end. Of course I could have had them drown themselves in the surf, or murder each other or fall on each other’s necks in brotherly love. The only trouble is, life so seldom works out that way.”

Nor did life work out that way for Lute. For amidst all his adventurous living, the love of art haunted him. Always he kept up sketching scenes visited in his rovings.

“When I built my log cabin on the Yukon, I peeled the bark off the walls and used the surface for pencil sketches of occasional trappers or mushers. ” His adventures there in the gold rush days are vividly described and illustrated by him in his recent book, “Sourdough Bread”.

“But how did I get into newspaper work? Well, I had a job as salesman with a California grocery concern. I hated it. Lord, how I wanted a job I enjoyed!”

He got it “all because a rejected lover killed the girl and committed suicide.”

Walking down a street in Portland, Pease witnessed the tragedy, made sketches and landed a job on the Oregonian. Later he spent six years as editor of the Pacific Monthly, during which its circulation jumped from 40,000 to over 100,000, when it was sold to the Sunset in 1912.

From there, he came East with his artist-wife, Nell Christmas McMullin, frequently exhibiting their paintings. The National Academy of Art hung his portrait of Henry Rankin Poore— “I’ve never dared try ’em since,” Pease sheepishly admits.

In 1940, he demonstrated political cartooning in the main gallery of the New York World’s Fair. In that year, Paramount News animated his cartoon on conscription as one of the outstanding cartoons of the year.

Portrait of Tex Rickard
Landing in the East from his Pacific Monthly stint, Pease started a cartoon syndicate. But the Newark News’ then managing editor, John W. Maynard, taken with his work, offered him the plum of staff cartoonist. One of his early contributions to the paper was the now-famous portrait of Tex Rickard standing at a bar in Nome, Alaska, with a wood-burner in the background. Lute drew it from memory, just as others he had drawn of Rex Beach, Sir Henry M. Stanley of Dr. Livingston fame and countless such personalities.

“It’s 34 years ago since I’ve come to the News,” Pease smiles contentedly. “And I want you to know I’ve never had to draw a cartoon contrary to my own convictions—except once—and I think that’s a remarkably happy record.”

That one exception was rather amusing. The late Wallace M. Scudder, founder and publisher of the News, was a kindly man with a keen sense of justice and a soundness of judgment that kept him master of his own emotions and guarded against any exercise of prejudice. He greatly resented Teddy Roosevelt’s biting criticisms of Woodrow Wilson early in the World War although the News had supported Teddy during his own regime.

“One day Mr. Scudder said, ‘Lute, I wonder if you can work out a cartoon on Roosevelt expressing what I feel about his attitude,’ proceeding to give a complete description of his feelings.

“Well, Teddy to me, as to most Westerners, was something of a demi-god, and I instinctively knew such a cartoon would be a mistake. Why couldn’t I manage to prove it?’ I did, by simply drawing a savage, bitter cartoon exactly in line with the publisher’s blueprint. He was delighted.

“Sitting back in his chair, the drawing in his hands, he chuckled, ‘Just what I wanted, Lute, but I’ll hold it here on my desk a few days till the right time comes to use it.’ The right time never came.”

Obscurity of the Day: The Adventures of Rhoda and Roger Ragg


Phila Webb was a fixture in the kids’ section of the Brooklyn Eagle along with her usual collaborator Jane Corby. We first met this pair of ladies when I covered Cat o’ Nine Lives. On today’s feature, however, Webb worked alone or at least took sole credit except for one short sequence.

The Adventures of Rhoda and Roger Ragg was the tale of a pair of rag dolls in a bizarre fairy tale land. Sort of Raggedy Ann and Andy meet Alice in Wonderland. The stories, always told in typeset prose, were anywhere from a handful of weeks long to epics that would go on for months.

Here are the various incarnations of the strip:

Adventures of Rhoda and Roger Ragg 4/27 – 11/9/1924
Rhoda and Roger Ragg in Chinatoyland 1/4 – 3/8/1925
Rhoda and Roger Ragg in Storyland 5/10 – 7/12/1925
Rhoda Ragg’s Wanderings 4/18 – 6/6/1926
Those Raggs (with Jane Corby) 8/4 – 9/25/1929
Remarkable Adventures of Rhoda and Roger Ragg 1/4/1931 – 6/26/1932
The Ragg Book 7/3/1932 – 3/26/1933
The Raggs at School 4/2 – 6/18/1933
The Raggs at Camp 6/25 – 9/17/1933
Ragg Adventures 9/24/1933 – 2/4/1934
The Ragg Storybook 2/11 – 2/25/1934

Obscurity of the Day: Bela Lanan, Court Reporter






Decision in the Strange Case of

“The Crime Factory”

“REVERSED!” — Sally Matson, self-confessed violator of the prohibition law that existed at that time was freed of the charge and released from custody. It was a startling reversal of the lower court’s decree, and one that created much comment, both pro and con.

Mrs. Matson’s only plea was that she was entrapped into selling the liquor to the soldiers through the instigation of the government’s agents. She further claimed and proved that they came to her place for the sole purpose of trapping her into the commission of the offense.

Mrs. Matson was guilty and yet, strange to say, she went free, and here’s the reason! The court said: “The government of this country is not engaged in the manufacture of criminals, and when one of our officers persuades a law-abiding citizen to commit a crime, we find it abhorrent to our sense of decent administration of the law. In cases of this kind, the courts have always been inclined to say that a crime thus induced does not support a conviction.”

This is a true case. Reference of citation may be had by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to “Bela Lanan, Court Reporter.”

Starting next week:
The Strange Case of The Woman Who Talked Too Much
Don’t miss it — follow it daily in this newspaper.

Despite the odd name and the tiny syndicate that offered it, Bela Lanan Court Reporter appeared in a quite respectable number of papers. The strip was syndicated by the Carlile Crutcher Syndicate, which was the distribution company for the Louisville Courier-Journal (Crutcher was an editor of the paper).

The strip was originally titled You Be The Judge when it first appeared on July 6 1936, but apparently someone else had that name tied up, so it was renamed to the listed title on October 5 of that year. Despite the name change, some of the marketing material for the strip continued to use the original title for years afterward. As an interesting bit of trivia regarding the title, I don’t believe Mr. Lanan was ever actually heard from in the strip, though presumably the stenographer that can often be seen in the Saturday episode is our title character.

The strip retold court cases in the space of each week’s six episodes, and on Saturdays the final disposition of the case was given in a text column. Our sample above is a pretty typical example of the type of narrative used throughout the life of the strip. The example is, I think, particularly a propos since Obama has been excoriated lately for citing “empathy” as a quality he’d like to see in his Supreme Court candidate. Without empathy, there might be no exceptions made for entrapment in law, and Sally Matson would be in prison for taking pity on some tired soldiers.

The writer, L. Allen Heine, and artist Robert Wathen, have no other credits I’ve been able to find.

Bela Lanan lasted until at least June 1941, perhaps a few months more.

Jim Ivey’s Sunday Comics

Jim Ivey’s new book, Graphic Shorthand, is available from Lulu.com for $19.95 plus shipping, or you can order direct from Ivey for $25 postpaid. Jim Ivey teaches the fundamentals of cartooning in his own inimitable style. The book is 128 pages, coil-bound. Send your order to:

Jim Ivey
5840 Dahlia Dr. #7
Orlando FL 32807

Also still available, Jim Ivey’s career retrospective Cartoons I Liked, available on Lulu.com or direct from Jim Ivey for $20 postpaid. When ordered from Ivey direct, either book will include an original Ivey sketch.

Herriman Saturday

Sunday, August 18 1907 — Herriman seems to be on summer vacation, but yet still contributes on occasion. Here again Herriman records the homecoming glee of baseball fans as the Angels return from yet another road trip. In the accompanying story, manager Hen Berry vows that he won’t be volunteering for extra road games next year.

Sunday, August 25 1907 — Two powerfully evocative cartoons in one from Herriman on the scheduled upcoming bout between the white Britt and the black Gans.

Research in Beantown

I’ve just returned from a week in Boston. Other than taking in a Red Sox game, I spent most of my time at the Boston Public Library doing research. The microfilm center is relatively small but seems larger since very few patrons were using it during my visit. The stacks are all closed, but the staff were always very quick about retrieving film (2-3 minutes was typical turnaround time). Only 6 reels at a time can be ‘checked out’, so I made a LOT of requests, but the staff cheerfully complied with my insatiable appetite for film. I’d have to place BPL pretty near the top of the list for researcher-friendliness, completely unexpected because public libraries (as opposed to research libraries) tend to be a real pain to work in.

So here’s a synopsis of what I managed to get done at the BPL. I had a total of 4 1/2 days there, 1 1/2 of which included the able assistance of my wife Judy. As is always the case, I didn’t get nearly everything done that I wanted to, but I feel like I managed to hit a lot of the high spots. Unfortunately a few important research items managed to fall through the cracks. It completely slipped my mind to check on the early local versions of Sergeant Stony Craig and Radio Patrol, and I didn’t manage to get to the Hearst papers at all. But here’s what I did get done:

Boston Traveler
The very obscure and short-lived Boston Traveler syndicate (which turned out to be called the State Publishing Company) has been at the top of my hit list for a good long while.The syndicate started in November 1908 and began to peter out within a year. However, the Traveler was very committed to comic strips and continued to have in-house strips produced through 1914. The material for their syndicate was pretty darn good, especially when compared with some of the dreck being offered by the big New York syndicates at the time. Unlike some little startups of the day, the Traveler’s cartooning bullpen really had no amateur level cartoonists. Although there were few names we recognize I was duly impressed with the quality. It’s a shame they couldn’t make a go of their syndicate.

They did have a few big names contributing. Of course there was the great C.A. Voight, but there was also Paul Bransom supplying one of his ‘bug’ strips, a very young Jack Farr and a short appearance by H.C. Greening.

The real workhorse of the syndicate, though, was C.L. Sherman. In addition to several other strips, he produced a semi-daily strip called Amos and Pete that ran six years — practically unheard of longevity in those days. He was canned by the Traveler for awhile in 1911 when the paper decided to try out syndicated content, but he came back and continued the strip right where he left off when the Traveler came to its senses. He even got a good dig in at the paper right before he was fired. The Traveler had contracted with NEA for their material, and Sherman headlined one of his last strips “NEA Stands For Nothing Else Available”. Some editor was asleep when that got past!

When the NEA material arrived, it seemed like everyone got canned for awhile, except they brought on D.C. Bartholomew. He had been kicking around at the Boston papers since the early oughts, and at the Traveler his mission seemed to be to produce something every day or else. They ran him ragged for about a year before he was unceremoniously dumped.

The 1908-1915 Traveler yielded an incredible total of 47 new features to my index!

Boston Journal
Got the dates on Jawge, a strip C.L. Sherman did for the Journal after he finally left the Traveller in 1914. The Journal was much less interested in local talent, but they did offer some other oddball syndicated material in this timeframe. Earlier the Journal was mostly bereft of comics content, no big surprise since it was owned by that rotten skinflint Frank Munsey. I checked a small array of reels, though, and I got incredibly lucky. For some reason the paper went comic strip mad for just three months in 1913 and produced four different local strips. That it just happened to be one of the reels I checked is my very favorite sort of serendipity!

Unfortunately I plum forgot that the Journal was an early adopter of the World Color Printing Sunday. Though I think I’ve filled most of the holes from those early days, I think the Journal was one of the few that ran the full four pages — much easier to track everything in one paper rather than having to cross-reference.

Boston Post
The Post was scrutinized once again (I’ve spent some time working on this paper at the Library of Congress as well) and I think I have most of it much better pinned down. There are still a few loose ends but the majority of their local features, which went on into the fifties in a small way, are now indexed properly. The exciting discovery was that the Post ran some Philadelphia North American material in 1905-07 — but that’s not in itself exciting, I’ve already indexed the PNA. The neat thing was that the Post was running alternative Sundays that didn’t run in the PNA itself! For no apparent reason the Post got at least one full page of alternate material. I figured it was to replace something that was Philadelphia-specific running in the NA but when I got home and checked my NA notes that wasn’t so. Very weird!

Boston Globe
Spent a half-day on the Globe despite the fact that it is in open stacks at the Library of Congress and parts of it are available on Proquest (though not available at any library anywhere near me). The Globe was notorious for buying syndicated features on the cheap (as were most Boston papers) and so they have a lot of oddball material. I also did some spot-checking of the indexing of another researcher who had done a lot of work on the Globe on my behalf. I found to my dismay that his notes leave something to be desired for accuracy. One of these days I’m going to have to index the Globe up to 1912 from scratch to work all the bugs out. I say this not to besmirch him at all — the Globe is very difficult to index in this period because they have so many one-shots, and their interest in strips is all in fits and starts, so it is a royal pain in the behind to follow accurately.

Although I get my biggest thrill from finding new features, the Globe is a great one for smaller victories. I found end dates for Flyin’ Jenny, Miss Cairo Jones, and Private Lives, for instance. Lots of little holes plugged.

Boston Advertiser
Checked it for content, they had no graphics of any kind in the 1909-10 reels I checked. I probably should have hunted further but the paper was too depressing to look at.

Boston Telegram/Telegraph
This paper, which apparently couldn’t decide which name they preferred, turned out to be a real delight, though not for its strips. This is one of the yellowest yellow journals I’ve ever seen. Screaming lurid headlines, grisly photos, the whole nine yards. Comic strip-wise less interesting though. Through much of their life they took the NEA service. In 1928 they added the strips of the New York Evening Graphic (a perfect fit for them) but the microfilm by that time was only the weekend edition so it was useless in terms of indexing.

Boston Evening Transcript
The Transcript is one of my favorite oddball papers. They were the paper of the little old ladies and snooty rich classes of Boston. They ran a daily genealogy page, the only paper I’ve ever seen that did that. They also reserved lots of space for book reviews, stamp and coin collecting, yachting news and in-depth stock analysis. Other than a nod to ‘real’ news on the front page, they were more like a daily magazine than a newspaper. The Transcript added a few daily strips starting in 1933, and they picked some very unusual material. They rarely ran more than 3-4 strips, and they seemed to pick half of them for the old ladies (Cap Stubbs was a favorite) and the other half for adventure-mad kiddies. They ran Robin Hood And Company, The Blue Beetle (the only daily I’ve ever found that did), Pieces Of Eight, Superman — all sorts of real blood-and-guts action stuff.

My favorite discovery in the Transcript is a strip called Around The World With Carveth Williams by Prentice Phillips. It’s sort of like the early Mark Trail. Mister Williams adventures in the south seas are skillfully interwoven with lots of educational material that succeeds admirably in flowing naturally, not an easy trick. This strip was either done directly for the Transcript or self-syndicated by the creator. The mystery to me is why Phillips settled on such an odd name as Carveth Williams for his title character. I half-expected to find out he was a real adventurer of some sort, but Google came up dry.

Boston Evening Record
A quick survey of the Record had little to offer, mostly NEA stuff. I was able to extract a new earlier start date for Gas Buggies, though.

Boston Herald
I’d already taken care of the early Herald Sundays, but the film I was working on (from the Library of Congress and Duke University) had some gaps in the 1901 material. Turns out BPL has its own unique version of the film which fills in those gaps. The reproduction is awful, but I was able to finally put their 1901 section to bed. Unfortunately I forgot that I also had a gap at the end of the 1908 version of the section, so I didn’t check that. Humbug.

So that’s what I got done in a nutshell. I added a whopping 70 new features to the Stripper’s Guide listings, and improved my data on at least that many features that were already listed. Pretty darn good for less than five days of work! I could use another couple weeks to really do Boston justice, but that is one expensive city to visit, and I have many other irons in the fire. Someday…

Jim Ivey’s Sunday Comics

[At the risk of stifling some entertaining missives from outraged fans, I have already assured Jim that Mandrake and The Phantom are still in syndication (albeit in darn few papers). — Allan]

Jim Ivey’s new book, Graphic Shorthand, is available from Lulu.com for $19.95 plus shipping, or you can order direct from Ivey for $25 postpaid. Jim Ivey teaches the fundamentals of cartooning in his own inimitable style. The book is 128 pages, coil-bound. Send your order to:

Jim Ivey
5840 Dahlia Dr. #7
Orlando FL 32807

Also still available, Jim Ivey’s career retrospective Cartoons I Liked, available on Lulu.com or direct from Jim Ivey for $20 postpaid. When ordered from Ivey direct, either book will include an original Ivey sketch.

Herriman Saturday

Sunday, August 4 1907 — The Angels have been on an extended road trip to north California. Seems when the Pacific Coast League schedule was being decided on that the teams up in that part of the state had complained that attendance was off last year, and they feared that without an extra measure of home games this year they would be in serious trouble. Angels manager Hen Berry took it upon himself to offer up the team for more than the usual measure of away games.
Sunday, August 4 1907 — Probably the biggest story of the year was the Standard Oil anti-trust lawsuit. The company was fined 29 million dollars, the largest fine ever levied by a U.S. court. Now that Herriman was concentrating for the time being on sports cartoons this small drawing was his only contribution to the extensive coverage given the story.

Monday, August 5 1907 — Joe Gans has begun his training regimen for the upcoming fight (which will never actually come off). His camp is beseiged by fans as he does some sparring. One of his opponents, Kid Dalton, forgets to bring his boxing tights and enters the ring wearing rolled up trousers.

News of Yore 1949: Hall Takes Title Role



Post Syndicate Name Changed; It’s Post-Hall

(E&P, 3/19/49)

Post-Hall Syndicate, Inc., became effective as the new name of New York Post Syndicate, March 1, according to Robert M. Hall, the syndicate’s president and genera1 manager since he organized it four years ago.

The company was not incorporated as New York Post Syndicate until August, 1946.

Hall, one of the corporation’s principal stockholders, indicated that the change in name was a natural development, more representative of the syndicate’s recent activities.

During the past several months, the syndicate has launched new features, including “Tex Austin,” an adventure comic, and the “Wizard of Odds,” a facts panel; signed on Walt Kelly’s original animal comic “Pogo,” and has picked up new clients for Columnist Victor Riesel’s “Inside Labor,” which involved changing the New York outlet to the New York Mirror.

Post-Hall Syndicate is a success story. Hall began it in 1944 with New York Post features such as Earl Wilson’s “It Happened Last Night,” Sylvia Porter’s finance column, “Your Money’s Worth,” and Samuel Grafton’s “I’d Rather Be Right.” Within a short time, the syndicate began contracting features on its own, developing the action strips, “Mark Trail,” and “Bruce Gentry,” and the story-problem comic, “Debbie Dean.”

The syndicate also obtained such features as Herblock’s editorial cartoons, Elise Morrow’s “Capital Capers,” Pierre de Rohan’s “Man in the Kitchen,” Sterling North’s book reviews, Major George Fielding Eliot’s discussions of defense and tactics, Margene Danch’s “May Mian,” and Jimmy Cannon’s sports column.

Hall was formerly sales manager of United Feature Syndicate, which he joined in 1935 directly from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Earlier he had worked for the Providence (R. I.) Journal throughout high school, three years at Northeastern Law School and four years at Brown University.

Obscurity of the Day: Handy Andy


Blog readers with extra-sticky gray matter may be thinking, “Hey that Stripper schmuck is recycling obscurities. I knew he had to run out of them eventually!” Not so, not so. Still barely scratching the surface!

You may remember that back on April 10, 2008 we featured Handy Andy as an obscurity, but that was a version by Ed Goewey from 1904-05. That Andy was a strongman who had a tendency to bite off more than he could chew. This Handy Andy, on the other hand, is a fellow who invents labor saving gadgets, usually for his adoring better half.

Johnny Gruelle would one day be the celebrated creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy, but in the 1900s he was just another journeyman cartoonist. As ‘Grue’, his pen-name of the time, he created Handy Andy on his second go-round with World Color Printing in 1908-09 (he also did a short stint there in 1905). Handy Andy first appeared in the World Color Printing comic section on November 1 1908 and Gruelle didn’t stick with it long, last penning the feature on January 31 1909.

The strip was then taken over by a fellow signing himself ‘Bart’. He did the strip from February 7 to July 18 1909. I have always gone on the assumption that this ‘Bart’ was Charles Bartholomew, the famed Minnesota cartoonist who went on to be a big player in mail order cartooning correspondence schools. However, I’ve always harbored a niggling doubt. Why would Bartholomew, who was a pretty big fish in the little pond of Minneapolis, be doing journeyman work (and a lot of it) for World Color Printing? Anyone with a dissenting opinion regarding World Color Printing’s ‘Bart’ is invited to make themselves heard.