Saturday, April 09, 2016

 

Herriman Saturday


Friday, November 13 1908 -- Tonight's fight card at Naud Pavilion will feature a rare appearance by an Asian boxer, who went by the nom de guerre Young Togo. According to Boxrec he also went by the nicknames Yellow Peril and Jap Togo, showing the level of casual and accepted animosity toward them in America at that time.

Young Togo was a punching bag who won only two of his 21 professional fights, and one of those wins was against a fellow Asian. He was probably in it purely to take some punishment in exchange for a couple of bucks, his losses of course delighting the anti-Asian fight fans.

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Friday, April 08, 2016

 

Walt McDougall's This is the Life: Chapter 13 Part 1

This is the Life!

by 

Walt McDougall


Chapter Thirteen (Part 1) - A New One is Born Every Minute





Now a new star began to twinkle faintly and far away in the newspaper firmament. This was Thomas B.Wanamaker, eldest son of John, the great merchant, who had been Postmaster General and who yearned to supplant Senator Quay. Thomas had bought the moribund North American, established in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin, and he proposed to revive the mummy if money could do it. This feat he accomplished by securing the services of men who had made reputations on the World, but to only a few of them did he offer the tempting salaries with which Hearst baited his hooks. In Philadelphia forty dollars per week was a managing editor's salary—which was plenty—and his action shocked the rival papers, sleepy fossils whose reporters used to meet every evening and share their news items, into a semblance of activity that was comical.

Wanamaker secured Sam Chamberlain as managing editor, at fifteen thousand dollars, on the advice of James Gordon Bennett. That eccentric individual, and his Herald, were Tom's ideals, from which perverted notion his efficient aids managed to divert him. He, of course, knew absolutely nothing about newspapers. On one occasion he entered the city room early in the day and, seeing a number of men sitting about, he asked John Hunt who they were. "They are reporters reading this morning's paper," Hunt informed him. "I'm not paying them to read the paper!" said Tom, testily. "Why ain't they out reporting?" It took some time to convince him that a knowledge of the contents of his paper is a reporter's essential qualification.

In his first haul he secured Julian Hawthorne, Marion Harland, Arthur McEwen, Owen Wister, Charles Dryden, Allen Kelly, Ham Marshall and William Bengough, with a staff of good artists managed By Fred. Schell.

In his selection of Ed. Van Valkenburg as business manager, one of his father's political lieutenants and the owner of an upstate quarry, he secured his greatest prize. Van, a sleek, well-dressed man—indeed, like all farmers who come to the city, rather too carefully groomed—knew almost nothing about city newspaper methods, traditions or ethics, but his energy and mentality were such that within a score of months he became the most efficient publisher and editor in America. An ardent, indefatigable politician, he developed a gift for editorial expression, vehement objurgation and caustic comment that was phenomenal. He was the only editor who ever was able to discern an idea pictorially. Owing to a reluctance to spend Wanamaker's money quite as freely as Quay spent his, and in the same way, Ed. never quite equaled the wily old scout's pace, and was, except in one instance, always beaten by a nose.

I received an invitation, through Sam, to join this North American aggregation early in the winter, but Wanamaker, a close dealer by training and instinct, could not bring himself to pay my price, but in June, with the National Republican Convention impending, he personally asked me to come down and decorate their pages for three or four days. As I was now working on a space basis on the World, and J. P. having put his two-cylinder method in operation in even the cartooning branch by employing C. G. Bush, which slightly piqued me, I gladly accepted. With George Folsom I bicycled down to the Quaker City on a lush June day, little guessing that I was leaving New York for ten years.

I found Wanamaker none too cordial or confident, and I sagely suspected that only the urging of Chamberlain and others had induced him to bother with me, but I splashed into the job with all the more energy for that reason and was lucky enough to hit the public taste of Philadelphia, which was quite inimical to the North American, at the first attempt. I think I mainly endeared myself to the readers of the paper by an illustrated article deploring the impossibility of a New Yorker obtaining any sleep in that noisy burg. Old Tom Platt posed for me with a broken rib torturing him, Hanna unbent sufficiently for me to do a sedate portrait of him, but this was Bengough's specialty and mainly I sought only to create laughter, and as this sort of stuff was novel in Philadelphia, I succeeded.

Three days later Wanamaker, after watching me working for a time in silence, suddenly asked me why I could not remain there permanently.

 "There seems to be only a matter of twenty-five dollars per week preventing me," I answered diplomatically.

"What's twenty-five dollars!" he sniffed contemptuously, in the typical Wanamaker manner.

"If that trifle is of no moment to you, I'll stay, gladly. If I don't make good, you'll find me easy to fire," I told him.

He squirmed a little, for such a hard-boiled egg was he that he would have jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge for twenty-five dollars, despite the fact that he was rated at twenty-five millions, but he consented, grinning, and I resumed my work.

In a town where the politicians were as sensitive to caricature as is the proverbial aspen to the touch, it was less easy to capture their features than in New York, but on the other hand so well known were they personally, caricatures of them produced an unbelievable effect. It was the custom for all of them, high and low, to congregate on Broad Street, and the sudden appearance of a cartoonist would cause a perceptible agitation in the crowd and often the actual hasty flight of some alderman or other official who was prominent in the news. By the time the new North American Building was ready for occupancy, I had become well acquainted with the town and with its prominent characters.

Meanwhile I worked in the ancient Chestnut Street building, in the room of the managing editor, Sam Chamberlain, during a Summer when for weeks the temperature was about one hundred. When a hot spell blankets the Quaker City, its natives ease up on the pressure and survive, but we New York go-getters labored like furnacemen to make the North American a success. I was told that before our arrival the usual custom had been for the editor of a paper to send reporters out among the subscribers to collect their views and gossip, edit the material, and go to press, and if the North American accomplished nothing else—and I cannot perceive that it did—it at least placed the newspapers on a higher level.

Chamberlain was the first to succumb to the distracting and embarrassing interference and paralyzing criticism of T. B. Wanamaker, whose futile efforts to direct the paper's course would have been comical in cooler weather. Sam was one of those brilliant, laborious but sensitive souls who at stated intervals fell off the water wagon. At such times he retained all his faculties, apparently, doing his work with precision and ability, nor was anybody aware from his appearance or conduct that he was not entirely himself. He was one of the most debonair and fascinating men whom I have ever known, with none of the caustic satire or cutting wit of so many of his type. His two days' absence had made me suspicious of disaster when he came briskly into the office and seated himself at his desk. After a moment, ignoring his secretary, he turned to me and asked:

"Walt, do you think I'm drunk?"

"I'm as certain as death of it, Sam," I assured him.

"Perhaps you are right!" he agreed. "I suspected it."

Just then Wanamaker entered, a stout, commonplace-looking man of about forty, and with a sour look regarded his editor. Then, as Sam took up his mail, T. B. said abruptly: "You sent for me. What did you want?"

Sam pondered for a moment, and then with sudden decision announced: "I sent for you to tell you that you are a nasty little commercial person and I'm through with you!"

Without replying, Wanamaker turned and left the room.

Sam followed him shortly and did not return, but went back to Hearst. Not on his former footing, however, for now Brisbane and S. S. Carvalho, Pulitzer's former publisher, were Hearst's prime favorites and Sam was no adept in office politics. He was only a good managing editor.

We had as one of our popular stars a curious and amiable character, Charles Dryden, who wrote baseball stuff in a novel and unique manner, being in fact the originator of that special dialect in which most sport-writing is now presented. Charley could bat out more quaint, humorous phrases during one inning than other men could grind out in days. He was a valuable asset to the paper, yet one day he confided to me that he always carried the tools of his trade, that of a machinist, in his trunk, as he was confident that his employers would some day perceive how rotten he was and he would have to go back to work. However, this sad exposure never befell him, and ere long he met the fate of every genius: he was grabbed by a big Chicago paper, and we lost his merry quirks.

Upon Chamberlain's departure Van Valkenburg assumed charge of both the editorial and publisher's functions and made a huge success of both. He was a man of great briskness of movement, practiced in all the arts of social and political cajolery but lacking in the ability to select trustworthy and competent subordinates, falling an easy victim to adroit flattery. One of his peculiarities, which I used to flatter myself was known only to me, was a habit, or an infirmity, of winking one of his eyes with great rapidity when he was equivocating. It was probably a nervous affection of which he was unaware, but it was very useful to me on more than one occasion. He resented opposition and distrusted all criticism, yet he had a sort of grudgeful appreciation of brains not possessed by our boss. He had, like T. B., an unreasoning antipathy to and suspicion of all drinkers, and it was a long time before either of them learned that a man could drink in moderation and yet perform his duties. Their own experience had been to the contrary, it seems. Neither ever drank a drop.

They made a perfect team. Van had sufficient firmness to offset T. B.'s chronic parsimony, and the latter had sense enough to appreciate that he had a prize in Van, but as T. B. lived in palatial apartments in the new building, he was enabled to prowl and snoop into everything at all hours. He was a sufferer from a form of rheumatic gout and obliged to have recourse frequently to various cures abroad, during which periods Van was able to make the North American one of the successful journals of the country.

Wanamaker was a reticent, solitary and friendless man with a lust for money and power that was pathetic. Feeling his loneliness, he would sometimes emerge from his aloofness and talk for an hour upon business matters and, rarely, about himself. Now and then he revealed a vestigial sense of humor. Had the two possessed a modicum of genuine friendliness, they could have had an army of devoted friends. I doubt if either ever had a real intimate. While Van had cultivated affability, Wanamaker was deficient in almost every quality but money-getting, and a certain scoffing tone inherent in his speech did not endear him to his acquaintances.

City Editor Bob Murray came upon him at midnight sitting in the dark in one of the rooms, fondling a sparkling object which he said was radium worth fifteen thousand dollars, yet he once remarked, as he watched me blacking a large space of cardboard: "And I have to pay for all that ink!" At a dinner at his million-dollar country palace he mentioned that the wine being served cost twenty dollars per bottle, and Arthur McEwen instantly held out his glass to the butler and said, with an oily chuckle: "Give me fifty cents' worth more!" His energy was amazing, yet he was not a hustler. He kept some fifteen messenger boys going from morning until night at his office in the big store, and he owned at least one building in every one of the blocks in the center of town. Grover Cleveland, when with the Equitable, predicted that if he lived T. B. would be the greatest financier in America. Flattery was the short cut to his regard; he never forgave or forgot resistance to his wishes. Van was the only man who could oppose him and survive, yet I never heard of him betraying open anger or vindictiveness. His was a blending of caution and audacity that worked deviously, and Van's bold defiance of precedent often made him tremble. I had many opportunities to study this odd character; affable to me, as he once half admitted, because I was an intimate of his roommate at Princeton, he often spent hours in my studio, which was sumptuously fitted up. He had an inordinate share of the world's wealth, but he lacked friends, affection, amusement, hobbies or health or vices, and he must have had a dull time of life.




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Thursday, April 07, 2016

 

Obscurity of the Day: Burglar Bill



There were no less than three series in the 1900s titled "Burglar Bill" or similar variation, which means, I guess, that burglars named Bob, Brent, Brian, Brad, Barney and Bert just didn't have that mellifluous je ne sais quoi that Bill had in spades. Good for you, Bill!

Charles Kahles' version of Burglar Bill, the first one of that decade, ran for a very short period in the New York World's Sunday comic section, from January 12 to February 23 1902. Kind of a shame that it was so short-lived, too, because for once Kahles seems to be letting his hair down a little and not being so darn fussy about his art. These strips have some real life to them, as opposed to Kahles' typical work, which I find far too formal and stiff.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans.

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It would have been interesting to see what would happen if Burglar Bill had been up to his nefarious activities on Clarence the Cop's beat.
 
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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Mo Gollub



Morris Gollub was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 6, 1910. His birthplace was noted on passenger list and the birth date is from the Social Security Death Index. Gollub’s nickname has been spelled two ways, Mo and Moe.

Gollub’s father was Josiah Manuel Gollub according to a World War I draft card.

He and his wife, Pearl, resided at 5644 Etzel Avenue in St. Louis. The same address was recorded in the 1920 U.S. Federal Census which listed Gollub, his parents and two younger brothers, Frankie and Myron. Gollub’s father was in the cleaning business.

The 1930 census said the family of five lived in University City, St. Louis County, Missouri, at 474 University Drive. Nineteen-year-old Gollub was not working at the time. The 1940 census said he had four years of college so Gollub was probably a student in 1930. Information regarding Gollub’s art training has not been found.

According to the 1940 census, animation artist Gollub resided in Glendale, Los Angeles County, California at 637 Beachwood Drive. His roommates were Phillip Eastman (assistant artist at a motion picture studio), Daniel Noonan (animator), and Edward Baker (animation assistant director).

Mike Barrier summarized Gollub’s work and travels from 1937 to the mid-1940s. The image of Gollub is from Barrier’s site.

He started at the Disney studio in January 1937 and worked as a layout and story-sketch artist, notably on Bambi. He took part the 1941 strike, was laid off after the strike ended, and joined the navy early in 1942. When he left the service, he arranged to be discharged at New York, and he quickly found work at Western with the help of former Disney friends like Walt Kelly and Dan Noonan.
The Smokey the Bear comic strip was credited to Wes Wood. According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), Paul Leiffer said the actual creators were Gollub and writer Paul S. Newman. Their collaboration was confirmed in the book, Guardian of the Forest (1995). The Sunday page began June 16, 1957 and the daily followed the next day. Some Sunday pages can be viewed here. Prior to the strip, Gollub and Newman had produced three Smokey the Bear comic books for Dell Publishing: Four Color #653, October 1955; Four Color #708, June 1956; and Four Color #754, November 1956; The duo produced five more issues from 1957 to 1961.


Original art for cover of Four Color #818

In addition to drawing comic book stories, Gollub painted covers. His animation work dates from 1937 to 1971. A filmography is here.

Gollub’s mother passed away October 1939 and his father in January 1965.

Gollub passed away December 30, 1984, in Santa Cruz, California, according to the California Death Index at Ancestry.com.


—Alex Jay

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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

 

Obscurity of the Day: Smokey the Bear






Smokey the bear, a marketing icon for forest fire prevention, was picked up for the comic strip treatment by Columbia Features, a syndicate of the 1950s and 60s that often promoted licensed character strips to newspapers.

Columbia had (in my opinion) a flawed business model that put to many hands in the cookie jar. Until a newspaper strip is really, really popular, the money just isn't there to pay licensees on top of what the syndicate and creator(s) need to earn. Columbia never had a really major hit on their hands, and so licensing never paid off for them. 

Smokey the Bear was probably Columbia's biggest licensed success, but only in comparison to the truly anemic sales of Nero Wolfe and Bat Masterson. Since the character of Smokey the Bear doesn't really come with any iron-clad plot background, the syndicate was basically free to come up with a plot from scratch. This they chose not to do. What they did was copy Mark Trail whole cloth. They made Smokey a park ranger (okay, that's a given) and had the daily strip tell light adventure stories involving forestry, ecology and wildlife. Sundays were reserved for educational one-shot subjects. The Sundays even include a cut-out feature, called Smokey Says, to mimic Mark Trail's Trailways.

There was no brainstorming involved in how the strip would look or its characters, because those had already been established in a few comic book appearances iin Dell's Four Color series. Just like in the comic books, Smokey gained a kid, Little Smokey, for the strip, but no better half to explain Little Smokey's existence, at least that I've encountered. There's also a raccoon, Specs, to round out the cast. Not having seen much of the very rare daily version, I don't know if humans ever figured into the stories, but they seem to have never appeared in the Sunday.

Though the strip is credited to one 'Wes Wood', I'm assured that the strip was actually written by Paul S. Newman and cartoonist Mo Gollub, the folks who had also created his comic book adventures.

The Sunday strip debut was on June 16 1957, the daily following the next day. At the end of May 1959 the syndicate changed to Adcox-Lenahan Associates. James Lenahan was the founder of Columbia Features, but he got together with Glenn Adcox in December 1958 to form this new syndicate; why the strip moved there is a mystery, unless Lenahan perhaps cut ties with Columbia at that time. Unfortunately I don't have the inside scoop on that.

The latest strip I've been able to find is the final Sunday of 1959 (December 27), and I don't know if it survived into 1960 **. I do know that the feature was not advertised in the 1960 E&P yearbook, so it apparently didn't last long into the new decade.


** Jeffrey Lindenblatt has found the end of the series in the Des Moines Register, March 26, 1960.  Here is the final daily:






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I had completely forgotten about this strip. It ran in my local paper (Vancouver Sun) when I was a kid. I found it dull, but read it dutifully, thinking maybe I should learn this stuff. I'm still waiting to use my acquired knowledge.
 
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Monday, April 04, 2016

 

Paper Trends by Jeffrey Lindenblatt: A Gabby Investigation

[Guest blog contributor and longtime research collaborator Jeffrey Lindenblatt weighs in on what happened in the 1930s with Central Press Association, and why the end of Gabby was a turning point in the syndicate's history -- Allan]

Last week Allan picked for his Obscurity of the Day the strip Gabby, syndicated by the Central Press Association. The strip lasted only three months, from July 29, 1935 to October 26, 1935. What is interesting is that this strip was the last one of the Central Press Package. Let me explain: back on March 1, 1930 King Features bought the Central Press Association. Hearst bought this organization for many different reasons. That is for a different article but we are going to focus on the comic branch.

In 1930 many small town papers could not afford and/or because of exclusivity could not get their hands on many famous comic strips. So some services would offer a complete page of comics, and Central Press was one of them. They would offer regular comic strips (Etta Kett, High Pressure Pete), panels (Among Us Girls, Old Home Town), sports panels, features and editorial cartoons. The most famous and most successful of the “blanket services” at the time was NEA, home of Boots and her Buddies, Freckles and his Friends, Wash Tubbs and a host of others. Covering the news angle, the most famous would be Associated Press, who by the way entered the comic business later that month in 1930. After buying any of these packages, the newspaper editor would decide which features would be run be in his paper. If he decided to run all the comics he would have a full page and a few features to appear in other parts of the paper.

At this time Central Press produced five daily comic strips: Etta Kett, High Pressure Pete, Muggs McGinnis, Goofey Movies and Big Sister. Most newspapers, if they filled up a page, would run the five dailies and the sixth spot would include two different panel cartoons. Later on they could replace the two panels with a sixth strip. This would happen in 1933 with the introduction of Brick Bradford. When Brick Bradford debuted you would have three possibilities: it could take the sixth spot, appear in another part of the paper, or could not appear at all.

Another way a strip would debut is when one strip was discontinued and replaced by a new one. This is what happened with Gabby. Here is a timeline for Central Press’s 5th spot comic strip:

Goofey Movies – ends on October 11, 1930

Swifty – October 13, 1930 – July 18, 1931

Frank Merriwell’s Schooldays – July 20, 1931 – July 14, 1934

Chip Collins Adventures – July 16, 1934 – July 27, 1935

Gabby – July 29, 1935 – October 26, 1935

So what replaced Gabby? Presumably a new Central Press strip, right? No, because things had changed by 1935. Central Press was now an arm of the Hearst Corporation. At this time Central Press would not generally produce any new comic strips except for some short-run self-contained strips. By March 29, 1937 all the remaining strips were to change copyrights to King Features. King by this time was ready to use their own name to sell to both major papers and small town papers.

I set out to answer the question of what happened on the following Monday in those newspapers that ran Gabby to its conclusion. In the past I’ve done this sort of research at local libraries and on the internet. In this case I’m using the newspapers that are available on newspapers.com. On that service I was able to find 11 newspapers that still ran Gabby on October 26, 1935.

In two of those newspapers, which did not previously run Brick Bradford, they picked it up as the replacement for Gabby. In four newspapers they did not add anything, just moved another comic strip from outside the comic section to the comic page. This happened when that newspaper did not run only Central Press strips. In one case the dropping of Gabby gave the opportunity for the paper to drop more Central Press strips in order to fit more NEA strips.

Last Inspector Wade strip, 5/17/1941


The four remaining papers, which were running a complete Central Press comics page, replaced Gabby with their first King Feature strip, Inspector Wade. This also happened in many newspapers in the tri-state area that were running a complete Central Press comics page, because The New York Telegram was running the complete NEA package and no paper in the near area could run any NEA strips -- the other cheap alternative for a blanket service.


Inspector Wade had debuted only five months earlier. It did not appear in many major Hearst papers because they preferred to run King’s Secret Agent X-9 and/or Red Barry. Those papers did not need a third detective strip. Most other papers would run either Dick Tracy or Dan Dunn for their detective fix. Thus Inspector Wade found his home in small town papers until May 17, 1941.

In the early 1940s, small town Central Press papers would be the home of the syndicate’s remaining strips, plus King Features ‘B-strips’. Those would later include Felix the Cat, Mandrake the Magician and a host of others. It is interesting to note what replaced Inspector Wade when it was cancelled in May 1941. King Features definitely had a plan for newspapers that ran Inspector Wade all the way to the end. When Inspector Wade’s last story ended on May 17, 1941 they had another detective strip waiting in the wings, ready with a new story starting on the next Monday. The replacement strip had debuted seven years earlier and it had one of the biggest promotional pushes at that time. It was clearly an ‘A-strip’ at that time, but in the following years it had many different writers and artists so by 1941 it had definitely fallen into the ‘B-strip’ category. That strip was Secret Agent X-9.

Secret Agent X-9, new story begins, 5/19/1941

Although I did not find any newspapers that elected to take it, it would seem there was a definite alternative in mind for papers that did not select Secret Agent X-9. Surely it is not a coincidence that Brick Bradford, in the middle of a story, decided to run a recap strip on that very same day.

Brick Bradford, recap strip, 5/19/1941


--Jeffrey Lindenblatt

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