Saturday, September 26, 2015

McDougall’s Good Stories for Children

[1] 1903, February 15


“REALLY, it seems as if the artist-author must have fed upon a steady diet of Welsh rarebits, at 11 o’clock at night, to have originated such a marvelous menagerie of strange beasts as are pictured in this book.” review of The Rambillicus Book, 1903 

[2] 1903, September 25
McDougall’s Good Stories for Children. From 1902 to 1905 author, cartoonist and illustrator Walt McDougall (1858-1938) published weekly full-page fantasy stories for children in the Sunday editions of American newspapers. The best of the first few year’s crop were reprinted in The Rambillicus Book; Wonder Tales for Children From 7 to 70, which was published in November 1903 by George W. Jacobs Co.

[3] 1903, April 5
FIRST. McDougall’s first newspaper illustrations were published in the Extra, a short lived paper from 1884. From there he moved to the New York World. In 1884 the World began the — allegedly — first series of daily political cartoons ever to appear in a newspaper. McDougall drew the first series and one cartoon based on Belshazzar’s Feast was credited with winning Grover Cleveland the White House.

[4] 1903, June 28
STRIPS. McDougall’s comic strip history is best remembered by his Sunday page illustration to L. Frank Baum’s Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz (1904-05). This strip was preceded by Fatty Felix (1902) and in the colored supplements followed by Hank the Hermit (1912). In the late 1910s McDougall was drawing a one-panel, called Over Here (1918) as well as a daily strip named Absent Minded Abner (1915-19).

[5] 1902, November 2
LAST. One March afternoon in 1938 Walt McDougall, who had been living alone for twenty years, less than a month after his eightieth birthday, shot himself with a “horse-pistol” at his farmhouse at the Niantic River road in Waterford, Connecticut, and died. His diaries referenced the “tough times” he had endured in his latter years. McDougall was already known as “the dean of American cartoonists” then, a title he must have inherited from Charles Green Bush.

[6] 1903, August 2
[7] 1903, February 1
[8] 1903, February 8
[9] 1904, January 31
[10] 1903, October 18
[11] Hank the Hermit, 1912, October 27
[12] 1902, November 16
[13] March 1888, signed photograph.
[14] ca. 1900, McDougall portrait by unnamed artist.


WALT M’DOUGALL IS FOUND DEAD — Dean of American Cartoonists Is Declared a Suicide by Medical Examiner. — By the Associated Press. — WATERFORD, Conn., March 7. — Walt McDougall, dean of American cartoonists, author and humorist, was found dead yesterday on a couch in his Fern Lane farmhouse. Dr. Frank Dunn, medical examiner, said McDougall’s right hand clutched an old-fashioned “horse pistol” and that his death was suicide. The 80-year-old Mr. McDougall was found by four boys who went to the Niantic River road farmhouse to pay him a visit. Mr. McDougall, generally regarded as the first American cartoonist, contributed to the old New York World and to the Philadelphia North American. He also did strips for the McClure Syndicate and nationally known magazines. Among his better known ones were “Absent Minded Abner,” “Fatty Felix,” “Hank The Hermit,” “Teddy In Africa” and the Rambillaux series. He was a personal friend of the late Theodore Roosevelt and covered the White House during his presidential regime.
[The Evening Star, March 7, 1938, page A-2]

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pogo Primers Issued by US Government

 1  “…idiotic…”
WHEN issued by the Children’s Bureau of the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, the 24-page Pogo Primer For Parents (TV Division) — a 1961 booklet written and drawn by Walt Kelly — drew a sour notice from Rep. H.R. Gross (R-Iowa). Reverend Gross dismissed Kelly’s primer as “…idiotic. If that’s all HEW’s Children’s Bureau has to do it’s time for a house-cleaning…”

 2  ‘A possum puts tv bugbear into perspective,’ a review in Broadcasting, August 28, 1961.
 3   Pogo Primer Por Parents (TV Division), page 5.
 4   Jimmy Breslin with Walt Kelly in a commercial for Piels Beer, August 1964.
 5   The front cover of another primer by Walt Kelly from 1965, titled Pogo: Welcome to the Beginning — Work Training, issued by the US Department of Labor. “I am happy to present you with your Neighborhood Youth Corps ID Card. You have now joined a nationwide program which will help you become more employable…”

See the complete Pogo Primer For Parents (TV Division), Headliner Series, Number 2, HERE.
More about Pogo: Welcome to the Beginning HERE.
And The Man From Pogo in Yesterday’s Papers HERE.

 6   Ebony Magazine self-portrait, Nov 1966.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Window-Shopping for Penny Dreadfuls

[1] Black Bess; or, The Knight of the Road, No. 200
by Marie Léger-St-Jean

THIS IS the story of three boys. The first two were growing up in the 1870s, the last one two decades earlier. It’s the story of motherless brothers Charley and Bill from London’s East End on the one hand, and on the other hand, that of a Scottish boy christened Robert Lewis Balfour, who grew up to write Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.  
[According to Ernest Mehew in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Robert Louis Stevenson was given the names Robert Lewis Balfour but changed the spelling – although not the pronunciation – of his second name to Louis when he was about eighteen, and dropped the third in 1873; to his family and close friends he was always known as Louis.]
Bill is illiterate. In charge of his younger siblings, he has not had his brother’s luck: Charley attends the Ragged School on Hatton-Garden. A ten-minute walk away from the school, on Rosamund Street, now the Spa Fields Park, stands a newsvendor. Sounds pretty boring when you can’t read, but that’s because you’ve forgotten the power of illustration. Have you ever ‘read’ a graphic novel as a kid, when you hadn’t yet learnt how to read? The only tricky thing is flashbacks, otherwise, you’re fine. So that’s why Billy was interested in the newsvendor: he would display on his shop windows the first page of the week’s number for a variety of penny dreadfuls. Each one contained an elaborate woodcut.

Nowadays, if you consult a penny dreadful, most likely in the Rare Books Room of a research library, unless you’re acquainted with a collector, it will seem like just a normal book, its seriality masked by the binding except for the predictable presence, every eight page, of a woodcut. It took me three weeks to realize that the penny bloods I was consulting at the Cambridge University Library were not later reprints, even though numbers would finish and start in the middle of a sentence, or even of a word.

That’s why Bill’s story is important: it brings to life the context in which penny dreadfuls were encountered when they were first published.

But how do we know Billy’s story if he’s illiterate? Presumably, if he cannot read, he cannot write (the reverse could not be assumed true). We know it second-hand. Actually, third-hand. If it’s true at all. Apparently Billy’s brother told it in a Thieves Anonymous meeting at which was present James Greenwood. Greenwood is respectable enough to have his own entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. John Adcock put together his bibliography.

GREENWOOD occupies an interesting position: recounting Billy and his brother’s story, he is an investigative journalist, warning against the evils of penny dreadfuls. But as many writers at the time, he is trying to string together a living as a hard-working low-earning man of letters, otherwise known as a literary hack. Thus, besides journalism, Greenwood also engaged in penny-dreadful writing…

But let’s return to Bill and Charley’s story, if we are ever to get to Robert Lewis’s.

[2] Black Bess, No. 190
Billy could read most of the story of highwaymen, but illustrations are sometimes ambiguous, generating suspense. That’s when Billy would call upon his younger brother to use his newly acquired reading skills to decipher the text beneath the illustration. Perhaps it could tell if the doorkeeper was shutting or opening the door to let the highwayman through or bar his way. But the text on the first page would not always settle the matter. Presumably the answer lay in the seven hidden pages, but the two boys’ pockets were empty.

Though social critics denounced or celebrated penny fiction as horrendously or triumphantly cheap, Billy had to steal and pawn a hammer to acquire the prized jewel. The week after, it was his younger brother’s turn. Theft was the only recourse to obtain the boys’ weekly mental sustenance. And as the brother tells in the Thieves Anonymous meeting, how could it be wrong to steal tools when week after week, Jonathan Wild was appropriating luxurious jewelry!

QED, penny dreadfuls cause petty criminality, both by creating an addiction and giving a bad example. By displaying the first page and its illustration in the shop window, newsvendors were using insidious advertising, how else could boys react to the enticing snippet but to want to know what happened next?

NOT ALL BOYS resorted to theft, and not just because some had better morals or showed more self-restraint than Billy and his brother. Robert Lewis needed nothing more than the illustration and its caption to set his imagination going and reconstruct the narrative. In ‘Popular Authors,’ he even says that there’s a whole paper to be written on the relative merits of reading a story and just looking at the illustrations. I guess that’s partly what I’m writing.

[3] Robert Lewis Balfour as a youth
Robert Lewis, let’s call him Bob for short, was introduced to penny fiction as his nurse read from Cassell’s Family Paper. However, when that was no longer acceptable reading, he started doing the weekly rounds of the shop windows. He could not afford to buy any complete numbers and had to contend himself of the first page, like Billy and his brother. However, in contrast, he did not seem to mind: he took what he wanted and constructed his own stories, as any child does to play.

The force of words, as opposed to simply that of illustrations, was uncovered to him by his mother reading Macbeth, the sounds of the storm raging outdoors uplifting the power of words.

[4] Black Bess, No. 187
Bob first encountered complete numbers in the romantic setting of Neidweith Castle, about which Sir Walter Scott wrote a poem, ‘The Maid of Neidweith’. The abandoned tales sparked the interest of Bob and then only did he become addicted to penny dreadfuls in their full form, complete with images and text. (Stevenson’s article does not tell how he procured himself the means of sustaining his addiction.) Only after discovering the power of words through Shakespeare, the article’s unfolding suggests, was Bob prepared for the genius of Viles, Rymer, & cie. Only then did it seem that authors might actually tell a better story than he could from the illustrations.

STEVENSON tells another story of the boy Robert window-shopping and image-reading in his friend Henley’s Magazine of Art. The gallery is no longer one of penny dreadfuls, but of juvenile drama by Skelt.

When did Bobby enjoy the juvenile drama so? Even as he imagined the stories of penny dreadfuls, or later, when he had started reading them instead?

The stories of Billy, his brother, and Robert Lewis highlight a reading practice common throughout the United Kingdom and throughout the second half of the nineteenth century at the least. As for more Victorian examples, a journalist surveyed the shop windows of London, Edinburgh, and Newcastle for penny dreadfuls in 1888. [1] At the beginning of the twentieth century, a working-class woman warns against the dangers of daily news being displayed in a similar fashion, ironically preferring boys read penny dreadfuls instead. [2]

But their diverging stories also bring attention to the fact that one cannot abstract a reader’s attitude from the retail and distribution strategies. It is important to bring to light the different ways in which fiction was encountered by Victorian audiences and break the uniform mould of the three-decker novel. This is true for any historical period, all geographic locations. But it is not enough to understand actual reading experiences: they are varied, pluralistic, sometimes counterintuitive, and should not be generalized.

[5] James Greenwood
[1] ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ by T. Mackay, Time, Aug 1888, pp.218-225 (p.218).
[2] ‘The Morals of the Coming Generation’ by Priscilla E. Moulder, Westminster Review, Sep 1913, pp.299-301 (p.300).
“Penny Awfuls” by James Greenwood, St. Paul’s Magazine, XII, 1873 HERE.
“Popular Authors” by Robert Louis Stephenson, Scribner’s Magazine, July 4, 1888 HERE.

“Black Bess; or, The Knight of the Road. A Tale of the Good Old Times” by Anonymous (attributed to Edward Viles). Illustrated by Robert Prowse and others. No. 1 published August 8, 1863. E. Harrison, Salisbury Court, Fleet Street. “Ran to 254 penny weekly numbers and 2028 pages, each number of eight pages (…)” Frank Jay N&Q April 29, 1922 HERE.

“Price One Penny: A Database of Cheap Literature, 1837-1860 (POP)”, by Marie Léger-St-Jean, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, England [last updated 20 June 2015] HERE.
Updated with two footnotes on 15 november 2015.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

George Herriman’s Sporting Cartoons

1 [1909] August 10
Champion Jeffries Says He is Willing to Take On the Big Smoke. NEW YORK, Aug. 4, 1909 — Upon the eve of his departure for Europe tomorrow. James J. Jeffries issued a statement tonight through his manager Sam Berger, saying that everything now depends on Jack Johnson as far as a fight was concerned. He did not seem to consider seriously Johnson’s posting of $5000 in Chicago this week…

American Sporting Cartoons.
by John Adcock

 JACK JOHNSON.   Cartoonist George Herriman (1880-1944), without showing his subject’s face, captured Jack Johnson's mood perfectly in this sporting cartoon — triumph, elation, longing and an intense yearning. Johnson holds a bouquet of flowers in one hand and Jeff’s forfeit in the other. His feet barely touch the ground. The cartoon first ran in Hearst’s Los Angles Examiner on August 6, 1909. On July 4, 1910, Johnson met James J. Jeffries, a former miner and boilermaker, at Reno, Nevada and saw his dreams become reality.

2 [1904] May 26
 CHALLENGERS.   On June 9, 1899, James J. Jeffries had taken the American Heavyweight Champion title from Bob Fitzsimmons, a middleweight who won the heavyweight title from Jim Corbett in 1897 at Coney Island Athletic club in Brooklyn, N.Y. After fights with Sharkey, Ruhlin, Corbett, and a rematch with Fitzsimmons Jeff ran out of serious challengers except among the Negro fighters.

3 [1904] June 26
 COLOR LINE.   Jeffries had fought black fighters before but drew the color line to protect the heavyweight title from several clever Negro pugilists. After beating Nova Scotian boxer and coal miner Jack Munroe he retired in 1905, an undefeated champion. Jeffries designated Marvin Hart his successor and on February 23, 1906, the title passed to Canadian fighter Tommy Burns. On December 26, 1908, Tommy Burns lost the title to Jack Johnson in Australia.

4 [1904] August 3
 BEAT IN 14 ROUNDS.   The next year Johnson successfully defended the title against five white challengers leading sporting columnists and cartoonists to begin clamoring for Jeffries to come out of retirement and put the Negro upstart in his place. Jeffries was reluctant but, just as he had with Burns, Johnson began dogging the footsteps of the retired white hope and finally Johnson met Jeffries on July 4, 1910, at Reno, Nevada where he decisively beat the out of shape former champion in 14 rounds. Johnson finally lost the title to the Pottawatomie Giant, Jess Willard, in 1915 at Havana, Cuba. Willard was not an impressive boxer and it was believed by many that Johnson took a dive.

5 [1904] August 4
 REPORTERS.   When Jack Johnson battled White Hope James L. Jeffries for the championship of the world at Reno, Nevada on July 4, 1910, former champions and reporting writers and artists from east and west flocked to the small desert town. Present there was Canadian Tommy Burns who lost the title to Johnson in Sydney, Australia, as was Bob Fitzsimmons, who had fought both Johnson and Jeffries (Jeffries twice). Present as writers and cartoonists were Rube Goldberg, TAD, A.D. Condo, Jimmy Swinnerton, Bud Fisher, Clare Briggs and Bob Edgren. George Herriman did not attend, having been summoned to New York by Hearst.

The sporting cartoons shown here are all created by George Herriman.

6 [1904] October 23
7 [1904] November 27
8 [1909] August 16
9 [1910] April 26
10 [1910] June 19
11 [1910] June 21
12 [1910] June 28
13 [1910] July 12
14 [1917] Photo of George Herriman

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Views on Krazy Kat Herriman

1 [1930s] Summer Ritual. Daughter Toots Herriman dancing on the beach with father George.
‘No country has produced, in the narrow limits of this medium, a fantastic philosopher such as George Herriman. Herriman’s work is curiously distinguished; I can find no precedent either for its kind of invention or its graphical style. To an extreme sensibility of touch, a wistful ironic humour, he adds something more — some subtle understanding of human susceptibility of which he alone, beside Chaplin, is possessed.’ — Paul Nash, in The Week-end Review, London 1931

NASH. British illustrator, war artist, woodcut revivalist, painter and art critic Paul Nash (b.1889) paid his first visit to the US in 1931. He had a lot in common with Krazy Kat author George Herriman (b.1880), ‘the geometric order of nature’ was just one of his interests. The Week-end Review — subtitled: “of Politics, Books, The Theatre, Art and Music” — was a successful little London paper edited by Gerald Reid Barry, published in 1930-34.

3 [1922] Krazy Kat Herriman – Loves His Kittens, by T.E. Powers.
4 [1930s] Helloi Lady! We’re here to interview you! Original Herriman color drawing of the Krazy Kat cast.
5 [1944] Comedy or Drama or — Opera. This Krazy Kat comic strip is published Wednesday April 26, the day after Herriman died.
6 [1944] The Cop said Go. But due to the advance stock, the very last Krazy Kat daily strip appeared on June 3, and the very last Sunday page on June 25.
Rick Marschall
Heritage Auctions
Bill Greenwell

Marc Voline
[3] The 1922 strip about  Herriman wearing a flat straw hat — a skimmer — was found by Rick Marschall and included in his book series The Komplete Kolor Krazy Kat (1990). 

[1] The photo of Herriman in the same hat comes from a book by Patrick McDonnell, Karen O’Connell and Georgia Riley de Havenon, Krazy Kat; The Comic Art of George Herriman (1986).

[2] The Paul Nash quote from a 1931 issue of the Week-end Review comes from the reprinted text in the New York Sun, August 19, 1931, where Nash’s article is titled ‘American Comics, a Foreign Appraisal of the Masters of Humorous Pencils’. Read more about the Week-end Review in Bill Greenwell’s satirical poetry project HERE.

[4] The original color drawing of the Krazy Kat cast was auctioned on August 27, 2015, by Heritage Auctions — ‘The World’s Largest Collectibles Auctioneer’ — see HERE.