Doings of the Duffs, by Walter Allman 1914
Doings of the Duffs (1914)

Walter Allman was an early American newspaper artist, best remembered for his daily gag comic 'Doings of the Duffs' (1914-1924).

According to his World War I draft card, Walter Reese Allman was born in 1884 in Toledo, Ohio (his obituary said he was 42 when he died, which would make his birth year 1882). He started his career working in the grain business, but already dreamed off scribbling doodles on the sides of boxes and crates. This motivated him to become a cartoonist instead. His first newspaper comic was 'They All Fall For It' (18 April 1911-April 1912), which was published in The Toledo News-Bee. It was followed by a the weekday gag cartoon series 'The Great American Home' (Canadian in Canada) for the Newspaper Enterprise Association. It also appeared under the title 'The Way of the World'. Despite creating a gag a day Allman did occasionally reflect on the more dramatic events of the 1910s, like the sinking of the Titanic and America getting involved with the First World War in 1917. The feature debuted on 9 April 1913 and was drawn by Allman until the 1920s. It was then continued until 19 January 1942 by several other artists, such as Lee Stanley, George Carbo, Eckhart, Bill Arnold and Bob Moyer. Other short-lived panels by Allman were 'Dreamsticks' (22 August 1911-23 February 1912) and 'Honest, This Is How It Happened' (1915).

Honest, This Is How It Happened

On 30 July 1914 he launched 'Guess If They Are Married', a gag-a-day comic which was picked up by the NEA Service and appeared in the newspapers of W.R. Hearst. It was renamed to 'Doings of the Duffs' in early 1915. The series revolved around a wealthy family, The Duffs, and all kinds of puns, slapstick and family irritations that were recognizable to people who were well off in society. The patriarch of the family was Tom Duff, a moustached office worker who was usually on the receiving end of the joke. He and his wife Helen employed several servants including a African-American maid named Parsy, who spoke in jive. Other members of the household were Wilbur and Olivia.

At the time 'Doings of the Duffs' was popular enough to receive a 1917 film adaptation by The Rembrandt Studios. The picture was no longer than two reels, though. As popular as the comic strip was, Allman still felt overworked. It is said that Allman once sent in a month worth of 'Duff' strips, all drawn without any noses. "I just got tired of drawing noses", he said. Publications of his strip was interrupted on two occasions because of health issues, in 1922 and 1923. In 1923 he suffered a nervous breakdown and passed away in 1924. The strip was briefly continued by W.O. Fitzgerald, and then by Ben Batsford (1925-1928) and finally by Buford Tune (1928-1931). The strip is also known under the titles 'That Beats Me' and 'The Fitts Family'.


Walter Allman receiving letters of congratulation when his character Tom Duff's son was born in 1917

Ink Slinger profile on the Stripper's Guide

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