Lady Bountiful by Gene Carr
'Lady Bountiful' (8 January 1905).

Gene Carr was a early 20th-century American comic artist, best known for his longest-running series 'Lady Bountiful' (1902-1929), historically important as the first known balloon comic starring a female character. Another long-running series by his hand was 'The Bad Dream That Made Billy A Better Boy' (1905-1911), though he only drew it for a few months before passing it on. Carr was also the original creator of 'Kitty Kildare' (1921-1922) and continued 'Metropolitan Movies' in 1921. Most of Carr's newspaper comics were short-lived. Among the other longest-running (but nowadays forgotten) series were 'Phyllis' (1903-1906), 'All the Comforts of Home' (1905, 1907-1908), 'Stepbrothers' (1907-1914) and 'Poor Mister W.' (1917-1920).

Bearville by Gene Carr

Early life and career
Eugene Gilroy "Gene" Carr was born in 1881 in New York City. His father worked at the local police department. Carr is an unusual case of a boy who enjoyed drawing from an early age, never had any artistic schooling and, despite all odds, instantly found a job as a newspaper cartoonist after finishing school. At age 15 he published his first illustrations in the local New York magazine Recorder. His luck ended there, because the magazine in question disestablished itself soon after. Carr joined another local newspaper but was fired. Realizing a change of environment might be welcome, the young artist moved to Philadelphia, where he was invited for a job interview at the Philadelphia Times, only to find out that this newspaper too didn't exist anymore. Carr returned to his home city and this time finally found a stable vocation at The New York Herald, The New York World (owned by Joseph Pulitzer), The New York Evening Journal and the Times in Philadelphia, as well as syndicates like King Features, McClure and the obscure Van Tine.

Bearville / Bear Land
Carr's earliest cartoon feature was 'Bearville' (also known as 'Bear Land', 1901), which appeared in William Randolph Hearst's New York Evening Journal between 19 April and 7 May 1901. Obviously inspired by James Swinnerton's 'The Little Bears', it featured cute bears doing human activities.

Lady Bountiful
'Lady Bountiful'

Lady Bountiful
On 2 October 1901 Carr created his signature series: 'Lady Bountiful' (1901-1905, 1915-1919, 1926-1928). The name 'Lady Bountiful' was lifted from George Farquhar's play 'The Beaux' Stratagem' (1707). Just like her theatrical counterpart, Carr's 'Lady Bountiful' was a rich, well-mannered woman who used her wealth to help and adopt poor street children. The character was modelled after Carr's older sister Irene. The series was originally a filler comic in the Sunday funnies of the Hearst papers. Historically speaking, Charles Keene's 'The Adventures of Miss Lavinia Brounjones' (1866) is the oldest comic strip to star a woman. Though Keene's work was a text comic, with dialogue written underneath the images. Keene also never developed it into a series: it remained an one-shot comic. Carr's 'Lady Bountiful' was the first balloon comic to star a female character and run as a series, making Mrs. Bountiful a recurring character. A year later Grace Drayton's 'Toddles' (1903-1933, later renamed 'Dolly Dimples') became the first comic strip drawn by a woman to star a female character. Within the same decade other comics starring women, like Winsor McCay's 'Hungry Henrietta' (1905) and Émile-Joseph Pinchon's 'Bécassine' (1905), Grif's 'It's Only Ethelinda' (1908-1910) and Jo Valle and André Vallet's 'L' Espiègle Lili' (1909-1998), followed. 

'Lady Bountiful' was popular enough at the time to be adapted into a 1902 stage play, written by Robert Davis, with music by Louis Gottschalk and Jean Schwartz and starring Mamie Gilroy in the title role. Carr illustrated the cover of the lyric sheet. Another well-known actress who played Lady Bountiful was Lillian Russell. In 1903 the comic strip was also adapted into a silent film.

In 1903 Carr was hired away by Joseph Pulitzer and appeared in The New York World, where 'Lady Bountiful' at least received a full page rather than being muffled away as filler. The series nevertheless only lasted until 1905. But the humanitarian female was far from forgotten. She had cameos in Carr's other series and by 28 February 1915 her comic strip made a comeback, which lasted until 1919. 'Lady Bountiful' was revived a final time through Philadelphia's Ledger syndicate between 28 November 1926 and 1929. This version also came with a topper, 'Daredevil'.

Mister Al Most (15 September 1912)
'Mister Al Most' (15 September 1912).

The Bad Dream That Made Bill A Better Boy
Carr was the original creator of 'The Bad Dream That Made Bill A Better Boy' (1905-1911), which debuted on 13 August 1905 in Joseph Pulitzer's St. Louis Dispatch. Each episode featured a young boy, Bill, awaking from a nightmare. Typically he'd learn a valuable moral through this opinion-changing dream. The concept shares similarities with Winsor McCay's 'Little Nemo in Slumberland', though McCay's series debuted nearly two months later. Carr only drew 'The Bad Dream That Made Bill A Better Boy' for a few weeks, after which William Steinigans took it over from 27 August on 1905 until 1911.

Comics in the New York World
For The New York World Gene Carr created 'Phyllis' (1903-1906), 'Willie Wise' (1904-1905), 'All the Comforts of Home' (1905, 1907-1908), 'The Prodigal Son' (1906-1907), 'Reddy - Also Caruso' (1907), 'Handy Andy' (1910-1911), 'Home, Sweet Home', 'Mister Al Most' (1911-1912), 'Major Stuff' (1914-1915, which heavily borrowed its mustard from Rudolph Dirks' 'Katzenjammer Kids') and 'Poor Mister W.' (1917-1920). 'Reddy - Also Caruso' revolved around a child, Reddy, and his pet grizzly bear Caruso. Carr's Sunday comic 'Stepbrothers' (1907-1914) and 'Mr. Al Most' were also published in the San Francisco Call.

Mr. Al Most
Debuting on 10 December 1911, 'Mr. Al Most' featured a well-meaning simpleton of whom always is taken advantage, and ran until 13 October 1912, halfway an unresolved plotline in which he tries to break an engagement with a woman he doesn't want to marry.

Poor Mister W.  / Little Darling
'Poor Mister W.', ran from 8 April 1917 until 28 March 1920 and featured a henpecked cigar-smoking husband and his domineering wife. It was obviously inspired by George McManus' 'Bringing Up Father'. Another comic painfully close to plagiarism of McManus' work was 'Little Darling', which ran between 12 June 1920 and 6 February 1921. In terms of concept it was virtually identical to McManus' family comic 'The Newlyweds'.

Major Stuff (9 June 1912)
'Major Stuff' (9 June 1912).

Accusation of murder
Carr's career was temporarily interrupted on 26 July 1908, when he was suspected of having murdered the wealthy horseowner Cameron Cool. As it turned out, the accusation was merely a rumor and the cartoonist had a believable alibi. He was on vacation when the crime took place. The police released him after the widow of the victim stated he wasn't the culprit. 

Just Humans by Gene Carr
'Just Humans'.

Kitty Kildare
In 1917, Carr was drafted to serve his country during the First World War. When peace returned Carr created new series like 'Chub's Big Brother' (1918-1919), 'Little Darling' (1920-1921) and 'Kitty Kildare' (1921-1922) for The New York World. In October 1922, during its final week, 'Kitty Kildare' was continued by Larry Whittington

Metropolitan Movies
Around 1921, Carr took over the popular one-panel gag cartoon series 'Metropolitan Movies' in The New York World, previously drawn by artists whose names aren't recorded in history. In 1924 Carr left this paper and started working for the McClure Syndicate.

The Baxter Beasleys
On 23 June 1924, Carr created 'The Baxter Beasleys' (1924-1925). It revolved around a husband who gets himself into problematic situations by not thinking things through, whereupon his family members occasionally help him out. According to comic historian Allan Holtz it seems to have been discontinued after 31 January 1925.

Just Humans
Also in 1925, Carr created 'Just Humans', a gag cartoon feature comparable to his previous feature 'Metropolitan Movies' in terms of slice-of-life social commentary. It presumably ran until 1929.

Johnny Beans (14 May 1937)
'Johnny Beans' (14 May 1937).

Little Nell
Between 12 December 1927 and 14 April 1928, Carr created 'Little Nell', a dramatic comic which revolved around a young woman who aspires to become a psychoanalyst, but as soon as she arrives in the big city suddenly wants to become a star on the stage. The series featured a lot of tragic events which caused Little Nell to cry uncontrollably. It was syndicated by United Features.

Later comics
King Features distributed Carr's 'Uplifting of Mickey Mooney' feature in 1928. In the second half of the 1930s Carr made his final comics work for the small and obscure Van Tine Syndicate. His feature 'Here 'n' There' again seemed to pick up where 'Just Humans' (±1937-1939) left off. 'Kitty Kelly, the Hollywood Extra' (later 'Kitty Kelly and Nellie Shannon', 1936-1938) was the syndicate's only feature with an ongoing storyline. Carr left it shortly after its launch though, after which it was continued by an unknown artist who signed with "Ro". Gene Carr moved on to create the kids' feature 'Johnny Beans' (April-May 1937). During World War II, Carr again signed up to serve his country in the military. 

Final years and death
After World War II, Carr lived in Vermont, and worked as an illustrator/cartoonist. He passed away in 1959 from a heart attack in his home in Hampole, New Hampshire. He was 78 years old.

Gene Carr
Announcement of 'The Baxter Beasleys' from The Palm Beach Post of 29 September 1924, with a caricature by an unknown artist.

Ink Slinger profile on the Stripper's Guide

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