'The Stanley Family' (22 April 1990).

Barbara Dale is an American cartoonist and illustrator, who debuted in the late 1970s with her line of alternative greeting cards. Initially created in collaboration with her ex-husband Jim Dale, Dale's cards are notable for their non-sentimental, sarcastic comedy style. Apart from cards, the couple also released other merchandise, ranging from mugs to humor books. In 1985, Barbara Dale established the charity project Cartoon Aid to raise money for combatting famine in Ethiopia. For one particular greeting card, she brought dozens of comic characters together from different features, authors and syndicates. Five years later, the Dales made a newspaper family gag comic, 'The Stanley Family' (1990-1991). Nowadays on her own, Barbara Dale continues to make greeting cards for her Dale Cards line, while also being active as painter, sculptor and ceramicist.

Early life and career
Barbara Jo Burkoff was born in 1951 in Louisville, Kentucky into a Jewish family. Despite their heritage, her parents were agnostics. Parts of her childhood were spent in Stamford, Connecticut and Toronto, Ontario, before settling in Michigan. In 1970, she went to her first year of college at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois. In 1971, she finished her undergraduate education in English at Oakland University in Michigan, and between 1976 and 1977, she attended the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Among her graphic influences have been the children's book illustrators R.O. Blechman, Bob Staake and Dr. Seuss, the cartoonists Alison BechdelJan Eliot, Nick Galifianakis, Al HirschfeldLynn Johnston, Ed Koren, Ann TelnaesRichard Thompson and Gahan Wilson, as well as the 16th-century Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo. In 1970, she married the American writer James Michael "Jim" Dale.

Marriage anniversary card by Barbara Dale.

Greeting cards
During the 1970s, the Dale couple lived to Birmingham, Michigan, before in 1979 settling in Baltimore, Maryland. In the late 1970s, still in Michigan, Barbara Dale began designing an edgy line of humorous alternative greeting cards. Her husband Jim Dale contributed as a gag writer. Using five hundred dollars that her grandfather left her in his will, she began printing and distributing them under the "Dale Cards" banner. After initially hand-delivering her card orders in Huggies diaper boxes, she eventually set up a distribution network that shipped her cards all over the USA, and also to England, Australia and Japan. In 1982, the Dale Cards line was bought by Recycled Paper Greetings, with the Dales going under contract. For the next decades, the couple collaborated on not only greeting cards, but also other gift industry products like notepads, post-it notes, aprons, stickers, buttons, mugs and balloons. Later on, Barbara Dale has produced cards and other products for American Greetings, Andrews and McMeel, Carol Wilson, The Ink Group, Recycled Paper Products and Smart Alex, Inc. Today, her cards are published by RSVP Cards/Sellers Publishing and through her official website barbaradale.com.

Dale greeting cards are notable for their use of sarcastic, risqué comedy, instead of the usual schmaltzy messages. One friendship card, for instance, reads: "I haven't heard from you for a long time. So tell me ..." on the cover, finishing the sentence inside with: " ...who's screwing who?" A sequential Valentine card advices the reader to "not kiss your honey / when your nose is runny/ you may think it's funny / but it's snot." A birthday card assures the celebrated person "you look so young ... it pisses me off." In the same style, her company also released drinking glasses, mini buttons and rectangle magnets with a measure unit to imply "penis gauge".

During the 1980s and 1990s, the Dales additionally released several humor books with Andrews & McMeel Publishing, starting with 'The Working Woman Book or How to be Everything to Everyone' (1984), a book that lovingly mocks the lives of career women like Barbara herself. Three years later, Barbara met a housewife at a dinner party who felt embarrassed since she "stayed home to raise her kids, instead of working a job." Dale felt such self-loathing was unfair and unnecessary. She and her husband therefore released a follow-up book, 'The Joys of Motherhood' (1987), taking a sympathetic look at housewives and mothers. Two other books, 'Getting Old Is Pigeon Poop' (1989) and 'Happy Birthday to Someone Who Isn't Very Old in Dog Years' (1993), poke fun at ageing.

Barbara Dale's 1985 Cartoon Aid greeting card, presenting characters from many different cartoonists.

Cartoon Aid
Barbara Dale was also the instigator behind the Cartoon Aid charity project. In 1984, pop singer Bob Geldof founded the charity group Band Aid, while a year later his colleagues Harry Belafonte, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie started a similar group, U.S.A. for Africa. Both released hit singles, respectively 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' (1984) and 'We Are the World' (1985), intended to raise money for anti-famine efforts in Ethiopia. At the time, these projects received global attention and admiration, since dozens of famous pop musicians participated with the recording of these singles and performed at benefit concerts like Live-Aid (13-14 July 1985). Most had never played together, since they were signed to different labels and active in other genres. But at this occasion, they all used their talents to support a good cause.

After seeing calypso singer Harry Belafonte on TV calling out to people in other industries to also create charity projects, Dale came up with a similar idea for cartoonists: bringing the characters of 500 cartoonists together on one big illustration for a greeting card distributed by Recycled Paper Greetings. The money went to the same fund used by USA for Africa. However, it was by no means a simple undertaking. With the help of Cathy Andrews from the Universal Press Syndicate and the local advertising firm W.B. Doner Company, Dale tried to obtain legal permission to design a greeting card with all these copyrighted characters. In some cases, the cartoonists themselves held the rights. In others, she had to contact their syndicates or agents. Some had to refuse participation, for instance 'Peanuts' creator Charles M. Schulz, who was contractually obligated to Hallmark cards. Afterwards, it became a matter of fitting all these characters on the same drawing. Some had to be portrayed disproportionally bigger or smaller.

In the end, all the artists, publishers and syndicates contributed their work for free, with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity. The finished greeting card was an impressive collection of characters. From the world of animation, there were Max Fleischer's Betty Boop and Jay Ward's Rocky & Bullwinkle, Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Well-known children's book characters were also present, like Roger Hargreaves' Mr. Men and Max from Maurice Sendak's 'Where the Wild Things Are'. Among the classic newspaper comic characters one could recognize Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy, Rudolph Dirks' Katzenjammer Kids, Lee Falk's The Phantom, Chester Gould's Dick Tracy, Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie, Frank King's Walt Wallet (from 'Gasoline Alley'), George McManus' Maggie & Jiggs (from 'Bringing Up Father'), E.C. Segar's Popeye and Chic Young's Blondie. More contemporary comic characters in the crowd were Berkeley Breathed's Opus the Penguin, Dik Browne's Hägar the Horrible and Hi & Lois, Jim Davis' Garfield, Jules Feiffer's The Dancer, Cathy Guisewite's Cathy, Johnny Hart's B.C., Bill Hoest's The Lockhorns, Gary Larson's 'Far Side' cows, Mell Lazarus' Momma, Russell Myers' Broom-Hilda, Mort Walker's Beetle Bailey and Tom Wilson's Ziggy.

For her initiative, Barbara Dale was included in a large group of people honored at the United Nations on World Media Day. In some countries, the Cartoon Aid initiative received local follow-ups. In the Netherlands, a 1989 'Cartoon Aid' book was published, collecting comics by a great many Dutch cartoonists. One year later, a follow-up book was published featuring association soccer-themed comics, in line with the upcoming 1990 World Championship Football in Italy. Apart from Dutch comics, it also featured comics by Belgian creators.

'The Stanley Family' cartoons from 23 and 24 April 1990.

The Stanley Family
On 2 April 1990, Barbara and Jim Dale launched their own newspaper gag-a-day cartoon/comic strip, 'The Stanley Family' (1990-1991). Syndicated by Universal Press, it ran in papers like The L.A. Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Stanleys are a Catholic husband and his Jewish wife, who have three kids and a dog. Most gags revolve around the ways they try to combine their working life with their family. The final episode saw print on 17 February 1991. Barbara Dale discontinued the series since her heart wasn't really into it and she felt more comfortable doing work in licensing.

Selection of Barbara Dale's painted toilet tubes from her Pandemic Project. The first roll depicts the U.S. presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, the second shows Trump again and the third depicts the infamous TV debate where a fly landed on U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's head. 

Paintings and sculptures
Based in Baltimore, Maryland, Barbara Dale makes paintings, collages, jewelry and sculptures, often recycling old material and junk as decorations. Her collage 'Good/Bad' (1990), for instance, was constructed from condoms, tampons and barbecue rib bones. Dale makes jewelry for Art With a Heart, an organization that makes art classes available to disadvantaged people. In the past, she also made teddy bears with aid from donated jewelry, buttons and clothing. These 'Art Bears' were designed for The House of Ruth, a battered women's shelter in Baltimore, Maryland. Created from cast-offs, each bear had a tag attached with its fictional life story, mirroring the women in the shelter who were also creating new lives with very few resources.

In 2020-2022, when the world was hit by the COVID-19 virus pandemic, Dale took the time to create a unique project. For every day of the seemingly never-ending lockdown, she took a toilet paper tube and illustrated it. The topics could range from personal anecdotes and dreams, to depictions of ongoing current affairs, like the vaccination campaigns, the 2020 U.S. presidential elections and the 2021 storming of the Capitol in Washington D.C. In the end, she had more than 200 illustrated toilet paper tubes, some donated by people from all over the country. As Dale herself joked about their generosity: "Talk about supporting the arts!". The tubes were then glued together, to give them the appearance of a book shelf.

In October 2015, Barbara Dale received the Jack Davis Lifetime Achievement Award in Cartooning from the National Cartoonists Society. In 2017, she was a Grand Marshal Honoree at TuneFest in Marcelline, Missouri. Several of her paintings, drawings and ceramic sculptures have been exhibited and are part of museum collections.

Self-portrait in chalk pastel.


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