'Little Folks', in Popular Comics #1 (1937)

Tack Knight was an American animator and comics artist. He worked as a sports cartoonist and sometimes ghosted Gene Byrnes' 'Reg'lar Fellers' between 1924 and 1929. Among his original creations were the newspaper gag strips 'Little Folks' (1930-1933) and its Sunday topper 'Baby Sister' (1931-1933).

Early life and career
Benjamin Thackston Knight was born in 1895 in Dillsboro, Jackson County in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. His nickname "Tack" stemmed from the fact that other people had trouble spelling his full name "Thackston". As a cartoonist he often made it even simpler by just signing with the letter "T". In 1910 he became a sports cartoonist for The Oakland Tribune. Knight moved to San Francisco in 1913, where he cartooned for the local newspaper, the Waynesville Enterprise. In 1914 he attended the Mary Hopkins Institute of Art.

Early animation career
In 1915 and 1916 Knight worked as an animator at the Animated Film Corporation in San Francisco. The company was headed by Byington Ford, and worked on the world's first feature-length cartoon, 'Creation'. However, the studio closed down when the United States entered World War I in 1917, which led to many of the young animators being drafted. One of Knight's colleagues at this studio was Pinto Colvig, who'd later become famous as a clown and the original voice of Walt Disney's Goofy. Knight himself served in the U.S. Navy during the war. Back in civilian life, he turned to commercial art and he published 'Tack's Cartoon Tips' (Devoe & Reynolds, 1923), a guide for aspiring cartoonists which went through seven reprints. 


'My Big Brudder' in The Comics #10 (1938)

Comics work
Knight ghosted for Gene Byrnes on the newspaper strip 'Reg'lar Fellers' from 1924 to 1929. By 1928 he associated himself with Dell Publishing, the company that launched a short-lived newspaper tabloid insert called The Funnies on 16 January 1929. It can be considered as a direct precursor to the modern comic book. Knight was present in the first issues with features like 'My Big Brudder' (1929-1930) and 'Peaches' (1929). 'Peaches' was also syndicated by Dell in 1932, with the artist being credited as for "T. Kay", while 'My Big Brudder' reappeared in the Dell comic book 'The Comics' in 1938.

comic art by Tack Knight

Little Folks
Knight's best-known comic strip 'Little Folks' debuted in The Chicago Tribune as a daily on 27 January 1930. The main cast consisted of sailor-hatted Baxter, Horace, Mary Bright and Kitty Carr, the latter inspired by the cartoonist's daughter. This typical kids' gang comic was distributed to other newspapers through the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate until 16 July 1933. A Sunday strip was added on 25 May 1930, although it initially ran bi-weekly in alternation with Tom McNamara's 'Teddy, Jack and Mary'. The newspaper held a contest which strip should stay, which 'Little Folks' won. The Sunday strip went weekly on 8 August, and got a companion strip called 'Baby Sister' on 4 January 1931. The daily strip ended on 20 February 1932, and the Sunday on 16 July 1933, but 'Little Folks' continued to appear in reprints in the Dell comic books 'Popular Comics' (1937) and 'The Comics' (1938). Around 1937 Knight also drew his characters for comic strips advertising Julia Lee Wright's enriched white bread.


'Baby Sister', reprint from Popular Comics #9 (1937)

Later career
In 1930 Knight was active in the story department of the Walt Disney Company. Between 1935 and 1939 he worked for the Fleischer Brothers Animated Studio. In 1950 the veteran artist worked on the animated series 'The Adventures of Horace Cope' for KGO-TV. Tack Knight continued to do some freelance cartooning in the post-World War II period, but by now his dayjob was with the Industrial Accident Commission of the State of California. In 1974 Tack Knight was awarded a Silver T Square by the National Cartoonists Society for his contributions to cartooning. He passed away in 1976 at the age of 81. 


The Little Folks promoting bread (The Press Democrat, 9 November 1937)

Legacy
In 1950, when Charles M. Schulz wanted to create a comic strip about little children his original intention was naming it 'Li'l Folks'. Yet since Knight held the copyright to that name the publishers changed the title into 'Peanuts', without Schulz' permission. Schulz never liked this new title, so one can only wonder how comics history might have looked without the existence of Tack Knight's 'Li'l Folks'. 


Tack Knight in the San Francisco Examiner (28 June 1974)

Series and books by Tack Knight in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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