It Happened In Birdland

Harry B. Martin was an American cartoonist and comics artist, best remembered as the creator of 'Weatherbird', a weather cartoon series which has ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch since 1901. The feature is therefore the longest-running newspaper cartoon series still in production, as well as the oldest magazine mascot still in use by its original publication. Martin also created several other short-lived newspaper gag-a-day comics starring anthropomorphic birds, which have now been forgotten.

Horace ("Harry") B. Martin was born in 1873 in Salem, Illinois, as son of a laborer. He debuted in local newspapers in Vincennes, Indiana, in 1893. After moving to St. Louis, Missouri, he became secretary for the baseball team St. Louis Browns and official keeper of their scores. While working as a cartoonist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Martin was asked to liven up the daily weather report. He created a little bird who visualized the report in an one-panel cartoon. The character, nicknamed "Dickie the Weatherbird", made his debut on 11 February 1901. Soon Martin was nicknamed "Dickie" as well. The initial idea came to him when he saw some amusing photographs of a group of birds. The 'Weatherbird' cartoons originally just dealt with the weather, but after a while Martin added references to whatever was in the news that day too. He drew the cartoon series until 1903, after which Oscar Chopin continued it until 1910. S. Carlisle Martin (no relation to H.B. Martin) took it over until 1932, followed by Amadee Wohlschlaeger for 49 years until his retirement in 1981. Albert Schweitzer (not to be confused with the famous physician of the same name) continued the series until 1986. Since that date 'Weatherbird' has been drawn by Dan Martin (also no relation).


The very first Weatherbird, from 11 February 1901

In 1903 Martin moved to New York City. His work quickly appeared in the Hearst papers, including the New York Evening Journal and the New York American. This included very short-lived features like 'Lillianette' (2-12 February 1903), 'The Friend Who Invites Us To His Home' (13 March - 9 April 1903), 'Mister Geezer' (15 March - 19 July 1903) and 'Heard On The Rialto' (17 and 18 May 1904). He returned to his beloved birds theme with the 'Dicky Birds' feature (19 January 1903-6 February 1904), which was also known under the titles 'Just Birds, 'Mister Jay Bird', 'Si Birderino', 'The Gay Bird' and 'The Jay Bird'. On 12 April 1907 Martin created another comic strip starring birds: 'A Little Bird Told Him To' for The Evening Journal. Before the month was over, on 29 April, it underwent a title change and became 'It Happened in Birdland'. This gag-a-day comic starred anthropomorphic blackbirds, not unlike the protagonist of 'Weatherbird'. The series ran until 16 January 1908, after which it was interrupted for more than a year. On 26 February 1909 it made a comeback, albeit in The New York American, where it continued until 7 September 1909. Between 27 April 1911 and 18 June 1912 Martin drew another comic strip about birds named 'Inbad the Tailor' (a pun on 'Sinbad the Sailor'). The series starred a bird named Inbad who worked as a tailor. After a couple of episodes Martin started focusing more on two side characters, a young couple named Dickie and Duckie. Additional comic strips by Martin include 'Pests' in the New York World (12 June until 31 August 1906) and 'Isn't It Just Like A Man?' for the International News Service (3 September - 14 December 1912).

Martin was furthermore active as a golf expert. He wrote various articles, golf game reports and books about the sport. He edited various golf magazines and was a member of the Professional Golfers' Association of America. He even had a golf comic strip called 'Horace Martin Gold Comic Strip', which was syndicated in 1918 through the Associated Newspapers. In 1959 Harry B. Martin passed away from cerebral thrombosis at age 85.


Inbad the Tailor

Ink Slinter profile on the Stripper's Guide

Series and books by Harry B. Martin in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

X

If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.