The Happy Hooligans, by Frederick Opper
'The Happy Hooligan'.

Frederick Burr Opper a prominent artist among the first wave of American cartoonists, known for such features as 'Happy Hooligan', 'And her Name was Maud' and 'Alphonse and Gaston'. Born in Madison, Ohio as the son of an Austrian immigrants, Opper was only fourteen years old when he started drawing cartoons for The Madison Gazette.

comic art by Frederick Opper

At the age of twenty, he moved to the East Coast and became staff artist of the magazine Wild Oats. Meanwhile, he also did freelance work for other magazines, like political cartoons for Puck and Harper's Bazaar.

And Her Name Was Maud, by Frederick Opper
'And Her Name Was Maud' (2 October 1904).

By 1900, he was staff artist at the Hearst newspapers, and created the cartoon strip 'Happy Hooligan', which had a successful run for 25 years. Two years later came the ever polite 'Alphonse & Gaston'. The revenge-seeking Maud the Mule was created in the feature 'And Her Name Was Maud' in 1904. Other lesser known creations by Opper are 'Our Antedeluvian Ancestors' and 'Howson Lotts', one of the first satires on suburban life. Opper's comics often featured guest appearances from characters from other strips.

Happy Hooligan, by Frederick Opper 1910

In addition, Opper was a politically engaged cartoonist for the New York American and Journal. He was also active as an illustrator, among others for Eugene Field's 'Tribune Primer' and George V. Hobart's 'Dinkenspiels' stories. Five years before his death, Opper was forced to stop drawing because of eye problems. He died in 1937, at the age of 80.

Frederick Burr Opper was a strong influence on Carl Barks, Geoffrey FoladoriGeorge Frink, George Herriman, Lank Leonard and E.C. Segar. He inspired dozens of comics about happy-go-lucky tramps, including Ed Carey's 'Brainy Bowers and Drowsy Duggan' (1901-1915), James Montgomery Flagg's 'Nervy Nat' (1903-1909) and Art Bowen's 'The Spotty Twins' (1905-1906). Federico Fellini was also a fan of 'Happy Hooligan' and claimed that the comic character was presumably an influence on Charlie Chaplin's Tramp. Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett created two overly polite gophers, The Goofy Gophers (1947), whose polite behaviour and tendency to let "the other one go first" were directly derived from Opper's 'Alphonse and Gaston'. 

Alphonse et Gaston, by Frederick Opper
'Alphonse et Gaston' (1906).

Series and books by Frederick Burr Opper you can order today:


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