Sweeney & Son, by Al Posen

Al Posen was a mid-20th century American newspaper comic artist. His gag comics stand out because he often used rhyming couplets. Posen's longest-running comic series were 'Them Days Is Gone Forever' (1922-1925), 'Jinglet' (1926-1950, 1953-1960) and 'Sweeney & Son' (1933-1960). 

Early life and career
Alvah Posen was born in New York City in 1894 as the son of a Russian-Jewish immigrant who emigrated to the USA because of the rampant pogroms there. He worked as a film broker in Hollywood during the 1910s, particulary for the Strand Film Company. In 1917 the young man was drafted into the military during World War I. After peace returned he worked as a broker for a film advertising company. One of his projects was the first film starring The Marx Brothers: 'Humor Risk' (1921), which he co-produced. Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo Marx had already gained a reputation as a hilarious vaudeville act in the early 1920s and considered making the step to movies, as so many of their colleagues in the field like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd had tried. 'Humor Risk' was a parody of the 1920 drama film 'Humoresque', but no copies have survived. Two versions circulate about the matter. Either the film failed to impress the test audience, which infuriated Groucho so much that he personally burned it, or, it was accidentally thrown away afterwards. The debacle was enough for the nowadays legendary comedy team to wait until 1929 before they made their next, more succesful movies.

Posen travelled through South East Asia in the mid-1920s as part of a group of geologists and miners. He visited Siam (nowadays Thailand) and the Chinese province Yunan. 

Them Days Is Gone Forever
'Them Days Is Gone Forever'.

Them Days Is Gone Forever
From 13 February 1922 to 4 April 1925 he drew the comic strip 'Them Days Is Gone Forever', followed by the weekly panel 'The Jingles Belles' (1924) and the daily cartoon 'Call for Mr. Bingo' (1925), all for United Feature Syndicate. Posen's move to comics was notable since he never had any professional artistic training.  'Them Days' also pioneered a format he would use throughout many of his comics: dialogue making use of rhyme. 'Them Days Is Gone Forever' was told in four frames. The first three would typically be in rhyme, while the fourth was always the same closing statement: "Them Days Is Gone Forever!". To make the rhymes more enjoyable, Posen even added musical notes so that readers could sing along. The comic had a satirical streak and reflected on things from the past that weren't likely to return in the present or future, like low prices, well-behaved children and the legalization of alcohol (which would return to the USA in 1933, after Prohibition was lifted). One of his early fans was Jackie Coogan, best known as the child in Charlie Chaplin's 'The Kid' (1920) and Uncle Fester on the original 1966 TV series 'The Addams Family', based on Charles Addams' cartoons. Coogan send Posen a letter in 1923 with a request to obtain an original cartoon.

On 19 April 1926 Posen created 'Jinglet' (1926-1950), which ran in The Chicago Tribune on a daily basis. The gags were simple and relied heavily on visual comedy, kicked off by a descriptive word at the top of each panel. By lack of real dialogue 'Jinglet' was basically a pantomime comic, except for a few key words. 'Jinglet' was discontinued on 19 March 1927, but enjoyed a revival as a "topper" (a small one-strip gag comic at the bottom of a page, underneath a longer comic strip by the same artist). It ran underneath Posen's later series 'Ella and Her Fella' and 'Sweeney & Son' until 1950. After a three-year hiatus it returned in 1953 and remained the topper comic underneath 'Sweeney & Son' until both series were discontinued on 21 August 1960. 

Jinglet by Al Posen

Ella and Her Fella 
By 1933 he drew the Sunday page 'Ella and Her Fella' for the New York News Syndicate, which only ran for four months and also made use of rhyme. '

Sweeney & Son
On 1 October 1933 he replaced 'Ella and Her Fella' with the more durable gag-a-week comic 'Sweeney & Son' (1933-1960), starring the humorous events in the life of a bumbling father and his son. 'Sweeney & Son' ran for more than 25 years. The final episode appeared in print on 21 August 1960. 

Rhymin' Time
Between 17 January 1949 and 1953 Posen created 'Rhymin' Time' (1949-1953), another daily rhyme comic. It was essentially a revival of 'Them Days Is  Gone Forever', down to the rhyming couplets set to well known songs underneath each panel. In 1950 'Rhymin' Time' replaced 'Jinglet' as the topper underneath 'Sweeney & Son'. After three years 'Rhymin' Time' was cancelled and replaced by 'Jinglet' again. 

World War II
During World War II Posen became the National Cartoonists Society Director of Overseas Shows. He and his colleagues like Gus Edson and Bob Montana created shows to entertain the troops overseas. He was also drafted himself.

Since Posen had a knack for writing catchy sing-a-long lines, he was perfect for inventing advertising jingles. He wrote ads on rhyme for companies like Bristol-Myers, Colgate, Palmolive, Lifebuoy, Old Gold cigarettes, Ingram shaving cream, Vitalis, ExLax, Pepsi and Wheaties. 

Death and legacy
Posen remained a bachelor all his life. He passed away in 1960 from cancer. His personal art work and correspondence with celebrities like Milton Caniff, Al Capp, Bud Fisher, Rube Goldberg, Fred Harman, Vernon Greene, Charles M. Schulz, Fred Waring but also politicians like W. Averell Harriman, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower is kept at Syracuse University. The catchphrase "1506 nix nix" in Bill Holman's comic 'Smokey Stover' was an inside joke between Holman and Posen, referring to a hotel where Posen once stayed.

Them Days Is Gone Forever
'Them Days Is Gone Forever'.

Ink Slinger profile on the Stripper's Guide

Series and books by Al Posen you can order today:


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