Comics History

Obscure US newspaper comics

Recently we asked for more information about these comic strips. Thanks to some of our scholarly visitors, we were able to identify most of the artists whose work is shown here. We welcome any anecdotes you may have about these artists or early comic strips.

Boys Will Be Boys, by Harry Grant Dart, 1909
This comic strip is 'Boys Will Be Boys', from the early 1900's. 'Boys Will Be Boys' was created in 1909 by Harry Grant Dart, who also made the beautiful comic, 'The Explorigator', in 1908 for The New York World. Thanks for help solving this mystery!

Say!! Did this ever happen to you??, 1906

'Say!! Did this ever happen to you??' depicts a man introducing a friend to his wife. It turns out they are old flames, and hit it off so well that the husband decides to hit his friend with a chair. This strip appeared in San Francisco newspaper 'The Call' on 27 May, 1906, barely six weeks after the 'Great 1906 Earthquake' which resulted in fire destroying much of San Francisco.

The series was originated by C. H. Wellington in 1905 for the "boiler plate" Sunday section of the McClure syndicate, of which The Call was a subscriber for a while. Boiler plates were pre-printed sections, sold mainly to rural newspapers, with their masthead printed in the blank space at the top of the first page. They were invented by S. S. McClure; and the main producers were the various McClure Syndicates and the St. Louis-based "World Color Printing" company.

The series was continued by 'McKee' (perhaps McKee Barclay from the Philadelphia Sunday Press?) from 12 June 1906 and by R. Crawford Ewer from 14 January 1907. Another 'Say!! Did this ever happen to you??' series (or a reprint of the above) was published by the Philadelphia North American in 1913.

Say!! Did this ever happen to you??, 1906

signature on Say!! Did this ever happen to you??, 1906The panels displayed here are from before McKee took over the strip, and the 'S'-signature, accompanied by a three-leaf clover, indicates that the artist is most probably Dink Shannon.

This McKee drawing of the 'Say' strip is signed "Mac":

Has This Ever Happened To You?, by McKee

A Shoveling Orgy, 1914

'A Shoveling Orgy' appeared in The Boston Sunday Globe on March 22, 1914. A boy shovels his uncle's sidewalk in exchange for a Silver Dollar, but he loses it when he wants to leave (" - let's buy one of those monoplanes that wind up. They're marked down to eighty-nine cents."). To find it, he shovels another sidewalk. Unfortunately, the owner is not pleased - "I've shoveled every snowstorm off o' this walk fer 63 year myself an' I'm tryin' fer a record."

This page is most likely an installment of the long lived series by H. D. Blair published with a variety of titles, the most recurring of which were 'Fatty Spilliker', 'Cousin Jim', 'Danny', 'Danny, Kitty and Pierce', 'Kitty', 'Kitty and Danny', 'Kitty and Pierce', 'Percy and the Hoobley Family' and 'Uncle Henry'. The oldest sample found is dated 1904; the latest 1921.

The Boston Globe was one of the first newpapers to carry a color section (from 1894), and published many strips by house artists (the longest running was 'Billy the Boy Artist' by Ed Payne, from 1899-1955!) Most of them were characterized by frequent use of captions in the style of the French "Imagerie d'Epinal". The Boston Globe was also the first U.S. paper to publish comics from England, such as 'Vanities of Valdes' (from the London Daily Sketch) and 'Waddles the Waiter' (copyright by London Amalgamated Press).

(This info graciously provided by Alfredo Castelli.)

A Shoveling Orgy, 1914, detail

A Shoveling Orgy, 1914, artist signatureThis cryptic signature is probably that of H. D. Blair.

by Lowry, 1904

signature LowryThese panels are from the newspaper comic 'Peg Leg Pete', created by Everett E. Lowry for The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1903. A year later the title was changed to 'Barnacle Bill', and again later to 'Poor Ol' Robinson Crusoe', which ran until 1911.

See a good collection of old newspaper comics at the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection