Saturday, September 23, 2017


Herriman Saturday

May 11 1909 -- 'Pitchfork' Ben Tillman was a sub-human scumbag of a human being who served as South Carolina's governor and then senator for almost three decades, and might well have served even longer if he had not finally the common decency to drop dead.

President Theodore Roosevelt, to his everlasting credit, snubbed him, earning a particularly malignant enemy. When Roosevelt entertained Booker T. Washington at the White House, an apoplectic Tillman made a statement so disgusting it is surely the stuff of white supremacist wet dreams. When Roosevelt vacated the White House, his successor Taft, billed as a worthy successor in grave error, soon invited this putrid excrescence for dinner, prompting the above Herriman cartoon.


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Friday, September 22, 2017


Wish You Were Here, from Walter Wellman

As with all my cards in which Walter Wellman asserts his copyright, there is no maker credited. This one, however, does tell us it is in "Series L" .... good to know. Some cartoonists really liked these rhyming single word per panel comic strips, Al Posen practically made a career of them. I don't know if the form has a name. Since they are like really really short haikus, maybe haikups might be appropriate?


That sort-of looks like a "4," not an "L," if you ask me. And a four makes a bit more sense than a letter, but what do I know?
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Thursday, September 21, 2017


King News by Moses Koenigsberg: Chapter 10 Part 1

 King News by Moses Koenigsberg

Published by F.A. Stokes Company, 1941

Chapter 10

Biggest Local Story of the Century (part 1)

link to previous installment   link to next installment

“Koenigsberg was in charge of the news affairs of the most strenuous period in the evolution of the most strenuous newspaper in all the field of journalism, to wit, the Chicago Evening American, property of William Randolph Hearst.”

This paragraph is from Terry Ramsaye’s A Million and One Nights, the most comprehensive and perhaps the most interesting history of the cinema art yet published. Ramsaye’s observations were made at first hand. He was part of the picture. So, even though some of the details lack accuracy, the general outline is at least illuminating.

“In the normal course of events,” Ramsaye continues, “on days and at hours when nothing especially happened, the Chicago Evening American went tripping out into Chicago’s Loop district at the rate of an edition about every forty-five minutes. Under the external pressure of vivid events or the internal pressure of even more vivid Koenigsberg inspirations, the American erupted editions fifteen or twenty minutes apart until relieved, and until the adjacent shores of Lake Michigan were knee deep in the lava, scoria:, ashes and hot mud of the current sensation. The normal schedule was seventeen editions a day, with a new whimsy, thrill or shudder roaring across the first page of each of them. This made it desirable for Koenigsberg to have or overtake an idea expressible in type of 480 point and upwards every few moments.

“The Chicago American was striving for a foothold and circulation, against the unanimous opposition of the old-line papers. The typographical excitement was only one of the phases of the strife. In time the struggle resulted in Chicago journalism seizing the motion picture as a weapon in the circulation war, with, as we shall see, considerable effect on the institution of the screen, creating, incidentally, careers for a sprinkling of luminaries from Mary Fuller to Marion Davies.”

James Keeley, who felt a keener interest as editor of the Tribune than did Ramsaye as an actual participant, seems to have been similarly impressed. In his case, the auditory nerves were unduly affected. He heard more than he saw. “When the Hearst newspapers came to Chicago,” he wrote in his autobiography (manuscript memoirs of James Keeley), “they brought with them all the known methods of circulation promotion and the exciting principle of selling headlines. Arthur Brisbane and Foster Coates, both romancers trained in the Pulitzer school and brought to exquisite flowering of technique on Mr. Hearst’s papers in New York, were visiting itinerants, pouring excitement into the Chicago Hearst staffs. They gave crackling orders and Moses Koenigsberg, resident news editor, vibrated in sympathy with the bosses and amplified their crackles into bellows and roars that became 400-point type on the first page of the Chicago Evening American!’

There would be more fun in accepting than in correcting these Ramsaye and Keeley sketches. But it’s impossible to assume responsibility for seventeen regular editions of an afternoon daily. Nine were plenty. And it is, in a way, regrettable to disclaim tutelage from that incomparable juggler of journalism, Arthur Brisbane. My direct contacts with him did not come until several years later. Then, they were mostly poker games, sometimes actually with playing-cards but in the main with newspaper features, which he usually dealt to me from stacked decks. His deftness in such dealings requires attention in later phases of this narrative.

If there were any culpability in 480-point type, it is here confessed. When it was used, on occasion, it filled the top of the first page down to the fold. The size of the lettering was limited only by the area available for display on the sales stand. Larger space would have been occupied with larger type. All news is relative in importance. It was my practice to assess the proportions of a story in the proportions of the heading. This was scarcely a novelty. It was an outgrowth of conditions that gave emphasis a master key to reader interest.

The use of “scare” or big type was buttressed with a theory by which questioning of good taste was subordinated to an approval of conscience. The primary function of a startling headline was to arrest attention. An analogy was found in the Salvation Army’s device to attract street crowds. The gaiety of the Salvationist band’s music—tunes often more befitting a sailors’ revel than a prayer meeting—was an ethical companion to the boldness of the daily’s head lettering. The evangelist musicians were sent forth to halt vagrant souls. The newspaper headline was set out to halt vagrant minds. The portion of spiritual solace the sinners ultimately received was painfully small compared with the amount of mental pabulum the readers eventually absorbed. With such philosophy mountains may be moved, though the critics remain! At least, it was a good talking point at meetings of women’s clubs.

It is true that during the greater part of five years, 1903-1907, the Chicago Evening American poured out a ceaseless torrent of sensational stories. Diligent research has failed to reveal an equal record elsewhere. But Terry Ramsaye’s more or less flattering appraisal of the cause must be revised. Providence must bear the onus. It had assigned to the Chicago of that period a surplusage of news-making ingredients. The city was the hub of highways and secret trails leading from the penitentiaries of five adjacent states. It was the center of operations of ex-convicts numerous enough to crowd the largest penal institution extant. Homicide was commercial. Human life lay on the bargain counter. Analysis of the testimony in fifty murder cases showed an average price of $3.65.

Sordid crime was only one phase of rampant violence. Chicago, at the opening of the century, was glutted with the raw elements of social turbulence. Vast throngs of unassimilated immigrants were milling around in alien misunderstanding of each other and of their new environment. Their clannishness aggravated the frictions. They congregated by nationalities into adjoining neighborhoods. Some of these sections became more populous than the newcomers’ homeland metropolises. The concentration of transplanted settlements, with their concomitant traditions, prejudices and jealousies, introduced few tranquilizing effects. The explosive content of this sprawling babel was always nearest the detonating point in the stockyards region. There, worked the most heterogeneous mass of labor ever assembled since the Caesars impressed toilers from each dominion of a ravaged world.

The “Windy City” then was largely a conglomeration of urban crudities. Refinements of a later period were delayed by a dearth of civic pride. Filthy feathers are not fit to plume, and Chicago’s wings were putrid. Scantiness of communal spirit favored the spread of vice and corruption. Opportunist sanctions of a “go-getter” generation facilitated this expansion. Perhaps the municipal crest was misunderstood. It consists of two words, “I Will!” Many a Chicagoan interpreted this too loosely.

From the maelstrom of happenings that swept out of this vortex, less ingenuity than perception was required to evolve striking headlines. The real task was to keep the boat steady. Capsizing was a constant hazard. Several of my predecessors had gone overboard on stories they misjudged. Each of these had selected for the main heading of an edition an item that dwindled into insignificance before the issue reached the news stands. That is an inexcusable blunder. Sometimes it demonstrates an egregious flaw in otherwise gifted journalists—a deficient sense of relative news values. In some cases it reflects a misplaced enthusiasm. In most cases on the Chicago American the responsible editor passed the dunce cap to the city editor. He blamed the chief of the local staff for misleading dope. My assumption of the city desk marked its twenty-seventh turn-over in thirty-seven months.

That procession of city editors included several men who attained journalistic distinction elsewhere. Edgar G. Sisson, afterward editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, took three “whirls” at the job. Each time he quit to seek the ministrations of a nerve specialist. A bit of pungent satire tinged his third resignation. He described his departure as “an escape from a madhouse.” Sisson’s description clung to the Chicago American office for a number of years. It had a double effect. It simultaneously raised levels of compensation and standards of competence. Capable men on other dailies declined to join the Hearst paper except at salaries “that would absorb some of the strain.” And they wouldn’t make the change unless they felt sure they could make the grade. The result was a staff of superlative ability. A job “in the Madison Street madhouse” became a badge of professional merit. By analogic processes, this came to apply io the Hearst organization from coast to coast.

Walter L. Hackett relinquished the city editorship of the American to me. It was a simple ceremony. He brought a pair of sesquipedalian shoes down from a point three feet above his head, unwrapped his amazingly long legs from the desk that had served him more as a day-bed than a work-bench and, getting slowly to his feet, yawned prodigiously. Walter was a one-man Greenwich Village. With him, a veneer of artistry outweighed a weekly wage. He preferred play-writing to prosperity. He thanked me cordially for relieving him. His incumbency, as head of the local force, was one of the unsolved enigmas of the Hearst domain. It was also one of the principal reasons for Foster Coates’s presence in Chicago, with the result of my induction into the service.

Success was to be measured with only one yardstick—circulation. Its attainment seemed to me to depend largely on outstripping competitors in the collection of news. We must get more and we must get it more promptly. Any city editor could use the agencies and implements that were handed to him. To achieve notable results an executive should add tools of his own devising. My first step was to organize unused resources. A veritable dragnet for fresh intelligence was set up.

The coroner had eleven deputies. Nine of them were persuaded to act as confidential members of the American staff. They formed one of the most effective of our auxiliary corps. Time and again we were enabled to give the police department its first notice of a tragic event. Through the telephone switchboards of leading hotels, hospitals and institutional centers ran the threads of countless interchanges from which any number of stories might be plucked daily. A score of the supervisors or chief operators were enlisted among our tipsters. The Auditorium Annex, alone, over a long period furnished a weekly average of more than one tophead scoop. From a web woven around unofficial channels came much more exclusive material than was yielded by all our routine sources combined. Thus was installed the most efficient machine for the gathering of local news that has ever fallen within the range of my observation.

This was supplemented with a journalistic innovation. Ordinarily, trained reporters were employed on the assumption of competence to cover any assignment that arose. But reportorial skill fell into two main classifications. One was fact-finding. The other was fact-telling. Rare was the individual who found his forte in either field alike. Temperament was the dividing line. The urge for discovery seldom mated with the passion for portrayal. One delved among the roots of the tree; the other entwined the foliage. My plan first separated and then coordinated these talents. The staff was divided between the diggers and the spinners of tales.

The “leggers” or “leg men” were so called because their legs kept them close to the scenes of action. They were not required to visit the office. They telephoned their stories to the “rewrite men.” The latter appellation was partly a misnomer. Originally, it labeled editorial workers who revamped copy submitted by others. On the Chicago American it indicated carefully chosen writers who put into manuscript first-hand facts spoken over the wire by reporters “on the spot.” They wrote most of the local news that we published. The novelty was not in the handling of items by phone. It was in the different form of staff organization —the segregation of personnel “by foot and finger standards” as one wag phrased it.

To an incalculable saving of time was added a distinctive uniformity of product. It was the acme of institutional reporting. That was before the vogue of signed stories. The reporter was not an entity apart from his newspaper. He devoted no concern to a personal following. He wrote, not for a section, but for all the readers of the publication—-for their easy digestion without the need for saltcellars, filters or sieves. A coherent authority— a composite personality—dominated the news columns. They were not yet under the saddle of the columnist. The critic had not yet routed the publisher. Poe’s raven had not yet found its counterpart in a sanctum bugaboo. The editor still believed in himself. “Easy to read” was yet one of his cardinal commandments. He had not yet decided that it was worse to be accused of an inclination toward stereotyped forms than to be caught using a kaleidoscope.

Jack Lait
The first news coup credited to my city editorship of the Chicago American was clinched by a cub. But what a cub! Jack Lait was just twenty. Yet he proved a courage and resourcefulness matched by few veterans. The stunt was a precursor of his brilliant career as war correspondent, dramatist, short story writer, editor and for twenty years author of more printed words than were written during the period by any contemporary. Lait sent to prison John J. Brennan, Chicago’s most powerful and most notorious ward leader. The performance ran the gamut of a cinema thriller.

The Chicago American was intent on preventing the reelection of Judge Elbridge J. Hanecy. He had been unkind enough to rule that an editorial criticizing one of his decisions was in contempt of court. The freedom of the press was pleaded in defense. The case was on appeal. One of the judge’s political strongholds was the Eighteenth Ward. There, Alderman Brennan maintained a vote hatchery of unsurpassed productivity. It excited the awe of even such statesmen as “Bathhouse” John Coughlin and “Hinky Dink” Kenna, aldermanic jewels of the First Ward.

With the approach of judicial election day, May 1st, Lait was assigned to do some purposeful loafing in the neighborhood of Brennan’s ballot incubator. First, he borrowed from a printer a suit of soiled clothing. Next, he took a practical course in facial make-up. Several days’ growth of beard was convincingly smeared with the trademarks of the genuine hobo. Then Lait slouched over to the Salvation Army lodging house on West Madison near Halsted Street. He “signed in” as “Kansas City Slim.”

Droves of floaters had moved into the adjoining rookeries on “Bums’ Row.” Lait became one of them. He learned the fine points of voting early and often under the names of dead men, fictitious persons and absentees. There were thousands of these “ghost” electors. They were coached in accordance with bogus entries with which the registration lists had already been padded. Lait attended these rehearsals. He was soon “propositioned.” He accepted four names to vote in four different precincts beginning at 7:00 a.m. on election day.

After each vote was cast, Lait received fifty cents. In between, he managed to reach me over the telephone. In the first three polling places, the money was paid by underlings. At the fourth, Brennan himself dealt with Lait. The boss stepped into the booth and marked a ballot for “Kansas City Slim’s” use. Then he walked with Jack to the box. On the way, Lait contrived to print his initials on the back of the sheet, unobserved by those around him. This was the evidence that convicted Brennan. His lawyers hurdled all the other testimony. Bill Stewart, a Chicago American reporter, swore that, waiting across the street, he saw Brennan hand the bribe to Lait. His statement was corroborated by an election board official who stood beside him and whose presence had been arranged at my request. None of this seemed to bear much weight. On Lait’s shoulders alone fell the vengeful storm whipped up by Brennan and his friends.

Between the arrest and the conviction, Jack dodged bullets and billies. The American engaged Pinkerton men to guard him day and night. But his work as a reporter was not interrupted. With Brennan partizans dogging him and Pinkerton men trailing alongside, he led a bizarre procession wherever he went. The close of the sensational trial brought me mixed relief and astonishment. The betting had favored Brennan’s acquittal. He served a year in the Bridewell, or House of Correction, dying shortly after his release. Judge Hanecy was defeated. That became a minor incident beside the dethronement of Boss Brennan. The cub reporter had “stolen the play” of his newspaper.

Chapter 10 Part 2 Next Week   
link to previous installment   link to next installment


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Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Mea Culpa! The Perils of Comic Strip Research Using Microfilm

Last week I did a post on the New York World strip The Bad Dream that Made Bill a Better Boy. According to my book, in which I quote from Ken Barker's World index, the first installment of the series was penned by Gene Carr, but then William Steinigans took over for the rest of the series.

While prepping my post I went to, which has the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as one of their digitized microfilm offerings. The Post-Dispatch was the other flagship paper of the Pulitzer organization, and that paper runs the same comics sections as the World (with occasional exceptions due to one or the other paper running an ad). It seemed odd to me that Steinigans, no slouch for coming up with his own ideas, jumped onto a Gene Carr idea, and then ran with it for so long. I thought it was worth checking out that first installment. When I did, I found this image:

As you can see, the microfilm has turned most of the last panel of the strip into dark mud. No signature can be seen. So, I thought, Barker was fooled into thinking that the strip was by Carr because it sort of looked like an adjunct to his almost-full page Romeo strip. Is the art by Carr, I wondered? It does have Carr's signature big flat faces with large circles for eyes. However, Steinigans does sometimes draw those same types of faces, though he generally prefers 'dot-eyes'. Since some characters in the strip have dot-eyes, I felt my art ID as Steinigans was reasonable, especially considering the highly unusual circumstance that would have occurred if Carr had handed off the strip to Steinigans after a single installment.

Unfortunately, all that brain juice I expended led me straight to the wrong conclusion. Enter Pierre-Henry L'Enfant, who read the post and came to the rescue. Showing why real honest-to-goodness newsprint is so important for the effective study of newspaper comic strip history, he sent me an image of the real page, not ruined by the microfilming process. Here it is:

If that is too small, here's a close-up of the strip in which the signature is more legible:

So it turns out that Barker had it right. Apparently the World microfilm he was working with afforded a slightly better view than did the Post-Dispatch digitized film, and far from being the fooled one, he hit the nail on the head, leaving the dunce cap perched quite squarely on my head. So I herewith offer my apologies to the late Ken Barker, and my heartfelt thanks to Pierre-Henry L'Enfant, who set me straight.

L'Enfant also sent me the next several installments of Bad Dream and some gorgeous 1906 4-color examples, and I herewith offer you a look-see as well. Thanks Pierre-Henry!!

8/27/1905, first Steinigans episode











When Barker made his list back in the 1970's, he was using a NY World microfile, so maybe he was right all along because the file was clearer to begin with. Just a thought.
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Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Hy Mayer

Henry “Hy” Mayer was born in Worms-on-Rhine, Germany, on July 18, 1868, according to passport applications and profiles in several books. The American Jewish Year Book, Volume 6 (1904), said Mayer’s parents were Hermann Mayer, Sr., and Helene Loeb.

Who’s Who in America (1908) said Mayer was educated “in England and Germany” where he graduated from the Gymnasium, Worms, in 1886. He “entered business life in England” and came to the U.S., through Mexico and Texas, in 1886. However, Who’s Who in New York City and State (1907) said Mayer “went to Mexico in 1885”. The Jewish Encyclopedia said “In 1885 he went to Mexico, and subsequently to Texas. There he discovered his ability to draw, and developed his talent without the aid of a teacher. Mayer next went to Cincinnati and thence to Chicago, where he began his career as caricaturist and illustrator.” Information at said Mayer arrived in New York on August 31, 1885. He was aboard the Cunard steamship Servia from Liverpool, England.

Mayer was profiled in Godey’s Magazine, January 1897. Mayer’s whereabouts were described as follows: 
…Mr. Mayer graduated from the Gymnasium at Worms at the age of sixteen. he went from there to England and held a clerkship in a broker’s office. Finding little suited to his taste, he came over seas to Cincinnati and drew for a comic paper there, called Sam the Scaramouch, which went the way of most comic papers, good and bad, into the sardine-packed limbo of “discontinued” publications. Thence Mr. Mayer went to Mexico and soon to Texas, where he became a clerk again, this time in a general store, where, as he catalogues it, he “sold coal-oil, beer, ‘pants,’ molasses, rails, and other household furnishing.”

Chicago next called him, by way of Cincinnati, and he drew for another ephemerid  Light, and for various newspapers…
According to Mayer’s 1920 passport application, he resided in “El Paso, Chicago, Cincinnati & New York” and “was naturalized as a citizen of the U.S. before the Superior Court of Cook County at Chicago, Illinois, on the 30th day of August, 1890”.

Mayer’s first passport was issued September 1, 1890. On the application, Chicago resident Mayer said he was an artist and journalist. Mayer picked up his passport in New York City. Mayer lived in Chicago when he received his a passport on August 14, 1893. Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in New York City and State said Mayer resided in New York City beginning in 1893.

Mayer’s home in New York City was 53 Wast 59th Street when the illustrator obtained a passport on February 26, 1896.

The Columbian (Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania), January 14, 1897, reported the upcoming debut of “The Sunday Press Jester” by the Philadelphia Press newspaper. Mayer produced a color cartoon for the front page.

The New York Evening Telegram, April 7, 1897, reviewed Mayer’s gallery show.

Mr. Henry Mayer is also, in a way, a student of Americanism. His drawings now on exhibition at Keppel’s gallery, in East Sixteenth street, seldom fail, whether consciously or unconsciously, to preserve the traces of at least one parent race in his most characteristically American skits.

But Mr. Mayer is a humorist, a caricaturist sometimes, with a wonderful facility of ludicrous invention, and at times a feeling for character and a skill in its delineation that almost suggests Forain’s acrid ironies. At other times his humor has a Rabelaisian touch.

The present exhibition of Mr. Mayer’s work covers a number of years and is made up chiefly of designs that have first made their appearance in the various comic weeklies. Several of them have been seen in the Evening Telegram. In the greater number of instances they seem to have lost nothing by reduction, but even one who has followed Mr. Mayer’s work through the humorous publications of the day can gain an increased regard for his attainments in his particular field by the massing of his work in a single gallery.
The exhibition was also reviewed in the New York Sun.

A month later, Mayer received a passport. The Manhattanite’s address was 55 West 59th Street.

The Chicago Tribune, June 14, 1899, reported that Mayer, artist Albert B. Wenzell and another American were attacked the previous evening in Paris by a group of Nationalists. The trio refused to shout “Vive l’Armee” as demand by the Nationalists. Mayer was knocked to the ground by a walking stick. The Americans and a Nationalist were arrested. The Americans were released when they threatened to demand help from Ambassador Porter.

Who’s Who in America said Mayer contributed illustrations to Fliegende Blaetter (Munich), Figaro Illustre, Le Rire (Paris), Black and White, Pick-Me-Up, Pall-Mall, Punch (London), Life, Judge and Truth, Harper’s, Century, Collier’s, Leslie’s, the New York Times, and New York Herald.

The Critic, October 1900, published five caricatures by Mayer.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Mayer produced several comic series in the early 1900s. For the New York World, Mayer drew The Plunk Family, Brother and I and Sandman, and one Charley Hist the Detective. World Color Printing distributed Mayer’s Professor Presto, Master of Magic, Bobbie Binks, and Main Street. Mayer contributed two short series to the New York Herald: Zoological Kindergarten and Will O’ Dreams and the Sandman. The McClure Syndicate handled Mayer’s Adventures of a Japanese Doll.

Mayer’s books include The Autobiography of a Monkey (1897), In Laughland (1899), Fantasies in Ha! Ha! (1900), A Trip to Toyland (1900), Adventures of a Japanese Doll (1901), and Alphabet of Little People (1901).

Mayer’s work was examined in Brush and Pencil, June 1901, and The New Era, February 1904.

The 1904 American Jewish Year Book listed Mayer’s address as 30 West 24th, New York.

Mayer was in the American Art Annual, Volume 6 (1908): “Mayer, Henry (‘Hy Mayer’), 55 West 33d St., New York, NY (I.[llustrator]) Born Worms-on-Rhine, Germany, July 18, 1868. Specialty, cartoons.”

In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, self-employed illustrator Mayer resided in Manhattan at 55 West 33rd Street.

In 1913 Mayer played vaudeville and was on the first bill at the Palace Theatre.

According to Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons (2006), Mayer went into animation in 1913. His assistant was Otto Messmer. However, in Biographical Sketches of Cartoonists & Illustrators in the Swann Collection of the Library of Congress, Sara Duke wrote “Credit goes to Mayer as the innovator of the ‘hand in motion’ drawing technique, by which cartoons are drafted under the eye of a camera. An active practitioner in the field of animation, he produced over fifty Travelaughs and drew Animated Weekly shorts (1909–16).”

Mayer’s appreciation of Phil May appeared Munsey’s Magazine, January 1914.

Advertising & Selling, April 1916 

During World War I, Mayer sold Liberty Bonds. One of his animated cartoons was sent to overseas allies.

A profile and photograph of Mayer was printed in the Great Falls Daily Tribune (Montana), August 29, 1920.

Exhibitors Trade Review, February 25, 1922, reported the transfer of distribution rights to Mayer’s Travelaughs.

World Biography, Volume 2 (1948) said Mayer married Alice McKenna in January 1924. On May 30, 1924, Mayer and his wife Alice returned from a trip to Europe. Mayer’s address on the passenger list was The Lambs, 130 West 44th Street, New York, New York. According to the 1930 census, Mayer was 55 years old when he married Alice. The following year Mayer, his wife and stepson John visited Europe. They departed Bremen, Germany and arrived in New York November 20, 1925. The same address was recorded for this trip and another in 1927.

A 1928 passenger list said Mayer lived in South Norwalk, Connecticut at 300 Flax Hill Road which was the same address in the 1930 census. Passenger lists and the census listed Mayer’s stepson with the Mayer surname.

The 1940 census recorded retired illustrator Mayer and his 45-year-old wife at the same location in South Norwalk. Mayer’s stepson was recorded as Jack McKenna, a laundry truck driver, who was married with one child and resided in Norwalk at a different address.

Mayer passed away September 27, 1954, at his home in South Norwalk. His death was reported the following day in The New York Times.

—Alex Jay


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Monday, September 18, 2017


Obscurity of the Day: Charley Hist the Detective

In the hands of accomplished cartoonist Hy Mayer Charley Hist the Detective, a pedestrian strip in which a would-be gumshoe gets the stuffing beat out of him, is actually pretty darn awesome. If you follow Stripper's Guide regularly, you are familiar with the fact that in early comic strips, comedic violence was a constant ingredient in the Sunday comics stew. Most of it couldn't bring a laugh to a hyena, but when Hy Mayer sets his hand to the genre, wow!

How amazing that with the simple addition of great character design, effective body language, and dramatic staging, you can turn the typical dreck into something worthwhile. Charley Hist the Detective is no classic by any means, but at least it is worth the ink it took to print it. Compare that to a more typical 'funny violence' strip of the day, say Sunny Sam and Shy Sue. What a difference.

Charley Hist the Detective ran on February 9 and March 2 1902 in the Pulitzer paper St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Ken Barker's New York World index indicates that a third episode ran there, on March 9, unless it was a typo.

Thanks to Cole Johnson who supplied the scans.


I followed the link for Sunny Sam and got a Canadian real estate listing. Looks like a nice place, though.
How's that for stealth marketing, eh? Nice house, just down the road from me.

Link fixed now.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017


Herriman Saturday

May 11 1909 -- The Portland Beavers seem to be getting roughed up a little, and manager-2nd baseman Walt McCredie has apparently had about enough of it.


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Friday, September 15, 2017


Wish You Were Here, from Albert Carmichael

Here's a postcard from Carmichael's "Gee, I Wish I Had a Girl" series, which was produced by Taylor Pratt & Co. as series #568. Like his "I Love My Wife..." series, this one had quite a few different cards, though this particular one is one of the less common ones.


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Thursday, September 14, 2017


King News by Moses Koenigsberg: Chapter 9 Part 3

 King News by Moses Koenigsberg

Published by F.A. Stokes Company, 1941

Chapter 9

The Myth of the "Message to Garcia" (part 3)

link to previous installment   link to next installment

Adjournment of the Alabama legislature turned my mind to unfinished business with the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. It required considerable probing to learn how my plan for a message to Garcia had been blocked. The facts, pieced together nearly a year after their occurrence, changed my disappointment into a grievance. The assistant night editorship of the Globe-Democrat served as a poor emollient for my discomfiture.

A minor part in the organization and operation of an exclusive cable service invested the next fifteen months with lively interest. The Globe-Democrat, the Chicago Tribune and the New York Tribune pooled interests in a worldwide news enterprise. American correspondents were assigned to the leading capitals of the world. My anonymous share in their direction afforded an experience that was extensively capitalized in later years. The court-martial of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus at Rennes was covered as if it were an American cause celebre. The lavish use of cables in reporting the Anglo-Boer War set a new journalistic mark. It was the relief of Ladysmith—the turning-point in that struggle—that resulted in my resignation from the Globe-Democrat.

By dint of diligent effort, a two-column narrative of the siege of Ladysmith, kept in type for the purpose, had been freshened and revised from day to day over a period of weeks. Pains had been taken to make it read as if it were written within the hour of publication. Our first word of the deliverance of the beleaguered stronghold came from the Associated Press. It was a seven-word flash. It came after the last edition had gone to press. The bulletin was used as the first line of the “standing story.” Within a few moments, the Globe-Democrat was on the street with what read like a 2,000-word dispatch from Ladysmith. More than a quarter of an hour later, our more or less despised rival, the Republic, appeared with the news, occupying less than twenty lines.

Elation over this beat was swallowed up in a curious anticlimax. Capt. Henry King, who had succeeded McCullagh as editor, drowned my triumph in a grouch. Captain King strutted a ponderous dignity. The gravity that creased his brow raised the handicap odds against Atlas. The Captain professed an all-inclusive devotion to the highest plane of journalistic ethics. He was dissatisfied with my handling of the Ladysmith extra. There had been an inexcusable oversight. The story should have appeared under a line describing it as a “special dispatch to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.”

The phrasing of the dissent that then and there ended my professional ties with Capt. Henry King was no more sulphuric than the fumes of its provocation. Here was a preceptor of the proprieties censuring the omission of a fraud. An efficiently performed task had failed of approval because it lacked the touch of trickery. To have represented the story as a “special dispatch” would have been a deception of the reader. The ingenuities of later years would have devised a more impressive credit to the Globe-Democrat for its Ladysmith extra. But it was impossible then, as it has been ever since, to adjust my conscience or my judgment to the use of false labels—to hold forth to the public a spurious designation of a news source.

A mordant humor attended my departure from the Globe-Democrat. No publication in America, then or afterward, matched more fully my journalistic code. My quarrel was not with the newspaper. It was solely with the editor, who had blamed me for failing to violate a principle expounded by his predecessor. The clash with King emphasized the breach that often opens between institutional and individual leadership. It cast a flare into a partly hidden corner of newspaperdom—a comfort station for pharisaic pundits and holier-than-thou nincompoops.

There, visual constriction was deemed a major virtue. There was practiced the fine art of dressing nastiness in nicety—of masking the wickedness of sensationalism by squeezing its bawdy curves into the refining stays of small type. In that court of self-righteousness was found an editorial proneness to overcompensation for restraint. This was indulged at times in ways beyond the hardihood of even a yellow journalist. But these sins were limited to nonpareil. They would be unthinkable in large print. Captain King would never have dreamed of using a fake credit line in big, black letters.

Charles R. Webb, who, as the successor of Obadiah R. Lake, had been my immediate chief on the Globe-Democrat, advised me to go to Chicago. James Keeley’s brilliant career as managing editor of the Chicago Tribune was under way. Webb was self-confident that Keeley would make a berth for me. He wrote a letter glowing enough to have assured a job almost anywhere. Keeley turned me down. Several amusing occasions to remind him of the incident arose in the subsequent years of our friendship. Meanwhile, his rebuff shunted me to the journalistic hospice deluxe—the Chicago Chronicle—the daily into which millions were plowed with no harvest save an elaborate newspaper technique.

John R. Walsh, one of the leading bankers of the Middle West, owned the Chronicle. Vast promotions, tinctured with political corruption, ultimately led to his ruin. The Chronicle disappeared with the collapse of Walsh’s fortune. That was a couple of years after the completion of the last of my three separate terms of employment on the newspaper. Each of those tours of duty supplied an important item for my professional kit.

The Chicago Chronicle was by far the most thoroughly edited newspaper in my range of experience. It was a tower of technicalities. Its rules for copy-reading alone embraced a special vocation. They were the work of Horatio W. Seymour. A master craftsman, he was unfairly reputed less for his profundity than for his cleverness.

To write a head on the Chronicle required more time and labor than the editing of several stories. First was imposed meticulous compliance with a copiously intricate style sheet and a voluminous set of rhetorical formulae. Then came the prescription for the top line—a minimum of four words including an active verb in the present tense. After that, each of the subsidiary divisions— inverted pyramids—must start with a noun. All this—with accompanying minutiae—was the preliminary task. The major job remained. Type symmetry must be perfected. The counting of letters and spaces to achieve this uniformity often entailed revisions involving more effort than the original composition.

The Fourth Estate is beholden to the Chicago Chronicle for a priceless testimony. Its operation established a classic truth. It was a test case of journalism. It proved the utter impossibility of building a successful newspaper chained to private purposes. The Chronicle had everything needed for a daily of surpassing power —everything except a soul. An abundance of capital, an amplitude of brains and a superior plant, devoid of the spirit of public service, made up the furnishings of a whited sepulcher. Yet no skeleton rattled in my hearing. Never once, even by indirection, was any instruction issued in my presence to distort, color or misplay the news. The editorial page frankly revealed the owner’s policies. But that editorial page was a negligible item in Chicago’s affairs. The Chronicle cost John R. Walsh several million dollars. Perhaps he, himself, never knew what he got for his money.

An offer of a position on the Chicago American brought my first contact with the Hearst organization. It was in the summer of 1901. Frank E. Rowley, managing editor of the Chronicle, coupled acceptance of my resignation with an odd warning. “You won’t like it with those folks,” he said. “They play a queer game. But we don’t mind a few singed feathers around here and we’ll keep the latch open for you.” Rowley’s prediction was fulfilled. A few months later the Chronicle again found a place for me. This time it was on the reportorial staff.

My break with the American was actually a prearranged incident in an inner-circle conflict. It followed a brush with Andrew M. Lawrence, then W. R. Hearst’s chief lieutenant in the Middle West. Victor H. Polachek was managing editor of the morning edition. He believed Lawrence was “hamstringing” him. At least Polachek’s efforts to form a satisfactory staff were being blocked. Lawrence had authorized a rate of salaries higher for day than for night workers.

Polachek wanted to resolve his problem into a statement concrete enough to warrant “going over Lawrence’s head to Mr. Hearst.” Would my case—with notice of my resignation—have weight enough for the purpose? Polachek thought it would, if Lawrence didn’t back down. Thus came about my first meeting with the man who was to be the chief antagonist on my newspaper path. Lawrence was a busy bundle. A slight facial resemblance to Napoleon caused him as much care as pride. Posing like the Corsican didn’t mix easily with either his unconscious swagger or his over-conscious suavity.

Lawrence couldn’t approve Polachek’s recommendation for a salary increase. Instead, he invited me to join his “personal staff” —to occupy a desk to be installed for me in his private office—but with no immediate change in compensation. Bumptious intrigue presented itself. William Randolph Hearst was the paragon of journalism. Fame and fortune awaited members of his retinue. But the waiting was briefest for those who wore the ribbon of Andrew M. Lawrence’s favor. The odor of the picture dispelled its lure. My resignation went to Polachek to help him prove his point. That may have been the starting of a habit. Resigning from the Hearst organization was not an uncommon practice of my later years.

The term “executive editor” is a modern newspaper accommodation. It covers a variety of compromises. It may be a bandage for a nose out of joint. It may be the camouflage behind which a new chief of staff bides the delayed exit of his departing predecessor. It may signify the assumption of duties that have grown too burdensome for a managing editor scheduled in the future to do less managing and more editing or vice versa. Usually, it indicates the functionary expected to supply kinetic elements that have been lacking. In my case it was plain bait. It lured me from the Chicago Chronicle to the Minneapolis Times. The impressiveness of the title—it had never before reached my attention as a working designation—was not the only attraction to the new job. A monthly salary of $250 was to be supplemented with the “office string,” the privilege of selling special and local news to out-of-town newspapers. That might “add up to fancy figures.”

The reason the position was so temptingly garnished for me involved more personal than professional equations. John S. Spargo was managing editor. We had worked together in St. Louis and Chicago. He had several irons in the fire in Minneapolis that required tending away from his desk. It had been decided to delegate most of his duties to a substitute. Spargo insisted that he select this alternate. He wanted to be sure the new man would not snap the lock on his own job. He chose me. The executive editorship of the Minneapolis Times spelled my first complete responsibility for the news management of a metropolitan daily.

Spargo’s chief activities outside the office were directed toward the uncovering of a fabulous underworld sovereignty. Eventually, this crusade led to an historic exposure of official depravity. “The Shame of Minneapolis” was without duplicate. Vice and graft were operated on the basis and with the methods of approved business pursuits. Members of the police department shared in the conception, direction and commission of sordid crimes—burglary, robbery, swindling and even extortion. It was the ripping apart of this emporium of iniquity that enriched criminal terminology with the “big mitt ledger.” That was the name by which became known a systematic record of the “takings and split” of moneys gouged from partner and prey alike by the most brazen organization of municipal corruption ever bared in America.

Officers of the law stood guard against interruption of felons at work. Thus, not only were the cracksman’s talents allowed full play, but his loot was counted for higher-ups. Prostitution, crooked gambling and confidence games were given percentage franchises. The “squeal of the sucker” was hushed by patrolmen in uniform. Threat of arrest as a co-defendant was usually enough to squelch an accusation. Crooks were not unappreciative of the hospitalities awaiting them in Minneapolis. Col. Fred W. Ames, the chief of police, was genuinely solicitous about the opportunities and facilities available for the plying of their respective vocations. His attitude was easily understandable. It was prompted by a concern for the interests of his brother, Dr. A. A. Ames, the mayor.

Never did the underworld enjoy the favor of a more polished patron than this chief magistrate of Minneapolis. His collectors were instructed never to take more than half the cash on hand. “Always leave an egg in the nest,” might well have been the motto.

A puny joke opened the first chapter of the expose. Spargo was discussing with me the seeming obtuseness of the average Minneapolis policeman. He blamed this stupidity for most of the obstacles he had encountered. He cited a current yarn by way of illustration. A sergeant had defined a new patrolman’s beat as running from the spot on which they stood to “that red light yonder.” The next day the rookie telephoned for instructions from Shakopee, forty miles away. The red light had turned out to be a lantern slung across the rear axle of a moving-van.

T. J. Dillon, acting city editor, entered just as Spargo started his story. He waited for the end of the anecdote with his hand on the shoulder of Roxy Prenevost, the doughty little chief of our sports department. “That cop belonged to a breed different from the bunch Roxy just saw at Union Depot,” Dillon remarked. “Three policemen are trying to get an obstinate yokel aboard the next west-bound train. He was trimmed in a card game. When he squawked, he was turned over to the coppers. They advised him he’d be much happier and safer back home. Their clincher is the claim that if they pinch the crooks, they’ll have to arrest him also, because his complaint is in itself a confession that he was guilty of gambling.”

“Let’s hang a lantern on that fellow for Roxy to follow,” I urged. A moment later, Prenevost was sprinting toward Union Depot. Two weeks passed before we saw him again. He hadn’t reached “the end of his beat” until he got to a lumber camp in Idaho. Then his red light carrier yielded to Roxy’s arguments. There was little about this victim of crooked gambling to suggest the shorn lamb. Roland Mix asked no odds of his fellow-man. But he didn’t want to give any to crooked cops. He divided his time regularly between wrestling steers on the plains and timber in the forests for the wherewithal to buck the tiger in the cities. Assured of the Minneapolis Times’s backing against police trickery, Mix came back with Prenevost. His testimony before the Hennepin County grand jury was the first formal step in the exposure and destruction of the incredible Ames Institute of Municipal Debauchery.

Whatever may have been my part in the undoing of Minneapolis’ vice trust, the material reward was disproportionate. It was, in fact, demoralizing. It led to the paradox of relinquishing a post because of excessive compensation. For several weeks, the story, with its daily developments, commanded conspicuous newspaper displays throughout the country. The Times’s office string —my perquisite—attained an unprecedented volume. There were fourteen regular clients. Each night, an identical schedule or query was wired to the entire list. Formulating this message and filling the resultant orders from extra sets of proofs consumed a scant half-hour. Yet, at the end of the month, my log showed the sending of approximately 284,000 words—more than $1,420 at the usual space rates.

An incidental chore, consuming less than one-twentieth of my daily effort, had netted nearly six times the sum of my monthly salary. On the hourly basis, the difference in earnings was more than a hundredfold. This was lopsided economics. For nearly half a year, the office string had yielded an average of $75 monthly. True, the jump of nearly 2,000 percent was from the springboard of one story. But the range between maximum and minimum was too wide to exclude a feeling of neglected opportunities.

A convention of the National Federation of Teachers in Minneapolis helped to bolster my space bills for the next four weeks. They totaled $980. In August, the succeeding month, this revenue shrank to $86. The let-down was too hard. It disrupted my scale of values. Without any change in the nature or hours of work, my compensation, including salary, had dropped from $1,670 to $336 for equal periods of time. The mental readjustments thus imposed were intolerably onerous. The larger sum seemed exorbitant. “It was a shame to take the money.” On the other hand, the smaller figure appeared, by comparison, illogical and unfair. Concentration of more effort on the out-of-town newspapers might swell my income. But that would mean the subtraction of a corresponding stint from my services to the Times.

Caught between these horns of a dilemma, I took to the woods. My resignation was not accepted with good grace. As Spargo put it, “We don’t understand a man quitting a job because it paid too much.” But the fault lay in the method rather than the amount of recompense. It was a corrupting practice. My revulsion was by no means quixotic. Continuance of the arrangement with the Minneapolis Times was likely to cultivate an appetence for profits which at any time could be transferred. The office string was not my property. It belonged to the Times.

The system of split payments for editorial work had ramifications far beyond my individual instance. A compulsion to derive earnings from segregated units impaired integrity of service. It marred morale. It enforced conflicts of obligation—cleavages of a fidelity no more subject to honest division by geographic lines than by social, political or economic partitions. A cure for this evil was devised in an addendum to my professional code. Here is the prescription:

No performance of journalistic duty shall entail a choice between masters. Separate sources of remuneration engage separate loyalties. Responsibility for news may not be divided. Its unity is an imperative requisite for the good faith which must prevail through every editorial process.

The unfolding of the Minneapolis municipal scandal has been the theme of a number of newspaper legends. None of them obscures the stellar role played by “Dillon of the Times." With a disarming smile, the presence of a Roman senator and the mien of a cloistered monk, he gained the confidence and counseled the confessions of close-mouthed criminals impervious to pleas from their own accomplices. It was a staff of Trojan workers that boosted the Times’s circulation from 23,000 to 42,000 during my term as executive editor. Dillon ultimately outdistanced the rest. After a brisk interlude on the Pacific Coast, he returned to Minneapolis, assuming editorial chieftaincy of the Tribune, which had meanwhile absorbed the Times.

The standing promise of welcome on the Chronicle drew me back to Chicago. A slight shift of personnel was necessary to make an opening for me. It was a reportorial job. That was quite a come-down from my position in Minneapolis. From colonel to private, from star to chorus man or from superintendent to laborer would have meant, on its face, no greater demotion. But it brought me no sense of humiliation. That was chiefly because the change had been my own choice. Such a reduction, if peremptory, might have been unbearable. On the other hand, the field of employment is a determinant of journalistic values. A newspaper berth in Chicago rated at least two ranks higher to me at that time than a similar post in Minneapolis.

The foremost subject of civic interest in Chicago was the municipal railways problem. For a generation, it had kept the community agog. It was the football of a mad political game that eventually commanded the whole country’s attention. A great majority of Chicagoans accepted the theory that the franchises of the street railroad companies had expired. Continued use of rights of way, without compensation, was denounced as arrogant trespass. Once, when a transit ordinance came up for aldermanic action, a threatening mob of tens of thousands surrounded the city hall. Ropes were brandished to “string up ‘gray wolf’ councilmen if they voted away any more of the people’s rights.”

For years, the traction story was a major daily stunt on every Chicago newspaper. Burdened with intricacies of legislation, finance and transportation, it required intensive simplifying for the average reader’s understanding. A striking phrase—“the 99-year clause”—helped to serve that end. It referred to an expression in an underlying franchise on which the transit corporations based their rights. It was the epitome of a controversy of inordinate bitterness. On one side were “the rabble demanding the confiscation of property—the impoverishment of widows and orphans, for many of whom inherited stocks and bonds of the street-car companies were the sole means of subsistence.” On the other side were “the bloated plutocrats, conscienceless despoilers of the poor, who by fraud and artifice would strip the workers of their birthright, making them the slaves instead of the masters of their own streets.”

All this made up the “heaviest” regular assignment on the city editor’s schedule. It kept me busy during my third tour of employment on the Chronicle. My first task was to gain a practical comprehension of the municipal railways litigation. That was essential to a grasp of day-to-day developments. No published work was available for a satisfactory study of the facts. There were experts galore. Nearly all of them were biased by political or professional considerations. The outstanding authority was Levy Mayer. Classed as one of the two highest-paid members of the American bar, he was credibly reported to have received a single fee of one million dollars. It came from the Whiskey Trust. Levy Mayer patiently led me through an exhaustive review of the traction situation. His chief clerk was deeply impressed. “Mr. Mayer has given you at least $5,000 worth of his time,” he confided.

The true import of this comment would have astonished the speaker. Its personal implication was misleading. Its significance traveled the length and breadth of newspaperdom. Levy Mayer’s generous assistance evidenced a cultural phenomenon scarcely recognized but as pervasive as the printed word. It is the practice by which masters in every field of endeavor cheerfully enlist in the reserve corps of journalism. Some serve as a public duty. Others welcome propinquity to the press. Still others act in undefined hope of advantage. All tingle to the touch of news “in the raw.” Together, they contribute the greatest single endowment of the Fourth Estate—an unexampled treasury of technical knowledge—a University of All the Arts and the Sciences, free to chroniclers of current events.

Levy Mayer brought about my return to the Hearst organization. He had shown a flattering interest in my career. We were chatting in Peacock Alley in the Congress Hotel, then the Auditorium Annex. “Do you realize,” he asked, “that we are standing on one of the four corners of the world? Years ago, it was the boast of Londoners that if you waited long enough in Trafalgar Square, you’d meet everyone you knew. That might not have been a pleasing prospect for some folks, but the thought was an effective description of a universal center. Parisians made a similar claim for the Rue de Rivoli. Then New Yorkers put out an identical label for Broadway and Forty-second Street. Now Peacock Alley is entitled to tack up the same sign. And, by George! I’ll prove it to you. Here comes an old friend I’ve met at every one of the other crossroads.”

A dapper man in the middle forties was approaching. Of medium stature, his poise betokened bodily discipline. Every lineament spelled alertness. An ample mouth promised a lively humor. Singularly brilliant brown eyes diverted attention from the encroachments of a ruggedly inquisitive nose. This was Foster Coates, one of W. R. Hearst’s principal editors. It soon became apparent that the meeting was due more to Levy Mayer’s friendliness than to accident. My introduction to Coates was the pivot of my professional course. At the moment, he was editorial director of the Chicago American. The post was temporary. He held a roving commission as minister of first aid to ailing Hearst newspapers. It was his job to jack up declining circulations.

My first conversation with Coates was wilting. Clearly, much of my time had been wasted on the tow-paths of journalism. The speed circuits remained to be ridden. Work that had seemed to me expert now appeared stodgy or perfunctory. Most of the editors who had commanded my respect as masters were now shown as mere artisans. They left off where Coates began. They fingered the body of a story. He probed its anatomy. News that expired in their hands drew renewed vitality from his treatment. He opened for me the windows of an art within an art.

At our second meeting, Coates’s invitation to join his staff was eagerly accepted. My distrust of the Hearst organization was forgotten. The warmth of enthusiasm inspired by Coates dispelled the misgivings that had been engendered by Andrew M. Lawrence. And thereby hung many bitter moments. But they were redressed by many happy hours.

Chapter 10 Part 1 Next Week   
link to previous installment   link to next installment


George Herriman wrote about his encounter with Coates, a most eloquently profane gentleman, at the LA Examiner in a letter to a friend reprinted in Michael Tisserand's superb Herriman bio KRAZY.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Obscurity of the Day: City Sketches

Although I savor ever bit of comic art to ever come out of the notorious New York Evening Graphic, even I have to admit that City Sketches is one of their lesser features. Patterned after Pulitzer's urbane and sophisticated Everyday Movies panel, City Sketches offers slice of life glimpses of the Big Apple. While the gags hit the mark, the art is pretty questionable. I've only seen three examples (the two above courtesy of Cole Johnson), and while the one signed Reed has sort of a nice Ashcan School quality, the unsigned top one is pretty amateurish -- and perhaps by a different artist?

Tringulating based on Cole's and my spotty collections of the Graphic, it seems as if City Sketches started no earlier than late August 1929, and made it only into early October. The panel series apparenly did not make it into McFadden's other papers, at least I did not find it in the Philadelphia Daily News. Based on such a small sampling, I can't even say whether this Reed person was the regular artist on the feature, or if it was a group effort of whoever looked underworked in the Graphic's art department.


Julian Ollendorff had an animated cartoon series released by Educational pictures called "Sketchografs" in 1921-2. Don't know if any examples survive, but starting 2 July 1928 he began a comics version of it, syndicated by McNaught. It was an all-topic commentary or short bit of slapstick series, offered in two long thin panels so it might be stacked into one column. It had different sub-titles, one that was re-occuring was "Big City Sketches". I bring this up to say that perhaps the Graphic's "City Sketches" was likely unsyndicated, and ran only in the Graphic.
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Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Warren Largay

Warren James Largay was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on November 4, 1894, according to his World War I and II draft cards which also had his full name. His birth certificate, at, said his parents were Edward Largay and Elizabeth McPeck.

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census said Largay was the youngest of five children. Their father, a Canadian emigrant, was a lumber piler. The family resided at 41 Monroe Avenue in Oshkosh. Largay would be at this address through 1919.

A 1914 Oshkosh city directory listed Largay as a student. The 1915 directory is not available. In 1916 Largay was a commercial traveler.

On June 5, 1917, Largay signed his World War I draft card. He was an unemployed salesman and described as slender build, medium height, with blue eyes and black hair. The Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, at, said Largay enlisted July 8, 1918 and was discharged February 1, 1919.

Largay was listed in a 1918 Milwaukee, Wisconsin city directory as a salesman residing at 130 13th Street. The 1919 Oshkosh city directory said Largay was in the U.S. Army.

In the 1920 census, salesman Largar was married to Lillian. The couple resided with her mother, Louise Fechtmeyer, a widow, in Milwaukee at 888 Wright Street.

Milwaukee city directories for 1920 and 1922, listed Largay at 890 9th Street. At some point, Largay moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 1926 directory said Largay was a clerk who lived at 4110 19th Avenue South. From 1927 to 1929, the directories recorded Largay as a sales promoter for the Dollenmayer Advertising Agency.

Largay, his wife and mother-in-law were Milwaukee residents in the 1930 census. His address was 999 59th Street.

Largay’s listing in the 1932 Milwaukee directory was supervisor at the Pillsbury Flour Mills Company. His home was at 2629 North 59th Street. The same address was in the 1936 directory that said his occupation was “advmn.”

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Largay produced the panel That’s Frieda. It appeared from November 30 to December 18, 1936 in the Milwaukee Journal, and January through March 1937 in the Milwaukee Leader. Up to this point, there is no evidence that Largay had any art training.

Largay was divorced in the 1940 census. He was in his brother-in-law’s household at 938 North 16 Street in Milwaukee. Largay was doing clerical work for a newspaper project.

Largay signed his World War II draft card on April 27, 1942. His home was 915 North 16 Street in Milwaukee and his employer was the WPA Newspaper Index.

A 1953 city directory had his address as 502 North 14th Street and occupation as post office clerk.

A 1973 issue of the Franciscan Message published the article “Mr. Largay’s Penny-Pinchers” and said in the first four paragraphs:

When the countdown to Easter 1956 began, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin postal worker decided upon a unique “little Lenten penance.” He would beg daily from fellow postal employees a few pennies for charity.

Some days he collected a mere 18 pennies; other days, a mite over a dollar. By Easter he had 4,500 pennies. He sent the amount to a Wisconsin priest doing missionary work in India.

Eighteen years and four million pennies later, Mr. Warren J. Largay, now 79, is still at his “little Lenten penance.” It has become a year-round labor of love. “Pennies trickle in any and every day that God wills it,” he comments, his eyes twinkling.

Launched as a Lenten project, Mr. Largay’s “Penny Pinchers” organization has practically orbited the earth with its highly appreciated help. Yet the humble penny program gets scant publicity and makes no effort to draw attention to itself. In this it constantly heeds the wise advice which Mr. Largay, a secular Franciscan, received from his spiritual adviser, Msgr. Julius Dorszynski, back in 1956: “Never get too big!”
The Milwaukee Sentinel, March 9, 1968, said Largay was the “founder, organizer, caretaker and sloganeer” of Penny Pinchers and the organization’s slogan was, “Our IQ may not be high but we do have cents.”.

Largay passed away July 20, 1982, in Milwaukee according to the Wisconsin death index at and the Social Security Death Index

—Alex Jay


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Monday, September 11, 2017


Obscurity of the Day: That's Frieda

I think of the typical newspaper features editor as a person who's seen it all a million times, and rejects 99% of the prospective features that cross the transom with hardly a second's thought. But then I see a feature like That's Frieda, and I begin to wonder if my conception is all wrong.

I can just image Warren Largay walking in to see the features editor at the Milwaukee Journal, explaining that he has a feature that's entirely new and different from anything before seen, and it's going to be a big, big hit for some lucky paper. "Y'see, it's a feature that educates and entertains at the same time. I'm real sneaky about the education part; I teach readers the meanings of words by giving their synonyms. Like I pair 'equestrian' with a simpler term 'horseman', see? But it's not just that, because each one is told in a lilting musical verse. And I've got this great character, Frieda, who knows all these synonyms and drives people batty using them all the time. She's a real sourpuss and everyone laughs at her behind her back. She's a million laughs, right? So in each panel you get a vocabulary lesson, a song, and a hilarious cartoon featuring my character, Frieda."

The features editor I have in mind had ushered Warren out of his office about half-way through that pitch. But, miraculouly, the powers that be at the Milwaukee Journal said they'd give it a try. Maybe Frieda said the magic word Gratuitous, as in Free, and that won the editor over. That's Frieda debuted there as a daily on November 30 1936.

Strangely, though, the panel did not immediately inspire fan clubs. The Journal thought better of their rash decision after just three weeks, and That's Frieda last graced their pages on December 18.

But our story isn't over. Largay then went to a competing paper, the Milwaukee Leader, and talked them into running That's Frieda. Maybe Frieda once again flashed her big vocabulary, mentioning the term Unrecompensed, as in No Charge. I don't have definite running dates for That's Frieda in the Leader, but it definitely appeared there for at least three months, January through March 1937.

As far as I know, that's it for Frieda. Most likely after having people laugh behind her back for four months, she walked out onto an ice floe in Lake Michigan and said "Goodbye Brutish, as in Cruel, World". I don't know if Warren Largay made any other forays into newspaper cartooning; while That's Frieda was patently awful, in fairness he was a perfectly passable cartoonist and I do hope he tried again.


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