Friday, July 24, 2009

Human Procession

Human Procession, Newark Advocate, January 2, 1914

Every profession has its dean, and Mr. F. Opper does the deaning for American cartoonists. The benign and benevolent appearing gentleman – he is all of that, which proves that looks are often deceitful – has known fifty-seven varieties of annums, having been born at Madison, Lake county, Ohio, fifty-seven years ago today, January 2, 1857. His full name is Frederick Burr Opper, but he signs his work simply “F. Opper.”

Mr. Opper’s alma mater was an Ohio village school. At fourteen he left that institution to take a post-graduate course in a county newspaper office. He had decided that newspaper work offered the shortest path to fame and fortune, and while this would indicate that Freddie wasn’t a very bright lad, it must be remembered that he was only a poor country boy. At school, and while acting as devil in the rural newspaper office, Opper was very fond of drawing, and even at that tender age he made caricatures of local people. It is understood that the subjects of these sketches were no more pleased with them than Mr. Bryan, Mr. Root, Mr. Archbold, and other worthy gentlemen who have since felt the sting of the Opper lash.

After a year in the newspaper office, Mr. Opper decided to go out into the great world. If he had been an ordinary lad he would have chosen Cincinnati or Cleveland or Columbus or Canton, or some other Buckeye state city beginning with C, as the One of his operations. But, no. Nothing less than New York would do for Freddie Opper. For a time he kept the pot boiling by working in a store, drawing display cards and doubling as a salesman. It was only a little while, however, until he placed several sketches with several New York comic papers, including the “Phunny Phellow” and “Wild Oats.” This work attracted the attention of Frank Leslie, who gave the youthful artist a regular job on Leslie’s Weekly. After three years with that publication he went to Puck. For eighteen years his work appeared weekly in Puck, but in 1899 he accepted an offer from Mr. Hearst, and has been with the Hearst publications ever since. His work now appears regularly in all of the Hearst papers and in scores of others.

In addition to the newspaper work, Mr. Opper has illustrated books for Mark Twain, Bill Nye, George V. Hobart, and Finley Peter Dunne. Among his best known cartoon series are “Happy Hooligan,” “Maude,” “Alphonse and Gaston,” “John Bull,” “Willie and his Papa,” and “The Cruise of the Piffle.” “Uncle Trusty” and “the Common People” are well-known figures in Mr. Opper’s cartoons.

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