The Casey Ruggles Sunday strip began on May 21 1949, followed by a daily strip in the Fall. Ruggles was a former cavalry sergeant who, on his return from the war in Mexico found the entire country enthused by the discovery of gold in California. Tufts, a native of Fresno, California, had “spent his life studying California lore and the history of the west.”
Tufts father was a manager in a Fresno produce and frozen foods firm when Tufts was born. After graduating from Fresno High School, Tufts worked as a freelancer in local radio, starting with a series of Twilight Tales he wrote and narrated for Fresno Bee station KMJ. He spent two and a half years in the navy during the war where he turned out weekly how-to-survive adventure comic strips for the publication at the Farragut Naval Training centre in Idaho, and served as editor of the Seattle Naval Air Station newspaper. Tufts had been working as a program manager at Radio Kyno when he quit to produce and market Casey Ruggles in December1948.
“I first got the idea of a Gold Rush strip during the exploration of ghost towns and abandoned mines in the Mother Lode country while I was a boy scout in Fresno.” Tufts had no formal training. “I started drawing comic strip characters when I was about six years old and have made a hobby of it ever since. I guess I have worked up about twenty strips and I have plenty of rejection slips.”
Tufts persistence paid off and he credited A. V. Buel, cartoonist of the Fresno Bee, with the encouragement that kept him going. “Real life characters will be introduced into the feature and I will do my best to keep the story historically accurate,” Tufts told the Sacramento Bee. Alex Toth helped out on Casey Ruggles for a few months in 1950.
Following struggles with the syndicate Warren Tufts resigned Casey Ruggles in 1954 to develop the adventures of Lance, which appeared daily and Sunday. Tufts syndicated the strip himself under the name Warren Tufts Enterprises and did his own writing, drawing, and color separations. Lance was Second Lieutenant Lance St. Lorne, Company B, U.S. First Dragoons, a Virginian fresh out of West Point. He was assigned to fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on the far frontier in 1836. When the story opened in July 1955 Lance was out on patrol in search of Loud Thunder, a rogue Indian who had just scalped and murdered a small party of Sioux Indians.
Tufts details made Casey Ruggles and Lance different from the average run of horse operas. Before beginning Lance he spent two years on historical research and mechanical techniques and it showed. Lance appeared in 15 newspapers with well over 3,000,000 circulation but despite the excellence of writing and drawing Lance failed to survive. Tufts left comic strips in 1960 but continued producing comic book art for various Dell and Gold key titles. He was killed in a plane crash in 1982.