Wednesday, December 14, 2011

George Herriman Remembers


Salt Lake Telegram 31 May 1920.

Krazy Kat, the famous comic creation of George Herriman, has provided merriment for millions over a period of ten years.

On the occasion of Krazy’s birthday, which is this month, it may interest Telegram readers to know something about George Herriman and what notable personalities in American life think about his comic.

Here is his own story:

“Thirty-six years ago we started to exist in a humble way out of Los Angeles, Cal., and had we been properly chaperoned we might just as well have been at the head of the baker’s trust or drawing down a fat income from a patent non-skid doughnut, but we were left to blaze our own trail, which accounts for why we are today making dots and dashes and calling them comic pictures.

“Our father tried to tell us in his learned way not to forsake the bakery for art. Bread, said he, the world must have and will forever cry for, but art, while a few cry for it, still it allays neither hunger nor thirst.

“There are a thousand bakeshops and bun emporiums to one art shop and nobody ever sees any art wagons on the highways, but look at all the bread buses and the bun cabs we see dashing about at all hours answering the wild calls of a starving populace.

“But sinner that we were, we persisted and we remember when we left the old home town sixteen years ago for the big village on the Harlem, our parents’ farewell words were: “Don’t forget how to stencil doughnuts!”

“However, when we look back on our career and view with emotion how we might have been a ‘bun baron’ sending thin loaves down the river and having them come back heavy money, and having to dodge our own coffee cake trucks, and sitting up nights worrying about our millions, we feel rather pleased that when we answer the big rollcall we’d rather plead guilty to having worried the dear public with our ‘Krazy Kat’ and ‘Baron Bean’ than having dealt them out 2 cents worth of near bread and nicked them 6 cents for it.

“The papers have been awful kind to us and stand for a lot of our sad stuff and if someday they decide that they would look a great deal better without our art in it -- then -- and only then -- will we fall -- we’ll dig up the old union card, polish it up a bit and take our seat on the ‘bread-wagon.’

“For bread we must have, while ‘art,’ well, nobody ever gets up much of an appetite for ‘art,’ so ‘adios,’ see you in the paper tomorrow.

“Ever thine, “GEO. HERRIMAN.”

What others say about him:

“I’m for Krazy Kat. It is delightfully idiotic in this serious world.” -- James Montgomery Flagg.

“Ever since I came to this country, a pie-faced lad with a mop of real hair where now is only bare ivory, Krazy Kat has been my solace in adversity, my thingummy in what-d’you-call-it, and all that sort of thing, and now, in 1920, never fails to get a senile chuckle out of me. I remember -- I wonder if anyone else does, even Mr. Herriman -- that for a short while Krazy had a past. She started as a malignant animal trying to encompass the downfall of Ignatz and getting badly scored off with a brick at the end of each installment. Then suddenly her character changed and she became the lovable creature whom we hold up as an example to our children.

“I consider that in Krazy Kat Mr. Herriman has got what Wagner was groping for in ‘Parsifal.’ Wagner did his best to depict a character who, though shy on brains, was there with the wallop when it came to disposition. He did his best but you know what Germans are! It was left for Mr. Herriman to really put the thing across. Most men would have taken a trilogy of novels to create a character which Mr. Herriman draws in a few strokes. And not content with drawing a single figure, Mr. Herriman gives us a magic world full of enchanted mesas, every inhabitant of which is a personal friend.

“My opinion is that, if George Ade, Velasquez, the Brothers Grimm, and Lord Dunsany had got together and collaborated, they might have turned out something about as good as Krazy Kat, but I think even then that Mr. Herriman would have the edge over them. I raise the old Wodehouse brown hat to him.” -- P. G. Wodehouse.

“For many years I have used Herriman’s drawings in my lectures and before my art classes as examples of a great indigenous and thoroughly American phase of art. The wonderful knowledge of structure, composition, anatomy and all the academic features of great art which the Krazy Kat drawings possess and which Mr. Herriman cunningly perverts in such an astonishingly national way can only be truly realized by those who also know how difficult these things are.” -- C. N. Werntz, president of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.

“Of course I have always worshiped Herriman’s Addisonian English and his Rembrantesque cat anatomy, and the delicate, humorous thought of bouncing the brick on Krazy Kat’s bean; but as a confirmed lover of nature and deep student of her beauties, the thing that appeals to me most is Herriman’s trees. I’m not sure yet that they are trees, but if they are I certainly do admire them, and I think I like the one’s with spots on them most of all. As a tree thinker Herriman can give B--- (< Note: this word was, unfortunately illegible) bank cards and spades and beat her (Note: or possibly ‘him’) to a standstill.” -- Ellis Parker Butler, “Pigs is Pigs.”


  1. Thank you, John!!! Great document!
    Rick Marschall

  2. Great document indeed, plus the Hearst movie promo is gorgeous. Thanks for posting! What paper did you pull the promo from?

  3. Pulled from the Chicago Examiner >

  4. Excellent, John. I'm going to add it to my comics bibliography. Is the original title "Krazy Kat"?

  5. Hi Mike, the original title was “KRAZY KAT” with quotation marks.