Thursday, November 15, 2012

America’s First Color Newspaper Supplement (1892)

1 [1892] Cover of the first issue of  
The Inter Ocean Illustrated Supplement, 
 ‘Grover Cleveland,’ June 23.
by Richard Samuel West

Comic strip historians credit H.H. Kohlsaat as the grandfather of the Sunday comic supplement. Though he was not involved in the launch of the Sunday comic supplement, his brainchild — The Inter Ocean Illustrated Supplement — inspired it. Kohlsaat was in his late forties when he bought a controlling interest in the Chicago based Inter Ocean newspaper in 1891. The son of German and English immigrants, he had made his money in the bakery trade. As a life-long Republican, he wanted to use his wealth to influence national affairs and, especially, to push the political prospects of William McKinley of Ohio, who had recently lost his House seat but was maneuvering to run for governor of his home state and had his eye on the presidency.

2 [1892] Explanatory article in the first issue, 
‘An American Color Bearer,’ June 23.
Prior to taking control of The Inter Ocean in Chicago Kolhsaat had traveled to Europe where he learned that the widely read Paris daily Le Petit Journal was issuing an illustrated weekly supplement in color, something he had never seen before. Sure, he was familiar with Puck and Judge and Chicago’s Light, all of whom sported full color lithographs in each weekly issue, but this newspaper supplement was different — its color was produced mechanically on a perfecting press, a press that prints on both sides of the paper at once — which made it more efficient and less expensive than chromolithography. Kohlsaat was intrigued by the supplement and the printing process. He sought out the inventor of the press, one of the owners of the Journal, Hippolyte Maranoni, and ordered one for the offices of The Inter Ocean.

3-4 [1892] Top: June 23, ‘The Democratic 
Convention Wigwam.’ Bottom: September 4. 
‘Let Uncle Sam be the Arbitrator,’ 
illustrated by Art Young.
On Thursday, June 23, 1892, Kohlsaat launched The Inter Ocean Illustrated Supplement, an eight page tabloid sporting a full color front and back cover, with news features, fiction, and miscellany filling up the black and white interior. It was the first color newspaper Supplement issued in America. In the early issues, the color was a bit grainy and pallid. The illustrations were prosaic, mainly portraits of men in the news, street scenes, or buildings, usually drawn by Charles O. Jones of the Inter Ocean art department. In September of ’92, however, the Illustrated Supplement took on renewed vigor.

5-6 [1892] Left: October 16. ‘Hon. John C. Spooner,’ 
cover illustrated by Art Young. 
Right: October 22, ‘Rip van Winkle Dazzled by 
the World’s Fair,’ illustrated by Thomas Nast.
Art Young, a Midwesterner who had come to Chicago in 1884 to study at the arts student league, had jumped from one Chicago daily to another during the latter half of the 1880s. After a stint in Paris, he returned to his adopted city and began working for the Inter Ocean at the beginning of 1892. He was the paper’s daily political cartoonist. With the September 4 issue, he began contributing political cartoons to the back covers of the Illustrated Supplement and then caricature portraits to the front covers.

7-8 [1892] Left: October 30, ‘Defeat,’ 
cover illustrated by Art Young. 
Right: October 30, JOHN BULL – 
“I say, Uncle Sam, how you have grown. 
Is it PROTECTION?” U.S. – “Well, 
I should smile.” Illustrated by Thomas Nast.
In October, during the homestretch of the 1892 presidential campaign, he was joined briefly by Thomas Nast, usually with Young drawing the cover art and Nast contributing a cartoon to the back.  Nast had come to Chicago at Kohlsaat’s request to judge a contest to select the best graphic representation of the city of Chicago. From then on, his work appeared sporadically in the pages of The Inter Ocean. (In 1894, Kohlsaat commissioned Nast to paint what has become his best known oil painting, “Peace in Union” which depicts Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Kolhsaat paid Nast $10,000 for the painting and then donated it to his hometown library in Galena, Illinois, also the hometown of Ulysses S. Grant.)

9-10 [1893] Left: January 28 cover, ‘Blaine.’ 
Right: March 5, ‘Another Hand Takes the 
Reins of Government,’ illustrated by Art Young.
Of course the big event in Chicago during this period was the World’s Columbian Exposition, which though originally scheduled for 1892, was delayed a year and ran from May to October of 1893. From June 1892 through April 1893, the Illustrated Supplement almost always accompanied the Sunday paper, but in a few instances it was issued on another day instead. With the advent of the Fair, the Illustrated Supplement stepped up publication to twice a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays. Young continued as the main artist for the supplement with assistance from another art department staffer named Williamson. In July, The Inter Ocean hired Charles Saalburg, formerly of the San Francisco Wasp, to head the art department; he also became a major contributor to the Illustrated Supplement. Saalburg’s polished work was a nice compliment to Young’s homegrown efforts and Williamson’s illustrations.

11-12 [1893] Left: April 16, ‘A Few Old Sketches 
Re-Touched,’ illustrated by Thomas Nast. 
Right: April 30 front cover, ‘I Will be Queen 
of the May,’ illustrated by Thomas Nast.
The  Illustrated Supplement created something of a sensation in the newspaper publishing world. In May of 1893, The World in New York, inspired by Kohlsaat’s innovation, brought out the first color comic supplement, using the same press model Kohlsaat had imported from Europe. After the fair ended in October, the Illustrated Supplement returned to a Sunday-only publishing schedule. Though it was downsized at the end of the year, it contained the same amount of color because an interior doublespread was added. 

13-15 [1893] Left: July 16 front cover, ‘He Rules 
the Roost,’ illustrated by Charles Saalburg. 
Centre: September 6 front cover, ‘Maine 
State Building at the World’s Fair.’ 
Right: September 10 front cover, ‘Ohio’s 
Strong Man,’ illustrated by Charles Saalburg.
Kohlsaat, Young, and Saalburg all left The Inter Ocean in 1894. Kohlsaat sold out his interest in the paper and moved on to other projects (though he bought back the Inter Ocean nearly twenty years later). Young eventually made his way to New York and enjoyed fifty more active years in the profession. At Pulitzer’s invitation, Saalburg became head of The World’s art department in New York. He went on to a long career in pictorial journalism and was a highly respected printing arts technician, eventually even patenting several color printing processes. 

16-17 [1893] Left: November 21 cover, 
‘Our Uncle Grover – As Usual, the Inter 
Ocean Was Right.’ Right: December 17 cover, 
‘The Song That Did (Not) Reach His Heart.’ 
Both illustrated by Charles Saalburg.
No one has determined the exact date that the Illustrated Supplement was discontinued. I have an Inter Ocean Illustrated Supplement from 1900, but it does not contain any original art (just reprinted cartoons from Judge) and I have been unable to determine whether or not the title was published continuously during the intervening years. Reprinted here is a generous sampling of cover art from this pioneering publication.

18 [1894] January 7, Front plus back-cover sheet, 
‘The Modern Paul and Virginia’ and ‘Looking 
Backward,’ both illustrated by Charles Saalburg. 
Please note that the final image reads 1893 on the 
title bar of the issue itself, but it’s actually from 
1894 (the issue was misdated when published).

Richard West’s new book ‘Iconoclast in Ink; The Political Cartoons of Jay N. “Ding” Darling’ can be purchased HERE.


  1. Nice piece, Rich. Very interesting.

  2. I've been wondering why the Nast looks somewhat unlike his usual work and it occurred to me that we're accustomed to seeing his work engraved on wood, which involves the intercession of a copyist (the engraver). These cartoons would have been photographed from the (ink) drawings.