Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Respectable Papers of Boston and Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck, 1842

Gloucester Telegraph, Sep 16, 1842

EXTRA, NO. IX. The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck, often labeled “the first American comic book”, first issued to subscribers as a 40-page ‘Extra, No. IX’ issue of Brother Jonathan weekly in New York, and dated September 14, 1842, was a reworked bootleg version in English of Swiss cartoonist Rodolphe Töpffer’s comic strip Les Amours de Mr. Vieux Bois or Histoire de Mr. Vieux Bois (1827, Geneva album published 1837). 

If Oldbuck might be called the first American comic book, the following short newspaper quip might be called the first criticism of comic books in America,
Does the “Brother Jonathan” often humbug the public with such trash as the “Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck”? The respectable papers of Boston should not become a party to such impositions by puffing them. — Gloucester [Massachusetts] Telegraph, Sep 16, 1842

Rodolphe Töpffer (1799-1846), self-portrait


  1. Funny! Was it a reader's letter or a statement by the newspaper itself?

  2. This is just great, John! An amazing find. Already shared on Facebook! (Tiny typo: Unless this issue has a variant spelling, I believe it should be Gloucester and not Gloucestor.)

  3. Excellent catch, just excellent.

  4. Wonderful! Thanks for that little bombshell, John.
    There seems to be an implication that at least one Boston newspaper has been promoting ("puffing") Obadiah Oldbuck. Which could mean there is more to find in this "thread" from 1842.
    Do we know the content of the previous 8 supplements of Brother Jonathan? I've read that the paper bootlegged novels by British authors like Dickens. Having more precise data on what preceded Oldbuck would be useful - we'd know what this anonymous critic was directly comparing Extra no IX to.