Friday, July 24, 2020

A Crowded Life in Comics –

Return To Sender.

Another envelope, a large mailer, from Bob Weber. I think there never was a Moose Miller Fan Club, but there should have been. One was discussed, and the Treasurer, suspiciously signing the exorbitant chapter-registration invoice as “Web Bobber,” stipulated that board of director meetings were held each year in what sounded like “Baltimore,” but was in fact Bermuda. I had kids to put through college…

By Rick Marschall

The response was so surprising to last week’s compilation of the “decorated” envelopes, I thought I would share a few more before moving on to other recesses of a Crowded Life’s memory. I previously shared thanksgivings and huzzahs that incipient collectors along the line in the postal “service” never seized. Cartoonists’ letters with sketches and artwork on the envelopes… but how would I know?

Another anomaly pertains to cartoonists who were bold enough, or “economical” enough, to draw their characters on envelopes or the backs of post cards. Chancy, especially for recipients, right? Well, one of the first fan letters I ever wrote was to Crockett Johnson, who then was drawing a revival of Barnaby. In the second response I ever received from a cartoonist it was from him (the first was from Hal Foster), and he thanks me for liking the strip; he expressed gratitude that I was making my own Barnaby book, cutting and pasting strips every day; and he apologized for not being able to send an original. But “this will have to do” – an original inked drawing of Mr O’Malley. It did just fine!

But – Cushlamochree! – after all my worrying about the Merry Mailmen of the land swiping sketches by famous cartoonists, sometime through the years I mislaid this card. It is in my piles of ju… my archives, but not located for awhile, not in time for this column.

The others, today, are to me, but also from prominent cartoonists to others. (The collecting disease is infectious). I am not showing others of related interest – for instance all the letters Bill Watterson wrote to me do not have original sketches of Calvin or Hobbes on the envelopes (so calm down, everyone) and, very much like the hermit he is, no return address except the name “Watterson.” I cracked the code.


This envelope has interesting history as its subtext. Pat Sullivan had “established” his animation studio, clearly, but Felix the Cat and Otto Mesmer were not yet on the scene. The character he displays is Sambo, of the strip Sambo and His Funny Noises, which he inherited for the World Color Printing Company’s Sunday comics from Billy Marriner, who had committed suicide in Harrington Park NJ.

R. F. Outcault could be all business. One of his many enterprises was an ad agency – mostly using his characters – run, in Chicago, by Charles Crewdson and his son-in-law, a nephew of General “Black Jack” Pershing

Clare Victor Dwiggins – “Dwig”-- sent this caricature to his editor at Henry F Coates, the publisher of some of his early books of drawings. In case the postman did not recognize the recipient by the portrait, Dwig dutifully scribbled the name. It is amazing that, even in one of America’s largest cities, the name of the company and the simple city name, was sufficient to have a letter arrive. Also, cities in those days had multiple deliveries per day – better known as “per the Good Old Days.”

I have several letters – some silly; some flirtateous – from George Herriman to Louise Swinnerton, ex-wife of Jimmy. The envelopes, with his distinctive signature and full home address in Hollywood, was always there. And some envelopes – or large package wraps, like this in butcher paper! – had sketches too. Here, a self-caricature.


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