Monday, October 22, 2012

Early North American Educational Comic Strips

‘In the Footsteps of Abraham Lincoln,’ by Nicholas Afonsky
‘HIGHLIGHTS OF HISTORY,’ the first known educational strip, was produced by the American J. Carroll Mansfield. It began November 17, 1924, and ran until 1942. The daily strip was syndicated by Bell Newspaper Syndicate. A color Sunday page was added to comic supplements in 1926. This strip was collected into a junior high school history book under the title Highlights of History – America 1492-1763. Early issues of Famous Funnies reprinted Highlights of History strips and the strips were widely circulated in a series of Big Little Books beginning in 1934.

‘Highlights of History,’ by J. Carroll Mansfield
James Carroll Mansfield was born January 4, 1896, in Baltimore, Maryland, and died at Atlanta, Georgia, in 1957. He was a staff artist for the Baltimore News and American before and after World War I. Moving to New York he studied art and syndicated his Highlights of History series in 1924. For Bell Syndicate he also wrote a Sunday strip in the Ripley mold called ‘Would You Believe It?,’ and ‘Boys and Girls the World Over’ and ‘Jolly Geography.’ He wrote and drew a strip based on classics, titled ‘Highlights of Fiction.’ Mansfield retired from strips in 1942 and moved to Florida where he worked as a commercial artist.

Advertisement, Sep 29, 1925
Mansfield’s long running strip was noticed across the border in Canada where it appeared in a number of newspapers. Two Canadians started a similar effort intended to educate Canadian children about their past. ‘This Canada of Ours’ was copyrighted by J.S. Morrison, artist, and Maud Morrison Stone, a writer based in Toronto, Ontario. The strip ran from May 2, 1925, to May 23, 1929, in many Canadian papers.

Advertisement, April 28, 1925
Nicholas Afonsky was a native of Lithuania, son of an Imperial Russian army officer, and was wounded five times while serving with the Russian army in World War I. He moved to the United States in 1917 where he worked as an assistant on Ed Wheelan’s ‘Minute Movies’ strip. In 1926 Nicholas Afonsky was drawing a weekly adaptation of classics like Walter Scott’s ‘Ivanhoe’ and Zola’s ‘The Attack on the Mill,’ both with continuities by Ruth J. Williams. The syndicate was Wheeler-Nicholson, Inc.

'The Conquest of the Air,' August 18, 1927
Next Afonsky illustrated ‘In the Footsteps of Abraham Lincoln,’ with text by Ida Tarbell, for McLure Newspaper Syndicate. The strip began February 24, 1927, and ended June 22, 1928. It appeared daily except for Sundays. In 1927 Afonsky also drew another feature for McClure, ‘The Conquest of the Air.’ In 1934 he began drawing ‘Little Annie Rooney’ Sundays plus (in 1935) its spinoff strip ‘Ming Foo,’ for King Features. Afonsky died June 17, 1943, aged 51.

'Lincoln in Newspaper Features,' in Lincoln Lore, June 6, 1949
Mansfield and Afonsky’s Abraham Lincoln continuities can be read HERE.
Note: ‘An American Master Rediscovered; A Brief on the Archive by Wm Earl Hutchinson’ (unpublished article on Mansfield).

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