Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Fineheimer Twins and The Irresistible Rag

How do you expect a comic artist to tell how he gets up his ideas? That would be giving away his groceries. And besides, half the time he doesn’t know himself. To my mind, the best ideas are the most ridiculous ones – I mean, without being silly. — H.H. Knerr

HAROLD HERRING KNERR, or H.H. Knerr, was born September 4, 1882 at Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the son of a leading Philadelphia physician. Knerr’s first job was drawing pictures of gravestones for the Philadelphia Record newspaper. His first cartoons appeared in the Philadelphia Press. His first — comic series was Zoo-Illogical Snapshots drawn for the Public Ledger. In 1899 he moved on to the Philadelphia Inquirer where he drew further series entitled Little Scary William — Adventures of Mr. George — As a Cook Wifey Was a Frost — George was A Real Good Boy — and The Irresistible Rag. The hero, a ragtime flute-playing tramp, was like Jimmy Swinnerton’s comic character Laughing Sam, and Clare Briggs’ Sambo Remo Rastus Brown characters. Knerr stayed with this employer for twelve years drawing daily and Sunday page comic strips, some capitalizing on the popularity of the Katzenjammer Kids made by Rudolph Dirks.

[1] January 20, 1907
From 1903 to 1914 Knerr drew The Fineheimer Twins, a Katzenjammer derivative, for the Inquirer. The similarity of the Fineheimers to the Katzenjammers helped land Knerr the job as Dirks’ replacement on Hearst’s New York American where he was assigned the Katzenjammer Kids Sunday page in November 1914. His many interests made it “difficult for him to keep up as comic artist (...) His hobbies were golf, horseback riding, and aeronautics, including ballooning and airplaning.” The strip topper on Knerr’s Katzenjammer Kids Sunday was his own creation, and a wonderful comic in its own way, Dinglehoofer and his Dog Adolph, started on May 16, 1926.

[2] March 10, 1907
Other strips originating with the Philadelphia Inquirer were Sidney Smith’s series of strips, Bear Creek Folks (Brer Wolf) — Sleepy Willie — and Midge and Madge. Billy Marriner drew Little Si — Little Abe Corncob — “Wags” The Dog That Adopted A Man — and Too Strenuous Thomas. The strip Jimmy the Messenger Boy looks like the work of Marriner but is always signed “Redw. Shellcope.” Clarence Rigby had Little Ah Sid, the Chinese Kid and Inquisitive Clarence. C.M. Payne drew The Little Possum Gang — Scary William — and Bear Creek Folks.

[3] March 31, 1907
Harold Knerr appears to have been a lifelong bachelor, a shy man residing in a hotel in New York with his valet. On July 8, 1949, Knerr was found dead in his central New York city apartment by his physician. He had been having heart problems for 10 years previous. His brother Horace, in Philadelphia, and a sister, Mildred Knerr, of Carmel, California, survived him. He was replaced on the Katzenjammer Kids by Charles H. Winner.

[4] April 14, 1907
[5] August 16, 1914
[6] April 9, 1916
[7] Percy Crosby dinner photo for his second marriage, at the Hotel Warwick, in New York, April 4, 1929 — f.l.t.r. Harry Hershfield, Louis Biedermann, Jack Callahan, Russell Patterson, Percy Crosby, Bert Green, Cliff Sterrett, and HAROLD KNERR. In the Sunday Repository, Canton, Ohio.

The Fineheimer Twins scans courtesy of Pierre-Henry LENFANT of Lomé (TOGO).

Original art and autograph courtesy of Don KURTZ.

Topper illustration from Comics Kingdom HERE.

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