Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Forgotten Man — Dan Leno

[1] July 17, 1912.
DAN LENO, the sporting cartoonist of the Bulletin, is in town en route north looking for a “vacation.” ‘Sporting Cartoonist Here,’ in Press Democrat, July 14, 1910

[2] Dec 2, 1911. Light Weight Throne.
OBSCURE CARTOONISTS. Online, you often see articles with additional titles like FORGOTTEN CARTOONIST. Usually, while obscure, comic strip historians have not completely forgotten those cartoonists. Dan Leno is a horse of a different color though, his short life in comics is completely unknown and information about his life and career are difficult to uncover. He was a derivative cartoonist, among others borrowing style and ideas from Tad Dorgan, George Herriman, Rube Goldberg and Harry Hershfield. The earliest mention of Dan Leno is in my opening quote, in which we learn he worked as a sporting cartoonist on the San Francisco Bulletin as early as 1910.  
[3] Dec 27, 1911. The Dingbat Family.
THE BEE. The Press Democrat, published out of Santa Rosa, California, noted on December 10, 1910, SATURDAY “BEE” TO BE PUBLISHED HERE. The Bee was to be published by Billy Silver for the Press Democrat as an 8-page weekly, colored in pink and green, with cartoons by Dan Leno and Louis Breton. Charles Mansfield would provide illustrations. All three men were from the Bulletin’s staff.
[4] April 13, 1912. Everybody’s Doing It.
LOS ANGELES HERALD.  Dan Leno’s first Los Angeles Herald cartoon — contemporary with cartoonists George Herriman, Gus Mager, Harry Hershfield, Tom McNamara, and Hal Coffman — appeared on Dec 2, 1911, on the sporting page. The Herald later listed a range of titles, ‘A bas, as the French Say,’ ‘Mr. Bonehead Buys an Auto,’ and series with titles like ‘Such: Can You Beat It ?,’ ‘Old Ill Wind,’ and ‘Such Is Life.’ His last cartoon appeared on February 28, 1913. These last few cartoons were done in a wispy labored style, perhaps the result of the unspecified disease which sent him north to Acme, Alberta, where he died around March 21, 1913.

ROSINA LENO.  A woman living in Acme, named Rosina Leno, married a man named Jacob Bitz in 1885 (HERE) so it is possible that Dan Leno was her relative and possibly born in Alberta, Canada. And that is all that is known at present about Dan Leno, who according to his obituary was famous for his sporting page cartoons long before he joined the staff of the Los Angeles Herald.
[5] April 16, 1912. Troubles of His Own.
[6] April 24, 1912. They’re with Us Again.
[7] April 25, 1912. Have YOU Helped ?
[8] July 4, 1912. Eight photos of Los Angeles Herald sporting experts 1/ Earle V. Weller, 2/ George L. North, 3/ James W. Coffroth, 4/ DAN LENO (bottom left), 5/ Fred C. Thomson,  6/ Larry Lavers, 7/ Jay Davidson, and 8/ Ed W. Smith.
[9] Nov 20, 1912. When in Doubt Blame Finnegan.
[10] Jan 25, 1913. Joys of a Cartoonist.
[11] April 12, 1913. Pluvius’ Double Header.
[12] March 21, 1913. Famous Cartoonist Meets Death Bravely; Keeps Public Laughing to the Last.
[13] Cartoon styles by TAD – HERRIMAN – LENO – a 1904 Tad Dorgan, 
a 1909 George Herriman, and a 1912 Dan Leno.

NOTE. This is of course not about British comedian ‘Dan Leno’ (real name: George Wild Galvin, 1860-1904) who toured the US in 1897 as ‘The Funniest Man On Earth’ and licensed a London comic weekly to use his name in the title, Dan Leno’s Comic Journal (1898, subtitled: ‘One touch of Leno makes the whole world grin’).


  1. They said he was "famous" but he has been lost to time. So true about fame being fleeting. I'm glad you brought his story to light. Thanks.

  2. Dan Leno was might great grandfather. Dan Leno was his pen name, his real name was Arthur George Cutler. He was married to Freda Collier. They had one daughter Madelyn Lenore Cutler (my grandmother). He lived and worked for papers in Seattle, San Francisco, and LA. He was an immigrant from England, born in Nottingham. I don't know why he choose Dan Leno as his pen name except that he may have admired the English comedian 'Dan Leno - George Galvin', who would have been prominent when my 'Dan Leno - Arthur George Cutler' was a child in England. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and moved to live with his Father-in-law Joseph Collier in Acme Alberta Canada. He is buried in and unmarked grave in the small Acme cemetery. My wife and I intend to correct this wrong by placing a marker to honor his brief time on earth (29 years). It is very interesting you entitled this blog 'The Forgotten Man', he was clearly admired by his friends and colleagues, but in many ways because of is early death he was indeed forgotten compared to what he could have accomplished had he lived a long life. The reference to Rosina Leno above, has no relationship to Dan Leno the cartoonist (at least not to my knowledge), it may have been a pseudonym his wife used (Freda). I have one original Dan Leno drawing the Farewell card signed by all the cartoonists and writers at the LA Herald, many of whom drew their own cartoons on the card. I would very much love to come across other originals, I'm sure they exist. If you have any knowledge on the life or works of Dan Leno, or are interested in my history that I might have on his life, I would be delighted to share information. My email address is -- Thanks for posting this blog recognizing my great grandfather
    Mike Marsh

  3. I responded earlier to this, but then the message disappeared, dang it, but I must comment. What impressive work on this rather important piece in the grand puzzle of comics and newspaper-cartoon history. Thank you.

    In Leno's work we can "see" Herriman and Goldberg, Fisher, TAD and others -- or vice-versa. What happy cross-pollination in those fecund days, in the SF and LA cartoonists who mostly made it to New York. Who influenced whom? -- we should not care; as this fraternity evidently did not.

    When I was very young I acquired some early MUTT AND JEFF tearsheets and the Ball Publishing reprint books. Then I acquired the rare DINGBAT FAMILY JOKE BOOK, ca 1911, the same period as the Bud Fisher material. I was struck by the similarity in styles of Geo Herriman and Bud Fisher.

    I gathered the "yesterday-papers" and took them to show Al Smith, who attended my church and had drawn MUTT AND JEFF since 1933. He was not aware of Herriman's work of that time... agreed that it looked like Fisher's of the day... but was certain that neither cartoonist "ghosted" or assisted the other; besides, in 1911 or so both were too successful, and busy, to be the anonymous assistant to the other. AND no histories claimed a relationship. AND neither Fisher nor Smith's predecessor Ed Mack ever bragged or hinted at an association with Herriman.

    But the stylistic similarities are fun to see! -- as between them and Goldberg, TAD, Hershfield, Ripley, Leno, et al., of that time. (Yet... occasionally one sees amateur historians, or unscrupulous art dealers, claim a working partnership between Herriman and Fisher.)

    (Another memory of the 10-year-old, or so, Marschall grilling Al Smith: I brought the ancient papers to his home in Demarest NJ and we sat on his sunny front porch. A breeze kicked up, and tore a page in the DINGBAT FAMILY supplement as he looked at it. I remember that he shot an embarrassed look at me... but I was fine. A simple rip, and in the hands of a boyhood hero.)

    Sorry to have strayed from the topic of Leno. What fun -- and quality -- work he did! I am grateful to learn about him! Thanks again.

  4. The main influence on the lot of them, I would say, Rick, was James Swinnerton when he was a sporting cartoonist on the SF Examiner and the NY Journal in the 1890's. Swinnerton was not the first sporting cartoonist but he was the originator of the sporting cartoon template, several panels with images that foreshadowed the daily comic strips of a later date. These comics could be designed to fit in anywhere from 3 to 6 column widths. No-one to my knowledge did this before Swinnerton (I could be wrong I haven't read every single newspaper of the period.) Swinn was followed by a worshipful young upstart named Tad Dorgan, who, as a boy, followed his hero around the streets of San Francisco.

  5. Since I posted five years ago, I have learned a bit more about Arthur George Cutler aka Dan Leno. My great grandfather, I have also placed a marker on his unmarked grave in Acme, Alberta. The most notable thing I learned is while he was the only father my grandmother new (and he died when she was 7 years old), he was not her biological father. My grandmother's mother Freda/Marie Collier partnered up (no record of marriage) with Dan around 1908, likely in the Seattle area. They were a couple and I have his estate documents where he left his estate to his wife Freda/Marie and my grandmother. Mike Marsh