Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Robert Ripley – Beginnings

 – June 15, 1910 – 
ANOTHER California sporting cartoonist destined for fame was LEROY ROBERT RIPLEY who was born in Santa Rosa, California, on Dec 25, 1890, although he would claim the year of his birth as 1893. He would say he sold his first cartoon to the old Life while just four years of age. In 1909, Ripley moved to San Francisco to become a sports cartoonist at the Bulletin for $8 a week. He worked under sporting editor Hy Baggerly. He was fired and moved across the street to the Chronicle, whose star cartoonist at the time was Harry Hershfield
 – Feb 27, 1910 –
Hershfield was employed on to the San Francisco Chronicle from 1902. From sporting cartoons, he drifted into comic strips where he wrote and drew Homeless Hector, Desperate Desmond (Journal, 1911), Dauntless Durham of the USA (1913) and Abie the Agent. Hershfield persuaded sporting editor Harry B. Smith to put Ripley to work illustrating a “journalistic crusade” against slot machines which he had been assigned. “The boy’s good, it’s only fair you give him a chance,” said Hershfield, who preferred to draw sporting cartoons. 

Unfortunately, the assignment coincided with a two month engraver’s strike, which suited Ripley, who had very little experience of art. Every day he showed up at the art room “drawing his head off” and observing. By the time the strike ended he had gained confidence and soon was raised to $20 a week, where he stuck. 

 – June 12, 1910 –
At intervals he would approach John de Young, the proprietor of the paper, seeking a raise. A glowering de Young would say “If you are deserving of this increase you shall have it. We do not want a dissatisfied employee on the newspaper.”

One day the other artists made Rip believe he was indispensable. “De Young won’t let you quit,” they said. “You go in and say you will quit if you do not get the money –” “Very well, Mr. Ripley,” boomed Old John, “We do not want a dissatisfied employee on the paper.” Ripley went back to the art room almost in tears. He had no money and no job, and a job was important, because the Ripley family had moved to San Francisco to be near the son who was making a metropolitan success. The mother and a sister and a brother were all depending on that $20 a week. – How Believe It or Not Became a Byword, Herbert Corey, The Daily Colonist, Feb 17, 1929
 – Jan 30, 1910 –
Somehow Ripley managed to save enough money to start anew in New York where he landed with Associated Newspapers, a syndicate of about 50 newspapers, including the Globe. Ripley claimed his hiring was the work of J.N. “Ding” Darling who told his bosses. “You take him. If he does not make good I will be responsible for his first six months salary.”  Ripley’s first fame came though his cartoons depicting the Jeffries/Johnson battle at Reno, Nevada in 1910 and he continued covering the ring throughout the Jack Dempsey championship. The press contingent at the Willard-Dempsey fight included such notables as Robert Edgren, Thomas A. “Tad” Dorgan, Hype Igoe, Rube Goldberg, Robert L. Ripley, and W.O. McGeehan, all of whom got their starts in San Francisco.

 – Aug 14, 1910 –
In 1919 Ripley began adding strange events to his sporting cartoon panel. The cartoons were so popular that he changed the title, and Believe It or Not! was born. Artist Paul Frehm became the artist in 1937 and his brother Walter Frehm joined in 1959. Norbert Pearlroth was the writer/researcher from 1923.

 –Spalding's Official Handball Guide, 1923– 
by john adcock

No comments:

Post a Comment