Thursday, December 1, 2022

Prince of journalists –

 George Augustus Sala (1828-1895).

Caricature by Alfred Bryan (1852-1859)

by John Adcock

At 15, in London, George Augustus Sala began work as a clerk, draftsman, and scene painter, then became Editor of the weekly paper Chat. Mr. Frederick Marriot, the proprietor of Chat “had founded a truly original little weekly periodical with the lugubrious title of The Death Warrant. The office of this ominous periodical was in the Strand; and the window blinds were of black wire gauze, plentifully adorned with Death’s heads and cross-bones. The paper itself had a broad black border, and images of mortality were plentifully scattered through its columns; the letterpress being chiefly devoted to narratives of bygone murders, and descriptions of peculiarly atrocious tortures and punishments.” The paper was not a success.

He contributed a weekly article to Household Words for 5 years beginning in 1851. His first book was a collection of articles originally written for Words following a trip to Russia, entitled A Journey Due North. He was equally at home with society people, Bohemians and the disreputable ‘flash’ crowd. He described his early days as “Tom and Jerryism.” 

He wrote thousands of articles and sketches for All The Year Round, Cornhill, The Illustrated Times and the Illustrated London News. In 1860 he wrote a novel, The Strange Adventures of Captain Dangerous, which appeared in Temple Bar. For twenty five years, starting in 1857, he wrote two articles a day for the Daily Telegraph. He was ridiculed repeatedly by the Saturday Review for his egotism and his “turgid” style of writing. In 1863 he was in Montreal and the U.S. to cover the Civil War. He traveled in Algiers, France, Italy, Spain, St. Petersburg and Australia, writing articles wherever he went. According to Tinsley, his book publisher, Sala was a heavy drinker, whose wife would accommodatingly go to stay with her parents when he was on a bender.

Sala published a novel under his own name, Quite Alone, in 1863. Sala wrote another article in 1863 called Unfortunate James Daley. James Daley was transported from Ireland to Botany Bay in 1788.Sala stumbled on a passage in an old book, An Account of the English Colony of New South Wales by Lieutenant Colonel Collins, which led him to believe James Daley was the discoverer of the gold-fields of Australia. “The settlement of Sydney Cove was for some time amused with the account of the existence and discovery of a gold mine; and the imposter had ingenuity enough to impose a fabricated tale on several of the people for truth.” Daley persuaded an officer to accompany him to his find, tried to escape and was caught and given one hundred lashes. He said he had fabricated the story and had worked up a specimen from a guinea and a brass buckle. Daley was hanged for housebreaking, sentenced by the aforementioned Collins. “He was whipped like a dog and hanged like a dog” and his “misfortunes are over and the kangaroo hops over his grave.” His fellow convicts believed he had really discovered gold and taken the secret to his grave.

Sala had a great interest in convict literature, his contributions to Chat were “a series of essays , called A Natural History Of Beggars; and a series of tragi-comical tales, supposed to have been related by convicts at the Antipodes, while reposing in their hammocks after sunset.” He entitled this The Australian Nights’ Entertainment. “Little did I think that I was destined six-and-thirty years afterwards to travel to Australia and to hear much stranger tales than I had woven... Marcus Clarke, who was for many years my junior, seems to have gone to the very same sources of information touching convict life that I resorted to in 1848.” “Now in 1848, I had been toiling through analogous convict literature in the reading-room of the library of the British Museum... Then I began to browse among the blue-books, and those touching Australia exercised so grim a fascination over me that I began to conceive of “The Australian Nights Entertainment.”

Vernon Lee (Violet Paget) described him as “a red bloated, bottle-nosed creature who poured out anecdotes in a stentorian voice.” Sala claimed his nose was the result of a bar brawl which split his nose in two. In British historian Ronald Pearsall’s book, The Worm In The Bud (1969), a pornographic work entitled The Mysteries of Verbena House; or, Miss Bellassis Birched For Thieving, is attributed to Sala. In 1894 he finished The Life and Adventures of George Augustus Sala, in two volumes, and died in 1895. In the Preface to Life he wrote of receiving an anonymous letter ‘in which the writer abused me violently for what he styled my “shameless and wearisome egotism.” “It is always I, I, I, I, I, I, with you,” wrote this courteous scribe, “and everybody is heartily sick of you, you, you, you!” 

Sala said he had “an almost equally active propensity to gather up several editions of “The State Trials,” “The Newgate Calendar,” “The Malefactors’ Register,” “The Causes Celebres,” and any odd volumes of the “Old Bailey Sessions Papers” that I can come across, I cannot really account for. But everything has its final cause. The final cause of bread is to be eaten; of a so-called impregnable fortress, to be taken; of a burglar-proof safe, to be forced open by burglars. Perhaps the final cause of my collecting criminal literature will be that I shall be hanged.” He also collected Goyas Caprichos, and Disasters of War, grim and hopeless works that have never been surpassed.

In the two volume collection After Breakfast; or, Pictures Done With A Quill (1864) is an article entitled “A Tour Of Bohemia.” “Court and fashion can no more boast of or bewail their Bohemianism, than law and the church and commerce; the severities of sectarianism, the rigidities of money-hunting, the asceticism of business, the preoccupations of statesmanship, the endless cogs and wheels and pendulums, and bolts and bars, with which mankind have fenced about the social clock to regulate and steady it, and cause it to keep exact time, and chime the hour with decent intonations- are all powerless to subdue Bohemia, which is forever playing tricks with the hands of the clock, meddling with its weights, tampering with its springs, causing it to run down and go wrong, but never to stop; so as to necessitate from time to time the calling in of some state clock-maker, who oftimes makes only a sorry bungling job in mending the machine.”

The article deals mainly with the Bohemians of the upper classes, the ne’erdowells and remittance men of the aristocracy. “Young Tom squanders the money, entertains fiddlers, buffoons, horse jockeys, prizefighters, bona robas, &c.; and is, in time, taken in execution, or under a commission de lunatico, or marries a hideous old woman for her money, but he never dreams of being of Bohemia – a Bohemian... There is scarcely a ship sails for Australia without a ruined spendthrift aboard, shipped off to the Antipodes by his friends to prevent him coming to worse; there is scarcely a public-house without some sodden Tom Rakewell, far gone in delirium tremens, who has had money and run through it all. You will not walk ten paces in the courtyard of a debtor’s prison without seeing the shawl dressing gown fluttering in the breeze, and the tasseled cap of incarcerated Tom, who has been in the Guards, or the Line, or in nothing particular, save the general debauchery line, and has sown his acceptances broadcast, and bought jewelry and double-barreled guns on credit, to pawn.” 

It is little wonder that Sala and other one time penny-a-liners did not brag of their penny dreadful days, in his Life Sala describes his days on the staff of the Daily Telegraph; “There existed, not only among the Conservatives, who thought that the cheap daily press could only be the prelude of sedition and revolution, but also among a large number of journalists, and Liberal journalists too, of high standing, the most violent of prejudices against the new order of journals which were usually contemptuously called the “penny papers.” Dickens himself, a Liberal of the Liberals, expressed but very halfhearted approval of the agitation for the abolition of the paper duty; and it is a most amusing fact that members of the staffs of such expensive journals as the Times, the Morning Chronicle, the Morning Post, the Morning Herald, and the Morning Advertiser, looked down with aversion and disdain on the contributors to the “penny press.” In those days there was a kind of informal cenacle, or club, of newspapermen held every night in an upper room of a tavern of the “Red Lion,” in the Strand. I have seen William Howard Russell there. I was first taken to this select gathering by my friend already mentioned, Henry Rumsey Forster, of the Morning Post; but the veteran journalists, especially those connected with the Herald and the Post, vehemently protested against the young man known to be connected with a penny paper, being allowed to join them.

The drollest episode of all in connection with the horror felt, or assumed to be felt, by the established newspapermen at the audacity of the penny journalist presuming to associate with them, occurred on the occasion of that festival of the Literary Fund, of which I have already made mention.”

After the speeches reporters would retire to a private room for cigars, brandy and soda. “When at the dinner to which I allude an adjournment was made to the private room, my confreres – at least , I thought them my brethren, but they were not of the same mind  flatly refused to admit me to their company. But the landlord, wise in his generation, and knowing that the Daily Telegraph was rapidly progressing in power and popularity, and that a notice in its columns would do him no harm put his foot down, and pithily informed the gentlemen of the Press that they might go away if they liked, but that the private room was his, that he had invited me  I think he called me Mr. Saunders  to smoke a cigarette there, and that there I should remain. Which I quietly did.” 

George Augustus Sala is not considered one of the great Victorian writers but he was certainly one of the great journalists of the age; he was a master of the literary anecdote and he wrote so many articles, he is probably more important to biographers and historians than Dickens or Thackeray, in our time. With his ability to mingle with the high and the low, and a sharp memory, the result of his childhood blindness, he left a ton of interesting material, much of it still hidden away in the many periodicals to which he lent his sharp and witty pen.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

The Rev. Fiddle, D.D.

The Rev. Fiddle, D.D.

by Claude Eldridge Toles

New York Journal, August 7, 1898


Uncle Josh's trunk-full of fun



Uncle Josh's trunk-full of fun: a portfolio of first-class wit and humor, and never-ending source of jollity New York: Dick & Fitzgerald 1869. John Camel Heenan, also known as the Benicia Boy (2 May 1834 - 28 October 1873) was an American bare-knuckle prize fighter

Julius Schwartz and Richard A. Lupoff



Snapshot of two giants, Julius Schwartz, renowned DC comics editor, and Richard A. Lupoff, author of the ground breaking EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS: MASTER OF ADVENTURE. Photo taken at BayCon 1987.

Thanks to MM


Saturday, September 3, 2022

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Stanley Armstrong –

Stanley Armstrong, 

Slim Jim, May 5, 1923


Editor & Publisher, August 20, 1949

To The Editor: I am going to ask a special favor that you carry a notice of the death of my dear friend Stanley Armstrong. He died on March 10, 1949 at his home in San Francisco.

Stanley Armstrong started with World Color Printing Co. in 1910 and we discontinued "Slim Jim" in 1932. He also drew "Bos'n Bill," a similar character.

A great deal of Armi's life was spent on the high seas and in foreign countries. He told me one time that he never took a drawing lesson but acquired the art by drawing portraits of men aboard ship. He was a kindly man and quick and easy to make friends and they were lasting friends.

His wife passed on about four years ago. Since the departure of his wife Armi had been living on his ranch in California. Armi was 73 years old at the time of his death. He worked for no other syndicate than the World Color Printing Co.

RS Grable, President

World Color Printing Co.

St. Louis, Mo.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Another – 30 – .


One of Jim’s political cartoons

by Rick Marschall

I was 16 or 17 when I first met Jim Ivey. My family went on annual vacations to Florida, from New Jersey; and my father always indulged my interest in comics by reserving our last couple of days to visit cartoonists, of whom there were many in the Sunshine State.

I did not show up at front doors unannounced, of course. I sought the cartoonists out, usually with the help of cartoonists I was getting to know in the New York City area, and with the encouragement of my dad, who even helped me compose letters inviting myself to their homes. On those visits my father joined me – Roy Crane, Frank King, Leslie Turner, Mel Graff, Lank Leonard – as a vicarious fan, of course. My mother and sisters sat in the car or at a motel poolside.

But when I visited Jim Ivey I was alone, probably just old enough to drive. We usually stayed on the east coast, and I drove to Madeira Beach, over in the Saint Pete area. Surely I had already corresponded with Jim, probably trading originals. In those days, the 1960s, the hobby was barely hatched. The names I can summon are – now – a ghostly echelon; and I can write this because I started younger than others in that “first generation.”

John Coulthard – the San Franciscan who probably put me in touch with Jim; Abe Paskow of Brooklyn; Tony Sanguino; Angelo Cruz and Chester Grabowski; Gordon Hunter; Gordon Campbell; Ernie McGee; Vern Greene who drew Bringing Up Father and Art Wood the editorial cartoonist; all these have passed. About this time I met Charlie Roberts of Virginia, and Harvard student Fred Schreiber from France, who joined the small fraternity of newspaper-strip art collectors.

Then there was Jim Ivey. He “graduated” from collecting to producing minor publications; and in Madeira Beach he opened a “museum.” Like Jim’s letters and his drawings (he had been a political cartoonist)  – maybe his life itself – they were idiosyncratic and a little disorganized. His cARToon magazine was more of a scrapbook; and his Cartoon Museum that so attracted me was a storefront with original art from his collection thumb-tacked to the walls; books and cartoon anthologies on the floor at the base of those walls; and a platform by the street window, where Jim gave drawing demonstrations and held cartooning classes.

a self-caricature of Jim Ivey.

In Jim’s last note to me he tweaked me, saying that I always had “pooh-poohed” his museum. I never did so to him directly – not even one “pooh” – but I know the troublemaker who tried to be a provocateur. In fact I have served on the boards of several museums and, more pertinently, I have visited many museums. Calling his gallery / displays / drawing board in a storefront, a Museum did not make it a museum. But it was better.

The space in Madeira Beach – just like the comic shop in Orlando he later opened – was a representation of Jim’s mind and personality. Full of comics, old and older. Displays of his favorites – his love on display. Things for sale; things he gave away. And unlike any formal museum, the personality of the host (which he was, more than a Director) was a necessary component.

Jim was omnipresent in those places – and subsequently at OrlandoCon, the legendary annual comics fest he started with Charlie Roberts and Rob Word – with his trademark soft voice and Southern accent, bow tie, handlebar mustache, and, when it was allowed, a large cigar.

Better than these descriptions (and I hope worth the wait in this tribute to Jim, who died last week at the age of 97) was the experience of our first meeting, my first “museum” visit. We talked about everything under the comic-strip sun, tangent leading to tangent as he pulled out drawings and books to show me. King Aroo popped up, and I said I did not know it (it was before I found the Gilbert Seldes-prefaced reprint book).

With the zeal of missionary (which Jim was, and many of us are about classic strips), Jim rushed to the back room, emerged with a week’s worth of Jack Kent daily originals, appropriately self-referential in theme: King Aroo, Yupyop and others discussing how, as comic-strip characters, they should register surprise. Plops; hats flying off; classic nonsense. Of course I fell in love immediately (and subsequently became friends with Jack Kent), but Missionary Jim, noting my enthusiasm – and correctly assessing the investment he was making in my appreciation of strips, and our own future friendship – gave me the six dailies. Of course I tried to protest, and I forget what items I sent him when I returned home… but. That was Jim.

a Thoughts of Man panel.

The outline of his career is more than a rattly skeleton. A Kansas cartoonist, Albert T Reid, had established a university fellowship, and young Jim was a recipient, sent to Europe for a season to study cartooning. He returned with a taste for avant-garde drawing styles, as which his own minimalist style could afterward be classified. That was in 1959, and supplemented what he gleaned from the Landon Correspondence Course.

Jim drew political cartoons for a succession of big-city papers: The Washington Star; St Petersburg Times; The San Francisco Examiner; and Orlando Sentinel. Jim was active in the National Cartoonists Society and a recipient of its Silver T-Square Award. Beginning in 1973 he drew the syndicated daily panel Thoughts of Man for the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate and, ironically but not uncommonly with cartoonists I met as a fan, I was his editor there.

As a comic-shop proprietor, Jim stocked all the latest releases, even if characters and costumes flummoxed him. In the back room were always vintage strip originals and rare reprint books. As mid-Florida was full of famous cartoonists, he frequently hosted signings and celebrations, even if mall kids did not know who Wash Tubbs or Smilin’ Jack or Snuffy Smith or Skeezix were. Usually their parents did.

a color Wash Tubbs drawing that Crane dedicated to Jim, and Jim in turn signed to me.

Among Jim Ivey’s legacies is the Wash Tubbs reprint book he did, the early years by Roy Crane, with a foreword by Charles Schulz. Jim and Nashville’s Gordon Campbell assembled it, a fine selection of adventures from precisely 50 years earlier, 1924. When I acquired Jim’s own copy, overflowing with color sketches by Roy on every blank page and margin, Jim included a note on how the book was produced, including the lament that he received author’s copies but never made a penny. He had to settle for the gratitude of uncountable fans.

When I edited the old NEMO magazine, it was natural that I turn to Jim for articles, for beneath his casual exterior was a fierce scholar and a good historian. Another “closed circle,” as I similarly recruited Ron Goulart, Bill Blackbeard, et al.

I should mention a little more about OrlandoCon, truly one of the great conventions, always boasting major-name guests (thanks to Florida’s cartooning community plus the proximity of Disney World) and, adding to my childhood forays, it was where I first met, or first spent significant time with, Dick Hodgins Sr., Dick Moores, Floyd Gottfredson, Beanie Velosky, Jim Scancarelli, Bob Burden, Ralph Kent, Rob Word, Ralph Dunagin, and Dave Graue.

“You dirty dog” was one of Jim’s affectionate epithets, if you told him you had just just acquired some treasure of original art. It was affectionate, with a twinkle in his eye, because he had taste but little envy. Jim often traded away excellent examples of an artist’s work if he could yet claim that his collection had some representation of the cartoonist’s. He aimed for a collection of 2500 different artists.

I realize now that Jim Ivey traded not only artwork and vintage books, but he dealt in joy, and traded enthusiasms. He will be missed; and we are a bit lonelier.




Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Peeps into the Past –

  A Detailed 1919 History of Penny Bloods, Penny Dreadfuls, and Penny Journals

by Frank Jay

Compiled by Bill Blackbeard and Justin Gilbert (2001)



Friday, June 17, 2022

Jack’s Sporting and Literary Society –


by John Adcock

Boardman Robinson, New York Tribune, July 20, 1912

“We take him to a dago joint down on the east side and let him eat a lot of ravioli and listen to the wops. He always got a kick out of that… then we take him up to the McAlpin and set him up in a window on the top floor where he can look straight up Broadway. He just sits there and looks at the lights and traffic and talks about the old mob up at Jack’s café.” — Ike Dorgan about his brother’s last days, to Westbrook Pegler in ‘Death Claims Tad Dorgan, Phrase Maker’ in the Chicago Tribune, May 3, 1929


The term “roaring forties” designated both a region and a glamorous era in time specific to New York. Geographically they started (roughly) at 40th Street and extended northward on Broadway to 42 Street and on to 50th Street. Damon Runyon recalled

Twenty years ago, the era of the Roaring Forties was commencing to pass. It had succeeded the era of the Gay Nineties and the Broadway South of 42nd street. Some of the Gay Nineties lapped over briefly into the era of the Roaring Forties, as one area always laps over into another for a spell. Lillian Russell, “Diamond Jim” Brady, the Hoffman House, Martin’s, Sherry’s, Delmonico’s, Shanley’s and Mouquin’s still were going concerns and bright memories of Manhattan Island.

The Roaring Forties era brought on the glamor, that was to become tradition, of the Knickerbocker hotel and Enrico Caruso and Jack’s restaurant and the Hippodrome and Murray’s, with the revolving glass dance floor, and the Castle’s and Healy’s and Releenweber’s and the Follies and Churchill's and Rector’s. It was the era of Wilson Mizner and Irving Berlin, and George Cohen and of the Harry Thaw trial and the Herman Rosenthal murder and the old Waldorf. – ‘The Brighter Side of News,’ Damon Runyon, Times-Union, Oct 3, 1939


O’Malley was known around town simply as “O’Malley of the Sun.” Despite the veil of anonymity — the old Sun did not use “by-lines” — O’Malley became widely known as a reporter and humor columnist. The brilliance of his style identified him to all who commonly read the paper. O’Malley’s reign as the prince of reporters began in 1906 and ran on until 1920, when he resigned to contribute to magazines and publishers.

Frank Ward O’Malley, Tad Dorgan, Hype Igoe, Benjamin DeCassares, Wilson Mizner, “Spanish” Jack O’Brien (cable editor on the old NY Sun), Tom Geraghty, Ring Lardner, Damon Runyon, George Luks the cartoonist, Stuffy Davis, Jim Huneker of the Sun, Vince Barton, and Jack Francis were members, some regular and some on the periphery, of ‘Jack’s Sporting and Literary Society’ who met at Jack’s restaurant with its famed Battling Nelson grill during the Roaring Forties.

That was a year—1912—notable for many things. So much happened that our great major Broadway sport of all night discussion and tableside debate hit a new high for all time. For one thing newspaper men will tell you that 1912 was the greatest year for news in journalistic history, at least in variety. Early in the year the Titanic went down, one of the very greatest news stories of all time. Then, just before 2 o’clock the morning of July 16 gunmen procured by Police Lieut. Charley Becker murdered Herman Rosenthal thereby beginning a murder yarn that held the front-page attention of readers for months. – ‘Back on Broadway – Golden Era of Indoor Sports,’ Frank Ward O’Malley, Buffalo Evening News, Aug 23, 1930.

Hype Igoe, 1938

Hype Igoe was a cartoonist and sporting columnist on the staff of the San Francisco Examiner. The year following the earthquake he came to New York and worked on the New York American’s art staff for a few years, thence to New York Sun as a writer of boxing, later to the Tribune, and finally a member of the World’s sports staff. Igoe was on the scene of the Rosenthal killing:


‘O’Malley Greatest of All, Igoe Tells Bill Corum,’ Albany Times-Union, New York, Nov 30, 1932

Dear Bill Corum: When Frank Ward O’Malley passed on in Paris a few weeks ago, I got me the sinks. Sad, because Time, greatest of all the line buckers, had taken another of the disappearing old guard.

I don’t know that you ever knew him. Not to have been in his company at some time or another in your newspaper career was to have missed a gentle genius of his kind. Our (Arthur) Brisbane always called him “the greatest reporter in the world.” Chronicling was only one of his sidelines. He played at being a human being better than anyone I had ever met. He wrote with tremendous sweeps of English, yet each line seemed leavened with the sweet wit which dominated his soul.

For twenty years or more O’Malley, with Tad (Dorgan), Ben De Casseres, Wilson Mizner, “Spanish” (Jack) O’Brien, Harry Pollock, Vernie Barton, Corse Payton, Jack Francis, Arnold Rothstein, Jack Shaughnessy, Freddie Griesheim, and the bold bad boys of “wire tapping” and “the boats,” made Jack’s eating and drinking shebang our ole swimmin’ hole. That was before the camel prohibition came.

Herman Rosenthal

Bill, the night they bumped off Herman Rosenthal! It was maddening in the whirl of its excitement. Charley Meeghan, the then sports editor of the Morning Telegraph, and myself, had sauntered into George Considine’s New Metropolis, in 43rd, to gas and read “copy” on Charley’s printed story of a bout we had just seen in old Madison Square Garden.

Charley had wired his story from the ringside and here we were, 20 minutes later, reading it in type that couldn’t have been cold in the printing.

Charley, who is no more, Bill, looked up and said “Great age, Hype, great age. The fight isn’t half an hour old and it–” Charley never finished that sentence.

Bang-bang-, bang, bang, bang!!!

Five shots, Bill, two fast, then three.

“Backfire, Charley?’ I said.

“Backfire, hell,” said our waiter as he did a standing, sitting dive under the table. Before he disappeared, he pointed one long great cloud of powder reeking finger at the big open window. A smoke was floating into the room.

With the five shots came the piercing voice of Artie Hall, a famous blues singer. She was sitting at a table with Billy Atwell and Lieutenant File of the police department. From a rear seat, facing the door, Artie Hall had jumped to her feet and hit high C in a scream which still rings in my ears.

Miss Artie Hall, June 1900

File, in light civvies, his back to the door, whirled around, whipped out a long blue service gun and was through the door like an antelope. They brought him up on charges of negligence afterwards and Charley and I testified on his behalf. We told how he had gone “out in the smoke” not knowing what fate had in store for him.

Charley and I ran to the front door. A figure lay sprawled on the sidewalk, face downward. The fallen man’s right hand was stretched out full length and between the first two fingers, standing straight up, there was a half-consumed cigar. A little ribbon of blue smoke curled upward from it, which through some strange miracle, had not been disclosed from the man’s fingers as he crashed, stone dead, to the sidewalk. The maddening whirl in its beginning!

“Herman. It’s Herman,” whispered big “Judge” Crowley.

“Herman who?” I asked.

And from over my shoulder came the answer- “Herman Rosenthal, by God!”

I whipped around and there stood Frank Ward O’Malley. Always the “greatest reporter.” He had beaten Swope and Hill and the others in from the ole swimmin’ hole. He hadn’t waited for night editor’s orders. He had started with the first crack of the four gunmen’s gats. Indeed, a reporter, Bill.

Charles Becker

The strange death watch we kept in Jack’s that night. Becker was electrocuted for that slaying. O’Malley had gone up to Sing Sing as our and the old Sun’s representative. As the dawn came, we, Mizner, Tad, De Casseres, O’Brien, Payton, Barton, (Arnold) Rothstein, old Jimmy Wakely, Francis, Shaughnessy, (Jack) Dunstan himself, Henry M. T. Beekman, the great barrister, who coined the famous “old age is the death of enthusiasm” line, myself and one or two others, sat around a big table with our watches in the palm of our hands.

Each, in ghastly fashion, was trying to picture what Becker was doing. What his last moments were like. Each trembled in the strange excitement of that weird death vigil. Three minutes to go and it would be 5:30 of the morning, going away time in the big house in those days.

O’Malley came with the story. We clung to his Poe-like tale as ivy to an old oak. Bill, you’ll probably remember that Becker collapsed so pitifully that they asked a Negro companion in death to “wait on Charley.” Charley’s nerve was gone, Bill, and the Negro said he’d “sit it out until Charley had it over with.”

Breathlessly we waited for O’Malley’s return. Mizner got in the first word.

“Well?” he quizzed?

“Bill, the black man showed the “Czar of the Tenderloin” how to die,” said O’Malley.

“Then why the hell didn’t you lead off your story with that line?” stormed the exacting Broadway wit.  One of O’Malley’s better lines, which never got into type until now.

Frank Ward O’Malley! His lute laid aside for all time, Bill. I can see him now, black silk cords hanging from his nose glasses, handsome, kindly, sweet singer of prose! He was the only great reporter of my time who never talked of himself. I often wonder if Frank Ward O’Malley ever knew Frank Ward O’Malley.

Odd thing, Bill, they never put him on a big fight story. How he could have garnished the tragedy of the crushing of the Orchid Man at Boyle’s Thirty Acres or the malleting of the ox-like Willard at Toledo! A reporter!!

Hype Igoe.

Lt. Charles E. Becker, a brutal cop on the take, was convicted of Rosenthal’s murder and electrocuted on July 13, 1915, at Sing Sing prison.


Power of the Press, even when the Power was only half a horse. Arnold Rothstein, who came into Jack’s every morning, was one of the most delightful beer companions with whom I have ever sat out a session. He impressed me as being a great executive who simply took the easiest way in a country where craft and graft are all ye need to know. – ‘Jack’s,’ Benjamin De Cassares, American Mercury, Nov 1932

The man who ran the gambling parlor on the second floor of the Metropole at the time of Rosenthal's demise was the gambler Arnold Rothstein. He took over where Rosenthal left off, soon running New York’s drug and gambling rackets. His fate was the same, shot in the abdomen outside the Park Central Hotel on Nov 4, 1928. Rothstein was one of the peripheral members of ‘Jack’s Sporting and Literary Society.’ In a ‘Hollywood Day by Day’ column in New Movie Magazine, by NEMO (O. O. McIntyre), the author wrote.

I had dinner with Jack the other night and he told me what I didn’t know before: that Arnold Rothstein, the murdered gambler, used to join that famous restaurant round table, and that no one around the board had a more razor-like wit.

Damon Runyon called him “The Brain.” Runyon recalled “He was the villain in a Fitzgerald novel. He carried on where Becker left off after Rosenthal’s murder; introduced the modern gangster; served crime as pay off man; taught politician and crook how to work profitably together.”

Arnold Rothstein, financier of the New York Underworld – Lindy’s restaurant on Broadway was his favorite hangout, and it was from there that a telephone call summoned him to his death. Frequently he sat all night in Lindy’s. drinking cup after cup of coffee and swapping gossip and wisecracks with such figures as Damon Runyon, the reporter; T.A. “Tad” Dorgan, the cartoonist; Jack Lait, Con Conrad, and Harry Hershfield. – ‘The Murder of Rothstein,’ Chicago Tribune, April 28, 1940

––To be Continued––

Miss Artie Hall, 1903

Artie Hall was a white "coon-shouter" from Georgia who first appeared on the stage in 1899. She mixed her own brown make-up and at the end of her act she would lower her blouse to show the white skin beneath the cloth. Newspapers hectored her for showing too much torso at the reveal, and for showing her underwear while dancing. By 1912 language had changed, and she was now known as a "blues-singer."

Saturday, May 28, 2022

The Laughs of a Nation

The Publications of 

Gerald G. Swan


by Alan Clark

Half Holiday Publishing

294 Pages

Available HERE


Thursday, March 3, 2022


 ‘Merriest Guy in America’

[1] TAD DORGAN, Daffydills, Cupples and Leon, 1911

New York – “Tad,” the cartoonist who has been called “The Merriest Guy In America,” died In his sleep yesterday at his home in Great Neck, L. I. After nine years of taking it from fate as an invalid and a last five years of bondage to a wheel chair.

[2]  TAD DORGAN, Boston American, Nov 17, 1911

He was 52 years old last Monday and his real name was Thomas Aloysius Dorgan. He was born In San Francisco, and the first national intimation that something had happened to make life a little easier to bear came a few years later when the phrase, “Twenty-three- Skidoo” swept the country. That was “Tad’s” phrase, and it skidooed him from a $5-a-week office boy on a San Francisco newspaper to the East, three square meals every day, and the gorgeous idea of making “Judge Rummy” a national institution during the Thaw trial.

The expressions “Tad” kept putting in the mouths of his horde of cartoon characters have since been tossed glibly about by millions of his fellow citizens. Most of them - the phrases - are meaningless but irresistible.

[3] TAD DORGAN, ‘Elizas Crossing the Delaware – After Washington,’  LA Herald, Feb 24, 1913

“We Have No Bananas” 

“Officer, call a cop,” “Daddy, I see ducks,” “See what the boys in the back room will have” - these awaken memories as sentimental as love songs. “Dumb-bell” is prying its way into dictionaries, as may “Cake-eater,” “Dumb Dora,” “Drugstore cowboy” and “Nickel-nurser.” 

They are all “Tad’s”, and so are “Finale hoppers,” “Storm and Strife,” “Cat's Meow,” “For crying out loud,” and “What, no spinach?”

“Yes, we have no bananas” was his, too, and it became the most popular song of a decade. Many like best of all, however, his classic: “Drop that wheelbarrow - what do you know about machinery?” Although, “Let him up —he’s all out” has its loyal following.

These gaudy expressions rolled off “Tad’s” pen and a week later they would be in the mouth of every amateur wise-cracker from Baton Rouge to Point Barrow. “Tad's” eye first discerned that a hat was a “skimmer” and that eyeglasses were “cheaters.”

Dorgan was possessed of an encyclopedic savvy of prize fighting as well as of the homelier amusements of his fellow citizens. His stories of the Gans - Nelson and Jeffries - Johnson fights are classics of sports writing. He looked at fights and fighters with the same tender attention that Sir Joseph Duveen bestows upon old masters, and his tendency was to become tremendously excited.

[4] TAD DORGAN & HYPE IGOE, c. 1910. Courtesy Rob Stolzer (see more HERE)

Heart Trouble

The Dempsey-Miske affair in Benton Harbor, Mich., in 1920 seemed mild enough to many people but it marked the beginning of the end for “Tad.” He was forbidden by physicians ever to attend another boxing match. Something had happened to his heart.

Even at that time, “Tad’s” general appearance was that of an object any reasonably determined wind could blow through a keyhole. He was more than thin. Such hair as he had was of an indeterminate sandy shade, He limped slightly with a motion that furthered the effect of scuttling before the wind. 

And the second, third and fourth fingers of his right hand had been lost somewhere early in his career. A factory accident in his youth was reported to be responsible for the missing digits. This was before “Tad” learned to draw, grasping his pen with the thumb and forefinger remaining to him.

“Tad” was as little handicapped in work by his heart as by his crippled hand. Confined to a wheel chair for the past five years, he continued to write boxing articles and draw his cartoons, getting his sports news over the radio. He died three weeks ahead in his work. His last cartoon, for publication May 21, was delivered to the office of King Feature Syndicate two days ago.

by an unknown author from an unknown newspaper from 1929

[5] TAD  DORGAN, Judge Rummy Joins the Stars of the Screen (with Silk Hat Harry,), Film Fun, January 1919

Note: TAD Dorgan must have been familiar with Cockney slang where “trouble and strife” referred to “wife.” TAD apparently used (above) the phrase “storm and strife” to the same purpose.

One old baseball term that qualified as good Americanese is “boner.” This is an abbreviation of “bonehead play.” The first man to use this form was T. A. Dorgan, or Tad, the sport-page cartoonist of the Hearst papers who had a baseball character called Bonehead Barry, the bush league bear. We owe “bonehead” and “boner” to him. – Westbrook Pegler, May 27, 1947

According to an article in ‘Fights and Fighters from Punch’s Scrapbook,’ The Mail (Adelaide SA), Oct 29, 1938: In writing an article about the match lost by Terrible Terry McGovern to Young Corbett on Nov 28, 1901, Tad Dorgan said, “Corbett got Terry’s Goat” — and thereby coined a phrase.” 

Note: About 23 Skidoo, the phrase credited to TAD Dorgan and popular in the 1890s. 23 was revived by FB Opper according to The Wasp Jan 27, 1906. Both were based on the knitting lady at the foot of the guillotine in Dickens. Skidoo was from the Greek word shedad, the Norse skedad, the American skedaddle meaning scatter or scat.

Monday, February 7, 2022

A Crowded Life in Comics –

 Another Survivor. Another Tale.

by Rick Marschall

Art Spiegelman is in the news, prominently again; and from which the modest but talented cartoonist never should be far, because he always has things to say. His magnum opus, the Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel, Maus, has returned to the top of best-seller lists. 

Maus in one of its levels is a personal memoir; seen through his eyes, seeing history through his father’s eyes. But writ, or drawn, large, it fixes the world’s eyes on concentration camps and the Holocaust. Hannah Arendt identified the banality of evil, but Art’s contribution to Holocaust literature is perhaps the depiction of how unique horrors simultaneously could inhabit, and corrode, the most private places of individual emotions.

As Hall of Fame baseball players all began their careers on sandlots and in the minor leagues, Art paid his dues as a cartoonist. Yet he never did minor league caliber work as a cartoonist, and indeed was a figure in many significant places, and among other cartoonists who also achieved prominence. He was part of the Underground movement whose West Coast names like R. Crumb defined a generation. Themes of social and political protest paralleled the graphic experimentation that arose from those studios in San Francisco and Seattle. 

At another extreme, perhaps, was the corporate work Art oversaw when back on the East Coast, with Topps, the company that produced bubble gum and trading cards. Hardly a gray-flannel suit executive, Art worked for the legendary Woody Gelman, and virtually institutionalized (and sanitized) the Undergrounds – or, perhaps, MAD Magazine – overseeing products like the Garbage Pail Kids.

Contributions to various Undergrounds, and contact with the movement’s artists, led to Art and his wife Françoise Mouly to establish a slick, stylish, graphic magazine with mature sensibilities, RAW. Its immediate impact and success can be seen as a latter-day counterpart of The Masses, which in 1911 summarized and succeeded many smaller protest and avant-garde publications. Thematic preoccupations were many, in each magazine, but graphic excellence was the irreducible standard.

The rest, similarly condensed, is history. Maus, before its serial chapters were collected as books, found its home in RAW.

I first met Art not in New York or the United States, but at a European comics festival as was my experience with many other cartoonists. I had been a guest at the Lucca Salon of Comics, Illustration, and Animation since the 1970s, as member of juries, as an exhibitor, or as a participant in round tables. Today the event in the quaint Tuscan city  largely has been given over to games and computer animation, but in those days was a major intellectual event. Historical monographs, debates, and awards were major components.

In 1982 Art was one of the American guests, and he was presented with the Yellow Kid award.

We shared some panels and round tables, as well as fraternization at Lucca’s restaurants and bars late into the nights. Truthfully, there was as much beneficial interplay, and even business deals, in the festival’s after-hours as in the scheduled events. Cartoonists and historians from all over the world communed; multi-lingual friends were never far away; and if language ever became a challenge, Hugo Pratt would pick up a guitar and sing. Or cartoonists would sketch. Halcyon days.

I recall the last day of Lucca that year. Some guests gathered in front of the Hotel Universo, on the plaza of the Teatro Giglio (the opera house, Lee Falk reminded us, where Puccini began his career), waiting for rides to the train station or the airport in nearby Pisa.

We went on to share professional and personal friendship and interplay, even without the smoky ambiance of Lucca’s hotel lounges. Art and his wife Françoise – now The New Yorker’s art editor – visited my wife Nancy and me at our home in Connecticut, and I was a guest in their loft in lower Manhattan. Art occasionally borrowed books and vintage magazines from my collection.

When RAW and other activities increasingly occupied Art’s time, he recommended me to succeed him at the School of Visual Arts, where he had been teaching a course on “Language and Structure of the Comics.” I wound up at SVA for years, teaching that class and additional courses of my suggestion. When I had to be away myself, among my substitutes were Donald Phelps. – introduced to me by Art, for which I was very grateful – Peter Kuper and others. Some of those cartoonists, and many of my students, are friends to this day.

As Maus was serialized in RAW, I sometimes saw its work in progress, and I remember one half-inked page of whose construction Art was especially proud. The architectonic possibilities in comics was among Art’s intuitions, and when I published a reprint volume of Cliff Sterrett’s 1920s surrealistic color Sunday pages, I invited Art to write the foreword. It was a uniquely (and typically) perceptive essay limning the affinities between Sterrett’s art in Polly and Her Pals and Jazz Age music.

Art Spiegelman at Angouleme, 1991 (photo: Alan Kaplan)

In 1991, I think it was, the Angoulême Comics Festival designated the “American Year,” and I was hired as the representative. Eventually more than 125 American cartoonists and publishers joined the jaunt to France, and we arranged a few days in Paris before and after the actual festival; a special BD-train was chartered for the trip south. Art was among the attendees; his interest in vintage French comics was separate from Françoise’s roots (I recall now that she once bought a run of L’Assiette au Beurre from me for Art’s birthday). RAW hosted the work of many French and Belgian cartoonists.

Our conversations were not always about comics and popular culture. A few years ago Art and I staked opposing views on the ideals of the German Romantic philosopher Gottfried Lessing. (Lessing’s disinclination, in his seminal work Laocoon, to apply similar critical standards to all art forms, was derived from Aristotle’s On Poetics. While this is the most persuasive of Aristotle’s essays to me, I am basically a Platonist.)

As noted above, Art Spiegelman is back in the news these days and Maus has returned to the top of best-seller lists. In news cycles swirling with various incidents of censored news, banned viewpoints, and a growing “cancel culture,” the Board of Education in a small Tennessee County voted to remove Maus from its curriculum for 8th-grade classes and seek “age-appropriate” works on the Holocaust.. 

The reaction of much of mainstream media has condemned the Board’s decision. They have evoked the Scopes Monkey Trial of the 1920s, and have raised spectres of Southern rednecks flexing their innate antisemitism: stereotypical illiterates perpetuating centuries-old bigotry. Art himself, in interviews, has cited the low reading-scores of students in rural McMinn County as he struggled with “bafflement” over the decision. He suggested the relative illiteracy of county residents as an explanation for school board members who might “possibly not be Nazis.”

There is a bit of nonsense about all this. The school board, whose minutes are available online, did not ban Maus from the county and its town libraries or bookstores, much less its school libraries. It removed the book from the curriculum of 8th-grade classes, citing its standing policies for pre-teens. The discussions manifested no antisemitism – quite the contrary – and there was agreement to substitute another book about the Holocaust in the curriculum.

Despite New Yorkers’ stereotypical beliefs about Tennesseans – and obviously different standards regarding language and images appropriate for, and recommended to, pre-teen students – there were no hints of bigotry in the board’s discussions. Even The New York Times and CBS in New York have reported on low literacy rates among New York City’s students (lower than those routinely reported for Tennessee students), so that factor seems not dispositive. New Yorkers might wish to impose their opinions about age-appropriate normatives to other communities, but they likely would object, and have chafed at the reverse  imposition of others’ cultural points of view on them.

Interviewed during Tennessee school board controversy

Back in the news, as I say, Art Spiegelman has a chance to contribute to the important public discussion, and not be merely at its center. Interviewed on CNN (while eating breakfast and vaping; explaining that he was unaccustomed to answering questions at 8:30 in the morning) he delivered, according to one reviewer, “one of the greatest television interviews of all time.” The segment’s director, Ron Gilmer, subsequently wrote on Twitter, “In 49 years of directing TV news, I’ve never seen [anything like] this. He was amazing.”

If there was no antisemitism evinced in the school board’s deliberations, neither was there any prejudice against a “comic book” per se being in a school curriculum. In this case Art may feel justifiable pride for the role he has played in elevating the acceptance of graphic novels, their potential, and the the codification of their narrative structure, in America.

Much is made these days of “cancel culture” – in contemporary America, almost everything becomes a slogan or a brand – and that likely is because many cultural things  are being canceled: books, shows, songs, websites, posts, communications, and thoughts. The curriculum change voted by the McMinn County School Board is, relatively speaking, very likely in the minority of targeted themes.

When the tumult and the shouting dies, as per Kipling’s phrase, at the moment in America the persecution of cultural traditions, conservative values, and longstanding worldviews is more virulent, and currently successful, than contrary efforts against progressive agendas and iconoclasm. It is the stuff of daily headlines, often hyperbolic, and not likely to fade while the antagonists seemingly enjoy the tumult and shouting.

I have been in the unique position (I mean unique among people I know, anyway) of having had close relations, shared projects, and even friendships, with people on the Left and the Right; even the Far Left and the Far Right. And unique that, unlike most people except aid workers and missionaries, my victimized friends have suffered from wildly disparate sources of persecution. Innocent tourists in Washington on January 6, some in jail after a year with no charges filed against them. I knew one of the cartoonists murdered in the “Charlie Hebdo” massacre. Another friend spent a year in solitary confinement in a European jail for publicly (in fact it was privately) sharing his own research and views of historical matters. And so on.

I mentioned America’s predilection for making brands or slogans of every phenomenon – categorizing, I suppose; the easier to explain… but also the easier to dismiss.

Françoise Mouly

So, currently, has Maus become, maybe more than ever it has been, a subset or detail of the cultural wars. In some people’s fevered imaginations, a minor adjustment (not banning) in that small county’s pre-teen curriculum might be a harbinger of crematoria erected across the mid-South; but I don’t believe it. The fact that there are far greater – let me say, at least, more numerous – censorious acts in the news, against conservatives, reminds us to retain perspective. Literal banning of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird are two examples of Political Correctness on steroids. Who, indeed, are the fascistic masters of our minds? Once putative, now looming.

It might not seem so now, but Art Spiegelman is rather a victim of this cultural maelstrom. He surely is not a commercial victim; but he can be properly satisfied, in spite of the winds he faces, to be an essential voice of education and palliative debate.

Yet speaking personally (which is all I can do), and returning to our common devotion to cartooning history and the art form of the comic strip, I fervently hope that Art’s great talent and many achievements (no less shared by the justly, much-awarded Françoise), his encouragement of others, his fidelity to graphic excellence, his body of work, will not be subsumed by such controversies. That is, not the somber leitmotif of Maus, but the 8th grade’s curriculum adjustment in Tennessee.

History and art are not mutually exclusive, of course; least of all Spiegelman’s own history and his own art. I return to Gottfried Lessing, who believed that words and ideas are extended in time, whereas representational art and graphics are extended in space. Art Spiegelman, rarely among his peers but with remarkable frequency has melded the two in in his own work.