Wednesday, December 13, 2023

BEFORE THE CARTOON 2: Comic cuts and conversational captions

 by John Adcock

Masthead: The Penny Satirist No 1, April 22, 1837

I wish we had an agent in Dundee; he might sell five or six hundred (Penny Satirist) in a week. We have fellows who clear 10s. a day by selling them in the street, but the brutes go idle the rest of the week. — James Elishama “Shepherd” Smith, 1801-1857

Penny Satirist, April 29, 1837

The Penny Satirist, which called itself “a weekly satirical newspaper” featured the first sustained use of front-page political cartoons in London. The first number of the Penny Satirist arrived in the streets of London on April 22, 1837. That title came to an end on April 25, 1843, and the paper was continued as the London Pioneer. Benjamin Cousins was the printer. 

William Rayner writing in Notes & Queries, June 15, 1872, identified the editor as Barnard Gregory, notorious proprietor of the blackmailing periodical The Satirist. He was mistaken. The founder and editor of the Penny Satirist was James Elishama Smith (1801-1857), known as “Shepherd” Smith after his periodical the Shepherd. For many years he was editor of the popular Family Herald story paper. Mr. Newton Crosland wrote, presumably to W.A. Smith on 17th April 17, 1892: —

‘I cannot tell you much about the Penny Satirist, and I do not imagine that the authorities would find room in the museum for such a publication. Of course, fifty-four years ago a penny paper was a much rougher article than what we should expect to get for the same money nowadays. The Penny Satirist was one sheet (4 pages), the size of an ordinary newspaper; but it was not a newspaper in the ordinary acceptation of the term, as it was exempt from the newspaper stamp, and it did not live on advertisements. The type was worn, the paper common, the woodcuts coarse, and its whole appearance vulgar and disreputable from an artistic point of view; but under Mr. Smith's superintendence nothing was allowed to appear in its columns of a demoralizing character. He managed to make its contents respectable.’ “Shepherd” Smith the Universalist [p.168]

And on November 3, 1837, a letter from James E. Smith to his elder brother John —

The Penny Satirist has been above 40,000 a week, but several scamps have tried to put us down—some by stealing our name, and others by a rival publication and underselling. We have been obliged to lower our prices to put the latter down, otherwise it would be a fine property. It has a fine circulation and is read by all classes.

I was told by a gentleman, who is intimate with some of the foreign embassies, that in dining at Buckingham Palace this ambassador said he saw the Countess of Leiningen, the Queen's sister-in-law, with the Penny Satirist in her hand. This same gentleman sends regularly a copy to the Duchess of Somerset, and this morning the gentleman who machines the paper —a large printer in London, who is worth considerable property —told me that, in calling on a barrister of good practice in town, he saw the Penny Satirist, with other papers, lying on his drawing-room table. The circulation of the paper, therefore, is not confined to the poor, although they are our best patrons. We have every reason to believe that the Queen herself has frequently read it.’ — “Shepherd” Smith the Universalist [p.168]

The Penny Satirist was not the first periodical resembling a newspaper to make use of comic woodcuts. The earliest publications containing comic cuts I have found listed was The Original Comic Magazine: No. 1, With Seven Cuts which cost 6d and was published by another radical pressman, J. Duncombe in 1832. The famous penny blood publisher Edward Lloyd published a penny paper called The Weekly Penny Comic Magazine; or, Repertory of Wit and Humour, edited by Thomas Prest and featuring the cuts of the prolific C. J. Grant, also in 1832. Unfortunately, I have never personally examined either of these publications, they exist today only as advertisements in the Poor Man’s Guardian and other radical newspapers.

Robert Cruikshank, The Satirist, Jan 11, 1835

The Satirist; or, Censor of The Times (HERE) ran from 10 April, 1831 to 15 December 1849. Barnard Gregory and Hewson Clarke were the main contributors. Robert Cruikshank, brother of George Cruikshank and engraver G. Armstrong contributed a political cartoon series called ‘Our Portrait Gallery’ beginning January 4, 1835, which continued for approximately one year. Gregory was the registered proprietor, printer and publisher at no. 334, strand, Middlesex.

‘Our Portrait Gallery’ were comic cuts with long rhyming text under the engravings, following the form of the early comicalities in Bell’s Life in London. The Penny Satirist was different, they placed conversational captions under the cuts. They anticipated the cartoon “socials” of Punch, Judy, and similar comic journals of a later time. The style was carried on by the Odd Fellow (HERE), a weekly satirical newspaper which lasted from Jan 5, 1839, to Dec 10, 1842. The Odd Fellow publisher was Henry Hetherington, a radical pressman famous for his Poor Man’s Guardian.

Cleave’s London Satirist & Gazette of Variety began on Oct 14, 1837, changed to Cleave’s Penny Gazette of Variety then Cleave’s Gazette of Variety ending Jan 1844. The proprietor of the unstamped paper was John Cleave, wholesale bookseller and newsagent situated in Shoe Lane. Patricia Hollis in The Pauper Press (1970) wrote that at “the beginning of 1836 Cleave’s Gazette was thought to have a circulation of 40,000.”

The leading caricaturist, and possibly the inventor of the caption style that replaced rhymes, was Charles Jameson Grant. Mathew Crowther wrote on Yesterday’s Papers on Feb 28, 2011 (HERE), that

From 1837 onwards most of Grant’s output was confined to the pages of the Penny Satirist and Cleave’s London Satirist & Gazette of Variety. Interestingly Grant and Cleave also launched a separate, short-lived, broadsheet called Cleave’s Gallery of Grant's Comicalities which doesn't seem to have run to more than a few editions in 1837 and which focused on whimsical social humour rather than politics.

CJG was the most conspicuous signature to appear on cartoons in both the Penny Satirist and Cleave’s. Indeed, very few other names appear on the cuts except for Hine. It seems very likely, given his prolific contributions to the unstamped penny press that CJ Grant was the innovator of the caption style commentary running under comic cuts in the radical London Press which would carry on well into the twentieth century in London and the United States. Even Hearst’s Journal comic supplements featured caption comics on Sunday amid the works utilizing balloons or dumb show. It could also very well be that captions were imported from continental Europe and its newspaper and periodical equivalent to the penny press.

The captions in the Penny Satirist at first could run to long length and it was the unknown caricaturists of the Odd Fellow who shortened the form to bite-sized portions of text, more often “social” than political humor, rather like the gag cartoons and single-panel dailies of the twentieth century. It was the style of the Odd Fellow cuts that would prove most adaptable to the pages of the comic journals (including Punch) and newspapers of the unforeseeable future.

‘Shepherd’ Smith the Universalist the story of a mind being a life of The Rev. James E. Smith, M.A., William Anderson Smith, London: Sampson Low, Marston, 1892

Read Part I – London to Glasgow and back again: BEFORE THE CARTOON (HERE)

Yesterday's Papers. Today's Views. by Huib van Opstal (HERE)

One Hundred Comicalities (HERE)

Thursday, December 7, 2023

The Great Horse Hoax –


‘The First Reader’, by Harry Hansen, The Pittsburgh Press, August 13, 1943

Horseplay doesn’t get much attention in this soberly serious town nowadays. Practical jokes are considered amateurish and foolish antics, symptoms of a fading mentality. A man can’t stand on his head in front of the Public Library without giving his wife grounds for divorce. Obviously, we have grown up, but the crazy cavorting of the old days must have been fun for spectators.

Leo Carillo, Variety 20, 1910

I don’t doubt that one of the liveliest of hoaxes was that of the horse lost in the subway, which Harry J. Coleman, the veteran newspaper photographer, describes in his rambling and rattlety-bang reminiscences, “Give Us a Little Smile, Baby.” This happened in 1903, a long time ago, surely, but as important to some people as Washington’s farewell in Fraunce’s Tavern and the Big Blizzard that tied up the Long Island Railroad. The horse, as Harry Coleman describes it, was the invention of a vaudeville comedian named Leo Carillo, who could imitate the call of a wild stallion on the lone prairie, hitherto unheard in the New York subway.

Leo Carillo, Variety 18, 1910

You have to take into consideration two elements now missing: the practice of making the rounds of “the better bars,” which was being built and there was Harry Coleman and the two cartoonists – TAD and George Herriman, and the fact that the subway was just being built and there was every likelihood that a horse might fall into it. TAD and his pals put on an act at a subway tunnel and Carillo bellowed and neighed, and soon a crowd collected. “The police reserves arrived with ropes, ladders, and sappers.” Shovel bearers arrived from the white wings. The fire department arrived with ladders. It was early dawn and there were plenty of alcoholic celebrants afloat. Carillo sped up and down the subway whinnying and neighing.

Its one of those stories that gains in the telling, and at the end Coleman says the scene was “an inextricable mass of fire department equipment, police squads, milkmen, and drunks, all engaged in the largest horse hunt in history and the most frustrated.

I am not one to deny that it happened. I wasn’t there. Moreover, Coleman is yarning about the exploits of the past, and that’s good even in these days, when drinks come high. In that day, long ago, when “drug stores sold drugs,” TAD (He was the late Thomas A. Dorgan) was quite a joker.


Monday, December 4, 2023

Cartoonist Quotes –


"TAD" [1877-1929]

Silk Hat Harry's Divorce SuitJuly 3, 1913

“I started ‘Judge Rummy,’ ‘Bunk,’ and the other dogs during the trial of Harry Thaw; they sort of ‘kidded’ the case and became popular. I have been drawing these characters ever since. The 'Indoor Sports’ I thought of about seven years ago (1912), when I was confined to my home with rheumatism. I thought what a lovely indoor sport it was, this sitting around the house looking llke the wreck of the Hesperus. Other indoor sports suggested themselves and this series has been going on ever since… I might add that It was Judge Rummy who first called the Ford car a “flivver.” – TAD Dorgan, ‘Are Cartoonists Doleful?,’ The Sun, May 25, 1919

It was reported in the Boston Sunday Post in 1929 that Dorgan’s “Indoor Sports” was syndicated to 20,000,000 readers daily. His salary was well over six figures yearly…

Friday, December 1, 2023

Cartoonist Quotes –


"It is easier to make a good picture than a bad one. If the picture is good you feel that it is good and sail clear through it. If it’s bad it’s torture to grind it out.
If you look back ten years (1916) at any comic strip that has been running right along to the present time, you will find that the characters have changed in appearance. Characters change without consent of the cartoonist at all. They get away from you. The changes are so gradual half the time the cartoonist is not conscious of them.

Most people say they are astonished at the developments in the comic art field during the past ten years. I’m not astonished. They are perfectly natural developments and I expected them.

There’s a lot of artistic talk going around these days. I make no pretensions of being an artist. I just do my own work in my own way." ‘Jerry on the Job’ Is Widely Popular, (Alexander Somalian in The Fourth Estate), Binghamton NY Press, August 6, 1926

[Motion Picture Herald, May 5, 1934]