Obscurity of the Day: Ned the Newsie

What an image it conjures in my head. It’s late summer 1925. A little girl, let’s guess about 12 or so, living in a dilapidated Brooklyn tenement, and her one escape from grim reality is on Sunday, when father brings home a copy of the Brooklyn Eagle. He settles in to read the paper and hands the little girl the funnies. She pores over Buttons And Fatty, Hairbreadth Harry and the few other color comics, then delves into the Eagle’s Boys And Girls section to work the puzzles and read the stories. She looks at the cartoons submitted by other kids, and she knows she can do better. She’s always had a gift for drawing – she covers her school composition book with cartoons, and the kids at school all gather around to enjoy every new creation.

Mother went marketing on Friday and asked the butcher for a bit of extra wrapping paper. She carefully rolled it so that it wouldn’t be full of creases, and presented it to young Jewell Levine on Sunday morning. This isn’t the first time Mama has brought her drawing paper, but this Sunday Jewell resolves not to just doodle all over it. This Sunday she will create the next great comic strip. She’ll send it in to to the Brooklyn Eagle, and surely they’ll see that it is worthy of publication.

Jewell sits at the kitchen table. She can hear the sounds of the city wafting in from the street. Among them she hears the newsboys barking out the headlines. That’s a natural, she thinks – surely the Eagle would have a special interest in a comic strip about a newsboy. And thus Ned The Newsy is born.

The Eagle did indeed find the comic strip worthy of publication, and not just once. Ned The Newsie (the spelling was changed after the first week) ran in the Brooklyn Eagle’s Boys And Girls section almost every Sunday for the next five months.

I’d love to think that young miss Jewell Levine went on to greatness in some artistic pursuit. History, unfortunately, records no such fate. I wonder what happened to her…

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