Obscurity of the Day: Mister Makepeace

Walt McDougall is on of the greatest creators of comic strips in the early decades of their existence in American newspapers. He was also a free spirit, a curmudgeon, and, from his own admission, a major pain in the behind to his employers.

In April 1905 McDougall had a tiff with the management of the Philadelphia North American. He left the paper to start what he called a “trolley park” in his biography This Is The Life. He’s a bit hazy on what a trolley park is, presumably it would have been obvious to someone reading his book in the 1920s. Best I can make out from searching about the web is that it would have been an amusement park operated at the terminus of a trolley line.

Anyway, McDougall seems to have worked his trolley park for about a year before the management at the North American asked to retain his services once more. In the meantime, though, McDougall’s cartooning hand was not completely idle. I am aware of two series by him in this timeframe. Today we look at one of them, Mr. Makepeace. This strip I have only found in the Washington Star (the other appeared in the New York World). Both features prominently display McDougall’s own copyright, as you can see in the lower left of the samples for today.

How these features were distributed I don’t know for sure, but given McDougall’s nature, I’m guessing that he sold the features directly to the papers.

Mister Makepeace ran in the Washington Star from June 11 until November 30, 1906, generally three times per week. By this time he was actually back with the North American, but I assume he sold the feature before that occurred.

The strip is not one of his best efforts. Although McDougall was notable for having a keen wit in addition to his considerable prowess with the pen, this strip has a pretty basic premise. Makepeace, as the name implies, is a pacifist, and he goes around trying to broker disagreements and prevent fights. The kicker is that he’s also hard of hearing, so he spends all his time trying to act as a referee in circumstances that he misunderstands due to his handicap. Hilarity, in theory, ensues.

One further observation on Mister Makepeace – the lettering on the strips is so tiny that I have to guess that McDougall was trying to sell this as a Sunday page feature, not in the smaller daily format in which it was presented in the Star. Another clue is that there is very little crosshatching or shading, which also bespeaks his intention to get color reproduction for the feature.

NOTE: Once again this post was uploaded only with superhuman effort. Blogger is a free service, and one of my favorite sayings is “you get what you pay for”. Obviously Blogger is no exception. Looking for alternatives right now.

One comment on “Obscurity of the Day: Mister Makepeace

  1. Hello, Allan—A "Trolley Park" is an amusement park specifically built outside a town or city by a trolley company. It was designed to create more business for the company on slow summertime weekends by contriving a destination. McDougall may be referring to Willow Grove Park, outside of Philly.—Cole J.

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