Obscurity of the Day: The Finesses

In the 1920s the game of bridge became popular in the burgeoning middle-class. In the new suburban tracts popular entertainments like movies and nightclubs were a long train ride away, so many residents took up bridge as a pretext for socializing. Inevitably the comics began commenting on the fad, with H.T. Webster’s bridge cartoons leading the way in popularity.

In the depression bridge became even more popular — an evening’s entertainment at no cost became a very attractive substitute for going out when money was tight. It was then that The Finesses debuted, a daily strip designed to capitalize on the fad.

The strip was syndicated by McNaught and credited to “Kaydell”. My guess is that the ‘Kay’ portion refers to art by Ken Kling — Kling was producing the syndicated version of Joe and Asbestos for them at this time. I haven’t even a guess who was hiding behind the “dell” portion, though.

The strip debuted on June 4 1934 and the creator(s) seemed to recognize trouble from the start. A strip that everyday shows a foursome seated around a card table isn’t at all visually arresting (though Penny Ante traded on just that concept for years), so ‘Kaydell’ added some lighthearted adventure elements to the plot. Result, of course, was that bridge fans weren’t happy (not enough card-playing) and others weren’t happy either (enough with the bridge already!). The strip was doomed and less than four months later McNaught decided to fold; the strip ended on September 22.

The samples above include both the first and last strips; it was one of the few series that was given a chance to say a formal goodbye to its (few) loyal readers.

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