Today we have one of the most beautifully drawn series you’ll ever see, and not only is it incredibly obscure, but it is mysterious on several counts.
Rice and Tapioca, the Famous Pudding Brothers ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer from April 24 to July 3 1898. It was one of several features the Inky ran that were ‘syndicated’. I put the quotes around that term because there’s no evidence that these strips (the two others are The Country School and The Barnyard Club) were sold to any papers other than the Inky. Pudding Brothers is different than the other two — the others might have been sold directly to the Inquirer by Outcault, whereas this one includes a copyright by the New York Herald on some episodes. Does this represent the very earliest syndication attempt?
The Herald did not run this feature (or have a proper Sunday comic section at all until 1900)*, so if it was producing it solely for the Inquirer in my opinion it’s not a case of syndication unless we’re prepared to take serious liberties with the term.Cole Johnson tells me that several episodes refer directly to Philadelphia, so it would seem the series was produced with the Inky in mind.
The other part of the mystery, just as intriguing, is the question of who drew these gorgeous strips. The verses are credited to Roy L. McCardell, whose prose and poetry were fixtures at Puck and various New York newspapers starting in the 1890s, but the art is unsigned. Who would take such care on the drawing of a feature yet not sign it? The most likely answer, it seems to me, is that some cartoonist from another paper was moonlighting (Archie Gunn maybe?). Or maybe it was one of McCardell’s buddies at Puck who felt newspaper cartooning was beneath him. Or maybe it’s Charles De Yongh, the only cartoonist I know of who did a series for the Herald in 1898. What do you think?
Much thanks to Cole Johnson who supplied these lovely samples of a great strip.
* Taking a second look at Cole’s notes on this feature, I think he is saying that the top sample DID appear in the Herald, on January 10 1897, over a year before the Inquirer run. I didn’t index the Herald before 1898 (there seemed no reason to) so I can’t say if they ran just the single example or the whole series.
EDIT: I have now indexed the New York Herald for 1897, and this series DID in fact run there over a year before the Philadelphia Inquirer printed it. In that appearance the first few installments are uncredited (but I’m getting pretty firm about the first installment only being the work of Archie Gunn). Most of the series, though, is signed and credited to someone whose signature looks to be L.M. Pillet.