Obscurity of the Day: The Alley Kids

Here’s a strip that was done for the  Bellingham (Washington) American Reveille by a fellow named Benton F. Thompson. I suspect Thompson was a kid cartoonist based on the rather rough drawings. Based on the files of Cole Johnson, The Alley Kids ran in the Reveille, probably on a weekly basis, during the period March to May 1922. It may well have run much longer, but that’s the date range of the samples he has.

3 comments on “Obscurity of the Day: The Alley Kids

  1. Benton F. Thompson was born in Nebraska on April 20, 1906, according to the California Death Index. In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census he grew up in Lone Tree, Nebraska, a farm town. When he moved to Washington state is not known; apparently he resided in Bellingham where his comic strip, "The Alley Kids," was published by the Bellingham American Reveille in 1922. The Bellingham Record newspaper published two articles, on June 10 and 19, 1922, that mentioned "Benton Thompson", who was a 16-year-old radio hobbyist.

    Thompson moved to Seattle and produced cartoons for the Seattle Times as early as October 1929; he signed his cartoons, Ben Thompson. In the 1930 census his name was recorded as "Benton F. Thompson"; his occupation was an artist in the newspaper industry. For the Times he and co-writer Robert Edgren did a daily cartoon called, "Listen to This One" from June 1930 to March 1932.

    Thompson moved on to comic books in New York. The Comiclopedia (lambiek.net/artists/t/thompson_ben.htm) has samples of his comic book work as well as a brief biography which is based on information at Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928-1999 (www.bailsprojects.com/(S(qtydph45eleqmdihifhwmgu3))/bio.aspx?Name=THOMPSON%2c+BEN). The Grand Comics Database has a detailed list of Thompson's work at http://www.comics.org/credit/name/ben%20thompson/sort/alpha.

    Thompson was married when he enlisted in the Army on May 16, 1942. After the war he returned to comics. Around 1949 he published a 16-page pamphlet, "The Reaper", about Joseph Stalin (comicsdc.blogspot.com/2007/04/reaper-stalin-cartoons-by-benton-f.html). At the bottom of the last page of art is a line that reads: Distributed by Benton F. Thompson Co.

    There was a Benton F. Thompson who lived in Connecticut; he and his wife divorced in 1971. Thompson died in San Diego, California on December 14, 1975.

  2. Bravo! Good work again, Alex. You're an important addition to the Stripper's Guide!—-Cole Johnson.

  3. Benton F. Thompson was an inventor, too. He was married to Ruth Lee who was a designer and stylist at LaValle Shoes in New York. According to her obituary in the New York Times, she left the company in 1944 to work as a stylist and designer with the footwear division of the United States Rubber Company, which was based in Naugatuck, Connecticut, her home town.

    Thompson was inspired by her work; he invented a waterproof wrap-around shoe covering. A PDF of the covering can be downloaded at http://www.freepatentsonline.com/2432947.html. He received a patent in December 1947.

    Thompson's wife died on June 20, 1948. They had a daughter, Patricia.

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