Obscurity of the Day: The Romance of Rhode Island

At the end of last week we discussed the strip Roger Williams Re-Discovers his Old Home Town, an uncommonly bright and unusual local feature, which rather than reverently intoning on local history, instead has some fun with it.

Just to remind you of the more typical local history feature, here is The Romance of Rhode Island, also starring Roger Williams of course, but taking a somber and respectful take on the history of the Ocean State. The strip was issued on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the founding of the original colony. It tells the history of the state up to the present in the span of twelve weeks, beginning on September 14 and ending December 5 1936. The strip was distributed by Triton Syndicate, which may have been run by the Providence Evening Bulletin, where I found my run of the strip. I don’t know if the strip was actually sold to any other newspapers.

The feature was written and drawn by Wilfred R. Cyr, who had by 1936 apparently taken to calling himself just plain Bill in his signature. Cyr’s only other comic strip credit that I know of is Exploits of Eve, a potboiler adventure saga syndicated by the Boston Post. The Eve strip was rather clunkily drawn, but by the time Cyr was drawing the above strips he’d evolved a much more pleasing and polished style.

According to a number of websites which all seem to be cribbing off of each other, Cyr was quite severely handicapped, and had been an art teacher to Al Capp. Further, a strip titled “Cabin Boy” by Cyr was supposedly a major influence on Capp. Considering that I’ve looked over a lot of Capp’s writing today looking for references to Cyr, and have come up dry, I am a little skeptical of the claims. I have also never seen any evidence of this “Cabin Boy” strip either. Does anyone know where these claims originated, or can vouch for their validity?

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