A Frank Moser Mystery

Cole Johnson sent me these panel cartoons awhile ago. They are all by Frank Moser and dated in March 1924. He asked me if I had any information about this apparently ongoing feature. I checked my book, and found Moser represented only by a short-lived 1914 feature called Summer Kids. In my files for Moser, however, I found a single panel that had the same sort of look as these, but dated in 1928, four years later than these samples.

I knew then that Cole hadn’t just found some weird little try-out thing that lasted only a month. But why no other information? Dave Strickler’s E&P listings don’t mention Moser, the other standard reference books either don’t mention Moser at all or focus only on his animation career, Alex Jay’s research for yesterday’s Ink-Slinger Profile revealed nothing about it, and both Cole’s samples and mine don’t even have syndicate stamps, so we haven’t even a loose thread on which to start pulling.

I took a shot with Newspaperarchive.com, which I gave up on pretty quickly as it has gotten unbelievably slow  and annoying since their latest redesign. My searches for “by moser” turned up lots of bad results but I found none that actually pointed to these panel cartoons.

Finally I decided to go through my old, badly faded photocopies of the E&P syndicate books. I know Strickler’s E&P book did not catch everything from those early listings, because E&P did such haphazard categorization. Perhaps I could find some feature that mentions Moser as the creator.

Here I found success. Poring over those faded, barely legible listings, I struck gold. In the 1924 syndicate book (the first that E&P did), I found a listing:

Cartoons by Fields, Moser, Terry, Scar and others … Associated Newspapers

Ah ha! That explained a lot! First, the lack of a syndicate stamp is typical for Associated, so that ends that mystery. Second, the multiple creators and lack of a series name explains all the rest. Strickler wouldn’t have included such an oddball, vague listing in his book, and it also explains why we never seem to find a real run of these Moser panels. It’s because this was an early sort of multi-creator series that we wouldn’t really see again until the advent of features like Laff-a-Day, This Funny World, and others in the 1930s and 40s. Moser might have appeared once a week or even less. And many newspapers using this series, since it wasn’t even really identifiable as a series, would probably not have run it consistently anyway.

Checking subsequent yearbooks, I find the listing show up two more times:

1925: Cartoons by Scar, Fields, Ripley, Terry, Moser, etc. … Associated Newspapers
1926: Cartoons by Ripley, Fields, Scar, Terry, Batchelor, Sid Greene … Associated Newspapers

So my 1928 sample is either old material, or Associated Newspapers wasn’t even bothering to tell E&P about this oddball feature anymore.

The only missing piece is to find a newspaper that did actually run this ‘feature’ consistently. As it is, I really don’t feel I have enough solid information to add a listing for it to my book. How many others contributed to the series? When did the various cartoonists start and end their association with the feature? Did they contribute consistently, or is the feature a true grab-bag of creators? Was the feature still running in 1928 and possibly beyond? How long before 1924 might it have been running?

3 comments on “A Frank Moser Mystery

  1. Allen- I have a cache of originals for these. Recurring titles included FAMILY WASH. Engraving notes indicate a daily feature. Email me for more info.

  2. The earliest one of these panels I can find is 17 July 1922 in the Boston EVENING Globe for one of the Moser strips, the latest in the Souix City Journal 24 November 1925. The earliest of the John C. Terrys I can locate is the in the Boston EVENING Globe for 15 December 1922 for his "MISTAKE OF A LIFETIME" and the latest would be in the Sioux City Journal on 10 March 1926. In the San Antonio Light of Sunday 17 December 1922 is the earliest of his WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A GUY LIKE THAT?" the latest would be in the Sioux City Journal on 24 November 1925. I couldn't find anything with the FAMILY WASH title, though.

  3. Hi Mark —
    Thanks VERY MUCH for all this info! Not sure where or if I can view these online (as I said in my post, Newspaperarchive runs like syrup running uphill in January for me right now). Did you find that any of these papers was printing the feature on a consistent daily basis, including all the creators? What I'd really like to do, when the web-gods permit, is to review long swaths of the series to see which cartoonists are used (that etc in the listings is quite intriguing) and see if I can create a reasonably good Stripper's Guide listing for this rather thin series. Without a consistent creator or title, they certainly are stretching the boundaries.

    Best, Allan

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