Obscurity of the Day: Meyer the Buyer

Harry Hershfield, the creator of the popular Abie the Agent comic strip, had a disagreement with the Hearst people over his contract in 1931, and he jumped ship. While Hearst could have had a new artist take over the strip, he chose not to.

Whether that is a reflection of the somewhat flagging sales of the Abie strip I don’t know, but the concept of a Jewish character headlining a comic strip definitely seemed to hold a lot of interest  to other newspaper publishers. I’m guessing that had to do with the large Jewish population in New York, and Hershfield’s name recognition.

As soon as Hershfield walked away from Hearst, he accepted a berth doing a very similar strip, Meyer the Buyer, for a concern called Ace Feature Syndicate. According to Hershfield in Martin Sheridan’s Comics and their Creators, “during that time I had an offer to draw for the now defunct MacFadden publication, New York Graphic. It was a fabulous salary that I refused. As they didn’t intend to pay it, they could afford to be extravagant.”

The problem with that statement is that it appears as if Ace Feature Service was just a covert name for MacFadden, as the only paper I’ve found that ran Meyer the Buyer was, in fact, the New York Evening Graphic.

Although Hershfield is a little foggy on who he worked for, it certainly seems he may remember correctly about MacFadden’s inability to pay. Meyer the Buyer first appeared in the Evening Graphic on February 15 1932, and ended less than three months later, on May 9. Was the short run of the feature a result of MacFadden not coming through with a promised salary?

Meyer the Buyer was very similar to Abie the Agent, except that where Abie was a car salesman, Meyer worked as a buyer — what we call these days a purchasing agent. The two characters looked very similar, except that Meyer’s moustache is a black smudge rather than a series of vertical lines. Both spoke in a stereotypical Jewish dialect sprinkled with Yiddishisms. Although the strip had no time to catch on in the Graphic, evidently Hershfield wasn’t done with the character when he left, as a short-lived radio show about the character began in August.

After Hershfield’s adventure with MacFadden, he took some time off from the comic strip life and pursued other entertainment avenues — not hard for Hershfield, as he was a multi-talented performer. In 1934 he came back to strips with According to Hoyle in the New York Herald-Tribune. His reappearance in newspapers seems to have rekindled the relationship with Hearst, and it wasn’t long before Abie the Agent was resurrected for a final five year run.

3 comments on “Obscurity of the Day: Meyer the Buyer

  1. Meyer the Buyer was also a short-lived radio program in 1932. Alan Freed was on it. I believe it was broadcast from New York City and am trying to learn what radio station produced it. I have a hunch it was WOR, but would like to know for sure.

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