Obscurity of the Day: Jay Jones – His Camera

Jay Jones – His Camera is by one of my favorite forgotten cartoonists, Albert Carmichael. This is a very early entry for him, which debuted in the New York World September 29 1907 (only his second series). His work was still a little rough at this time; he hadn’t quite figured out comedic pacing yet. But the seeds are definitely there and ready to sprout.

Picture-taking had become a national obsession in the 1900s, mainly because of the groundbreaking Brownie camera, introduced in 1900. That innovation in economical picture-taking brought photography into the hands of just about anyone, and turned us into a nation of shutterbugs.

Jay Jones, however, wouldn’t be caught dead with a Brownie. He fancies himself a professional, and uses a high-end bellows camera. The gag comes in when he never gets the shot he intended. These gags went over well with newspaper readers, who were at this time coming to feel that photography wasn’t quite the combination of mystical art and scientific marvel that it was portrayed as prior to the Brownie. It turned out that anyone could take a passably good picture without being a combination of Renoir and Marconi.

Jay Jones – His Camera was one of Pulitzer’s quarter-page strips that did not appear in the World itself as far as I know, but was used in the syndicated version when the World ran a quarter-page ad in the comics section. Based on its syndicated appearances in the Chicago Inter-Ocean, it seems like it appeared pretty regularly every second week. It’s last appearance was on April 5 1908.

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