Obscurity of the Day: Dr. Tinker Claus the Toy Mender

If you’re in L.A. there’s no way to tell when it’s Christmas time by the weather — you need the benefit of a shopping mall or at least a calendar — and apparently the Los Angeles Times had the benefit of neither of these handy indicators. That’s the only reason I can think of that they would decide to start running a Christmas comic strip in April.

On April 3 1932, a weekly strip debuted in the Sunday Junior Times kiddie section titled Dr. Tinker Claus the Toy Mender, credited to the team of Harold Debus and Fern McLellan. With no obvious clue to which partner did what, I snooped around a bit and found Mr. Debus’ byline on a few news stories, so I’m assuming that Ms. McLellan was the artistic half of the team.

Each week the feature offered a short tale about a group of anthropomorphic toys and their benefactor and friend, Santa’s brother, Dr. Tinker Claus. The length of the typeset stories makes the feature more of an illustrated story feature rather than a strip, but I’m giving it a pass.

In 1933 the Junior Times section was reduced to a single page, and that entailed a reduction in space for Dr. Tinker Claus. In May the Times reduced the illustrations from four to two, and on July 2 1933 the final installment was printed, though that episode ended with the promise of another story next week. Although I am unaware of any newspapers taking the feature in syndication, perhaps the feature ran longer elsewhere.

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