Obscurity of the Day: The Leap Year Society for the Getting Back at Mere Man

In 1904 to 1906, Robert A Graef, a young illustrator who was just starting off on what would be a long and productive career, made a stopover at the New York Herald. There he authored three quite delightful series for the Herald‘s Sunday funnies section, of which the first was The Leap Year Society for the Getting Back at Mere Man.

Notwithstanding the very long title, Graef’s gags were punchy and the artwork was splendid, showing an innate sense of humor. Graef would later make his mark as a serious illustrator of magazine fiction, including some memorably bizarre sci-fi pulp covers, but his Herald work shows us that he could have also left a mark as a cartoonist.

Many of us cartooning fans tend to forget that the tongue-in-cheek tradition of women being allowed to propose marriage in leap years did not start with Al Capp’s Sadie Hawkins. It’s  much older than that, though the actual origin is in dispute. Graef uses this tradition as a jumping off point to explore other turnabouts that women might appreciate in those leap years. His Leap Year Society held its meetings in the Herald funnies section from May 1 to August 14 1904 (a leap year, of course).

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