Obscurity of the Day: Mrs. R.E. Duce and her Auntie Stout Antics

I think of Ray Rohn as sort of the poor man’s Gluyas Williams, or Fred Cooper, or Rea Irvin. He had that sort of elegant pared-down clean line style, but his drawing ability wasn’t quite up to the level to place him amongst the A-listers of that style. Nevertheless, he got tons of work as a cartoonist/illustrator. He did very few continuing series for newspapers though. In fact, today’s obscurity is one of only two series of his I’ve ever come upon.

Rohn penned Mrs. R.E. Duce and her Auntie Stout Antics for the New York Evening Telegram. It was a weekday strip that ran there from December 7 1911 to February 11 1912. The subject is a plumpish lady who is bound and determined to lose some weight, but despite doing lots of work and exercise, the strip ends each time with the same result/punchline — instead of losing, she gains weight.

This one hits close to home. My late Mother ran a pitched battle with weight her whole life, and faced the same situation as Mrs. R.E. Duce in real life. I saw my Mom go on incredibly strict diets, follow them religiously, only to find that she either didn’t lose weight or even gained a bit. It was very sad to see her struggle so and always fail, and therefore I find the strip depressing, not funny.

Anyhow, back to the subject at hand. The odd thing about this strip is the title. Since there was never a character in it named Auntie Stout that I know of, I can only guess that Rohn was trying to make a pretty lame play on words, and that he substituted “Auntie Stout” for “anti-stout”. If that’s it, well, that’s a long road going nowhere. My sample of the strip above is from the Denver Times, and they apparently couldn’t make any sense of the title, so their solution was to make up a new and shorter name — Mrs. Plumpp.

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