Obscurities of the Day: Sammy’s Slate / Sammy Says / Sammy’s Sayings

The New York Evening World published hundreds of in-house produced comic strip and panel series in the 1900s-10s, and two of the most interesting of those series involved Hazen Conklin. Sorry but we’re not going to discuss them today. Instead today we cover Conklin’s much less interesting triptych of ‘Sammy’ series, Sammy’s Slate, Sammy Says and Sammy’s Sayings.

Offered in the series were peeks at the scribblings and doodlings of Sammy, a grade school kid. The first two series had those doodlings on the kid’s school slate, so everything is shown in negative, white lines on black. Since daily papers rarely had really inky blacks, reading the contents of Sammy’s slates was like squinting through a fog. In the top sample above I have played with the contrast on the scan quite a bit just so that you can see the contents, but on the original tearsheet (which granted, appeared in a syndicated outlet paper) is all but impossible to make out. An earlier and better executed version of this idea is Dwig’s Ophelia’s Slate, in which Dwig always made sure that the slate material was drawn very bold so it could withstand weak inks.

Printing difficulties notwithstanding, Sammy’s Slate ran for quite awhile as a weekday strip in the Evening World, March 7 to December 12 1914. Conklin then took time off from his Sammy activities in order to work on those aforementioned much more interesting series, but then came back to his slates with Sammy Says. This version didn’t try to cram so much onto the slate, and was therefore much more legible. However, it ran a mere four times in the period June 26 to July 13 1915.

The final Sammy series was Sammy’s Sayings, in which the slate conceit is thankfully dropped. It also had a very short lifespan, running weekdays from December 6 to 29 1915. Sammy work was expelled from the Evening World after that third attempt.

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