Early Comics of the International Syndicate Part VI: The Toles Show, with a Side of ‘Midget’

From 1901 and stretching back to the 1896 inauguration of the International Syndicate weekly page, only C.E. Toles seemed to have any interest in producing a cartoon series. Mr. Toles was also by far the most prolific contributor, but I don’t sense that series cartoons were disallowed of the other contributors.

Above we have a sample of the Toles series Reverend O. Shaw Fiddle D.D. I previously thought he had produced this series for the Philadelphia Press, but it turns out they were simply using bits and pieces of the International material in their paper. This series is a revival of the series Reverend Fiddle D.D. that Toles produced for the New York Journal in 1898.

This is the first real series, in the sense of using a continuing character, that ran on the International page. It is also the first series that ran on a regular basis. It ran each week from June 9 to July 14 1901.

The cartoonist who signed himself “Midget” produced many cartoons about bugs, and his style strongly resembles that of Gus Dirks. I thought for awhile that it might be Dirks using a pen name, but much later on, the same ‘bug cartoonist’ started signing himself as Joe Hanover on the International page.

Although I suppose you could make a case that all the bug cartoons are a sort of series, I didn’t count them as such. “Midget” did manage to produce two episodes of Buggum and Snailey’s Sideshow (2nd installment titled Buggum and Snailey’s 20th Century Show). The first episode ran on June 23 1901, the second not until August 11. Committed to the series concept Mr. Midget certainly was not.

C.E. Toles produced six episodes of Tales of the Orient (later retitled Tales of the East) but it took him the better part of a year. The first episode appeared on November 12 1899, the last on October 14 1900. Each installment was rather text-heavy, just like the first one shown above.

The first continuing series on the International weekly page appeared so infrequently that I nearly didn’t recognize it as such. Koon Tracks, a strip about stereotypical blacks with a hunting theme appeared on October 29 1899, December 17 1899, March 4 and March 25 1900.

Our last sample from the International Syndicate weekly page is its first installment in the Rochester Democrat-Chronicle, April 26 1896, and the earliest found in which it is a full page with masthead. Jeffrey Lindenblatt finds good evidence that a page existed as early as July 1895 in the Cincinnati Enquirer, but they chopped it up just enough so as to be uncertain as to the complete contents that were being distributed.

As you can see in the sample above , the early version was a little more text-heavy than it would be later, but right from the first it offered both panels and comic strips. The prolific C.E. Toles was its most frequent contributor right from the start.

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