Obscurity of the Day: Jawnny Grin


Cartoonist John F. Hart was a Philadelphia newspaper institution in the 1900s-20s, but his work was mostly in puzzles and non-series cartooning. When he occasionally dipped a toe in that end of the pool his art made you want more, but his lack of ability as a comic strip writer made you wish he practiced a little more before inflicting his work on the unsuspecting public. 

Here is Jawnny Grin, which offered an admittedly out of the ordinary gag for the comics page; the basic idea is the same ole same ole, a bratty kid. But this kid has a beaming smile that can get him out of any sort of hot water. Unusual, yes, but the execution is so inept that the gag needs to be explained in the title bar. 

Philadelphia North American readers only had to put up with this stinker once, but it ran in the North American’s syndicated comic section several times between June 3 and July 29 1906*. 

Thanks tyo Cole Johnson for the scan.

* Source: Boston Post

5 comments on “Obscurity of the Day: Jawnny Grin

  1. Hello Allan-
    This is surely one for the "Stupidest comics" file. I didn't realize the NA had overflow material for clients only, like the Inquirer had. Does this mean the Boston Post regularly ran such material? Is this material made to take the place of something that did appear in the NA?

  2. I don't have a lot of material at hand to cross-reference, but my guess is that the North American may have been charging extra for Peck's Bad Boy, which was a licensed property. Maybe papers that weren't willing to go the extra bucks for that got stinkers like Jawnny Grin to show them the error of their ways.


  3. Hello again-
    It makes sense that the Peck series could go extra, but that series didn't begin until 10 June. It and all the NA sections from start to finish have a full page cover subject, which would be syndicated as well. Is the Boston Post running some other syndicate's full page material for their cover in place of Peck? and is the "Jawnny" you see in the Post a full, and if not, does another NA subject share the page?

  4. Mark —
    I checked further, and the Boston Post only used two pages of NA material at this time (they ran fulls of Buster Brown and Polly Sleepyhead to round out the section). The two pages of NA material were the interior half-pagers.

    So what I have in the Post on 6/17, my only date in the range needed, are Waldo and his Papa, Willie Westinghouse, Little Bill and Ben of Babylon and Jawnny Grin. In the NA on that date (unfortunately I did not record the sizes) are Peck's Bad Boy (presumably full), Little Growling Bird (presumably full), Willie Westinghouse and Little Bill and Ben. That would seem to leave a full page in the NA unaccounted for. I think that J.F. Hart puzzle feature would account for another half-page, and I don't know what would have been on the last half. That means both Waldo and Jawnny didn't make the cut in the home paper that week.

    Regarding Peck starting 6/10: yes, that's probably why Jawnny Grin made it into the NA itself that single time on 6/3, along with Waldo and his Papa, one of only two times that strip made it into the NA but appeared elsewhere on more occasions.

    So to sum up, my thinking now is that the J.F. Hart puzzle feature and sometimes something else (an ad?) were the items for which the NA sent out additional material they didn't run.


  5. Hello-
    I think you've hit on an undetected componant of the NA, that they were fielding a complete comic section of four pages, with the two standard "inside" offerings of four half page titles, but the parent paper filled one of these pages with non-comic material.
    You mention your Post has Waldo And His Papa as well as the Jawnny strip. Waldo wasn't in the NA that day either, so that must be the syndicate-only page. The NA's three page arrangement existed for years, so whole series could've never been seen there.
    I made my breakdown of the North American over forty years ago. Looks like additional work should have been done with a client paper.

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