Pretty much anything R.F. Outcault produced is worth an extended look, even one of his more obscure series. With dozens of gags and bits of funny business shoehorned into each installment, Kelly’s Kindergarten is definitely a series that rewards long and leisurely study. Luckily, Cole Johnson sent me a treasure trove of examples of this series, so we will depart in this case from our usual custom of running just a few samples. Over the next couple weeks we’ll run Kelly’s Kindergarten as a weekday feature of the blog.
Outcault’s stardom began in the Sunday funnies of the New York World in 1895 with the Hogan’s Alley pages, but as most any comics fan knows, not much more than a year later he was was lured away by Hearst. What is less well known is that Outcault continued bouncing around from paper to paper, ending up back at the New York World in the period 1898-1900. Kelly’s Kindergarten was produced during this second act at the World.
The series brings Outcault back to the subject that brought him fame — depicting the raucous lives of New York City tenement kids. The series began on October 16 1898 and was initially set in the classroom though that would eventually become too confining for Outcault. The first installment (above) introduces us to some of Outcault’s new characters. He would add to the cast throughout the series, coming up with some truly bizarre ones along the way, like the kids whose faces spell out their names. There will also be a character who refers back to Outcault’s original superstar.
Kelly’s Kindergarten, later Kelly’s Kids, would run until August 6 1899, and Cole has supplied us with the first and last episodes, and lots in between. So keep reading, and enjoy!