Category : International Syndicate

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.

Early Comics of the International Syndicate Part V: Goodes, McK and Toles

Working our way backward now, we find W.M. Goodes making some contributions to the International weekly page. His only series, which managed just two installments quite far apart, was Illustrated Interviews. Above is the first installment on October 12 1902, and the other was on December 7 of that year.

On this page we also see cartoons by F.L. Fithian and William F. Marriner. Lillian Steinert and Jean Du Bois are both unknown to me, but pretty good cartoonists.

A longer series was Mr. Henry Peck, also known as The Henpecks, and Mr. Peck. As with other series that went by this same name, it is the tale of a henpecked husband. This series couldn’t make up its mind whether it wanted to be a panel or strip, appearing three times in each guise. The series ran from July 6 to September 7 1902. The series was signed only “McK”, which I suppose is most likely to be McKee Barclay. He was active in Baltimore at this time.

This page has a contribution from C.A. David, about the latest he’ll be found on International’s page.  He was a major contributor to the page in the 1890s, though he never once deigned to pen a series.

Going back to 1901, we finally get to see a series by the great C.E. Toles. This one is a panel series titled The Summering of Miss Frivolity, and each pretty girl picture is accompanied by some verses by Toles. This series ran for ten episodes from July 7 to September 15.

Early Comics of the International Syndicate Part IV: Marriner, Fenderson and a Mystery Cartoonist

Mr. Absent Minde (or Mr. Absen T. Minde) by William F. Marriner is one of those many strips about an absent-minded man. These things sprouted like weeds in a garden back in the day. It ran from September 4 to October 9 1904*.

In the upper lefthand corner of the sample above you’ll see one of the earliest contributions of Ryan Walker to the International Syndicate page.

On the page above we have samples of two series. Mr. B.Z. Boddy by William F. Marriner appeared only twice, on October 30 and November 20 1904*. The interesting thing about this series is that Marriner had already done a short-lived series of this title for the New York Evening Journal in 1902. Not having access to those strips outside a microfilm room, I can’t say if Marriner was reselling the same strips to International, or if he came up with new installments of the same series.

Also on this page is a series by a mystery cartoonist. Adventures of the Merry Dingbat, a panel and rhyme series featuring fanciful animals, ‘officially’ ran from October 30 to December 12 1904*, but the same creators contributed panels about bizarre animals on many additional pages. This is some really weird and wacky stuff, both art and poetry, and its a shame that the creators saw fit only to sign themselves as H & L,when they bothered to sign at all.

Here we come to the latest of the series that I found in the International Syndicate page. For some reason (change of editor?), series material pretty much stopped dead in 1905. I tracked the page through most of 1906 and never saw another series.

This last series, Mr. City Man Tries the Country, is appropriately half-hearted, running a grand total of two times, on June 11 and 18 1905*. Mark Fenderson was the cartoonist.

Next week we’ll continue this series on the International Syndicate, now working backward from where I started my search in early 1903.

* Source: Rochester Democrat-Chronicle

The Early Comics Series of the International Syndicate Part III: 1904 Series by Fenderson, Marriner and Hambleton

Mr. Lookin was by Mark Fenderson, who started contributing to the page with this series. This strip about a fellow who dives into situations without thinking, ran from April 24 to June 12 1904*. It was always a two-panel strip — set-up and denouement with no extra frills.

Grouchy Gregory, a strip about a kid with anger issues, was contributed by William F. Marriner. It ran from June 5 to July 31 1904*. Also noteworthy on this page is the top central cartoon, by Florence Pearl England Nosworthy. She made a name for herself in magazine cover and children’s book illustration.

Unfortunately there are many contributors to these pages whose signatures I cannot decipher. Anyone who can ID these folks is very much welcome to chime in. Even some whose signature is plain elude me — who was Fayette, or the colorfully named Foe Feroux?

Oddly enough, this is the only International series by A.Y. Hambleton, who was a major and constant contributor to the page for a long while. Sports of the Summer Girl, a pretty girl panel series, ran from July 24 to September 4 1904*. Hambleton is a real bright spot on these pages whose bold line really makes an impression.

Note in the bottom right is a panel by Carl Anderson, who was an infrequent contributor to the page.

* Source: Rochester Democrat-Chronicle

One comment on “The Early Comics Series of the International Syndicate Part III: 1904 Series by Fenderson, Marriner and Hambleton

  1. Hi! This might seem as an odd question, but I am writing my Master's thesis on feminism in American comic strips in the 1960s. I would like to use examples of strips from a fairly controversial cartoonist(s), dealing with the subject of women and/or abortion, contraceptive pill, etc. Any suggestions? I really like your blog.

    Seline Eskedal Amundsen (Norway).

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Posted in International Syndicate1 Comment on The Early Comics Series of the International Syndicate Part III: 1904 Series by Fenderson, Marriner and Hambleton

The Early Comics Series of the International Syndicate Part II: Three More by William F. Marriner

We’ll quickly cover three more William F. Marriner International Syndicate series today.

First up,  Rollo and his Tutor (above), which ran each week from April 19 to June 28 1903*. This one offers a daffy teacher who gets his facts mixed up.

Above we have Stunts of Strenuous Sammie, a satire based on President Theodore Roosevelt’s flamboyant calls for men and women to engage in physically strenuous outdoor pursuits. Most kids were crazy for Teddy and many took his example and philosophy to heart. This series ran from July 12* to September 27** 1903.

Note on the page above that Dwig is now contributing to the page (upper right), and a fellow named Hugh Morris is doing a passable imitation of F.M. Howarth. I’m told that this is one of the many  pseudonyms of C.E. Toles,  but he was dead by this time. Were these ‘Hugh Morris’ cartoons material from the slush pile, previously printed, or is Mr. Morris actually a living breathing person?

Above is the first installment of Holdup Harold, about a light-fingered hobo. This series changed titles to Holdup Herbert with the second episode through November 8, then returned on December 27 with the fellow’s name changed back to Harold. The series then ran through April 17 1904*. In 1905 he popped up again for two episodes, on February 26 and March 5***.

* Source: Louisville Courier-Journal
** Source: Oakland Tribune
*** Source: Rochester Democrat-Chronicle

The Early Comics Series of the International Syndicate Part 1: The Hunt Begins, with Tweedledum, Tweedledee and the Other Triplet

Baltimore’s International Syndicate was one of the earliest distributors of newspaper cartoon content, starting in 1899*. Unfortunately their output is hard to track because the syndicate very rarely displayed a copyright on their material. The earliest features I was able to include in my book were Zimmie (a weather cartoon) and the long-running Scoop the Cub Reporter, both of which debuted in 1912 (Zimmie had been distributed earlier but not by International).

That leaves at least a decade of the International Syndicate unaccounted for before the advent of their first known series. That was in no way alarming to me, because it was my belief that the syndicate specialized in non-series gag panels.

International Syndicate did in fact specialize  in gag panels and text jokes. In that I still seem to be correct. However, what I didn’t know until very recently is that they offered this material not only as a collection of bits and pieces for newspapers to use willy-nilly, dropping in a panel here, typesetting a joke there, but also as a cohesive page. This page went under the consistent title The Funny Side of Life for many years.

The above page is among a small selection I purchased recently. All from the Detroit Free Press of early 1903, the pages have a recurring series by William F. Marriner on many, plus a selection of gag cartoons and text jokes. The text jokes are all credited as originally appearing in various publications.

A question you may be asking is why I believe that these pages came from International Syndicate. After all, there are no copyright stamps on them. The thought came to me based on this page and several others having cartoons by ‘Hamb’ — that’s A.Y. Hambleton, a Baltimore cartoonist.

That wasn’t nearly enough to pin the blame for those pages on International, but it piqued my curiosity enough that I selected some nice clear text from one of the cartoons and started searching online. To my surprise, I found a few newspapers that ran the complete page on a regular weekly basis, some for long periods. Many others cut the material apart, but these papers offered the material as I imagine it was supplied by the syndicate, masthead and all.

I began tracing the page backward and forward in time, and I had to get back all the way to 1901 for the real “ah-ha” moment. In that year The Funny Side of Life was replete with cartoons by the fabulous C.E. Toles, who we know from John Adcock was the editor of the International Syndicate. As far as I’m concerned, that sewed up the case.

The fun part was that although the vast majority of the cartoons on these pages are one-shot gags, the syndicate did actually offer some half-hearted series. In the coming days I’m going to feature these series on the blog. All of our samples from here on will come from digital microfilm, so bask in the quality of today’s sample, which comes from real live pulp paper. Today we’ll start with the first series I found …

Tweedledum, Tweedledee and the Other Triplet

This series by William F. Marriner has been featured on the blog before, way back in 2006. That previous appearance, unfortunately, turns out to have offered only misinformation. At the time I believed that this series originated with the Chicago Chronicle. The Chronicle called their 1903 comic section a production “by Chicagoans for Chicagoans”, so you can see where I could have been misled.

Tweedledum, Tweedledee and the Other Triplet offered the typical Marriner big-headed urchins. In this case it’s a trio of little terrors who send their victims into a neurotic fit thinking that they’ve been drinking too much and are seeing triple. This series first appears in the January 3 1903 page, and is last seen on April 5 of that year**.


* This date and lots of other info provided in John Adcock’s biography of C.E. Toles. My spidey sense says that the real start of the syndicate is 1892, though, when it was known as the Comic Sketch Club of Baltimore.  Adcock doesn’t say that the two companies are related, but the similarity of their business models and personnel make the connection seem very likely. I prepare to stand corrected. In my favor, though, I’ll let the cat out of the bag now and say that I was able to trace the International page back to 1896, so no matter what company name it went by then, it was active in distributing this page. Jeffrey Lindenblatt has traced it even further, to July 1895 in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

** Source: Louisville Courier-Journal.