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First and Last – Freckles and His Friends

When the Freckles and His Friends daily strip ended in 1971 Newspaper Enterprise Association supplied the first strip from September 20, 1915 for newspapers breaking the news to their readers.

Which I guess is technically true, that was the first strip titled “Freckles and His Friends.”

Merrill Blosser had only a few years of cartooning behind him when he joined NEA in May 1915, and by June 1915 he was contributing two or three comics a day for the syndicate. Hints for Housewives, Monkeyshines (aka Monkey Shines), Wake Up!, Mousetown Minstrels, and A Movie would alternate among the comic strips “Bloss” provided every day.
On August 16, 1915 Merrill introduced a new character – Freckles.

             

The vertical strip appeared on August 16, 18, and 20 (above) and would continue alternating daily appearances with Blosser’s Monkeyshines (also vertical). The new character must have received positive responses from newspapers because a month later on September 20, 1915 the “Freckles” strip became a daily horizontal offering from the syndicate. Now retitled “Freckles and His Friends.”


above: the September 20, 1915 Freckles along with a sample of Blosser's Movies

Blosser’s new creation became an instant hit.
Within six weeks Merrill dropped his other strips to concentrate on Freckles and His Friends and never looked back. But going forward young (7? 8? year old) Freckles would grow up to be a teenager.

1920

1925

1930

1935

1940

1945

1950

You may notice that Blosser adapted the direction of the strip with the times. The 1920s saw it as a kid strip in the mode of Us Fellers and Hal Roach’s Our Gang. The adventurous decade of the 1930s took Freckles outside his neighborhood. In the 1940s a no-longer-adolescent Freckles became a simulacrum of Andy Hardy and Archie. Though as Merrill aged out of having any connection to young people Mr. and Mrs McGoosey took on more of the gag load, as seen on the last Blosser strip of February 12, 1966:

The strip continued with Blosser assistant Henry Formals taking over.

February 12, 1966 was the last daily strip signed by Merrill Blosser. Daily strips between February 14 and March 19 have the signature of Henry Formhals covered over with opaque white. The March 21, 1966 daily strip is the first to officially show the signature of Henry Formhals.

The daily strip by Henry Formals drawing and Fred Fox scripting would end five and a half years later on August 28, 1971.


The last two daily strips – August 27 (above) and August 28 (below)

But the Sunday page would continue for more than a year longer.

I haven’t found the start date for Freckles Sunday page. Wikipedia gives it as December 31, 1933, but I have found an earlier Sunday from December 31, 1922. That is the earliest I have found, but I cannot make the claim that it is the first Freckles Sunday.

That same Freckles Wikipedia entry lists August 22, 1971 as the last Sunday, but it ran for another 17 months after the daily disappeared. Below is the last Freckles and His Friends Sunday by Formals and Fox from January 28, 1973.


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