Rarities – Early Ernie Bushmiller

Famed cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller was struggling until he took over Larry Whittington’s Fritzi Ritz in 1925. That led to a comfortable living, made much more comfortable when he introduced Nancy to the world in 1933. If any comic is mentioned about Ernie’s pre-Fritzi career it his Mac the Manager. But there were a few other weekly strips Bushmiller was working on during Mac and before Fritzi.

By the mid 1920s radios were becoming a home necessity and newspapers, recognizing the popularity, began including weekly supplements about the new technology.

But some weeks there wasn’t enough news to fill out the 4 or 8 page sections so comic strips would be used as a perfect filler. And there was no shortage of radio related comics – Chester (Dick Tracy) Gould, Art (Uncle Art’s Funland) Nugent, and others created such humor strips. As did Ernie Bushmiller.

Mr. Bulb appeared in the September 10 and 17, 1924 editions of The Pittsburgh Post. The next time I find Ernie for the radio sections is October 29 and November 12 of the same year in the Harrisburg Telegraph, now drawing Radio Tragedies.

Though in October of 1924 was an installment credited to G. E. Conway (of whom I find nothing).

Ernie Bushmiller’s Radio Tragedies would appear occasionally into the Summer of 1925, at which point I no longer find Radio Tragedies. Also by this time Ernie had taken over the daily Fritzi Ritz comic strip on May 14, 1925. It is not out of the realm of possiblity some or all the Radio Tragedies were held in reserve by newspapers waiting for the need for filler.

It seems Mr. Bulb would occasionally reappear:


But Bushmiller was also doing another weekly strip. The radio craze of the 1920s had nothing on the popularity of crossword puzzles, and that was where Bushmiller first made his mark.
According to Adrienne Raphel:

above screenshot via GoogleBooks

With that Ernie saw a way to sneak a bit more of his cartooning into The World.
So Cross Word Cal was born or created or invented or…

The Cross Word Cal strips above appeared in the Buffalo Courier in the Spring of 1925, but the year before Bushmiller was already adding his illustrated humor to the crossword page. November 1924:

One thought on “Rarities – Early Ernie Bushmiller

  1. Do you suppose “Radio Tragedies” was the print media’s response to a perceived threat of radio? They seemed to be mocking the “new” medium.

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