Origin of a Species-Cartoonist Chronicles 20201203

Historical articles gathered from the past week.

The comic strip Fluffy Ruffles debuted in the Sunday edition of the New York Herald on February 3, 1907, and was syndicated in the American press, such as in the Omaha Bee and the San Francisco Call. Although the comic strip lasted only two years (the last installment was published on January 10, 1909), it was all the rage among young working women and “Fluffymania” swept the nation.

Fluffy Ruffles was one of the first comics published in an American newspaper to feature a working girl protagonist and often appeared in the Children’s section of newspapers, alongside comic strips Little Nemo and Buster Brown. Newspaper illustrator and war artist for the United States Army during World War I, Wallace Morgan, drew the comics throughout their entire run. Carolyn Wells, writer of children’s books and humor papers, and mystery novels wrote the verse for the comic’s first ninth months. Humorist Charles Battell Loomis took over the job of verse-writing in 1908.

Amber Paranick, via the Library of Congress, introduces us to the comic sensation of 1907.
Linda Ocasio, for Medium from a few years ago, offers further details of the “It” girl of 1907.


Until fairly recently, not much was known about Comic Almanack and Comic Token publisher Charles Ellms. That’s a shame, because Ellms played a brief but pivotal role in American comics history.  Almanacs had been a staple of life in North American since the 17th century, but it was Charles Ellms who expanded upon the almanac’s contents to include significant amounts of humor and cartoon art for a mass audience.

Mark Seifert at Bleeding Cool reminds us that comic books have been around for 200 years.
FYI – the comic almanack sold for $384.00


Chic Young was one of the most successful newspaper cartoonists of his time. His first syndicated strip, Dumb Dora ran from 1924 to 1930. He retired the strip to create a “pretty girl” comic (ala Polly & her Pals) titled Blondie. It was an instant hit. Young penned Blondie until his death in 1973. The strip is still in print, under the byline of his son, Dean.

Animation Resources takes us through a wonderful gallery of early Blondie Sunday strips.


Cartoonist Thomas Nast first drew Santa Claus in January 1863, for Harper’s Weekly.

You could call it the face that launched a thousand Christmas letters. Appearing on January 3, 1863, in the illustrated magazine Harper’s Weekly, two images cemented the nation’s obsession with a jolly old elf. The first drawing shows Santa distributing presents in a Union Army camp. Lest any reader question Santa’s allegiance in the Civil War, he wears a jacket patterned with stars and pants colored in stripes. In his hands, he holds a puppet toy with a rope around its neck, its features like those of Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

Lorraine Boissoneault, in Smithsonian Magazine, tells the American origins of a seasonal deity.


The interview that follows was conducted via Google chat on October 21, 2020. The original focus for this interview was supposed to Maresca’s new Milt Gross book, but the undisciplined historian in me could not pass up the opportunity to explore deeper and so this piece is a mixture of celebrating both the art of Milt Gross and the remarkable Sunday Press.

For TCJ Paul Tumey talks to Peter Maresca about preserving and binding old comics.