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8 Pages of Iridescent Polychromous Effulgence

125 years ago Hearst’s New York Journal promoted the first issue of the American Humorist
– “8 full pages of color that make the kaleidoscope pale with envy.”

On Saturday October 17, 1896 Hearst promised (above) to outshine that puny Pulitzer’s “wishy-washy” Sunday color supplement with, “Eight pages of iridescent polychromous effulgence that make the rainbow look like a lead pipe.” A phrase that has gone down in comics history.

The previous Sunday they had let New York know that Hogan’s Alley‘s most famous resident was moving to a new neighborhood, McFadden’s Row of Flats.


Black and white N. Y. Journal images from the Library of Congress

The premiere issue of the American humorist would herald the arrival of R. F. Outcault’s The Yellow Kid to Hearst newspapers on October 18, 1896, showing the move in progress.

From Christina Meyer’s definitive article on The Move via ImageTexT:

Both Richard Felton Outcault and George Benjamin Luks make the rivalry between Pulitzer and Hearst and the concomitant questions of originality, authorship and copyright over the Yellow Kid recurrent topics in their Sunday comic pages. In self-reflexive manner they make jokes about it, or rather, they poke at each other repeatedly through the printed words on the kid’s nightshirt. On the day that Luks’s first comic page for Pulitzer’s World was printed (titled “The Open-Air School in Hogan’s Alley”) and announced, “SAY! THEY’RE IMiTATIN’ ME ALL AROUND TOWN! I’M THE SUNDAY WORLD’S KID AND AND HAVE BEEN FUR A YEAR & A HALF! ALL OTHERS ARE FAKES,” Outcault’s comic page in Hearst’s Journal answered the question of who the original and authentic kid is as follows: “SAY! WHEN WE GiTS IN OUR NEW HOME WE’RE GOiN TER BE DE REAL TING,” and ironically continues: “HULLY GEE—BU WE WONT DO A TING IN MCFADDENS ROW OF FLATS.”15 Both lines are printed on the kid’s nightshirt, and serve to draw the reader’s attention immediately to the issue of re-location. Re-location here means on the one hand the “gang’s” move from “Hogan’s Alley” to “McFadden’s Row” (or from “the street from up Cherry Hill” down to McFadden’s row as the narrative says) and on the other hand, or rather in addition to that, Outcault’s move from Pulitzer’s World to Hearst’s Journal.16 This is further verbalized and visualized by the (crossed-out) words printed on the travel bag the kid carries: “DE KID HOGAN’S ALLEY MC FADDEN’S FLATS.”

Of course Pulitzer’s New York World wasn’t giving up without a fight,
though it is said it took a while for The World to update their comic weekly to all color.


George B. Luks/N. Y. World October 18, 1896 Hogan's Alley (above) via AHTR

And the War, and Yellow Journalism, is on.

Unfortunately we can’t find a reproduction of the October 18, 1896 American Humorist page one,
if anyone knows where one is reproduced please let us know.

Also unfortunately cartoons of 125 years ago contained caricatures that were accepted, though not proper, then and are certainly not proper now. These are shown here as a matter of historical record.

 

Sidebar: The American Humorist wasn’t pure comics. The LOC has some samples.

Sidebar too:

The Denver Post, on October 23, 1896, apparently had Townsend’s script but not a reproducible photo of Outcault’s cartoon, so had their own staff artist copy the cartoon (at least they didn’t sign Outcault’s name to the copy). See John Adcock at Yesterday’s Paper.

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