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See You in the Funny Papers – Exhibit & Etymology

“See You in the Funny Papers”: a phrase that began to grace the American lexicon around the 1920s and served as a reminder that life can often be just as amusing and whimsical as the Sunday comics.

That’s what Ruthmere’s summer exhibit is all about…


Funny Papers will include a traveling exhibit from the Charles M. Schulz Museum called Pigskin Peanuts, featuring delightfully nostalgic “Peanuts” comics about one of America’s favorite pastimes: football. From July 1st -July 28th only, the exhibit will also include Pencils to Pixels: Hoosier Cartoons and Comics, another exhibit loan from the Indiana Historical Society

           

Other exhibit components promise to make Funny Papers an unforgettable walk down memory lane. Some of these include: “Garfield,” “Tumbleweeds,” and “Roger Bean” memorabilia from Minnetrista in Muncie, IN; “Brenda Starr” comics from the Porter County Museum in Valparaiso, IN; animation cels and original artwork from the Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum in Elkhart; and materials of local comic artists, such as Max Gwin and Bill Holman, from the Nappenee Public Library in Nappanee, IN.

So if you are in the Chicago, illinois – Grand Rapids/Lansing, Michigan – Fort Wayne, Indiana area this summer drop by The Ruthmere in Elkhart.

 

“See You in the Funny Papers”: a phrase that began to grace the American lexicon around the 1920s…

I, naturally, took that as a challenge to find the phrase used earlier than the 1920s. Most people seem to get the origins of the expression from a 2011 Word Detective account:

“See you in the funny papers” almost certainly dates back to the early 1920s because the term “funny papers/pages/sheet” itself apparently didn’t appear in print until roughly that time. A glossary of humor published in 1926 included “See you in the funny sheet,” and William Faulkner also used the phrase in his 1929 novel The Sound and the Fury (“Ta-ta see you in the funnypaper”), so it must have been widespread by that time.

By way of newspapers.com I found “Bye Bye, I’ll see you in the funny papers.” in a January 13, 1915 edition of The Hutchinson (Kansas) News. This is the earliest I found.

In full context, for what it’s worth:

Four years later in an April 18, 1919 edition of the University Daily Kansan (University of Kansas)
it is found as a filler proclaiming it a famous idiom:

 

In 1918 (November 22) it is found in the Kincaid (Kansas) High School Tattler (above)
and in a soldier’s letter published in The Natoma (Kansas) Independent on May 22, 1919.

The only other pre-1920 time I found was in the June 6, 1919 Leavenworth New Era:

 

Curiously every one of these 19teens sources are from Kansas.
So did the phrase originate in that state?

 

Community Comments

#1 Steven Rowe
June/24/2022
@ 9:08 am

Interesting catch of Kansas as the so-far only known pre-1920s source for “See you in the funny paper”.

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