A First and Last Entry
Tad Burness was 30 and an aspiring cartoonist.
“In 1962, I was trying to sell a variety of comic features to newspaper syndicates, and as a bonus item I developed a once-a-week panel about old cars which I called Auto Album. Most editors weren’t interested in my comic strips, but some of them did like the old cars.”
Burness would make a deal with newspaper syndicate owner Lew Little, who said if Burness could draw 18 car pictures in two weeks, he would try to sell them to newspapers.
Lew Little Syndicate, founded by the outstanding newspaper features salesman, was a starting point for syndicated features. Lew would take what he considered promising comic strips and panels and sell them to newspapers, if they became successful as he hoped he would then let larger syndicates take over the features so they gained a wider circulation. (The Fusco Brothers, Tumbleweeds, Wee Pals, and others began with the Lew Little Syndicate.)
As automotive authors go, he probably doesn’t spring to the top of most people’s minds, but he’s certainly one of the most referenced, and it’s a good bet that every old car guy has thumbed through his work at some point or another. Tad Burness, who inspired many a gearhead over the years with his spotters guide books and syndicated Auto Album feature, died last month at the age of 79.
Born Wallace B.[Binney] Burness [on July 11,] 1933 in Berkeley, California, Burness began to publish his Auto Album feature on June 12, 1966, and continued to produce the illustrated snippet of daily automotive history up until his death.
Above are the first three Auto Album panels (June 12, 19, and 26 of 1966 from the Sacramento Bee) signed “TAD,” which is how he would sign the panels until the end of his run (in October 2012 the familiar signature would disappear). The weekly feature was set/dated for Sunday publication but newspapers would run it whatever day of the week they ran their automobile section.
So Lew Little had a successful feature and, as was his habit, soon passed it off to another syndicate – something that would become a constant with Tad’s Auto Album. Here is the syndicate list for the panel:
Lew Little Syndicate June 12, 1966 – June 11, 1967
Register and Tribune Syndicate June 18, 1967 – August 6, 1972
King Features Syndicate August 13, 1972 – July 31, 1977
United Feature Syndicate August 7, 1977 – October 19, 1980
Field Syndicate October 26, 1980 – April 1, 1984
News America Syndicate/News Group Chicago April 8, 1984 – March 28, 1987
North America Syndicate/Cowles April 4, 1987 – December 30, 2012
As far as I can track Tad began an accompanying column with the panel in early 1972.
Above from The Sunday (New Brunswick) Home News of January 23rd and 30th 1972.
The Auto Album brought Tad an incredible amount of fame and credibility among auto enthusiasts, allowing him to expand his car publishing ventures beyond the cartoon and column.
He had a very successful line of books and “guides” that described in detail automobiles from the beginning of production into the 21st Century.
Tad Burness died November 19, 2012 and the Auto Album ended with his death after running out those already in the pipeline. The panel dated September 30 was the last to carry a Tad signature and a date (other than one rerun that appeared later in the year).
Below are the last two from The Cedar Rapids Gazette who throughout 2012 published the panel and column 9 days after the date included in the panel itself. Extrapolating from that the last Auto Album was set for December 30, 2012.