By the time Vincent Trout Hamlin was in his twenties (born May 10, 1900) he had, among numerous jobs, mostly gravitating to the newspaper business. First with Texas newspapers then, returning to his birth state The Des Moines (Iowa) Register. Even in newspapers he ran the gamut -reporter, illustrator, photographer, art director, and even cartoonist. It was that last profession he wished to make a career.
above: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram January 1924
below: Des Moines Register March 1932
Now in his thirties Hamlin made a concerted effort to become a syndicated cartoonist. After a couple false starts he came up with a caveman that had humor tinged adventures. The distributor that signed him was the Chicago based Bonnet-Brown Corporation. Bonnet-Brown had been around a few years syndicating evergreen features (health, household hints, comics) to weekly newspapers. In 1932 they made an effort to break into the daily comic strip business with a half dozen or so daily features.
On December 5, 1932 Alley Oop and the other dailies made their debut.
The daily comic strips began that Monday with an introductory panel.
V. T. Hamlin’s Alley Oop followed that pattern.
Below are the first two weeks of daily Alley Oop strips from December 5 – 17, 1932.
Hamlin’s Alley Oop was popular but not successful. Rather Bonnet-Brown’s attempt at daily syndication was not successful. In the Spring of 1933 Alley Oop, along with the other B-B daily comic strips, came to an end. R. C. Harvey says it ended on March 2; Allan Holtz says April 24; my source for the above strips, The McAllen Daily Press, ran it until May , but by 1933 it was not running the dailies every day (and didn’t run Alley Oop until the end).
Turns out due to the popularity of Alley Oop the comic strip became a cause célèbre.
R.C Harvey tells of the legend that grew around Alley Oop’s rebirth:
[T]he newspapers who’d subscribed to the strip wanted more of it, and some of them appealed to the Newspaper Enterprise Association, a Cleveland-based syndicate, whose editors (one of whom Hamlin had met while covering the 1928 Democratic Convention in Houston) agreed that Alley Oop was a good candidate—a brand new “reader tested” strip ready for the taking. But by then, no one knew who to talk to about a contract—or where to find Hamlin. Then one of the NEA salesmen found the answer pinned to the wall over a reporter’s desk in Fairbault, Minnesota—a hand-colored Alley Oop Christmas card, complete with Hamlin’s address.
So on August 7, 1933 Alley Oop began a new life as syndicated by Newspaper Enterprise Association. And, with only one other short hiccup, it has been running ever since.
Happy 90th anniversary to Alley Oop, joining Blondie and Dick Tracy as 90 year old strips still running. As we won’t be celebrating more 100 year old strips any time soon, let’s check what comic characters still running will be turning nonagenarian soon.
Apple Mary/Mary Worth – 1934
The Phantom – 1936
Prince Valiant – 1937