Percy Crosby was born in 1891 and was working and cartooning for newspapers before he was out of his teens. His twenties saw him succeed in contributing cartoons and comic strips to magazines and newspapers. WWI interrupted the career. After The War to End All Wars Crosby reestablished himself as a cartoonist and illustrator. One of his specialty subjects being children of the poor and working classes.
Among his clients was Life magazine which was trying to reinvent itself from the old, passe, humor magazine of the past to a new modern sophisticated magazine. Percy cartoons were a part of that, popular with the readers and the magazine’s management. So when Crosby suggested turning his kid cartoons into a regular full page comic strip it didn’t take much to convince publisher Charles Dana Gibson and editor Robert E. Sherwood to approve the idea.
In the March 15, 1923 issue of Life Skippy made his first appearance in a full page announcement and ad.
The following week in the Life magazine dated March 22, 1923 the first Skippy strip appeared.
Skippy became a very popular weekly feature, and Percy Crosby retained the copyright!
That enabled Crosby to take his character into a different market two years later.
On June 22, 1925 Skippy debuted as a daily syndicated newspaper comic strip, a Sunday page was added on October 17, 1926. (GoComics has been running the daily strip from the beginning since 1912.)
When The San Francisco Examiner outbid The Oakland Tribune for territorial rights to the Sunday Skippy page the newspaper across the bay assured their readers that the daily Skippy comic strip would remain in The Tribune.
Cartoonist Percy Crosby has long been acknowledged as one of the great early cartoonists, both for his precision draftsmanship and as the first cartoonist to place philosophical ideas into the mouths of children. Crosby’s “Skippy” was, of course, a major inspiration for Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts.” But Crosby’s life before and after “Skippy” was remarkable, as I’ve learned from Jared Gardner’s introduction to Percy Crosby’s Skippy Volume 1: Complete Dailies 1925-1927, edited by Gardner and Dean Mullaney
The syndicated Skippy comic strip ran until December 8, 1945.
I was introduced to Skippy by Jerry Robinson and Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
If you prefer your comics between hardcovers Skippy Inc. and The Library of American Comics are there for you.
4 thoughts on “100 Years Ago: Skippy by Percy L. Crosby”
I’d love to see a look at how the original owner’s of Skippy peanut butter took the rights away from Crosby and destroyed him, sending him to an early death in a sanitarium.
We’ll say that the peanut butter was a contributing factor to his madness, as he had other problems. The Shrine o’ Dreams has the story with plenty of links (after 12 years some links are no longer working). Check it out:
Skippy Peanut Butter is still made, originally by Best Foods, then Unilever, and now it’s made by Hormel.
my 2011 interview with Joan Crosby Tibbetts, Percy’s daughter, delves into peanut butter, madness, and other issues of possible interest to Daily Cartoonist readers…
(yes, it’s me: a Printmag redesign several years ago fouled up most of my bylines)
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