Footprints On the Sands of Time by Dwig

This week’s Wayback Whensday was put in motion by a Bob Harris comment to TDC earlier this week.

The Wallace the Brave strip spurs my obligatory reminder that the Family Circus didn’t invent the footprints gag. Clare Dwiggins (“Dwig”) was using it at least as early as 1919.

Tom Heintjes informs us that Bil Keane first used the dotted line in the April 8, 1962 Sunday Family Circus.

Allan Holtz tells us that Clare Dwiggins used a Footprints On the Sands of Time comic as a “topper” for his Sunday pages from 1929 to 1934, at that time Bil Keane would have been a preteen and probably saw the popular and widely distributed pages of School Days and Nipper.

Footprints on the Sands of Time – above: 1929; below: 1933

But as Bob notes Dwig was using the concept ten years before 1929.

The earliest I found was 1920 in Dwig’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn page, which doesn’t dispute Bob’s timeline.

From the very beginning cartoonist Clare Victor Dwiggins seems to have used the line from the famous Longfellow poem to (sub)title his illustrations of a character’s journeys. Here it is “Tom” making the detours but later it would be “Bill” taking the long and winding path. Compare the first Family Circus where Bil covers the neighborhood – soon after it would be the exclusive bailiwick of “Billy.”

Like Keane Dwiggins used the conceit on occasion for the rest of his career. A 1943 (reprint?) panel:

When Dwig did a daily strip he wasn’t afraid of having Bill, or Nipper in this case, jumping a gutter. 1932:

7 thoughts on “Footprints On the Sands of Time by Dwig

  1. Cool, thanks for this post. I wasn’t aware of Dwiggins’ topper. I’d always wondered whether Keane would have seen the footprints Dwiggins used circa 1920. It’s more plausible that he’d have seen them in those later toppers.

    The earliest Dwiggins footprints use I’ve found is Sep/26/1919 Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger.

    There are probably earlier instances — I don’t recall specifically searching to push the date earlier.

    And I don’t know whether Dwiggins was the first to use this idea.

  2. Not sure if that’s the true first or not, but I can push Dwiggins’ first footprint date back to Aug/28/1919, same newspaper.

  3. A request, if possible. Could you post higher quality scans going forward? I like to zoom in on some of the panels.

    1. Unfortunately these are the best resolution scans we can get off the images.
      Enabling us to click much larger images into a new tab costs money. When we were backed by megacorp Andrews McMeel we had no problem spending their money on larger images, but now we are but poor church mice with a small budget.
      An option is to right click and save the image (or open the image in a new tab and download that image to your files). Then open that image and use your Ctrl and + keys to enlarge the images. This will drastically cut down on the fuzziness of just “Ctrl and +”ing the images directly from the post.
      But I will try to remember to get the unlinkable images as large as possible here. Thanks for the reminder.

    2. It’s also possible to use an AI-based enlarging tool to scale up images without introducing fuzziness. I use Gigapixel from Topaz Labs, but I’ve had enough uses for it over the years to make it worth the price (which IIRC was maybe like $100).

      I haven’t used it much on black & white images scanned from microfilm (which is what all these comic images are). Just now tried a 4x enlargement of the gutter-jumping 1932 strip above — it did a credible job on the drawings but had trouble with the text in the second panel.

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