A number of months ago it came into my possession an ancient text – the comics section of The Minneapolis Journal from October 16, 1938. Not a copy of that comics section, nor a digital reproduction – but the real thing. A 73-year-old piece of paper. Pretty interesting, right?
Here’s how it happened. A coworker of mine – one Mrs. Amy Eian, an accomplished graphic designer and manager of a team of talented artists – was remodeling her house (or something of that nature), and within the walls, used as insulation, were bundles of old newspapers stitched together at the edges to form bricks of (presumably) insulating material. Weird!
This method of insulation may seem a bit odd, but if history serves me correctly, 1938 found the U.S. in the throes of the Great Depression, but not yet thrust into the economically stimulating period of World War II. So times were hard, and people got creative and made due with what they had. Waste not want not.
At any rate, Amy proceeded to unbundle these incredible slabs of history, and brought them into the office for all to enjoy. And we had a good laugh. More importantly, she held aside the comics section just for yours truly, knowing that I was a fan of the “graphic narrative arts”. If that term takes off I’m totally calling dibs…
Now newspaper comic sections may seem a rather different beast than our modern comic books and graphic novels, but Wikipedia informs us – and why should we doubt it – that the very first comic books (ca. 1932) were simply bound collections of newspaper comic strips. The medium has obviously evolved much since then, but I thought this unique opportunity was absolutely relevant to this blog, not to mention the fact that this was something that should be digitized and shared on the internets for all the connected world to see.
So I had a good idea, but I didn’t really knowing how to execute it – at least not the right way. I then enlisted the help of another of my coworkers, one Mr. Brian Hart. Brian is a digital imaging specialist, a brilliant light painter, and one of the most artistic and creative people I know. Industrious as he is, he jumped at the opportunity to digitize this dusty periodical and clean it up as best he could. As you will see, he did a bang-up job, and I thanked him by bequeathing the original pulp unto him. He seemed excited by that, and I have no doubt he will do something awesome with it.
Anyway, Brian’s ever-professional work resulted in a conveniently packaged PDF, which you can download and view right here:
I searched for a way to make it viewable within the body of this post, but alas wordpress.com does not seem to offer such a plugin at present. So please, click on the above link, start downloading the rather sizeable (35.6 MB, print-quality) file, and go make yourself a drink.
Btw, if you’re a Chrome user (which is IMHO the best browser available), it will handily display the document right in a new tab.
Anyway, that will allow you to take a little journey back in time. But in the interest of making this piece of history discoverable by search engines, I’ve listed below the individual strips that appear within, and their creators (if known).
One additional note: 1938 was obviously a different time for this country, specifically socially, and there are definitely some less-than-politically-correct stereotypes portrayed within this document. Please recognize that this is a historical document. It’s not inherently bad, or good, or even funny for that matter, but simply informative to us. It’s a snapshot of the time it was created in. And to give you some context of that time, check out the major events from 1938.
I think it’s also interesting to note that this was an 8-page, full-color spread, which could not have been cheap to produce in 1938. In fact, it’s marketed as “25 Colored Comics”, right on the top of the first page. I would assume that this section was quite a selling point for The Minneapolis Journal back in 1938.
So without further ado, here’s a index of the comic strips you’ll find in the PDF:
The Minneapolis Journal
October 16, 1938
“25 Colored Comics”
“The Gumps“, Gus Edson
“Winnie Winkle: The Breadwinner”, “Looie”, Martin Branner
“Streaky”, Loy Byrnes
“Just Kids”, Ad Carter
“The Lovebyrds”, Paul Robinson
“Etta Kett“, Paul Robinson
Curtiss Jolly Jack Advertisement
“Harold Teen“, Carl Ed
“Josie”, Carl Ed
“Smilin’ Jack“, Zack Mosley
“Little Joe“, Ed Leffingwell
“Smokey Stover“, Bill Holman
“Sweeney & Son”, Al Posen
“Grin And Bear It“, George Lichty