Some cartoonists in the 1920s had regular rotating subjects and corresponding titles for their newspaper panels or strips. F’instance, H. T. Webster had “How to Torture Your Wife”, “The Timid Soul”, and “The Boy Who Made Good” in the same daily space. Claire Briggs’ cartoons would vary day to day, sometimes under the title “When A Feller Needs A Friend”, sometimes “There’s One In Every Office”, sometimes the terrific “Ain’t It A Grand And Glorious Feeling.”
A lesser known cartoonist than those two gents was Al Zere. One day his comic strip would be called “Man The Master”, such as the one below from 1921. This was typical comic strip fare of the time–and still reflected in far too many current strips: women are essentially bitches, men are idiots…
But Zere also had a regular offering, which was a part of his repertoire,Â that I unearthed yesterday while doing some research for the next “Arf” book. This strip totally shocks and awes me! It was a continuing feature in the “New York Evening Post”, and would alternate with “Man The Master”. It was called… “Our Own Ku Klux Klan”. Yes, you read that right. I herewith present two examples:
Zere’s Klan is kind of a cute, lovable Shmoo-like mob of aggressive masked do-gooders who you call upon, kind of like Superman, to right life’s wrongs, get rid of meddling mothers of girlfriends, put snobby rich dudes in their place, etc.
This strip didn’t run in some Southern paper or Ku Klux Klan organ, but in the longest running daily paper, the “New York Evening Post”. The paper was founded by Alexander Hamilton, the abolitionist William Cullen Bryant was an early editor. From 1897 to 1918 the paper was managed by Oswald Garrison Villard, a founding member of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union. The paper eventually changed its name to the “New York Post” and is today owned by Rupert Murdoch. “Our Ku Klux Klan” was also reprinted in the Chicago-based, nationally distributed, “Cartoons Magazine” of the 1920s, which is where I found it.
I don’t know much about the cartoonist Al Zere other than later in the Twenties he did a strip called “Susie Sunshine”. Comic strip expert Alan Holtz says, “Zere… took a swing at a whole lot of syndicated strips over his long career.”
Just yesterday morning I was talking to an acquaintance who is doing research on local history, we’re 45 minutes up the Hudson River from New York City. She has discovered something covered up by embarrassed local historians and excised from local printed histories. Cortland, NY, in the mid-1920s was the location for a Ku Klux Klan picnic with 25,000 attendees! That fact and this strip show that the Klan was active in the North and accepted by the public. I’ve since thought that not only did “Our Ku Klux Klan” run in the mainstream northern press, but I recall few, if any, political cartoons there against Klan activities in my research into cartooning history. “Ain’t It NOT A Grand And Glorious Feeling”?
Your thoughts, Arf Lovers?
— C. Yoe (in the funny papers)