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Friday, August 31, 2007

Ku Klux Klan Komics in the New York Post

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…


(click for a closer look)

But Zere also had a regular offering, which was a part of his repertoire,  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:


(click for a closer look)


(click for a closer look)

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)

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15 Responses to “Ku Klux Klan Komics in the New York Post”

  1. DJ David B. Says:

    Whoa! I had no idea. And they say comics ain’t educashional!

  2. Tyler Says:

    Is Rudolph Murdoch a typo or an amalgamation of names spawned by a renewed feeling of disgust for his robber baron activities? Rupert Murdoch + William Randolph Hearst = Rudolph Murdoch.

  3. Craig Yoe Says:

    a dumb type-yoe. fixed, thanks, tyler, youse a funny guy btw.

  4. Tyler Says:

    Thanks! Luv yer site, love yer work!

  5. Jason Grote Says:

    Yeesh. Though I remember reading in a history textbook that during the 1920s, almost every member of congress, nothern and southern, Republican or Democrat, was active in the Klan and used it as a campaign tool.

  6. RC Harvey Says:

    Astonishing find, Craig! The 1920s Klan was very active in the Midwest—Indiana, in particular, but also Ohio. the Columbus Dispatch’s venerable ‘tooner Billy Ireland campaigned against it with great fervor, as I understand.

  7. Chris Duffy Says:

    Great stuff as usual!

    I live a little north of you, Craig, as you know–nearCold Spring New York. And the Klan was a big part of life here. It’s not brought up a lot, but everyone knows it. In one of the local village town halls there’s supposedly a photo of a huge Klan-attended funeral. It’s not hanging on the wall–but many folks have seen it.

    What a world, what a world.

  8. John Platt Says:

    Astounding find! Shocking stuff from our POV 80+ years later.

  9. Craig Yoe Says:

    chris, a local friend who i was discussing this with said “yeah, have you ever seen a black person in cold spring?” then my friend told me about verplank a town just below my studio on the hudson. seems 10 or 15 years ago a black family moved in and their house burned down to ground–right NEXT to the firehouse! on the other hand the cartoonists from the masses, one of the strong voices against this kind of thing in the 1920S, was settling in croton on hudson. what a world, like you say, chris!

  10. Scott Bieser Says:

    Serious students of history are well aware of how the boundaries of respectability change over the years, sometimes quite rapidly. It only takes a little digging to unearth writings and speeches from various pillars of the community praising the work of Benito Mussolini in the 1920s (“he made the trains run on time”), or even the “accomplishments” of the NAZIs during the 1930s, before the invasion of Poland.

  11. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Sept. 4, 2007: It’s Celebrate Spanish Royalty Week! Says:

    [...] [Comic] In what has to be the single weirdest thing he’s ever posted — and that’s saying something — Craig Yoe presents a few samples of the 1920s cartoon exploits of the Ku Klux Klan. (Above: Love problems? Chaperone hovering a little close? Call a group of racist vigilantes! Sequence from one of Al Zere’s inexplicable Our Own Ku Klux Klan strips, ©1921 N.Y. Evening Post, Inc.) [...]

  12. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Sept. 4, 2007: It’s Celebrate Spanish Royalty Week! Says:

    [...] [Comic] In what has to be the single weirdest thing he’s ever posted — and that’s saying something — Craig Yoe presents a few samples of the 1920s cartoon exploits of the Ku Klux Klan. (Above: Love problems? Chaperone hovering a little close? Call a group of racist vigilantes! Sequence from one of Al Zere’s inexplicable Our Own Ku Klux Klan strips, ©1921 N.Y. Evening Post, Inc.) [...]

  13. STWALLSKULL » Interesting Links: September 18, 2007 Says:

    [...] Ku Klux Klan Komics in the New York Post from Arflovers [...]

  14. Richard Woods Says:

    Interesting site you have here. Anything that factually informs and/or educatates is a-ok in my book. Ever seen any post second world war propaganda cartoon strips about a young boy and his german shepherd dog fighting nazis? I used to read it as a young kid but have not seen it since. I came on-line looking for poop on William Randolph Hearst and found a truckload. Keep up the good work.

  15. TenFour Says:

    My grandmother once told me that when she was growing up in Northern NJ (circa 1920s), the Klan was considered in the same breath with a men’s networking clubs like the Rotary, the Lion’s Club, the Elks, etc..

I.T.C.H is looking forward to your thoughts. Please, no flame. Thanks!

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