Newspapers | Chicago Tribune | Seligettes—Old Doc Yak
Chicago Examiner, August 19, 1908
TOP: One of the first strips featuring Buck Nix in a one panel feature, which eventually became a full length strip.
BELOW: This is believed to be the last Buck Nix strip from June 30, 1911.
Old Doc Yak.
Beginning February 5, 1912, Sidney Smith left the Chicago Examiner and joined The Chicago Tribune. He did bring a goat with him, but due to copyright issues, he changed the name to Doc Yak and gave him a family. Following are the first week’s strips, introducing Old Doc Yak.
Chicago Tribune, February 5, 1912
Chicago Tribune, February 6, 1912
Chicago Tribune, February 7, 1912
Chicago Tribune, February 8, 1912
Chicago Tribune, February 9, 1912
Chicago Tribune, February 10, 1912
Chicago Tribune, October 28, 1914
At the Chicago Tribune on October 28, 1914, Smith started a panel, “Light Occupations,” which ran alongside an untitled local sports-oriented feature. Expanding from sports into a variety of recurring strips, it initially appeared in various odd sizes, continuing until Saturday, January 20, 1917.
February 10, 1917 was the last Old Doc Yak cartoon as a daily comic strip, where he apparently sells his house to Andy Gump. The Sunday strip continued till June 22, 1919 which Doc Yak sells his trusty old car to Andy Gump, again emphasizing that the Gumps and Doc Yak existed in the same universe.
Chicago Tribune, February 10, 1917
Chicago Tribune, February 12, 1917
March 25, 1917
Chicago Live Stock World, April 24, 1917
Dubs This King Car Rocky Mountain Goat.
“Sid” Smith, Chicago cartoonist, who made “Doc Yak” a famous speed demon, is having considerable fun sketching his new King car and incorporating it into his weekly cartoons. It seems that there is nothing at all the matter with the car in Sid’s estimation, for hangs this sign on one of his sketches:
- I have named my new King eight the ‘Rocky Mountain Goat.’ It will climb hills on high that even Old Doc Yak’s could not back down. It is so fast that I have to tie its shadow to the rear axle so that it won’t run away from it. It goes so slow on high through congested traffic that the sparrows build nests between the spokes, and it is so quiet running that you can hear a pin drop in the mud.
Chicago Tribune, June 22, 1919
Chicago Tribune, May, 1922
Chicago Tribune, May 1, 1929
Gump Cartoon Fans Grieve at Death of Mary Gold.
Telephone calls expressing grief over the death of Mary Gold, character in The Tribune’s comic strip, “The Gumps,” were still coming in last night. Following Mary’s death as reported in yesterday’s Tribune, telephone operators were kept busy answering hundreds of calls.
Sidney Smith, the cartoonist, was showered with messages. One woman wanted to know where to send the flowers.
Mary’s condition took a turn for the worse on Monday when her fever rose in the night, and she died before Tom Carr, he fiancé, arrived.
The Atlanta Constitution, May 17, 1929
Why did Mary Gold die?
From millions of American lips that query has gone to Sidney Smith, creator of “The Gumps,” and Sidney Smith himself has answered it.
His answer—given in response to a blunt question from The Constitution, which has been swamped by a thousand letters on the subject—is simple. Mary Gold died because “The Gumps” is a definitely human strip, based on true-to-life happenings, running the gamut of emotions from joy to sorry, and as such cannot ignore the important factor of death itself.
Sidney Smith figures this is at times a hard world, often cruel, and that no man depicting the course of events in an American home can hope to change the tenor of its ways.
But, just as “the night is mother of the day,” it must follow that happier times await Andy, and his friends. Sidney Smith hints at big things in store for his characters and their friends—events which will take place naturally and in due course. He urges his readers not to try to read the last chapters first.
And so, with hopes for a brighter future, the myriad readers for the present cannot fail to join Tom Carr and Min and Andy in a sad tribute to the gentle girl whose heart was broken. All are saddened, apparently even the Widow Zanders, who appears in the strip again today and will bear watching. But that is another story and one that may develop as “The Gumps” progress.
Here is Mr. Smith’s letter explaining the death of Mary Gold:
Chicago Tribune, April 18-May 1, 1929
Chicago Tribune, October 21, 1935
Sidney Smith, noted Tribune cartoonist and creator of “The Gumps,” was killed instantly early yesterday morning in an automobile collision near Harvard in McHenry county, just south of the Wisconsin boundary line.
Alone in the small sedan he was driving northward toward his farm at Shirtland, between Rockford and Beloit, Wisc., when his car collided with another sedan driven by Wendell Martin, a resident of Watseka. Martin also was alone. There were no witnesses to the collision, but it was believed that the two cars met almost on the center line of Route 14. Smith’s car was whirled around, hurtled off the road and into a telephone pole. Martin’s car was thrown on its side, but remained on the pavement.
Policeman Finds Smith Dead.
The first man to reach the accident scene, State Highway Policeman Osmir Olson, found the artist was dead, the top of his head crushed in. He heard moaning in Martin’s car, but was unable to extricate the injured man. When help came and Martin was taken to the Harvard hospital it was found that his hip was broken and his jaw was fractured. He was conscious, but it was impossible to get a statement from him.
The crash occurred approximately at 3:45 a.m. Smith left his Chicago residence at 1500 Lake Shore drive about 2 a.m., planning to spend Sunday at his Shirland farm, a 2,200 acre tract he acquired two years ago. He was intending to give some important instructions concerning the conduct of his farm, as he was planning to leave soon on an extended vacation in the south and west.
Expect Martin to Recover.
Martin apparently was on his way to Algonquin, the headquarters of the Milahn Construction company, by which he is employed as a foreman on road construction work. At the Harvard hospital it was said he probably would recover.
Smith’s body was taken to a north side undertaking parlor and from there will be taken to the Lake Shore drive residence. Final funeral arrangements have not been completed, but it is planned to have the services at his home on Wednesday with the interment at Rosehill.
The cartoonist owned three country places. One of them is a home on Lake Geneva. He owned a second home near Genoa City, just across the Wisconsin line, which he called “Forty Acres.” The third is big Shirland farm.
Guests Decline; Escape Crash.
He spent the Saturday half-holiday and part of the evening with firends visiting the former two places. He urged them to spend the night with him at Shirland. When they declined, he drove them back to Chicago.
The occasion for the outing had been a three year extension of Cartoonist Smith’s contract with The Tribune. It was signed by him and by Arthur W. Crawford, representing the Chicago Tribune-New York News syndicate. Others were Blair Walliser, production manager for radio station W-G-N, who had collaborated with Smith for several years in planning “The Gumps,” and A. W. Lowenthal.
The group was in a happy mood. Smith’s contracts have been famous. When on March 15, 1922, he signed the first million dollar contract ever given a comic strip artist—that was for a ten-year period—he was given a Rolls-Royce as “bonus.” In 1930 this contract was extended to 1936, and the contract signed last night extended it for three more years and provided a two year option thereafter.
Planned Trip to Southwest.
Looking ahead to a trip to New Orleans from where he intended to go to Arizona, Smith told his friends he had his comic strip prepared three months in advance, but on his return to Chicago from his country place he went into a final conference with his collaborator, Walliser, at his home. Walliser remained until after midnight.
Smith talked with his wife, Mrs. Kathryn Imogene Smith, for some time. Then, instead of taking one of his larger cars, he took a new light car for a fast trip to Shirland. He was a skilled driver and often preferred to do his own chauffeuring.
The artist was 58 years old. He was born in Bloomington, Ill., on Feb. 13, 1877, the son of Dr. T. H. and Mrs. Frances A. Shafer Smith. His father practiced dentistry and wanted the boy to follow in his footsteps. But “Bob” as he was called then—was christened Robert Sidney Smith—showed a fondness for drawing even at his school days. At the age of 18 he was drawing for the Bloomington Sunday Eye.
How He Rose in His Profession.
Successively he went to the Indianapolis News, the Indianapolis Press, the Pittsburgh Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Press, the Indianapolis Sentinel, and the Toledo News-Bee. By this time his trademark was a drawing of a goat that eventually became known as “Old Doc Yak.”
He was still drawing cartoons of goats when, soon after his arrival in Chicago, he joined the art staff of The Tribune in 1911. Among other series, he drew “The Bunk of a Busy Brain,” “Self-Made Heroes,” and “Light Occupations.”
About 1917, J. M. Patterson, then active in the direction of activities of The Tribune, conceived the idea of a daily strip depicting the everyday life of an American family. He christened the family “The Gumps,” utilizing “gump,” a word which to him referred an odd sort of character, as the head of a “typical” family. He outlined the beginning of the now famous series and for years exercised editorial supervision of the strip, continuing up to the present time to suggest developments in the story of “Andy,” “Min,” and “Bim.”
Worldwide Comic Since 1917.
That strip has appeared daily since 1917 wherever newspapers are published in the English language. “The Gumps” have appeared in newspapers not only throughout the United States and Canada, but in Europe, in Hawaii and in Australia. In keeping up the “daily and Sunday” production over this period of time, Smith built up a staff of his own, artists and idea men, who aided him and now are anxious that the strip be continued even after his own advance supply of drawings is exhausted.
In addition to his widow, Cartoonist Smith is survived by two children by former marriages, Mrs. Gladys Smith Luckow of Lauderdale Lake, Wis., and Robert Sidney Smith Jr., who is now in Arizona, and for whose return to Chicago the funeral plans are being delayed. There are two brothers, Dr. Thomas H. Smith, of Bloomington, Ill., and James T. Smith of Los Angeles, Cal., and three sisters, Mrs. Charlotte Heafner, Buffalo, N.Y.; Mrs. Fan Jo Coolidge, Bloomington, Il., and Mrs. James Zorge, 5013 Sheridan road, Chicago.
The artist was a member of the Chicago Athletic association, the Bob p’Link Country club, the Forty club, the Lake Shore Athletic club, and the Tavern.
Gov. Horner Pays Tribute.
Among the great number of messages of condolences received yesterday by Mrs. Smith was one from Gov. Horner recalling the cartoonist’s personal kindnesses and mourning him as a genius and a friend.
John T. McCutcheon, dean of Tribune cartoonists, attributed Smith’s success to his constant interest in his work. He said:
- He was always thinking about his cartoons, and he made them seem real to followers all over the world. When Andy and Min were in difficulty their troubles excited as much interest as news stories of the day.
Sidney Smith was the fourth famous Tribune personality whose death has come in recent months. Gaar Williams, another noted cartoonist, whose whimsical humor endeared him to thousands of newspaper readers throughout the nation, died last June 15. Two weeks ago, Edward Moore, music critic, who was active in musical circles in Chicago for many years, and Will Barber, The Tribune’s correspondence in Addis, Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, died. Barber was the first foreign correspondent to report impending war events in Africa.
Chicago Tribune, October 21, 1935
Sidney Smith, who in recent years has been one of the highest paid of all American cartoonists, was not always so favored by fortune. He attributed much of his success to his background of “knocking around” at various occupations in his youth.
One of his own stories, possibly apocryphal, related to a school teacher who told him in 1890: You go home, young man. You’re not fit for anything but a cartoonist.
- Not knowing what a cartoonist was, I felt morally insulted. When I got the idea later that I could paint, I started work on a canvas as big as a door. I used house paint. When the picture was done I called ‘Mother and Child’ and persuaded a storekeeper to put it in his window, with a sign on it: ‘For Sale—$500.’ I would have been glad to take $10.
The ladies of Bloomington appointed themselves critics of the work and decided it had no points of merit. To get even with them I put another sign in the picture, ‘Sold.’
I was crazy to draw pictures and see them reproduced in the newspapers. Nut nobody would give me a job and I went out on lecture tour. My equipment was chalk, a blackboard, and nerve. For more than a year I traveled over the country.
My experiences were worth a lot. I had to keep practicing something new every day; I saw life in a thousand aspects and got used to drawing under all conditions. As another cartoonist once told me, ‘You don’t draw cartoons—you write ’em.’
His first regular job, in Indianapolis, was lost in a few weeks. Smith said, because of his whimsical attitude toward it. He said:
- The art manager turned to me down for a job and I went over his head to the managing editor. Pretty soon the managing editor fired the old art manager and gave me the $35 a week job. The first day I made myself a paper crown and printed on it: ‘Who’s boss around here,m anyhow?’
My régime was too much of a reaction from the one before—the art manager that was fired had put up a big and dignified front. So I got fired, too.
It was just by accident that I went into the office of the Pittsburgh Press a little later and asked the managing editor for a job.
‘How in thunder,’ he said, ‘do you know you’re a cartoonist?’
‘How in thunder,’ I replied, ‘do I know you’re a managing editor?’ I got the job.
I was glad to get that job at $25 a week and it turned out well. I began turning out stuff worth while and found my career. If I hadn’t gone in and asked for that job I might have been driving a grocery wagon today instead of drawing the Gumps.
He was sorry, Smith said, when he had to give up drawing his earlier famous comic characters—including Old Doc Yak—to devote all his time to the Gumps.
- But the Gumps had a wider popular appeal. It was so wide that it often created uncomfortable situations. Early I discovered that a strip had to be clean. Many people resented if I make Andy Gump do something they considered not exactly ‘right.’
Even if Andy hid a bottle in the basement during prohibition and took a few sly nips out of it, some of the readers wouldn’t like it. Andy was an everyday philosopher. My idea was to make him and the other Gumps like real people—you could hold up a mirror up to yourself and say: ‘There’s Andy Gump.’ He’s not always right and he gets into trouble frequently by being too cocksure. But you like a friend, don’t you, if you can laugh at his faults now and then?
Muskogee Daily Phoenix, October 17, 1959
The last Appearance of The Gumps.
Life Magazine, July 12, 1937
Pictures to the Editor
ANDY GUMP IN PERSON
Born forty-seven years ago in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, Andy Wheat acquired his unusual physiognomy as the result of an infection following the extraction of a tooth, which eventually necessitated the removal of his entire lower jaw. Through Dr. Thomas Smith of Bloomingdale, Illinois, a dentist and a brother of Sidney Smith, Wheat met the cartoonist, who saw in him an ideal comic character. Wheat subsequently had his surname legally changed to “Gump” to match the cartoon character. His wife’s name is Min, and he has two children, Chester and Goliath, now living in San Francisco, and an Uncle Bim who lives in Georgia. Gump’s home is in Tucson, Arizona, but he also has a farm near his birthplace in Mississippi.—John L. Warner, Watertown, N.Y.
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