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Frederick Burr Opper

Frederick Burr Opper (1857-1937) was born in Madison, Ohio.  After a very successful career as a magazine cartoonist, he was hired in 1899 by William Randolph Hearst to draw comic strips for the New York Journal.  Among the many features he created were Happy Hooligan, Alphonse and Gaston, and And Her Name Was Maud.  A prolific cartoonist, Opper often had two or three comic strips in a single color comics section, as  exemplified by the fact that the Happy Hooligan and Alphonse and Gaston shown in this exhibit appeared on the same date and are printed back-to-back.  An informal poll of cartoonists taken in the early 1930s named Frederick Burr Opper the funniest man who ever worked for the American press.


Frederick Burr Opper in 1905


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Willie and His Papa by Frederick Burr Opper, September 27, 1900. San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection [Q 412]   

The presidential campaign of 1900 offered Opper the opportunity to caricature two fellow-Ohioans, Republican Presidential candidate William McKinley and Cleveland industrialist Mark Hanna.  William Murrell described Willie and his Papa in A History of American Graphic Humor as a biting series because of the sustained ridicule heaped upon Willie (McKinley), Teddy (Roosevelt), and Nursie (Mark Hanna).  Poppa [sic] Trusts loomed bigger and more ominous despite his amiability because he was the titular (and to many people the actual) head of this not too harmonious family. 

Happy Hooligan by Frederick Burr Opper, February 28, 1904. Richard D. Olson Collection [AC P12 19] 

Described by Coulton Waugh as Opper's greatest comic character, Happy Hooligan made his debut in 1899.  The little tramp with a tin can hat is an innocent whose efforts to be helpful and do good deeds only get him into trouble.


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Alphonse and Gaston by Frederick Burr Opper, February 28, 1904. Richard D. Olson Collection
[AC P12 19] 

As symbols of inefficient over-politeness, the names Alphonse and Gaston became part of the language.

And Her Name Was Maud by Frederic Burr Opper, August 7, 1904. Richard D. Olson Collection
[AC P12 18]

The mule Maud always gets the last laugh in Opper's vigorous slapstick comic strip which ran initially from 1904 to 1907 and was revived from 1926 to 1932.


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Introduction | Edwina Dumm | Billy Ireland | Winsor McCay | Charles Nelan | Frederick Opper 
| Richard Outcault | Bibliography | Home

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