Guide to San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection
Newspaper Comic Strips
collection summary biography of the collector scope and content organization arrangement detailed description

Guide to the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection:
San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection: Newspaper Comic Strips

Table of Contents

Collection Summary
Biography of the Collector
Scope and Contents
Adminstrative Information
Detailed Description/Box and Folder Listing
Series I: Comic Features, 1894-1996
Series II: Comic Sections, 1894-1929
Series III: Individual Artists 1896-1919

Artist Index: combined lists of continuous comic features and one-shots

Collection Summary

Repository:   The Ohio State University. Cartoon Library and Museum.
Creator:   San Francisco Academy of Comic Art. Bill Blackbeard, Director
Title:   San Francisco Academy of Comic Art collection : Newspaper Comic Strips
Dates:   1893-1996
Extent:   275 boxes (716 linear feet).
Abstract:   This group of records comprises one part of the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection at the Cartoon Library and Museum. Other materials in the collection include monographs and serials, which may be searched by title, author, or keyword in the Ohio State University's library catalog.library catalog

Biography of the Collector

The San Francisco Academy of Comic Art (SFACA) Collection is the life work of author and collector Bill Blackbeard, whose goal was to establish a complete collection of cartoon art from American newspapers, beginning with the earliest examples. In addition, the SFACA collection grew to include popular periodicals, popular fiction, popular film, narrative art reference works, comic books and graphic novels, dime novels and story papers, Victorian cartoon-illustrated fiction, science fiction fanzines, British boys' papers and "penny dreadfuls," and the works of significant fiction writers, all of these reflecting Blackbeard's desire to amass a comprehensive collection of popular narrative. As this finding aid describes only the newspaper comics part of the SFACA collection, the following biography concentrates exclusively on Blackbeard's efforts in this area.

Bill Blackbeard was born in Lawrence, Indiana, on April 28, 1926, and grew up in Newport Beach, California. He began reading newspaper comic strips during the 1930s, an era that featured such accomplished artists as Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, George Herriman, E. C. Segar, Cliff Sterrett, Chester Gould, and many others. He attended high school in Newport Beach and went to Fullerton College on the GI Bill. His military service was in the 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squad, 9th Army, in France, Belgium and Germany, during World War II. During high school and college, his main interests were in history and literature, particularly English and American literature. After college, Blackbeard began working as a freelance writer, publishing stories in serials such as Weird Tales. He has written, edited, or contributed work to more than 200 books, primarily on the subject of cartoon history and criticism.

During the 1960s, Blackbeard began to be interested in writing a history of the comic strip. He found, however, that there was no research center collecting complete runs of comic strips from American newspapers. Concurrently, he discovered that many public and university libraries were discarding older, bound newspapers after microfilming them. In order to acquire these materials, he established the SFACA as a non-profit organization in 1968. He began collecting newspapers from California libraries, then expanded his scope to institutions nationwide, including the Library of Congress.

For the next 30 years, Blackbeard continued to acquire newspapers, along with the other materials mentioned above. In 1997, he sold the SFACA collection to the Cartoon Library and Museum at the Ohio State University, ensuring that the collection would be kept intact and remain available for research. The collection, 75 tons of material in all, was carried from California to Ohio in six moving vans. Blackbeard moved the SFACA to Santa Cruz, as a publicly accessible reference center. He continues to edit and publish comic strip collections, and to collect representations of popular narrative art.

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Scope and Contents

The Newspaper Comics section of the SFACA Collection consists of 2.5 million clippings, tearsheets, and comic sections from American newspapers, dating from 1894 to 1996. Materials in the collection include clipped comic strips, single comic pages, complete Sunday comic sections, and entire newspapers. The focus of the first two years of work on this collection, supported by grants from the Getty Foundation, the Scripps Howard Foundation, and the Charles D. Farber Memorial Foundation, has been to establish a chronological run of each comic feature, either by amassing a group of clippings, or by identifying each feature's location in the collection of Sunday comic sections.

The distinction between comic clippings and comic sections is significant. The collector's original intent was to establish a complete run, from beginning to end, of every comic feature to have appeared in an American newspaper. In most cases, this meant clipping examples of each feature from various newspapers, for two reasons. First, no single newspaper could have run every comic feature. Second, any given newspaper might print a feature for a certain length of time, and then drop it, either temporarily or permanently. Newspaper strikes and mail strikes could also interfere with the continuous run of a feature in a given publication.

However, some features were never clipped from the original comic sections in which they appeared. The collector recognized that many of the early comic sections, dating from the 1890s to the 1920s, were extremely rare, and should be kept intact. In addition to the comic art they contain, many feature elaborate headers, marginal illustrations, and illustrated advertisements, all forming part of the overall design of the publication. The archivist's division of the two formats into separate series is described below, under "Arrangement."

The goal of the SFACA project has been to present complete listings of comic strip holdings to interested researchers. To achieve an integrated presentation, a tabular format was designed, in the form of spreadsheets, each representing one year and containing a month-and-date grid, created in Excel and presented on the Web in PDF. Researchers can use the spreadsheets to ascertain whether the Cartoon Library and Museum has holdings of a comic feature for particular dates. Each cell value is a letter-and-number combination, which represent the item's physical location in the library, and is used by staff to retrieve materials.

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The collection is organized into three series. Series I, Comic Features, includes the comic features clipped from newspapers by the collector. Series II, Comic Sections, includes the entire Sunday comic sections kept intact by the collector. Series III, Individual Artists, includes boxes and files of tearsheets and clippings assembled by the collector, focusing on particular artists. The records in Series I will be most useful to researchers focusing on a particular comic feature. Those in Series II will be of use primarily to those who want to study a chronological run of Sunday sections from a particular newspaper or syndicate. Series III will be useful to those researching a particular artist; frequently there is early work that is difficult to find elsewhere.

The materials in each series are arranged alphabetically, then chronologically, beginning with the earliest edition. In Series I, comic features are grouped alphabetically by feature title. Alternate titles are listed in addition to a uniform title. "Alternate title," as defined here, includes earlier, later, and concurrent variant titles. This single encompassing term has been used in order to maintain simplicity in the finding aid. For more complete explanations of title changes, the researcher should consult The Stripper's Guide, a database available by subscription on CD-ROM, which tracks the histories of comic strips in great detail, and which was of enormous help to the Cartoon Library and Museum staff in the processing of this collection.

The comic sections in Series II are arranged alphabetically by the titles of the newspapers in which they appeared. Many of the comic sections have been indexed for one-shots and other non-continuous cartoon material, and the results are included in these records. Continuing comic strips that appear in these sections are tracked in the PDFs; to see records for them, look under the comic strip titles in Series I and click on the links labeled "View detailed listing of holdings."

The artist files in Series III are arranged alphabetically by artist name. They are kept in the collector's original order, which is usually chronological. General notes about the contents of the files are included.

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Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access: Some materials in the collection are not immediately accessible, because they require further processing before use.

User Restrictions: Reproduction of materials in the collection is subject to the restrictions of copyright law. For any materials not yet in the public domain, the researcher must obtain permission from the copyright holder.

Acquistions Information: The collection was purchased from Bill Blackbeard, director of the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art, in 1997.

Processing Information: Materials were processed by Rebecca Baldwin, Ryan Clouston, Dorothy Garwood, Akhila Gautam, Jennifer Gerbino, Jimena Guevara, Kate Gresham, Ted Han, Craig Holet, Gita Indiyani, Sven Kahns, Mark Lavernuick, Travis Leonard, Susan Liberator, Amy McCrory, Laura Maddox, Sachi Miyazawa, Arki Prizananda, Sang Hoon Cha, Deirdre Scaggs, and Beth Wong.

Prefered Citation: San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Cartoon Library and Museum.

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Detailed Description/Box and Folder Listing

Series I: Comic Features, 1894-1996

This is an alphabetical listing of comic features held in the collection. Each record includes the feature's uniform title and alternate titles; creator names; a representative image of the work; and links to PDF's displaying detailed holdings information. The SFC, SFT, and SFS numbers indicate the location of the comic strips in the archive, and are used by staff for retrieving the materials.

Much of the collection consists of clipped comic strips housed in boxes. However, for many features, it is likely that only some examples were clipped, while others are to be found in the complete Sunday comic sections which the collector left intact. All holdings information is displayed in the PDFs accessible through the "View Detailed Listing of Holdings" links. Clippings are designated by location numbers beginning with SFC; comics in Sunday sections are designated with SFS. SFT indicates the comic is found on a tearsheet, which may or may not contain additional comic features.

Note that the inclusive dates presented in the following list of comic features do not necessarily mean that CGA has complete holdings for the span of dates listed. For example, "1915-1930" may mean that the library has only 1915, 1918-1924, and 1929-1930. Always click the "View Detailed Listing of Holdings" links to be sure. The collection is still being processed, so holdings information displayed here will increase over time.

Click on the links below to view records for comic features, by title.

Comic titles beginning with the letter:  

A    B    C    D    E    F    G    H    I    J    K    L    M    N    O    P    Q    R    S    T    U    V    W    X    Y    Z   

Note: You will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader, version 4.0 or higher, to view the detailed listing of holdings.

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Series II: Comic Sections, 1894-1929

This is a listing of Sunday comic sections held in the collection. The list is alphabetical by newspaper title. This listing will be of interest primarily to researchers wishing to study a chronological run of a particular newspaper's Sunday comic sections. If you are interested in locating a particular comic strip, refer to the title of the comic strip in Series I, and click the links for "View Detailed Listing of Holdings."

Some early comic sections included illustrated features, panel cartoons, and spot illustrations. Though they do not fit the definition of comic strips, they are briefly described in these records, because many were drawn by significant artists who went on to create regular comic features.

Click on the links below to see records for newspaper comic sections, by publication title.

Augusta Chronicle
Boston Evening News and Boston Sunday Journal
Canton (Ohio) Repository
Chicago American
The Chicago Record-Herald
Chicago Times-Herald
Chicago Tribune
Cincinnati Commercial Tribune
Cincinnati Enquirer
Denver Post
Detroit Free Press
Hearst Sunday Examiner Magazine
Hearst Sunday Sections
Indianapolis Star
Los Angeles Examiner
Los Angeles Times
Louisville Courier Journal
Nashville Banner
New York American
New York American and Journal
New York Journal
New York Herald
New York World
Newark Advertiser
Oakland Tribune
Omaha Illustrated Bee
Philadelphia Press
San Francisco Bulletin
San Francisco Call
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Examiner
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
St. Louis Globe-Democrat
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Republic
Tribune (city unknown)
Washington Star

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Series III: Individual Artists1896-1919

These are records for boxes containing materials related to particular artists. Most consist of tearsheet and clipping files featuring work by a selected artist, usually work from early in the artist's career.

Click on the links below to see records for individual artist files.

Homer Davenport
Thomas Aloysius Dorgan (TAD)
George Herriman
John T. McCutcheon
Frederick Burr Opper
E. C. Segar

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