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 R. F. Outcault

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R. F. Outcault

  • Original Name Richard Felton
  • Birth 14 Jan 1863 Lancaster, Fairfield County, Ohio, USA
  • Death 25 Sep 1928 Flushing, Queens County, New York, USA
  • Burial Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Plot Col of Memory, Memorial Terrace, Lot 0, Space 19707
  • Memorial ID 10336

Pioneer Cartoonist. Many consider him the father of the modern comic strip. He created the first star character of the genre, "The Yellow Kid", and the popular "Buster Brown". In the late 1890s Outcault's cartoons were innovative in their use of sequential narrative, panel divisions, and speech balloons. He did not invent these devices, but was probably the most influential in establishing them as basic elements of the comic strip format. Richard Felton Outcault was born in Lancaster, Ohio, and studied at McMicken University's School of Design in Cincinatti from 1878 to 1881. His scientific drawings for the Ohio Valley Centennial Exposition (1888) brought him to the attention of Thomas Edison, who hired him as the official artist for his traveling exhibit of electric light displays. In this capacity he represented Edison in Paris at the 1889 World's Fair. Settling in New York City in 1890, Outcault worked as an illustrator for "Electrical World" magazine while also contributing to humor journals such as "Judge" and "Truth". For the latter he created a series of single-panel cartoons called "Down in Hogan's Alley" (1894) to spoof current events, set in a squalid city slum and peopled with assorted ragamuffins. Outcault brought this property with him when he joined the staff of Joseph Pulitzer's New York World later that year. Most historians agree that the debut of "Hogan's Alley" in The World's Sunday supplement on May 5, 1895 marked the first appearance of a regular newspaper comic strip, as well as the first to be printed in full color. One character from its ragged cast caught the popular imagination - a bald, jug-eared little boy with a buck-toothed grin, whose cocky comments appeared on his yellow nightshirt as if on a placard. The Yellow Kid, as he came to be known, proved that comics could sell papers and spawned a cottage industry of Kid-related merchandise in the northeastern United States. Further notoriety came in the form of a bitter circulation war between The World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal. Hearst lured Outcault to his paper with an enormous salary offer; Pulitzer retaliated by hiring another artist to draw "Hogan's Alley" for The World. Outcault renamed his strip "McFadden's Row of Flats" but The Kid remained its star attraction. With the character appearing in two rival papers it became a symbol of sensationalism and unscrupulous practices in the news business. Critics began referring to this as "Yellow Kid Journalism", subsequently shortened to "yellow journalism". For all the commotion, The Kid's currency was brief and by 1898 he had disappeared from both papers, with Outcault taking the position of comics editor for The Journal. In 1900 he left Hearst for the New York Herald and pioneered again with "Pore Lil Mose" (1900 to 1902), the first regular strip to star an African-American character. It was not very popular and he then decided to create a more conventional series to make money: "Buster Brown", which debuted in The Herald in May 1902. Gone was the low-life grunginess of Outcault's earlier work. Buster, a mischievous but good-natured boy in an outlandish Fauntleroy outfit, was a child of affluence and the settings were plush, the humor more genteel. His bulldog Tige - believed to be the first talking pet in American comics - was there to provide wry and often disapproving commentary. Unlike The Yellow Kid, Buster was always punished for his misdeeds and each story ended with a "Resolved" panel in which he swore he had learned a lesson. Those who felt newspaper cartoons were somehow immoral found this edifying, even though it was obvious that Buster would never keep his promises to behave. "Buster Brown" was an immediate hit in New York and became a national sensation thanks to Outcault's shrewd marketing skills. He set up a booth at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition to sell merchandising rights for the strip, and before long images of Buster and Tige were appearing on everything from toys to whiskey. (A line of Buster Brown children's footware is still sold today). It also spawned a brief spin-off strip, "Buddy Tucker" (1905). In a replay of the "Yellow Kid" episode, Outcault again defected to Hearst in 1906 and The Herald commissioned a competing version of "Buster Brown" for its pages. Outcault retired a wealthy man in 1921 and devoted his last years to painting. His widow kept his ashes until her death in Los Angeles in 1945, after which they were interred together at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 4 Jul 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 10336
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for R. F. Outcault (14 Jan 1863–25 Sep 1928), Find A Grave Memorial no. 10336, citing Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .