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Bringing Up Father 1913-14 Annotations
by Allan Holtz
These annotations are not meant to be dry history lessons, but rather present a hopefully fun and interesting snapshot of the times. I confess that my research on the topics in these annotations seldom went to any greater depth than Google searches, Wikipedia articles and, in a pinch, an occasional look-see in the Encyclopedia Britannica. What a wonderful world we live in today that such research is no longer a slog through endless cross-references at a library. Not that I have anything against libraries, mind you, but the blessings of the web and Wiki in particular are a boon to this admittedly slothful researcher. If I fail to cover a topic which has you confused I encourage you to use these convenient resources to do your own armchair research.
In addition to annotations about outdated terms and concepts, these notes also point out important firsts in the world of Bringing Up Father and occasional explanations about the way cartoonists worked in those long bygone days.
I applaud NBM and editor Jeffrey Lindenblatt for having the vision to commission this annotation section, a feature which to my knowledge has never before been included in a comic strip reprint book. If you find the annotations valuable, or at least interesting, let the publisher know. I, for one, would like to see sections such as this become the norm in comic strip reprint books. These wonderful comic strips deserve to be brought back to life for today's reader and you shouldn't have to be a centenarian or a historian to fully enjoy reading them.
Note: The annotations only cover a subject once. For instance, though those steel buckets are an often seen prop in Bringing Up Father, the annotation that explains them is only referenced once, on the first strip in which they appear.
#1 (1/2/13): When Bringing Up Father began there was no explanation of Jiggs' wealth, no back story at all on how this uncouth character came to be rich, nor was there any “origin strip”, to borrow a comic book term. McManus just jumped right in and expected his readers to keep up.
In this first strip, son Ethelbert appeared but he surfaced rarely in years to come. In fact he was so rarely seen that this may be the only time his given name was spoken -- afterward he was referred to simply as Sonny. Mary, of course, became Maggie with the second strip.
Obviously in these first early strips Mr. and Mrs. Jiggs looked very different from the family we came to know and love. The evolution of the stars' appearances came quickly over the first few dozen strips and Jiggs and Maggie were to become recognizable very soon.
Lovely daughter Nora, on the other hand, would remain the same vapid, haughty beauty in the C.D. Gibson mold throughout McManus' tenure on the strip. Her name, however, was flexible in the early days she was referred to as both Katy and Mamie in the first two years of the strip.
#2 (1/6/13) : Like most newspaper comic strip artists of the day, George McManus did not limit himself to the daily production of a new Bringing Up Father episode. In between episodes featuring Maggie and Jiggs, he produced a number of other strips, including Outside the Asylum, All Members of this Club, Little Willie Gettit and others. Bringing Up Father did not appear on a six-day a week basis for several years to come. The reader may safely assume when there are dates missing that McManus was either producing a different strip on the intervening days or took the day off, a luxury that newspaper cartoonists would lose later in the 1910s as the production of comic strips gradually became more regimented.
#3 (1/16/13): Jiggs' declaration that he "struck it rich" is the closest we'll get to an explanation of his wealth in the span of strips reprinted in this book. Never will that explanation be fully fleshed out at any time in the future of the strip. Some say Jiggs created a wondrous invention that put him on easy street (see the strip of January 13 1913 for an inkling of that possibility), others say that his riches were the result of some political graft scheme perpetuated with his cronies (his offer of a job to Pete Doogan in this strip seems to imply that possibility). There was also a rumor that Jiggs won the Irish Sweepstakes, a patent impossibility since the famous international lottery didn't exist until 1930.
McManus offered a delightfully colorful explanation in a 1926 interview. "[Jiggs] was born in Ireland and came to this country, expecting to find the streets paved with gold. But they were paved with bricks and cobblestones instead. So he became a hod-carrier. Romance came into his life when he met Maggie slinging dishes in a beanery, and they were married. He threw away the hod and began to sell bricks on commission. Then he went into the brick making business and manufactured a brick especially designed for throwing purposes. It was much harder than the ordinary building brick and sold year around."
Presumably George Herriman's Ignatz Mouse was a steady customer! Unfortunately, though this explanation comes straight from McManus himself we can't rely on it because he gave an entirely different explanation in another interview, one in which Jiggs was the beneficiary of the largesse of a rich construction boss. The boss took a liking to hod-carrier Jiggs and pledged to give him a dime for every $1000 the boss took in. Since Jiggs is portrayed as staggeringly rich, one can only imagine the magnitude of the boss' fortune. Shades of Scrooge McDuck!
#4 (1/23/13): The still unnamed Mr. Jiggs gets a makeover in this strip. Except for his hairstyle, which would be changed shortly, we now have Jiggs as we would know him in years to come. Only a few minor refinements, barely perceptible unless compared side to side, would later be made.
This is also the first strip in which pup-pah declares his undying love for that traditional Irish peasant feast, corned beef and cabbage. McManus, too loved the dish. But according to Herb Galewitz in a 1973 Bringing Up Father reprint book, “at every public occasion and many private ones, well-meaning hosts were sure to serve heaping platters of the savory stuff. Under the deluge his tastebuds soured and he had the temerity to turn down New York Mayor LaGuardia’s offering with the lame excuse that he was going on a diet.” Such is the price of fame.
#5 (1/31/13): The modern reader may be perplexed by the occasional appearance, or mention of, a suds-filled bucket in Bringing Up Father. In the old days a poor working man didn't buy a six-pack of beer at the corner bodega. He'd stop in at the neighborhood bar toting his steel bucket, preferably a clean one set aside for the purpose, and have it filled up with beer on tap. Beer in bottles was available, but a bucket full of brew toted home from the corner bar was a cheaper alternative. Jiggs, unwilling to change his habits just because he'd become fabulously wealthy, continued to relish the traditional bucket of beer.
#6 (2/4/13): Lacking the long history and regal traditions of our forefathers across the Atlantic, many wealthy Americans have pined to be a part of the exotic world of European nobility, to have some concrete sense of being a breed apart from the common rabble. In America's Gilded Age it came to be the height of fashion for the daughters of rich families to seek out a mate with a noble-sounding European title. Of course the pickings were exceedingly slim and real European royals seldom wed American girls. However, there were plenty of European men, often down on their luck, who would make claim to some ancient and questionable European lineage that allowed them to use a title. With a little fibbing and chutzpah, they could come to America and be wined and dined by dazzled American rich folks, and if their luck held out, get married into one of these families -- their ticket to a life of ease.
Readers in the 1910s would have instantly recognized the references to daughter Nora and her nobly-named beaux. It was a common subject for comedy that was used often in the early years of the strip.
#7 (2/14/13): The American temperance movement was active throughout the 19th century, and was gaining steady ground in the 1910s. Though the campaign was constantly ridiculed by humorists, including cartoonists, there was a solid enough foundation of support that the 18th amendment to the Constitution, which banned the sale of alcohol, was passed in 1918. Of course the prohibition of alcohol backfired in the grandest possible way as Americans drank more than ever in the 1920s and stimulated an era of gangsterism and lawlessness never envisioned by the teetotalers. The amendment was repealed in 1933, still the only amendment to the Constitution to be repealed in its entirety.
#8 (2/17/13): For those not familiar with it, "wop" is a derogatory term for Italians. George McManus rarely used such racial slurs in his comic strips, whereas some cartooonists of the day practically made a career of exploiting hurtful stereotypes. In fairness to McManus, it seems pretty obvious that he is putting the term in Jiggs' mouth to signal that he is uncouth. Despite Jiggs' steadfast refusal to be “brought up” by Maggie, she must have made some impression on him because this sort of language, always pretty rare in the strip, was dropped entirely by the 1920s.
#9 (2/20/13): Some top hats were manufactured with the rather impressive feature of collapsibility. In this strip Mr. Schmidt demonstrates that a light pressure on the top board of the hat collapses the whole thing into a flat disc. To bring the hat back to wearable condition the gentleman just gives a firm tap on the brim and, much like an automatic umbrella, the top hat springs back to its normal form. The innovation is credited to Antoine Gibus, who invented the collapsible in 1823 in order to combat the problem of lack of space in cloakrooms. As Jiggs finds out to his dismay, not all top hats were endowed with this delightful option.
This is also the last we'll see of “fat Maggie”. Over the next couple of strips McManus will put her on a crash diet, slimming her down and putting curves in all the right places. All that will remain to remind the reader that Maggie isn't a sex symbol is that horrific hatchet face and, later on, giant gunboat feet. Although McManus is not known to have commented on this makeover, it is known that he loved to draw sexy women. As Bringing Up Father was gaining in popularity perhaps McManus decided that he didn't want to be forced to draw a fat, dumpy dowager for what might well be years to come. Thus Maggie was favored with the body of a Venus, the envy of any woman and object of lust for any man if not for that homely map and sour disposition.
#10 (3/1/13): Two months into the strip McManus finally gets around to providing his dysfunctional family with a name. Many casual readers would be confused in later years. Is Jiggs the family name, or is it father's given name? The indisputable answer is that Jiggs is the family name, and never will we learn father's first name. Another example of McManus playing his cards close to the chest with the details of his creation.
#11 (3/4/13): The modern reader may find it curious that Jiggs is being told to put on his collar. At one time the typical dress shirt was composed of up to three separate parts. The basic shirt might be little more than a chemise. The addition of a collar, cuffs, and dickey (also known as a “shirt bosom”) to the basic shirt could turn it into the a fashion standard. Only the parts of the shirt that were likely to show when wearing a suit were deemed important enough to be clean and crisp.
#12 (3/5/13): Despite having awarded his family a surname a mere four days ago, it seems to have already slipped McManus' mind. McManus would continue to occasionally err on the family name three more times in this book’s strips the name “Giggs” will be invoked.
#13 (3/17/13): Although Mr. Jiggs was more famously a cigar smoker, in the early days of the strip father preferred the more traditional Irish pipe for indulging his tobacco habit. The standard caricature of an Irishman is incomplete if he isn't puffing on one of these long slender clay pipes. The pipes were cheap enough to be considered a disposable item even by the poor, fragile enough that even a careful smoker needed a replacement frequently. The lowest quality clay pipes were often given away free by tobacconists with merely the purchase of a bowl's-worth of tobacco.
When excavations are made in the old Irish neighborhoods of New York City clay pipes are unearthed by the thousands.
#14 (3/29/13): The “free lunch” was an American institution by 1913. A long-standing marketing gimmick for bars was to offer an all-you-can-eat buffet to any patron who ordered at least one drink. The economics of the offer may seem tilted in favor of the customer, but it actually worked out well for the bars. Workmen who would otherwise opt to buy lunch at a company canteen were attracted by the offer to stop at the bar for lunch. Only a few would buy enough booze to offset the cost of the free lunch, but many more would return to the same bar after work to do their evening drinking and socializing, spending enough then to more than offset the free lunch.
Reformers and prohibitionists would be loathe to admit it, but the free lunch was sometimes the only reliable social safety net for the desperately poor. As memorably chronicled in Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle, men who were out of work with a family to feed would come to the free lunch to steal enough food for a family meal. Bartenders were known to look the other way when an obviously destitute person entered the bar and sidled furtively up to the buffet.
In the hard winter of 1894, with the economy in one of its periodic slumps, some bars in Chicago actually did away with the one drink rule. They were credited with saving thousands from starvation.
#15 (4/3/13): The Saratoga that Maggie is referring to is Saratoga Springs, New York. The town was (and is) home to a famous spa and horseracing course. It was a favorite vacation destination for the New York elite during the 19th century.
#16 (4/10/13): “Growler” was a slang term for the bucket in which beer was transported home from a bar (see note 5). The origin of the term seems to be based on the lidded variety of these pails. As the beer purchaser walked home and the beer sloshed around in the pail, carbon dioxide would build up and escape at the lid. Supposedly this made a growling sound and thus the pail got its name.
#17 (4/29/13): In the final panel we find the first example of the so-called “living pictures” in Bringing Up Father. At first McManus used these cute little background gags sparingly, but by the ‘30s and ‘40s readers were treated to the regular appearance of ingenious living picture gags in the panel backgrounds. Some writers have given McManus assistant Zeke Zekely credit for the invention of the living picture gags, but he didn’t come on board until the 1930s. Although Zekely didn't come up with the concept, it must be conceded that the picture gags did have their heyday during his tenure.
#18 (6/2/13): Nowadays rarely seen outside the Tournament of Roses Parade and movie mob funerals, figural flower arrangements were once quite fashionable and were made in many different forms suitable for all sorts of occasions.
#19 (6/11/13): This strip provides an opportune time to mention that the women's clothing in Bringing Up Father, at least when it wasn't the butt of a joke as in this strip, represented the height of fashion for the high society lady of the day. The gowns worn by Maggie and the other women were as current as the latest Paris fashions. McManus did, however, poke fun at Maggie by having her wear her fabulous evening gowns throughout the day, a fashion no-no. He also sometimes decorated her gowns with hideous bold prints. Her inappropriate choices in clothes were a symbol that women readers recognized instantly. No matter how much money Maggie can afford to spend on the finest clothes, she shows her ignorance and naiveté about fashion to an amused society that will never accept her.
Wait until autumn comes around and the ladies start sporting their gigantic fur muffs. Believe it or not, these ridiculous looking accessories were not exaggerated. They really were that huge.
#20 (6/16/13): This is the first time we get an overt indication that Maggie is prone to committing violence against poor hapless Jiggs. In later years he regularly dodged rolling pins and barrages of china, but here Maggie starts out daintily with a mere broom. Jiggs would only be so lucky if she'd stick to such innocuous weaponry.
#21: (6/24/13): As we read through these early strips it becomes obvious that the Mr. Jiggs of 1913-14 had a full-blown drinking problem. No social drinker he, his escapades in these days were purely for the single-minded pursuit of alcohol. Later on McManus refined his gags so that Jiggs was less of a sot. His antics to get out of the house were borne from the desire to hang out with his buddies. Beer was merely a pleasant part of a hard-won night out with the boys. Not in these strips, though. Jiggs is just desperate for a drink.
#22 (6/26/13): As mentioned before, McManus was no slave to continuity. The Jiggs family usually seemed to live in a house, but on occasion they relocated to an apartment building for the purposes of a gag.
#23 (8/4/13): Here's another case of McManus disregarding continuity for the sake of a joke. Sometimes Jiggs and Maggie were illiterate, other times they weren't. Or maybe father gets the newspaper just to look at the comics!
#24 (8/5/13): The fainting woman was not melodrama at this time in history. Most women wore tightly cinched corsets to produce the hourglass figure so beloved by the menfolk. It wasn't terribly unusual for women to go overboard on the cinching, interfering with breathing and circulation to the point that they'd have fainting spells. In fact, ridiculously tight corsets were blamed for even worse maladies, including curvature of the spine, broken ribs, and miscarriages.
The corset went out of fashion in the 1920’s, finally giving women a literal breather. It was soon replaced by the girdle, which, though less injurious, was still uncomfortable.
#25 (8/8/13): The instrument that Jiggs fills with beer is a round-backed mandolin. Mandolins became well-known in the U.S. starting in the 1880’s when Italian immigrants arrived on these shores with the instruments and formed popular bands. The home music fad of the 1900’s-1920’s served to make the mandolin even more popular. It was a relatively inexpensive instrument to purchase and could be strummed to good effect with little or no instruction. However, Nora's beau is actually plucking the instrument, so he may have actually taken lessons.
#26 (8/13/13): On this date George McManus seems to have decided that Bringing Up Father was indeed going to be a long-term meal ticket. The final episodes of his other daily series had run by this date and for the next month and a half he would produce only Bringing Up Father episodes in his space in the weekday New York American. After giving the single daily strip his undivided attention for that period, McManus seems to have had a slight attack of cold feet. On September 25 he started platooning Bringing Up Father with a new daily title, Little Willie Gettit. This was a tedious one-note strip about a little boy who fleeces his parents for dimes when he catches them in compromising situations. It ran in tandem with the adventures of Jiggs, appearing more and more rarely, until January 17 1914. After that Bringing Up Father was McManus’ only daily strip.
The Sunday color strip was another matter. When McManus switched papers from Pulitzer’s New York World to Hearst’s New York American in 1912 he started the Sunday feature Their Only Child. It was a clone of his popular World feature The Newlyweds and Their Baby. That strip ran until February 1916 and was replaced by The Whole Blooming Family, a mediocre strip that was dropped after just eight months. Rosie's Beau followed and ran until March 1918. Finally on April 4 1918 the Sunday color version of Bringing Up Father debuted. It took over five years, but finally McManus admitted what newspaper readers had known for years -- Bringing Up Father was a hit.
#27 (8/15/13): McManus was right on top of a fashion trend here. After decades of Victorian fashion where barely a square inch of skin below the neck was displayed in public, fashion became slightly racy in 1913-14. A tiny slit was added to the bottom hem of dresses allowing gentlemen to occasionally catch a fleeting glimpse of ankle, or heaven forbid, even a bit of calf. After so many years denied any part of the female anatomy below the head, men became avid oglers, constantly scanning for the momentary appearance of the ankle. Beggars can't be choosers, though, and the “well-turned ankle” became an erogenous zone commemorated in song, story and comic strip gags.
#28 (9/13/13): The “turkey trot” and “bunny hug” dances were created to accompany the ragtime music of the day. The famed dance team of Vernon and Irene Castle claimed to have created both dances, but they have their detractors. Ragtime dances, and the “turkey trot” in particular, owe some of their popularity to their denunciation by the Vatican. The Catholic church said that the “turkey trot” in particular was blatantly suggestive and immoral. Of course that only prompted more kids to learn it.
A 1913 song, The Anti-Ragtime Girl, illustrates the backlash against ragtime dances:
She don’t do the Bunny Hug, nor dance the Grizzly Bear,
#29 (9/16/13): Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), the "Divine Sarah", was the most famous actress of the 19th and early 20th centuries. She began her stage career in 1862 in France, while supplementing her income as a courtesan (or, to be less delicate, a high-class prostitute). Her fame grew quickly and soon she was in demand all over Europe and in America (for her acting talents, that is). Her fame was enhanced by a well-publicized private life that included famous lovers, rumors of bisexuality, and odd quirks such as a preference for sleeping in coffins.
By the time of this strip, Bernhardt was about to celebrate her 70th birthday but she was still going strong. Her current play was Jeanne Doré.
#30 (10/2/13): In a clear case of annotation overkill, I volunteer that the quotes are from Romeo and Juliet, act 2, scene 2 and Richard III act 5 scene 4.
#31 (10/4/13): McManus goofed ever so slightly on this strip. The New York Giants played their last game of the season on October 3rd, one day before this strip was printed in the New York American.
The Giants had a terrific season in 1913, leaving the competition in the dust. The second place Phillies weren't even a factor, left 12 1/2 games back by the end of the season. Catcher Jack "Chief" Meyers batted .312 for the year, while pitching icon Christy Matthewson, nearing the end of his career, managed a sub-par (for him) 25-11 record and 2.06 ERA. Second baseman "Laughing" Larry Doyle had an off year, turning in a .280 batting average.
In a stunning upset, the Giants lost the World Series 4-1 to the Philadelphia Athletics. The Giants only managed a .200 team batting average in the series, coming up dry against the A's terrific pitching rotation.
#32 (10/31/13): And so begins a long-standing tradition in Bringing Up Father. In years to come the Jiggs family's vacations would become a favorite with readers. This first vacation will be a humdinger, taking the family on an eight month long European tour, visiting eight countries, not returning to New York until the end of June 1914. While most of the strips in the coming months will be about the trip, occasionally McManus will inexplicable place the family back home. He was still not one to let continuity get in the way of a good gag.
Until World War I took some of the romance away from European trips, no one aspiring to a place in high society was taken seriously until they'd made the traditional grand tour of Europe. Americans had a profound sense of inadequacy, and the European tour was expected to confer on the traveler a needed grounding in history, aesthetics and manners that was presumed impossible to obtain in the U.S. More down to earth folks, like George McManus and Mark Twain (whose initial fame came from his grand tour narrative, The Innocents Abroad), considered the tour a rich source for humor.
Some papers that ran Bringing Up Father chronicled the vacation by titling the strip "Bringing Up Father in ...", citing the country they were currently visiting. Many others did not, sometimes making the strips a little hard for the casual reader to fathom. Though often obvious, subsequent notes will alert you as the Jiggs family moves from country to country.
#33 (11/8/13): The Jiggs family invades France, the first country on their grand tour of Europe. Jiggs is apparently already confused about his port of call. The racial slur "dago" refers to Italians, not the French.
#34 (11/10/13): The first appearance of Jiggs' favorite pal, Dinty Moore. Poor Dinty will undergo a serious identity crisis for the next several years as his appearance changes practically every time he appears. He won't even be aware that he's the proprietor of Jiggs' favorite bar for a long time.
By the way, the canned beef stew that bears Dinty Moore's name was introduced in 1935 by Hormel Foods. No word from Hormel on why they failed to produce a canned version of Jiggs' favorite dish, corned beef and cabbage.
#35 (11/18/13): Ah, oui! Those naughty Frenchmen were famed far and wide for that singular innovation, the "French postcard". No, not the ones featuring views of the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe. The postcards that fascinate Jiggs are of a pornographic nature. Ranging from the mildly titillating to the fully X-rated, French postcards were in circulation all over the world. Typically sold from under the counter at tobacconists and newsstands only to those who knew how to ask with a sly nudge or a wink, the racy photos were rare secret treasures for men long before there were Playboys to hide under the mattress.
#36 (12/16/13): The Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution. Though later universally recognized for its beauty, in the 1890s many Parisians complained that it was an eyesore. There were serious plans to demolish it in 1909. However, the structure was by then used as an important radio tower, and its new function saved it from destruction.
#37 (12/23/13): Though the original plan was to go to England next, the Jiggs family make Switzerland the second stop on their grand tour. Jiggs' guide is either kidding around or misinformed -- the highest peak in Switzerland, at a mere 15,203 feet, is the Dufourspitze.
#38 (12/26/13): That was one short stop in Switzerland. The Jiggs family will spend much more time here in Germany, country number three on their grand tour.
#39 (12/29/13): Assuming that Jiggs is still in Munich (and why wouldn't he be with all those breweries) then the king being referred to in this strip would be King Ludwig III of Bavaria. Ludwig had only recently been installed as king, having taken the title less than two months earlier on November 5, 1913. Before that he served as Prince Regent for King Otto I, who was mentally ill and not allowed to wield power. Ludwig’s father, Luitpold, had been Prince Regent for many years until his death late in 1912 when his son took the position. Unlike his father, Ludwig was not content playing second banana to a mentally ill king. The new Prince Regent convinced the Bavarian legislature to amend the constitution to include a clause specifying that a king who was unable to serve for a period of ten years would lose the crown. When the amendment came into effect Otto was deposed and Ludwig took the crown.
#40 (1/5/14): Even way back in 1914 an American reader would have thought the idea of a duel to be rather quaint. In America dueling fell out of favor after the 1860s. In one of the bloody Civil War's positive aspects, it taught Americans that life was too precious to throw it away on the strength of a mere insult. In Germany, however, dueling was still a surprisingly common event. Duels were fought exclusively by the military and aristocracy because the lower classes were not considered properly equipped mentally to engage in affairs of honor. Funny how the lower classes were smart enough never to take exception to that rule.
German duels were most often fought with swords and deaths were rarer than you might imagine. Once a duelist was wounded, or wisely recognized the superior skills of his foe, the duel was often ended with a formal apology. The onset of World War I would put a damper on German dueling, but even today there are still highly ritualized duels fought in Germany, mostly by tradition-bound youth in certain universities where the activity has a long and, in their eyes, honorable history.
#41 (1/24/14): Fancy dress shirts in 1914 often did not include buttons. Instead there were eyelets along the placket in which studs (buttons with clasps on the back) could be inserted. Shirt studs were similar in design to cufflinks.
#42 (1/29/14): McManus seems to have been quite the deadline-chaser in these days. You may have noticed strips in which word balloons have been sloppily corrected, have misspellings or are missing whole words. In this strip McManus outdoes himself. Apparently he ran out of time before he had a chance to draw in the background. Not even a line to indicate the floor has been included!
#43 (2/10/14): John McGraw was the fiery, loud-mouthed manager of the New York Giants baseball team. Even in the dead of winter this colorful character made an occasional headline.
Bob Groom pitched for the Senators in 1913, posting an unimpressive .500 record. The usually awful Senators had a great year, though, climbing out of their typical last place berth to a second place finish. As the lovely newspaper reader tells us, Groom jumped ship to the Federal League, playing with the St. Louis Terriers for the next two seasons. Quite a few big-name players switched to the newly created Federal League in 1914. Many did it hoping to convince their former team to pay them better wages. In some cases the gambit worked, for Groom it did not. When the Federal League disbanded Groom returned to the majors, pitching two years for the cellar-dwelling St. Louis Browns followed by a few games for the Cleveland Indians. In 1918 he left major league baseball for good.
#44 (2/16/14): Today it seems ridiculous for Jiggs to expect a letter to be delivered in a matter of hours. However, back in the days before telephone service was affordable the postal service was relied on for much speedier delivery than today. For instance, at this time most cities in the U.S. had three to five mail deliveries per day and in some cases as many as seven. Even inter-city mail was often delivered in less than a day because of frequent train service.
#45 (2/23/14): Jiggs is a bit behind the times about electric lighting, though he should be forgiven considering that New York City was still lit mostly by gas. The electric light wall switch had been perfected by the early 1890s and was being installed in homes making the change from gas to electricity for lighting.
#46 (2/26/14): There's no way "Laughing" Larry Doyle of the Giants could have been in Germany at this time. Spring training camp was due to open in just a few days.
Ludwig's castle-building mania ended with his mysterious demise. He was drowned, along with his psychiatrist, just as Castle Neuschwanstein was nearing completion. The Bavarian government resented the vast amounts of money Ludwig spent on his projects and sought to depose the monarch. Some believe they had a change of heart and chose a more permanent method of dispensing with Ludwig.
#48 (3/9/14): An endless debate surrounds the history of the hot dog. The term “red hot” is no exception. The “Coney Island red hot” seems to have had its origin with Charles Feltman. In 1867 he expanded his pie wagon business to meet a demand for hot sandwiches by Coney Island restaurants. Feltman’s sausage in a bun was a huge success, and he parleyed the lowly hot dog into a small empire of Coney Isalnd restaurants, hotels and amusements.
The term “red hot” was originally coined to distinguish between a beef sausage and a pork sausage; the latter was a “white hot”.
#49 (3/12/14): The flaming pudding was a traditional show-stopping dessert in Great Britain. Not a pudding at all as Americans know it, it was actually a dense cake topped with hot brandy and set alight as it was brought to the table. The impressive presentation never really caught on in the U.S., so it isn’t surprising that poor Jiggs is a bit confused.
#50 (3/16/14): This must have been one of McManus' favorite gags. He certainly replayed it many times over the years. Most every time Jiggs got involved with Germans this gag would be trotted out for another go-round.
#51 (3/20/14): The violent story of Russia between the first Russian Revolution in 1905 and the second in 1917 is well beyond the scope of a pithy explanation in these annotations. Suffice to say that McManus was not engaging in a grossly unfair characterization of the madness that gripped the Russian people in those dark days. Jiggs would have been wise to give Russia a wide berth on his 1914 trip.
#52 (3/21/14): The Jiggs family arrives in Italy, the fourth country on their grand tour.
A “black hand” letter was an extortion letter from the Mafia. The letters were named for the traditional “signature”, a drawing of a black hand. Though no laughing matter to the people who really did receive them, they were a popular source of humor in comic strips at that time.
#53 (3/23/14): The world famous Leaning Tower of Pisa was not intentionally built that way as Maggie seems to imply. The construction of the bell tower began in 1173, and all went well until 1178 when the third floor was added. An insufficient foundation built on weak ground began to subside and the tower developed a slight lean. Construction was halted, followed by a hundred year period in which Pisans were too preoccupied with various wars to bother with it.
Construction resumed in 1272 when a new architect had the bright idea of building the higher floors on an opposite tilt to make the building look straight. The tower promptly started leaning in the other direction. The tilt at that time was comparatively minor, but has increased gradually over the centuries. Various plans to right the tower have been tried but just as many have exacerbated the problem as have improved it.
Paradoxically, the problem with the tower has become its greatest asset. It has become far too lucrative a tourist attraction for the lean ever to be fixed. The task now is limited to merely keeping the tower from toppling over.
#54 (3/24/14): The family is at the famed Doge's Palace in Venice, built between 1309 and 1424 (and you thought contractors were slow today). Doges were the elected chiefs of state in the various republics of Italy.
#55 (3/28/14): Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), a favorite son of Italy, was the father of practical wireless telegraphy. Building on the work of others (as did his contemporary, Thomas Edison), Marconi began experimenting with wireless telegraph systems in the 1890s, eventually amazing the world when he succeeded in sending telegraphic signals across the Atlantic between North America and Europe in 1901-02. By 1914 Marconi was world famous for his important contributions to the development of radio.
#56 (4/16/14): The Jiggs family is now in Turkey, the fifth country on their grand tour. The term 'Pasha' refers to a high-ranking official in the Ottoman Empire. The title, roughly equivalent to a British lord, was typically conferred on governors and generals. The empire came to an end in 1923.
#57 (4/17/14): A quick detour back to Germany. The strip probably got lost in the shuffle and didn't get printed during the rest of the sequence set in that country.
#58 (4/21/14): Jiggs and family are now in Russia, the sixth country on their grand tour.
#59 (4/25/14): The Jiggs family is now in England, the seventh country on their grand tour. 'Guinea' is another insulting term for Italians.
#60 (4/29/14): Until World War I, cigarette smoking was a habit mostly enjoyed by Europeans and young Americans who emulated their supposedly sophisticated habits. Most American men preferred cigars and pipes. When our doughboys came back from Europe after World War I many had become hooked on the European habit. Cigarette smoking then became far more acceptable among “regular fellers” like Jiggs in the U.S.
#61 (5/8/14): The luxury liner Lusitania made her maiden voyage in 1907, smashing all speed records set for passenger ships up to that time. She was a transatlantic palace for the wealthy and famous.
Unlike many other ships that were converted into troop transports in World War I, the Lusitania remained a passenger liner. The ship was considered too large for military service, presenting too easy and distinctive a target for German torpedoes. Nevertheless, the Lusitania was torpedoed on May 17 1915 by a U-boat just eight miles off the coast of Ireland. More than half the ship's passengers perished. The sinking of the Lusitania was viewed by Americans as a despicable act of terrorism and the tragedy became a rallying cry for the U.S. entry into the war.
#62 (5/28/14): In theatre slang the term “super”, short for supernumerary, was equivalent to what today is known as an “extra”.
#63 (6/2/14): A rajah is an Indian prince. Apparently in McManus' mind Indians were classified as Negroes since he used the standard racist black caricature prevalent at the time.
#64 (6/12/14): The Olympic was the sister ship of the Titanic. It was the first built of three sister ships (the third was the Brittanic). The Olympic made her maiden voyage in 1910, served as a troop ship in World War I and was decommissioned in 1935. During the war the Olympic made headlines when she turned the tables on a U-boat. The ship managed to evade a torpedo, then circled on the U-boat, rammed it and sank it.
The Kaiser Wilhelm de Grosse was a German luxury liner, notable for being the first to carry a commercial wireless telegraph which was installed by Marconi in 1900. Two month's after this strip was printed the ship was requisitioned by the German Royal Navy as a “commerce raider”. Fitted with guns in order to prey on supply ships, she was responsible for sinking two freighters before she herself came under attack and was scuttled off the coast of Africa.
#65 (6/15/14): The Jiggs family makes an abbreviated one-strip visit to Scotland, the eighth and final country on their grand tour. McManus didn’t know it but he was getting the family on their way home just in time to avoid the outbreak of World War I in Europe.
#66 (6/17/14): If Jiggs had booked passage on the Vaterland, his family would have been among the final shipload of passengers to sail on the German liner under that name. Launched from Hamburg, Germany in 1913, the Vaterland was the largest passenger ship in the world at the time. In late July 1914 she arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey and due to the outbreak of the war she remained stranded there for the next three years. When the U.S. entered the war in 1917 the Vaterland was commandeered by the U.S. Navy and renamed the Leviathan. She was used as a troop transport for the remainder of the war. In the 1920s she was refitted as a passenger ship and resumed her original purpose, then was decommissioned in 1934.
#67 (7/16/14): New York's Gas House Gang was a street gang that formed in the 1890s. The gang specialized in armed robbery but also dabbled in extortion and prostitution rackets. In 1910 the group was absorbed by the more famous Five Points Gang.
#68 (7/31/14): New York City's street cleaning crew received a makeover in 1895, courtesy of the dynamic street cleaning commissioner George E. Waring. He designed a new uniform, white from head to toe, that would give street cleaners pride in their appearance and make their activities more visible to New Yorkers. Waring waged an all-out campaign to make New Yorkers proud of their clean city and hoped it would prompt them to help keep it that way. The white uniforms earned the sanitation workers the nickname "White Wings".
#69 (8/3/14): News of the declaration of war was reported in the U.S. on July 28 and the first battle reports were printed on the 30th. It took just four days for Bringing Up Father to get in on the action. Compare that to newspaper comic strip lead times today. Cartoonists are now expected to work 2-6 weeks in advance.
#70 (8/12/14): It may seem odd that Mr. Jiggs is a German sympathizer. After all, the U.S. was unofficially allied with Britain from the start. However, Bringing Up Father was in a Hearst newspaper, and William Randolph Hearst was unabashed in his support of Germany. Hearst had a passionate dislike of the British, and he'd spent part of his boyhood in Germany, so his position, while unpopular, was not surprising.
Hearst was constantly begged by his editors to, if not change his position, at least keep his sympathies quiet. His attitude hurt newspaper sales because most Americans supported the British. When the U.S. finally entered the war in 1917, Hearst wisely changed his tune, going so far as to claim that he had never sympathized with our newly official enemies. Few were taken in by the transparent lie, of course, and Hearst's newspaper chain was boycotted by many during the war years, traditionally a time of prosperity for newspapers due to the insatiable hunger for news. Hearst papers were even banned from some newsstands and libraries during this period. The Hearst papers didn't fully recover until well into the 1920’s.
#71 (8/13/14): Here is another example of McManus refusing to let a gag idea go to waste. As we've seen, Jiggs was usually portrayed as a baseball fiend. This gag, however, depends on him being unversed in the game so continuity went out the window. It is a pretty funny gag, though, so we can be glad that McManus didn't pass on it.
#72 (9/4/14): The tintype is a photograph taken on a thin sheet of steel covered with a chemical emulsion. Tintype photography was very popular in the U.S in the 19th century as the materials were inexpensive, the development time was fast, and the resulting plates were less prone to damage than most other methods. The tintype was superseded only by modern roll film, which became popular at the turn of the century. Old-timers like Jiggs continued to call all photographs tintypes no matter what the actual process involved.
This strip, without directly stating it, is making fun of the modern art movement, which due to the popularization of photography was forsaking realism in favor of various non-representational styles. Although French impressionism, the first wave of this new era, had been around for decades, Americans took little notice until the 1913 Armory Show in New York. This historic show introduced Americans to a huge array of avant-garde artworks. Although some viewers were intrigued, many were disgusted and scandalized by the exhibition. Some even attempted to have the show closed, claiming the artworks were immoral or anarchistic. Most just thought the works were utterly ridiculous, and a flood of anti-modern art humor engulfed the nation's periodicals over the next years.
#73 (9/5/14): Mrs. Jones is a devotee of Richard Wagner, famed German composer noted for his operas based on northern European mythology. Jiggs, on the other hand, is a fan of Honus Wagner, the Pittsburgh Pirate shortstop who is arguably the greatest baseball player in the history of the sport. Although best known today by his nickname Honus, in his playing days he was more commonly referred to as Hans. His actual given name was Johannes Peter.
#74 (9/7/14): McManus must have conferred with an attorney to write this strip. The term "lex talionis" is a legal principle more commonly known as an eye for an eye. A "writ of mandamus" is an order from a superior court to a lower court to perform its duties in compliance with a legal principle or order. A "writ of certiorari" is an order from a superior court for the records of a case to be sent for review.
#75 (9/11/14): It's a pretty safe bet that the New York American had just landed a big contract with Bromo-Seltzer for ad space in the newspaper. Editors were very touchy about mentioning product brand names unless they were being paid to do so.
Hearst was notorious for the barely veiled hawking of products in the editorial columns. New York American editor Arthur Brisbane regularly touted selected products in his editorials, ingeniously working product mentions into his commentaries on the day's news. Product placement is not a recent phenomenon!
#76 (9/18/14): Forty-Five is an old Irish card game that had some limited popularity in New England. Don't feel bad if you've never heard of it -- few readers in 1914 who were not of Irish extraction were familiar with the game.
#77 (10/6/14): Astronomy was a popular fascination in the 1910’s. Two impressive comets had made their transits in 1910 -- Halley's and an even brighter one, the Great Daylight Comet of 1910. Percival Lowell's contention that there were intelligent creatures building canals on Mars was still a hot topic. Telescope operators of the type seen in this strip really did eke out a living on the streets of some cities.
#78 (10/16/14): This is an uncharacteristically tasteless strip from McManus. Smallpox was no laughing matter in 1914. Although the horrible disease had become less prevalent in North America due to the discovery of a vaccine in the late 19th century, there were plenty of people reading the newspaper in 1914 who had lost friends and family members to the scourge of smallpox.
#79 (10/24/14): The song It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary was made famous by the Connaught Rangers, an Irish regiment of the British Army. They sang the song when marching to battle in World War I. Although most references claim the song was first recorded in November 1914, John McCormack’s version was actually published, and became a hit, in June 1913. Good thing, too, because otherwise Dinty would be playing a song that few would have heard yet! I think Dinty's version might have been an even bigger hit.
#80 (11/19/14): This is an interesting strip. Notice in the first panel that the words "BEER SANK" are typeset, not in McManus' typical cribbed lettering. The newspaper tearsheet for this particular strip used in the production of the book came from the Philadelphia Bulletin. Checking the original version in the New York American turned up the fact that the text in McManus' version was "PILSNER SANK". I’ve come up with two possible explanations for the change made by the Bulletin pick whichever appeals to you. Either they were correcting McManus' goof (German pilsner beer was no longer being imported to the States since war broke out) or they had a patriotic objection to Jiggs' desire to get some of the last remaining pilsner, since in some vague way that would be supportive of the enemy.
#81 (11/27/14): Not an annotation, just a comment. Is it any wonder Maggie is such a battle-axe when her husband hasn't shown her any affection at all in twenty years? Jiggsy, favor that woman with a kiss on the cheek now and then, would ya?
#82 (12/1/14): McManus wisely dropped the angle implied here that Mr. Jiggs had a mistress. Usually Jiggs was portrayed in a more neutral light, as a typical middle-aged fellow who enjoyed girl-watching. In 1914, as now, Americans were fine with a married man having a roving eye as long as he had the good sense not to act on his impulses. Europeans may flaunt their infidelities, but that sort of thing doesn't fly here in the U.S., and certainly not from our comic strip characters.
#83 (12/11/14): Today Jiggs is revealed to be the owner of some unnamed business. McManus has finally decided that he needs a more well-rounded Jiggs to vary the gag opportunities over the long haul. After loafing around the house for almost two years, Jiggs finally has something to do with his time and a new stage on which to play out gags.
#84 (12/16/14): Table d'hôte, literally “host's table”, is a restaurant term in which the chef offers a complete meal at a fixed price with few or no options. It is normally less expensive than an à la carte meal, where the diner chooses each of the courses from the menu. Since the table d'hôte is less expensive, restaurants sometimes are a bit chintzy with the portions.
#85 (12/17/14): "The Four Hundred", a term coined by society maven Ward McAllister, referred to the “crème de la crème” of New York City high society. The specific number was said to be the capacity of the Astor family's ballroom. If you were the sort of person who was invited to Mrs. Astor's balls, you were a member of the Four Hundred. The term, somewhat surprisingly, was not an informal reckoning of “the people that mattered”, rather it was an actual list first compiled and maintained by McAllister. Social climbers considered their inclusion in the Four Hundred to be the ultimate, almost unattainable, goal for their social aspirations. Of course very few were so blessed.