The Bizarre Valentine Postcards of R.F. Outcault

By:  Kevin Grace

Postcard showing little boy crying and dogs looking onThe children are either drawn as freckle-faced street urchins or as the clean-smocked offspring of the hoity-toity.  The animals – a parrot, typically dogs – look on quizzically or crack wise.  And the occasion being Valentine’s Day, the messages are about the lovelorn and the hopeful.  These are the early 20th century postcards drawn by Richard Felton Outcault, a pioneer of the modern newspaper comic strip who gave America such literary figures as Buster Brown and The Yellow Kid.   And advertising being Richard Felton Outcaultwhat it was (and is), Buster and the Kid gave us books, shoes, coin banks, calendars, clocks, pencils, puzzles, and all manner of geegaws, selling the country on the all-American pastime of buying stuff.

But the postcards deviated from the overall merchandising a bit, although Outcault’s newspaper employers and their agents certainly generated a lot of them.  The holiday cards were something a little different, a reflection of the artist’s own attitudes to his comic Postcard showing girl kissing boy with the words, "O! Will I be your Valentine?creations.  R.F. Outcault was born in 1863, hailing from Lancaster, Ohio.  He came to Cincinnati in 1878 to attend the McMicken School of Design – which is now the Cincinnati Art Academy, though the University of Cincinnati certainly traces part of its heritage as well to the McMicken school, so in effect Outcault is a UC alumnus.  He graduated in 1881 and began his employment as a painter of bucolic scenes in the massive safes constructed by the Hall Safe and Lock Company.  Growing in local reputation, Outcault managed to land a job with the 1888 centennial industrial exposition in Cincinnati, one of the many local product fairs held in the 19th century, and which were begun as an outlet of the Ohio Mechanics Institute, founded in Child asking for a Valentine with parrot looking on1828 and now part of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.  At the exposition he painted scenes for Thomas Edison’s electric light displays, parlaying that into a career on the east coast with trade magazines.  Incidentally, while Edison was a telegraph operator in 1860s Cincinnati, he frequented the OMI library for his reading pleasure.

By 1894, Outcault was drawing cartoons for newspapers and magazines, particularly the New Postcard with the words "This is February 14" showing a girl and a dogYork World, the New York Journal, Judge, and the New York Herald.  It was during this time that he created his first famous character of his “Hogan’s Alley” cartoon, the Yellow Kid.  By 1902, R.F. introduced his famous Buster Brown and his faithful terrier, Tige.  And, his personal style of using panels and dialogue balloons became a standard in cartooning.

A boy in uniform giving a girl a Valentine's cardBut those strange Valentine cards?  They are unlike the sweet and lovey-dovey kids’ valentines of the late 20th century.  Instead, there is an edge to Outcault’s art, a bit of an insult here and there, and more rejection than true love.  In a way, they are an outgrowth of the so-called “Vinegar Valentines” of Victorian America.  Vinegar valentines Postcard with a girl and boy and the words "I adore you"were sarcastic and insulting, greetings designed to reject the offers of true love.  Competing with true romantic valentines, these little missives of misanthropy usually were sent anonymously to those one disliked, be they flirtatious bachelors or suffragists.   Outcault’s cards resemble them in a natural progression, one supposes, from invective to just strange little takes on the whole idea of Valentine’s Day.

Postcard with the words, "I'm thinking, thinking all the time. Of my heart's best love, my valentine." Showing young man and dogFor R.F. Outcault, his valentine postcards were done in his typical style and represent another aspect of what was a long and productive cartooning career.  Retiring from the hubbub of daily newspaper work, he spent the last decade of his life quietly painting and died in 1928.

 

Edward Locker’s 19th Century Views of Spain

By:  Savannah Gulick, Archives & Rare Books Library Student Assistant

Title Page, Edward LockerOne of the collecting areas of the Rare Books Collection in the Archives & Rare Books Library is early travel and exploration.  Though this area of the holdings ranges from the 16th century to the 20th, many of the travel accounts are illustrated volumes from the 19th century.  During the Peninsular War (1808-1813) that was fought between Napoleon and Spain against Great Britain and Portugal for the control of the Iberian Peninsula, the English watercolorist and civil secretary of 1st Viscount Exmouth Edward Pellew, Edward Hawke Locker, recorded his tour of Spain through watercolors and etchings. Following his appointment as civil commissioner of Greenwich Hospital, Locker proceeded to publish his account in Views of Spain (1824).

Locker, the youngest son of Captain William Locker, was born on October 9, 1777 in Kent. He entered the military following an education at Eton in 1795 at the naval pay office. From that point forward, he would secure a series of promotions until his retirement as civil commissioner Palenciain 1844 when he suffered a mental breakdown. Remembered as a man of varied talents, Locker was a skilled artist and a smooth conversationalist, and, was a fellow of the Royal Society. His pictorial tour of Spain is just one of his many illustrated works documenting his travels abroad. The British Empire and travel literature in the 19th century often go hand in hand as many of Britain’s skilled officers were sent on foreign tours and often documented their exotic travels (see account of India: http://libapps.libraries.uc.edu/liblog/2018/05/art-and-empire-in-nineteenth-century-india/). Continue reading

UCBA Librarian’s Bookish Adventures at the Ohioana Book Festival

UCBA Library’s Reference and Web Services Librarian, Michelle McKinney, enjoyed a fun-filled day of bookish adventures in nearby, Columbus Ohio on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Here’s how she spent the day… Continue reading

Enchanting Fairy Tales Dressed in Powder and Crinoline

By:  Sydney Vollmer

12 Princesses in the WoodsOver the next few months, the Archives & Rare Books Library will open another of our exhibit websites that introduces our extensive collection of fairy tales and folklore for research and teaching.  There are many volumes to sift through, but one I recently pulled caught my eye.  In Powder and Crinoline doesn’t contain any stories with which I was familiar, but when I paged through it, I was more than a little pleasantly surprised.

This collection of stories retold by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944) was first published in 1912 by Hodder and Stoughton.  “Q” was a Cornish writer who was well known for his fiction and anthologies, particularly for his Oxford collection of English poetry in 1900.  In the preface to Powder and Crinoline, he speaks of his first impression of the work: Continue reading

A New Rackham-Illustrated Volume in the Rare Books Collection

By: Bridget McCormick

Hans Christen Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark on April 2, 1805. Hans Andersen Sr. died in 1816, leaving his son and a wife, Anne Marie. While Andersen was not born into wealth, he was finely educated, which has led to speculation that he was secretly an illegitimate child of the Danish royal family. These rumors have never been confirmed.

Cover of Andersen's Fairy TalesInner Cover of Andersen's Fairy Tales

By 1819, Andersen returned to school supported by a benefactor named Jonas Collin. At the time, he was working as an actor.  However through Collin’s encouragement, Andersen began to write. Despite the support, during this period of Andersen’s career, his work was often discouraged by teachers. Continue reading

Jonesing for Some Good Illustrations

By:  Sydney Vollmer, ARB Intern

Winter's Tale CoverIt’s always a surprise what you’ll find when you go up to the rare books room. Last week, Kevin (our head here in the Archives & Rare Books Library) asked me to go find half-a-dozen beautiful Shakespeare volumes for a presentation given to the dean’s advisory committee. I went upstairs. There were the Charles Knight editions. They’re nice, but we’ve done so much with those already. I pulled the Rackham, Dulac, and Thompson volumes, because they’re classic illustrations that everyone enjoys seeing. I still needed at least three volumes…

Winter's Traces, Act 1, Scene 2 Continue reading

The Art of Aubrey Beardsley

By:  Bridget McCormick, ARB Student Assistant

Aubrey BeardsleyBorn August 21, 1872 in Brighton, England, illustrator and author Aubrey Beardsley served as a prominent, albeit controversial, figure within the London Art Nouveau and Aesthetic movements of the late 19th century.

Relocating to London with his family in 1883 when he was eleven years old, an adolescent Beardsley began to study drawing and literary arts while still in primary school. It was not until 1892, however, when he attended formal classes at the Westminster School of Art that Beardsley decided to pick up art as a profession. He most often worked in a plain black and white style, with the detailed application of black ink. His most famous illustrations depict themes of history and mythology. Examples of such works can be seen in Beardsley’s illustrations for his contemporary Oscar Wilde’s play, Salome (1891). Continue reading

The Art Family Robinson, or, A Picture is Worth 1000 Words…Maybe That’s Why Books are Illustrated

By:  Sydney Vollmer, ARB Intern

hermia-helena-1Our Shakespeare family is growing! This week, we received a copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with illustrations by W. Heath Robinson! Sure, sure. We know you already know the play, but do you know this illustrator?

Heath Robinson (weird that he goes by his middle name, especially when it’s also the middle name of one of his brothers) was born to illustrate in May of the year 1872. Even if he hadn’t had any talent, some form of artistry was surely expected of him. His father and both of his brothers all worked as illustrators. Heath, himself, aspired to paint landscapes. Why, I will never understand. Fortunately for us book lovers, he found little success with that venture and thus was born another illustrator to the Robinson family. Continue reading