[PW] Dairy publications from 1939 (I need all the help I can get)
CASEY.ROBERSON at uga.edu
Mon Jul 1 06:53:04 PDT 2019
I got a reference question a couple of weeks ago from Mort Walker (creator of Beetle Bailey)'s old assistant, who himself is a comics historian. He's putting together a definitive biography of Mr. Walker's career. He came to us looking for 1940 issues of American Dairy Review; I assume University of Georgia came up first in the list for him through WorldCat. According to two different sources (Mort Walker: Conversations and Mort Walker's Private Scrapbook), Mort Walker published a strip in American Dairy Review when he was 16 (so, 1939 and/or 1940) called "Sunshine and Shadow". Two examples of the strip exist; it deals with the personality differences of the two titular Chinese-caricature (read: racistly-drawn) characters.
Here's the thing: American Dairy Review didn't exist in 1939/1940. It was American Milk Review then, and changed to American Dairy Review in 1965. I checked our 1940 issues of this dairy trade publication: other than two or three single-panel wordless gags, American Milk Review was a pretty staid magazine in 1940. I checked some late 1940s and 1950s volumes-even the 1965 volume-and though the magazine had more comics over the years, I found no strip titled "Sunshine and Shadow".
At this point, I wanted to verify if the title was correct. I checked the Union List. I checked Pre-1956 Imprints. I checked N.W. Ayer & Son's Directory. I don't see any titles beginning with American Dairy, though there were Pacific Dairy Review, American Butter Review, American Produce Review, Dairy Record, etc. I'm waiting on ILL requests for some of these, though I suspect that they're just as serious publications as American Milk Review was. I feel 99% confident now that, if there was an American Dairy Review in 1939, no library was ever willing to admit to owning it. Besides, Mort Walker was a 16-year-old in Kansas City, Missouri. He had a comic strip in his local paper at the age of 13, but even three years later, landing a regular strip in a trade publication in another state still seems like too unlikely an accomplishment.
So I had to start thinking in different directions. Could, perhaps, Mort Walker (and/or this comics historian) have misread his own notes? He lived in Amarillo prior to moving to Kansas City. Might he have written Amarillo Daily?
One obituary for Mort Walker, in The Comics Journal, says that he worked "as staff cartoonist on a dairy company publication". That's quite a different claim than the two books mentioned above, one that I don't think you can come up with if you're reading those books unless you're really playing fast and loose. So I've got an email out to the author of that obituary asking whether he had found a third source about this comic strip. I'm still waiting to hear back from him.
In the meantime, I asked the Kansas City Public Library for dairy listings in 1939 and 1940. There were both an Aines Farm Dairy, and an American Dairies, Inc. Again, could Mort (or his erstwhile assistant) have misread something? I have asked the assistant but I made the mistake of asking more than one question in a single email, and that's the one that was overlooked. I'll have to ask again to see if there is a source other than the two Mort Walker books-say, a diary or a scrapbook--where American Dairy Review is written by hand. But if a local dairy had its own newsletter, this sounds far more likely a publication than a trade journal. Before you ask-my searches in WorldCat and Google turn up zilch for publications from either one of those dairies.
I've already been told that I've long since passed "above and beyond", but I'll admit to feeling somewhat professionally threatened by this question. It shouldn't be this difficult to track down a published, documented comic strip from only 80 years ago, should it?
I plan to call the assistant later today to attempt to pin him down on where the name American Dairy Review actually appears, and I also plan to call the Kansas City Public Library again, as well as the State Historical Society of Missouri.
But past that, short of traveling to Kansas City, MO, looking up old records for local dairies, and knocking on the doors of the owners' descendants, are there any other next steps?
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