George Herriman was, like many cartoonists of the early part of the last century, responsible for many short-lived comics before hitting on the work he’s most famous for today, in his case Krazy Kat. Some of them, like Grandma’s Girl and Bud Smith, had titles that gave only the slightest clue as to what they were about. But then there were those like Professor Otto & His Auto and Major Ozone’s Fresh Air Crusade, whose titles were a pretty good indication of what the reader might expect of them. In the case of Baron Mooch, the protagonist
was obviously a man of the aristocracy. Since the practice of naming cartoon characters after their prominent traits long pre-dates Ally Sloper, we might expect him to be in reduced circumstances, financially, like the later Lord Plushbottom, but, unlike Plushie, not above trying to live by sponging off of his associates.
Baron Mooch’s daily-only comic strip began on Monday, November 1, 1909, in The Los Angeles Examiner, where Herriman was working at the time. Among other things, he drew sports cartoons that sometimes included his “duck duke”, Gooseberry Sprigg. Through The Examiner’s connection with the newspaper chain it was a part of, the baron’s adventures were available to the other Hearst papers, in a network that later evolved into King Features Syndicate.
Herriman relocated to New York shortly after, leaving Baron Mooch behind him. Mooch seems to have ended in 1910. The strip he started in that year, called The Dingbat Family at first and then The Family Upstairs, brought him a great deal more fame — that’s the one where Krazy Kat was introduced.
A few years later, Herriman again visited the theme of impoverished aristocrats. His Baron Bean, which started in 1916, didn’t last a whole lot longer than Baron Mooch. But it’s much better remembered.
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