Bringing Up Father was an influential American comic strip created by cartoonist George McManus (1884–1954). Distributed by King Features Syndicate, it ran for 87 years, from January 12, 1913, to May 28, 2000.
Many readers, however, simply called the strip “Jiggs and Maggie” (or “Maggie and Jiggs”), after its two main characters. According to McManus, he introduced these same characters in other strips as early as November 1911.
The humor centers on an immigrant Irishman named Jiggs, a former hod carrier who came into wealth in the United States by winning a million dollars in a sweepstakes. Now nouveau-riche, he still longs to revert to his former working class habits and lifestyle. His constant attempts to sneak out with his old gang of boisterous, rough-edged pals, eat corned beef and cabbage (known regionally as “Jiggs dinner”) and hang out at the local tavern were often thwarted by his formidable, social-climbing (and rolling-pin wielding) harridan of a wife, Maggie, their lovely young daughter, Nora and infrequently their lazy son Ethelbert later known as just Sonny.
The strip deals with “lace-curtain Irish”, with Maggie as the middle-class Irish American desiring assimilation into mainstream society in counterpoint to an older, more raffish “shanty Irish” sensibility represented by Jiggs. Her lofty goal—frustrated in nearly every strip—is to bring father (the lowbrow Jiggs) “up” to upper class standards, hence the title, Bringing Up Father. The occasional malapropisms and left-footed social blunders of these upward mobiles were gleefully lampooned in vaudeville, popular song, and formed the basis for Bringing Up Father. The strip presented multiple perceptions of Irish Catholic ethnics during the early 20th century. Through the character Jiggs, McManus gave voice to their anxieties and aspirations. Varied interpretations of McManus’s work often highlight difficult issues of ethnicity and class, such as the conflicts over assimilation and social mobility that second- and third-generation immigrants confronted. McManus took a middle position, which aided ethnic readers in becoming accepted in American society without losing their identity. A cross-country tour that the characters took in September 1939 into 1940 gave the strip a big promotional boost and raised its profile in the cities they visited.
Jiggs and Maggie were generally drawn with circles for eyes, a feature more often associated with the later strip, Little Orphan Annie.
Between 1935 and 1954, McManus’ assistant Zeke Zekley made a major contribution to the strip in both writing and art. When McManus died in 1954, the strip continued with other artists, including Bill Kavanagh and Frank Fletcher. Within the cartoonist community, it was expected that Zekley would take over the strip, but instead King Features replaced both McManus and Zekley with Vernon Greene. With Greene’s death in 1965, Hal Campagna stepped in, and Frank Johnson (Boner’s Ark) replaced Campagna in 1980. (Hy Eisman ghosted the strip for a short time after Greene’s death. King Features wanted him to take it over, but Eisman was close friends with Greene, and he was unable to agree to take the strip on.) The strip’s popularity faded, and Bringing Up Father limped along until its 87-year run came to a close on May 28, 2000.
In 1995, the strip was one of 20 included in the Comic Strip Classics series of commemorative US postage stamps. Bringing Up Father went digital in 2007 when King Features made the strip available as one of the selections in its DailyINK email package.
53 strips Sundays 1929
53 strips Sundays 1936
29 strips 1916
45 strips 1917
223 strips 1925
27 strips 1929
15 strips 1936
313 strips 1937
313 strips 1939
331 strips 1940
26 strips 1941
32 strips 1942
34 strips 1943
66 strips various