goops01

 

You wouldn’t think that a feature whose main characters were drawn with a compass would make a big impression on readers, but Gelett Burgess’ Goops enjoyed a surprising run of popularity in the early part of the previous century.

Gelett Burgess was primarily a writer and poet. His best known work is the poem The Purple Cow:

I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one!

In 1900 he published the book Goops and How to Be Them, in which he described the behavior of naughty children and accompanied each little poem with a cartoon of a globe-headed kid in the act of displaying their signature behavior problem. The concept caught on and the books became popular gifts from parents to their little monsters, er, children. Whether Burgess’ Goop poems ever inspired these rugrats to straighten up and fly right seems doubtful, but the books themselves would at least serve as good paddling instruments if all else failed.

At least four follow-up volumes were published between 1903 and 1916, and in that period Burgess branched out to produce a daily newspaper panel featuring his creations. The first Goops series was distributed by Associated Newspapers and the best documented dates I can offer are March 3 1913 through September 14 1915.

After a long fallow period, Burgess resurrected his orb-faced brats in a second series that was distributed by the Chicago Tribune. This series ran from September 3 1923 to April 24 1926 as a daily panel, and as a Sunday comic strip from February 17 to May 18 1924.

5 strips various

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