Mutt and Jeff was a long-popular American newspaper comic strip created by cartoonist Bud Fisher in 1907 about “two mismatched tinhorns”. Historians regard Mutt and Jeff, originally titled A. Mutt, as the first American newspaper cartoon published as a strip of panels, as opposed to a single panel, making it the first “comic strip” to successfully pioneer that since-common format.
It remained in syndication until 1983, employing the talents of several cartoonists, chiefly Al Smith who drew the strip for nearly 50 years. The series became a comic book (initially published by All-American Publications and later by DC Comics, Dell Comics and Harvey Comics), as well as cartoons, films, merchandising and reprints.
Jeff is the mascot of the Fairbury, Nebraska High School. They are known as the “Fairbury Jeffs” or the “Jefferson County Jeffs”.
Augustus Mutt is a tall, dimwitted racetrack character—a fanatic horse-race gambler who is motivated by greed. Mutt has a wife, known only as Mrs. Mutt (Mutt always referred to her as “M’love”) and a son named Cicero. Mutt first encountered the half-pint Jeff, an inmate of an insane asylum who shares his passion for horseracing, in 1908. They appeared in more and more strips together until the strip abandoned the horse-race theme, and concentrated on Mutt’s other outlandish, get-rich-quick schemes. Jeff usually served as a (sometimes unwilling) partner. Jeff was short, bald as a billiard ball, and wore mutton chop sideburns. He has no last name, stating his name is “just Jeff—first and last and always it’s Jeff”. However, at one point late in the strip’s life, he is identified in the address of a cablegram as “Othello Jeff”. He has a twin brother named Julius. They look so much alike that Jeff, who cannot afford to have a portrait painted, sits for Julius, who is too busy to pose. Rarely does Jeff change from his habitual outfit of top hat and suit with wing collar. Friends of Mutt and Jeff have included Gus Geevem, Joe Spivis, and the English Sir Sidney. Characteristic lines and catchphrases that appeared often during the run of the strip included “Nix, Mutt, nix!”, “For the love of Mike!”, and “Oowah!”
The original inspiration for the character of “Jeff” was Jacques “Jakie” Fehr, a tiny (4’8″) irascible Swiss-born shopkeeper in the village of Occidental, California. One summer day in 1908, Fisher, a member of San Francisco’s Bohemian Club, was riding the North Pacific Coast narrow-gauge railway passenger train northbound to the Bohemian Grove, the club’s summer campsite. During a stop in Occidental, Fisher got off the train to stretch his legs and observed the diminutive walrus-moustached Fehr in heated altercation with the tall and lanky “candy butcher,” who sold refreshments on the train and also distributed newspapers to shops in towns along the train route. The comic potential in this scene prompted Fisher to add the character of Jeff to his A. Mutt comic strip, with great success.
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