Our Boarding House was a long-running, American single-panel cartoon and comic strip created by Gene Ahern in 1921 and syndicated by Newspaper Enterprise Association. Set in a boarding house run by the sensible Mrs. Hoople, it drew humor from the interactions of her grandiose, tall-tale-telling husband, the self-styled Major Hoople, with the rooming-house denizens and his various friends and cronies.
After Ahern left NEA in March 1936 to create a similar feature at a rival syndicate, he was succeeded by a number of artists and writers, including Wood Cowan and Bela Zaboly, before Bill Freyse (1898–1969) took over as Our Boarding House artist from 1939 to 1969. Others who worked on the strip included Jim Branagan and Tom McCormick. The Sunday color strip ended on March 29, 1981; the weekday panel continued until December 22, 1984.
In 1921, Gene Ahern created the comic strip Crazy Quilt, starring the Nut Brothers, Ches and Wal. That same year, NEA General Manager Frank Rostock suggested to Ahern that he use a boarding house for a setting. Ahern initially used his own experiences as a boarder while a Chicago, Illinois, art student as grist for his comic mill, and featured the picaresque peccadilloes and bickering of its residents, presided over by the no-nonsense Martha Hoople. Our Boarding House began September 16, 1921, scoring success with readers after the January 1922 arrival of the fustian, blustery Major Amos B. Hoople, Martha’s husband, who’d returned after some long sojourn. “Hoople has been compared to the type created on-screen by W. C. Fields, but was probably closer to Falstaff,” writes comics historian Maurice Horn. “A retired military man of dubious achievement like Shakespeare’s, he boasted of soldierly exploits that were perhaps not all invented, and his buffoonery sometimes concealed real pathos.” That character depth diminished as the comic became more popular, with Major Hoople becoming “the one-dimensional figure of fun most people remember” of the strip. The primary boarders were the cynical Clyde and Mack, and the only somewhat more trusting Buster.
According to comics historian Allan Holtz, a multi-panel Sunday strip was added on December 31, 1922. Starting from October 25, 1931, Ahern’s The Nut Bros, featuring loony siblings Ches and Wal in pun-filled, vaudevillian bits of business, ran as a topper strip.
Ahern left NEA in March 1936 to create the similar Room and Board for King Features Syndicate, Our Boarding House “passed into the hands of a bewildering array of artists and writers” including Bela “Bill” Zaboly, at The Comic Strip Project. before Bill Freyse (the father of the American actress Lynn Borden) took over the art for Our Boarding House from 1939 until his death in 1969. Writer Bill Braucher scripted from 1939 to 1958, followed by Tom McCormick on the daily from 1959 on. Freyse’s 1960s assistant, Jim Branagan, drew the strip from 1969 to 1971, succeeded then by Les Carroll.
The Sunday strip came to an end on March 29, 1981, and continued as a daily feature until December 22, 1984, when Carroll and writer Tom McCormick retired. Others who worked on the strip included writers Wood Cowan in 1946, Tom Peoples on the Sunday strip circa 1968, and Phil Pastoret on the Sunday strip from 1977 on. The finale had Hoople finally striking it rich: a multimillion dollar project needed a minor patent that he had obtained many years ago. In the last strip, Hoople and Martha embarked upon their new lives of wealth.
Ahern once revealed the origin of Major Hoople:
Major Hoople was based on an old fellow I knew quite well when I was growing up. He had been in the Civil War and to hear his tall stories you’d think he had advised Grant and Sherman on every move of the war, telling them exactly what to do every morning. He even insisted he had fired the first shot. He was quite a character and everyone knew him very well. He called himself “General” in spite of the fact that he had only been a top sergeant in the Army. The General was one of those men who always put up a $10 front with a dime in their pockets — a natural subject for cartooning.
014 pages/strips Our Boarding House 1928
036 pages/strips Our Boarding House 1929
280 pages/strips Our Boarding House 1930
312 pages/strips Our Boarding House 1931
312 pages/strips Our Boarding House 1932
276 pages/strips Our Boarding House 1933
313 pages/strips Our Boarding House 1934 (big file 151mb)
366 pages/strips Our Boarding House 1935 (big file 299mb)
108 pages/strips Our Boarding House 1938 (big file 184mb)
50 pages/strips Our Boarding House 1939
52 strips 1935 Dailies
53 strips 1936 Sundays
317 strips 1936
9 strips 1923
313 strips 1924
178 strips 1925
260 strips 1926
51 strips 1927
76 strips 1934
36 strips 1937
225 strips 1952
16 strips various