Sunday, April 08, 2012

Bookshelf: "Indoor Sports" Collection By "TAD" Dorgan, Ca. 1915, Part One

(Click any image for larger) Right on the cover: Tad at his most morbid.

This collection of Thomas Aloysius "TAD" Dorgan's daily Indoor Sports panels, published by [EDIT: corrected] the National Specials Co. of New York, is an early example of bound and reprinted newspaper comics. Indoor Sports debuted in Hearst newspapers in 1914, and all of the cartoons in the book appear to date from its first year, so I'm assuming this was published in about 1915. It measures 6" x 9" and contains 60 drawings beautifully reproduced on relatively cheap paper (I've seen much worse) and simply bound in boards with a cloth taped spine. I don't think I'll be able to scan every page without damaging the book more than it already is, but I'll give it my best, although the reproductions here won't be in order. The first page, alas, appears to be missing, but here's the introduction:

So right off the bat, Tad is pointing an accusatory finger at the reader: enjoy your schadenfreude now, because you're next. And indeed, his caustic daily slice of urban life was enjoyed by many; it was an enormous success, launched a thousand catch phrases (as I explained here and here), spawned numerous imitators, and ran for nearly fifteen years until Dorgan's death in 1929.

Tad's subject matter ranged from major embarrassments and gaffes, such as seen above, to minor annoyances, such as the prattling ladies below. Note also above that Tad is still working out how to tell a sequence of events in a single drawing; it's awkward that the earlier remarks take place on the right side of the drawing. He was much better at this later.

Practical jokes on unsuspecting rubes are a common theme, as with this hapless office boy:

Dorgan's ear for, and love of, slang was unparalleled, and a lot of these are hard to understand today. I also own a copy of Tad's best-selling collected Daffydils, his hand-written column from the preceding decade, and the stuff is so utterly drenched in now-forgotten vernacular as to be totally incomprehensible (see somebody else's scans of this 1911 (not 1901) book here).

Note the reference above to Bill Mizner. who not only knew a scammer when he saw one, but was quite a scammer himself.

Below is one of my favorites, a classic scene of card table revenge:

Another technique of note seen above and in many (if not most) of these is Tad's use of minor background characters to serve as a Greek chorus. Below is a humorous reminder that much of the film industry was still based in New York in the teens. This one is from the first week of Indoor Sports' run in 1914:

Another card table scene, another argument:

And below is yet another would-be scammer caught in the act. Also note the primitive quality of the early "Benday/Zipatone" dot screens:

I bet Tad visited a New York film studio and got plenty of ideas, such as this grotesque couple:

The inconveniences of modern conveniences:

The bitter, the jealous, the petty, and the incidental dog:

The chiseler seen coming from a mile away:

The Broadway boarding house:

And a more lighthearted theme, fooling around at work, for which Tad was notorious:

Another pretentious ego deflated:

Part two is here, part three is here, and part four is here.


Lazy Media said...

I was just reading a biography of Arnold Rothstein, the gangster who fixed the 1919 World Series, and it turns out he was part of Dorgan's drinking/witty conversation crowd (although A.R. didn't actually drink).

Comrade Physioprof said...

Awesome stuff! As great as the comics themselves are, the "Listen" copy is even better, although I'm not sure what he had against commas. I love old-time slang.

Peteykins said...

Oh, then you HAVE to look at the "Daffydils" stuff, because it is marinated in slang. I can't make head or tails of most of it.

Rosa S. Levi said...

I'll be Stan Mack read these when he was a kid.

Rosa S. Levi said...

Oh, and lots of fun! Thank you again dear Princess for broadening one's horizons.

Anonymous said...

Incidental dog AND cat in "...all night elevator..." They are so cool. nice post, thanks.