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Mort Walker Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Walker, Mort.
Title: Mort Walker Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1950-1968
Quantity: 26.4 linear ft.
Abstract: Over 2,000 pieces of original artwork for the comic strip Beetle Bailey as well as sketches, correspondence, clippings (of Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois), proofs, promotional material and a student paper about Beetle Bailey and bureaucracy.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010
http://scrc.syr.edu

Biographical History

Mort Walker (1923- ) is an American cartoonist who created the Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois comic strips.

Addison Morton "Mort" Walker was born in Eldorado, Kansas on September 3, 1923 and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. His cartooning career started early; Walker published his first cartoon at age 11 and sold his first cartoon at age 12. For several months, when he was 15, Walker drew a strip for the Kansas City Journal. At 16, Walker worked at Hallmark Cards as a designer.

Walker was drafted into the United States Army as a private in 1943 and as a lieutenant in Italy, he ran a German POW camp. Walker received a degree in English from the University of Missouri in 1948. While in college, Walker edited the Missouri Showme, the campus humor magazine. After graduating, Walker moved to New York and worked as a gag cartoonist as well as a magazine editor for Dell Publishing.

In 1950, Walker landed a contract with King Features Syndicate, selling his idea for the Beetle Bailey comic strip, which was inspired by Walker's fraternity brothers as Beetle was originally a college student before the character enlisted in the Army in 1951. According to King Features, it was the "last strip personally approved by William Randolph Hearst." Walker's relationship with King Features continued with the creation of the Beetle Bailey spin-off, Hi and Lois with Dik Browne in 1954; Mrs. Fitz's Flats (1957-1972) with Frank Roberge; Sam's Strip (1961-1963) with Jerry Dumas (a comic strip about comics); and The Evermores with Johnny Sajem; Boner's Ark (1968 to 2000 under the name Addison); Sam and Silo; Betty Boop and Friends (1984-1988) and Gamin and Patches(1987-88).

Walker is a member and past president (1959-1960) of the National Cartoonists Society and compiled the NCS annual album. He has been honored by his peers on numerous occasions, receiving the Reuben Award (1953), Best Humor Strip (1966, 1969), and Silver (1961) and Gold (1999) T-Square awards and two Elzie Segar awards from the National Cartoonists Society. He was inducted into the NCS Hall of Fame in 2006 and He received the Banshee award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year (1955). His work has also been recognized by military organizations. The American Legion honored Walker with their Fourth Estate award in 1978. In 2000, the United States Army presented Walker with the Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service.

Walker's work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art. In 1992 the University of Missouri erected a life-size statue of Beetle Bailey and in September of 2000 staged an exhibition for the 50th anniversary of Beetle Bailey. Walker has also written children's books (several of which were illustrated by Dik Browne), and in 1974 he founded the International Museum of Cartoon Art with Jim Ivey.

Walker continues to oversee the work on his strips produced out of his Connecticut studio. As of 2010, Walker's sons, Greg (a graduate of Syracuse University) and Brian, currently write Hi and Lois and Greg's name appears alongside his father's on Beetle Bailey. Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois are syndicated in thousands of newspapers in dozens of countries.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Mort Walker Papers are divided into seven series.

The majority of the collection is located in the series, Cartoons (1950-1968) which consists of approximately, 2,143 original Beetle Bailey comic strips. There are 1,878 daily and 265 Sunday cartoons.

Initially, Beetle was a college student and several of the strips in this collection are from that period. Also of interest is that several of the strips were used as evidence in a court case in the late 1960s regarding cartoons as an art form; these works bear stamps for U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut Case 12813. Also worth nothing is a 1953 strip bearing a note regarding why it was rejected for publication and a March 21, 1967 strip that pokes fun at the anti-draft movement.

The strips were produced in pen and ink on illustration board and many have engraver's stamp on the back. Watercolor and zipatone screening was also used. Dimensions vary but the majority of the daily strips are approximately 6 3/4" x 21" and Sunday strips measure 16" x 21". For years 1956-1962, several cartoons from January have old copyright notice dates from the previous year.

Correspondence (1950-1965) contains incoming letters addressed to Walker. Correspondents include other cartoonists (Milton Caniff, Al Capp, John Coulthard, Roy Crane, Fred Lasswell, Bill Mauldin, Charles Schulz, Coulton Waugh, Chic Young and Al Wiseman); representatives of King Features Syndicate (Sylvan Beck, discussing Walker’s initial contract for Beetle Bailey, preliminary plans and merchandising for the strip); editors at various newspapers that syndicate Beetle Bailey; and fans, including complaints about specific gags used in the strip. Fan mail also contains praise for Walker, explanations of fans' connections to the strip as well as requests for original artwork (including a student at Rochester Institute of Technology) and reader drawings of Beetle Bailey.

Also of interest are two signed letters from former president Harry S. Truman, one of which thanks Walker for remembering his 81st birthday and correspondence with Ed Reynolds of CBS regarding the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Clippings (1952-1965) contains newspaper clippings of black and white daily and color Sunday Beetle Bailey strips as well as Hi and Lois and miscellaneous other daily comic strips.

Sketches includes eight folders of undated preliminary drawings for Beetle Bailey, drawn in pencil on paper. They measure 8 1/2" x 11".

Promotional material (1955-1963) contains a Beetle Bailey board game, Password related material, and items related to Beetle Bailey's syndication in newspapers that promote the growth in syndication of the strip.

Proofs consists of Beetle Bailey primarily from 1954-1957.

Finally, Writings by Others (1967) contains a single work by a student, "The Beetle Bailey Bueracracy" that was written for an English class.

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Arrangement of the Collection

The cartoons are divided into daily strips and Sunday strips, and arranged chronologically. Correspondence is arranged in alphabetical order by the sender's last name. Promotional is arranged chronologically as are the newspaper clippings. Sketches are arranged as received.

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on this material

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Related Material

A published work, Beetle Bailey and Sarge (1958) and a program for the 16th Annual Reuben Awards dinner (1962) have been removed and sent to Rare Books.

See also the Dik Browne Cartoons for additional material related to the comic strip Hi and Lois.

See also the C. D. Russell Cartoons for proofs of Sam's Strip and additional Hi and Lois and Beetle Bailey material.

Special Collections Research Center has collections of over one hundred cartoonists. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

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Subject Headings

Persons

Walker, Mort -- Archives.

Corporate Bodies

King Features Syndicate.

Associated Titles

Beetle Bailey (comic strip)
Hi and Lois (comic strip)

Subjects

American wit and humor, Pictorial.
Bailey, Beetle (Fictitious character)
Caricatures and cartoons -- United States.
Cartoonists -- United States.
Comic books, strips, etc. -- United States.
Soldiers -- Comic books, strips, etc.

Places

United States -- Army -- Military life -- Comic books, strips, etc.

Genres and Forms

Promotional materials.
Cartoons (humorous images)
Clippings (information artifacts)
Comic strips.
Correspondence.
Proofs (printed matter)
Sketches.

Occupations

Cartoonists.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Mort Walker Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mort Walker, 1964, 1969.

Original daily strip, 4/22/66, gift of Bill Janocha, 2010.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: –
Date: Jul 1967
Revision history: 20 Mar 2007 - converted to EAD (MRC); 12 Jul 2010 - added detailed inventory and scope (SK); 1 Feb 2011 - addition, 1966 cartoon (MRC); 9 May 2011 - revised related material (AM); 22 Jun 2011 - updated scope, inventory and pdf (AM); 7 Feb 2012 - box number revision (MBD)

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Inventory

Cartoons- Beetle Bailey (2,143 items)
Click here for a detailed inventory.
Daily cartoons (1,878 items) 6 3/4" x 21"
Oversize 1 1950-1955 May
Oversize 2 1955 Jun-Dec
Oversize 3 1956 Jan-Sep
Oversize 4 1956 Oct-1957 Mar
Oversize 5 1957 Apr-Oct
Oversize 6 1957 Nov-1958 Jun
Oversize 7 1958 Jul-1959 Feb
Oversize 8 1959 Mar-Oct
Oversize 9 1959 Nov-1960 Apr
Oversize 10 1960 May-Oct
Oversize 11 1960 Nov-1961 Aug
Oversize 12 1961 Sep-1962 Jun
Oversize 13 1962 Jul-1963
Oversize 14 1964-1966
Oversize 15 1967 Jan-Jun
Oversize 16 1967 Jul-Dec
Oversize 17 1968
Sunday cartoons (265 items) 16" x 21"
Oversize 18 1952-1956
Oversize 19 1957-1959
Oversize 20 1960-1961
Oversize 21 1962-1964
Correspondence (incoming)
Box 1 A-B 1950-1965
Box 1 Byck, Sylvan (King Features Syndicate) 1950-1965
Box 1 C-D 1950-1965
Box 1 E-G 1950-1965
Box 1 H-L 1950-1965
Box 1 M-N 1950-1965
Box 1 O-R 1950-1965
Box 1 S-V 1950-1965
Box 1 W-Y 1950-1965
Box 1 Weil, Chester (King Features Syndicate) 1950-1965
Box 1 Unidentified 1950-1965
Sketches 8 ½" x 11"
Box 1 Beetle Bailey pencil sketches undated (6 folders)
Oversize 25 Beetle Bailey pencil sketches undated (2 folders)
Clippings
Oversize 23 Beetle Bailey (daily) 1952-1962 - includes a few daily strips in color
Oversize 25 Beetle Bailey (Sunday) 1952-1965 - in color
Oversize 24 Hi and Lois (daily) 1955-1962
Oversize 25 Hi and Lois (Sunday) 1957, 1964-1965
Oversize 24 Mrs. Fitz's Flats 1957-1959
Promotional material
Oversize 22 Beetle Bailey board game 1955
Oversize 22 Beetle Bailey "One of the Two Most Popular and Widely-Read Comics Strips in the World"; "704 newspapers", " Everybody's Calling For" 1959, 1961, undated
Oversize 22 Beetle Bailey 1000 newspapers circa 1960s
Oversize 22 Hi and Lois 1963 (2 items)
Oversize 22 Password (television show) undated
Proofs
Oversize 22 Beetle Bailey 1954-1955
Oversize 22 Beetle Bailey 1956-1957
Oversize 22 Beetle Bailey (color Sunday) 1965 (2 items)
Writings by Others
Box 1 "The Beetle Bailey Bureaucracy" May 19 1967 - typed paper for English 293 by John Hall

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