Finding Aids
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Bud Fisher and Al Smith Cartoons

An inventory of their cartoons at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Fisher, Bud, 1885-1954.Smith, Al, 1902-1986.
Title: Bud Fisher and Al Smith Cartoons
Inclusive Dates: 1917-1973
Quantity: 12.3 linear ft.
Abstract: Over 2,000 original Mutt and Jeff comic strips and one piece of artwork from Smith's Jackie strip.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010
http://scrc.syr.edu

Biographical History

Harry Conway Fisher (1885-1954), commonly known as Bud Fisher, was an American cartoonist and the creator of the comic strip Mutt and Jeff.

Bud Fisher was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 3, 1885 and studied for several years at the University of Chicago. Fisher took work at the San Francisco Chronicle and while there started a strip about a character named Mutt, a gambler with a penchant for horse racing. Fisher was inspired by the visits he made to the track on his days off from work and his idea was to have a daily comic strip that spanned the width of the newspaper page. This strip, A. Mutt debuted in November 1907 . Fisher later added the Jeff character, thus changing the name to Mutt and Jeff. Fisher registered the strip with the United States copyright office, thereby giving him significant control over his creation.

The strip caught the interest of William Randolph Hearst and Fisher moved the strip to Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner and it also received distribution through Hearst’s King Features Syndicate. But several years later, Fisher decided to take his creation to the Wheeler Syndicate resulting in a deal that significantly increased Fisher’s income. As reported in newspaper accounts during Fisher's lifetime, Fisher was earning at least $4,000 a week and began to hire a string of artists to ghost the strip for him. In 1932, Al Smith was brought in to produce the strip while Fisher continued to profit and receive credit as the strip continued to be published under his name.

Fisher died of cancer on September 7, 1954 at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City and Al Smith officially replaced Bud Fisher.

Al Smith (1902-1986), born Albert Schmidt, was an American cartoonist who worked on Mutt and Jeff for nearly 50 years.

Al Smith was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 21, 1902. Smith worked as a copy boy for the New York Sun in 1922 and in the same capacity for the New York World. Smith was able to produce a strip about office work, From 9 to 5 while at the World which was also distributed by the United Features Syndicate. But Smith continued to struggle to make a living as a cartoonist during the Great Depression and found work with several WPA projects and did miscellaneous jobs for the Bell Syndicate.

Smith’s break came in 1932 when he began ghost drawing Bud Fisher’s Mutt and Jeff. In 1954, following the death of Fisher, Smith continued to draw Mutt and Jeff but his signature replaced Fisher’s. Smith introduced the Mutt and Jeff topper, Cicero’s Cat which was based on a character of his from the 9 to 5 strip. In the early 1950s he started his own syndicate, the Al Smith Feature Service, a service for weekly newspapers. In addition to work by other cartoonists, Smith also distributed his own features Rural Delivery and Remember When.

An active member of the National Cartoonists Society, Smith served as president from 1967 to 1969. He received the NCS Silver T-Square award in 1967 and Mutt and Jeff was named best humor comic strip in 1968. Smith retired in 1980, and the Field Newspaper Syndicate selected George Breisacher as his successor on Mutt and Jeff. Smith died on November 24, 1986 in Rutland, Vermont.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Bud Fisher and Al Smith Cartoons are organized in two series.

The Mutt and Jeff (1917-1973) series contains original artwork from the long running comic strip Mutt and Jeff. There are approximately 1,130 daily strips and 874 Sunday strips. For some time, Smith and others ghosted the strip, although Fisher's name remained on it until his death, upon which Smith began formally signing it.

There are several boxes of cartoons with partial dates (days and months but no years) or that are completely undated. Also some years have multiple dates appearing in both pencil and ink. Portions of some Sunday strips are missing.

Daily strips measure approximately between 5 3/4" x 17 ½" and 6 ½" x 20". Earlier years measure 11 ½" x 30". Sundays measure 14" x 23" to 18 x 24 ½". Fisher and Smith worked in ink on illustration board. Over the years zipatone screening and blue pencil were used for shading. There are also some strips colored with watercolor. Copyright notice stickers appear on some strips; notations and captions are in pencil.

Miscellaneous contains one item by Al Smith: a Jackie strip with a partial date of February 4, year unknown.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Items are arranged in chronological order. Due to size differences, daily and Sunday strips are typically housed separately.

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

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

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

Fisher, Bud, 1885-1954.
Smith, Al, 1902-1986.

Associated Titles

Jackie (comic strip)
Mutt and Jeff.

Subjects

American wit and humor, Pictorial.
Caricatures and cartoons -- United States.
Cartoonists -- United States.
Comic books, strips, etc. -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Cartoons (humorous images)
Comic strips.

Occupations

Cartoonists.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Bud Fisher and Al Smith Cartoons,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Al Smith, 1967, 1970-1973, 1975-1978, 1980-1982.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MD
Date: 11 Dec 2008
Revision history: 11 Dec 2008 - converted to EAD (MD); 13 Oct 2010 - added detailed bio, scope and inventory (SK)

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Inventory

Mutt and Jeff
Click here for a detailed inventory.
Daily cartoons
Oversize 8 1917, 1921-1924
Oversize 9 1925-1927
Oversize 10 1928-1929
Oversize 11 1930
Oversize 12 1931-1932
Oversize 12 1941, 1943, 1945-1946 circa 1940s
Oversize 1 1954-1955
Oversize 2 1956-1957 Jun
Oversize 3 1957 Jul-1958
Oversize 4 1959
Oversize 5 1960-1966, 1973
Oversize 7 Partial dates undated (57 items)
Oversize 13 Partial dates undated (56 items)
Oversize 13 Partial dates circa 1940s (63 items)
Oversize 7 Undated (80 items)
Sunday cartoons
Oversize 9 1925-1927
Oversize 10 1928
Oversize 11 1929
Oversize 12 1930 Jan-Feb,
Oversize 12 1931 Oct
Oversize 15 1939, 1946-1948
Oversize 6 1956-1967
Oversize 14 Partial dates undated (62 items)
Oversize 15 Undated (45 items)
Miscellaneous
Map-Case 1, Drawer 107 Jackie daily comic strip Feb 4 - original artwork, by Smith and distributed by Al Smith Service

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