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Roy Crane Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: -
Date: unknown

Biographical History

Royston C. Crane (1901-1977), known as Roy Crane, was an American cartoonist. He was the creator of the long-running newspaper comic strips Wash Tubbs/Captain Easy and Buz Sawyer.

Crane, son of Judge and Mrs. R. C. Crane, was born in 1901 in Abilene, Texas, and grew up in Sweetwater, Texas. He attended Hardin-Simmons University in 1918 and the University of Texas from 1919 to 1922, later studying briefly at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. In 1924, he started the comic strip, Wash Tubbs, for the Newspaper Enterprise Association in Cleveland. Later he introduced another character, "Captain Easy", into the strip, for whom the Sunday version was ultimately named. In 1943, Roy Crane left NEA to launch his new creation, Buz Sawyer, for King Features Syndicate in New York. Both Crane creations eventually ran well into the late 1980s.

Crane was honored with the prestigious Reuben Award by the National Cartoonists Society in 1950. He was also awarded the Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Public Service, the highest honor the navy can bestow on civilians, from the United States Navy for his fictional adventures of Buz Sawyer. In 1961, he received the Silver Lady Award from the Banshee club—a group of artists, editors, and writers in New York. Mr. Crane was honored with a Doctorate of Human Letters from Rollins College. He established the Roy Crane Award in Arts at the University of Texas to encourage independent achievement in creative writing, art, music, and drama in January 1965. Roy Crane died in 1977.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Comic Strips: The vast bulk of the Roy Crane Papers consists of comic strips in various formats from Wash Tubbs/Captain Easy (1924-1945) and Buz Sawyer (1943-1977). Comic strip formats include original cartoons, tear sheets and proofs. Typically, until about the late 1950s, Crane kept proofs/tear sheets in large scrapbooks, with Sunday and daily versions ordered separately in chronological order. After 1957, proofs were kept as loose sheets (6 strips per sheet for dailies). Crane's original cartoons are also ordered separately in chronological order. For the first few years of the Captain Easy Sunday strip, Crane produced large, hand-colored panels. Most of these are in 2 pieces, but about a dozen or so are still intact as single pieces. Often, especially in the early years of Wash Tubbs/Captain Easy, Crane cut his drawings into multiple pieces—probably to expedite mailing, but also for his own purposes (image files, examples for assistants, etc.). Whenever possible, identifiable fragments and partial cartoons have been integrated with other cartoon holdings (in chronological order); a number of these fragments, however, have not been integrated, and can be found together under the grouping "Cartoon Fragments".

In addition to holdings of Crane's primary comic strips, the collection also contains examples of other, short-lived and pilot strips that Crane produced. There are large format color proofs from Frank Battle and The Rise of Radio Rudolph, as well as original cartoon drawings from a never-realized travel feature. The collection also contains several tear sheet examples of the supplemental Wash Tubbs games feature, and a few tear sheets representing the early, short-lived Sunday version of Wash Tubbs.

Wash Tubbs/Captain Easy*. Daily cartoon: traces of graphite, blue pencil, pasteovers, pen and ink on Craftint board (some on illustration board), dimensions vary approx. 5 x 17 ½ in. to 7 ½ x 25 ½ in. Sunday cartoon: until 1935, traces of graphite, blue pencil, paste-overs, watercolor, brush, pen and ink on illustration board, overall dimensions approx. 22 ¾ x 24 in. (most in 2 pieces). After 1935, traces of graphite, blue pencil, paste-overs, brush, pen and ink on illustration board, overall dimensions approx. 21 ½ x 28 in. (most in 2 pieces). Daily proof: most approx. 3 x 8 ½ in. on newsprint (strips pasted into scrapbooks). Sunday proof: most 9 ½ x 13 in. in color on newsprint (pasted into scrapbooks).

Buz Sawyer. Daily cartoon: traces of graphite, blue pencil, scratchings, opaque white, brush, pen and ink on Craftint board (some on illustration board), approx. 6 x 18 in. Sunday cartoon: traces of graphite, blue pencil, opaque white, pasteovers, brush, pen and ink on illustration board, dimensions vary, most approx. 18 x 26 in. Daily proof sheet (1943-1965): dimensions vary, most 11 ½ x 19 ½ in. on newsprint (6 strips per sheet). Daily proof sheet (1965-1977): most approx. 8 ½ x 17 in. on glossy paper (6 strips per sheet). Sunday proof: dimensions vary, most approx. 10 ½ x 14 ½ in color on glossy paper (all in black and white starting 1965).

Other materials: In addition to the actual comic strips, the collection also contains a significant amount of material related to the production and distribution of the comic strips. There are preliminary drawings and sketches present from every phase of Crane's career. There are notes, drafts and typed manuscripts reflecting the development of story scenarios and continuities (including accumulated research material and notebooks). There is material related to Crane's working relationship with his assistants, including correspondence, sample drawings, and scrapbooks/manuals on "How to Draw Buz Sawyer" and "How to Write Buz Sawyer". There are also many examples of syndicate produced promotional materials for Wash Tubbs/Captain Easy, Buz Sawyer and other Roy Crane produced strips. Virtually all of the correspondence represents professional communications, including correspondence with syndicate representatives (both NEA and King Features), assistant artists (including Leslie Turner, Bela Zaboly, Joe King, Al Wenzel and Clark Haas), and a substantial amount of correspondence between Crane and various U.S. government entities, especially the U.S. Navy. The collection also contains a variety of biographical materials, published materials about Crane and his work, and original writings by Crane about his work and the history and art form of the comic strip. There are also original and published examples of Crane's early illustration work (and even a few samples of juvenilia).

*The evolution of the various permutations of Crane's original feature is a bit tangled, but in rough terms the daily version was titled "Wash Tubbs", while the Sunday feature ran with the title "Captain Easy". Eventually, around 1949, the two strips both began to carry the title "Captain Easy", but many local papers continued to use the old titles for many years.


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:

No reproduction of original art work without permission of Roy Crane's daughters.

Related Material

For additional original cartoons from the Wash Tubbs/Captain Easy comic strip, see the Leslie Turner Cartoons collection. In addition, Special Collections Research Center has an 18 volume reprint edition of all of Roy Crane's work on Wash Tubbs/Captain Easy. Please see the Classic Catalog for additional information.

Subject Headings


Bairnsfather, Bruce, 1887-
Crane, Roy.
Haas, Clark.
King, Joe.
Mendelsohn, Jack.
Schlensker, Hank.
Turner, Leslie, 1899-1988.
Wenzel, Al.
Zaboly, Bela.

Corporate Bodies

King Features Syndicate.
National Cartoonists Society.
Newspaper Enterprise Association.
United States. Navy.
University of Texas at Austin.

Associated Titles

Buz Sawyer (comic strip)
Captain Easy (comic strip)
Wash Tubbs (comic strip)


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

Genres and Forms

Cartoons (humorous images)
Comic books.
Manuscripts (document genre)
Proofs (printed matter)
Tear sheets.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Roy Crane Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Roy Crane .

Table of Contents

Wash Tubbs/Captain Easy comic strips

Buz Sawyer comic strips

Other comic strips

Art and Artifacts

Biographical material and personal papers


Drawings and sketches

Promotional material

Published material and clippings

Research material

Scripts/Scenarios (comic strips)