Fisher, Bud, 1885-1954

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1885-04-03
Death 1954-09-07
Americans

Biographical notes:

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.

From the guide to the Bud Fisher and Al Smith Cartoons., 1917-1973, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

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Subjects:

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

Occupations:

  • Cartoonists

Places:

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