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Harry Hershfield

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Original sketches by the legendary cartoonist

Harry Hershfield, 1885–1974.  Legendary American comic artist, humorist, and radio personality.  Autograph Note Signed, Harry Hershfield, with original sketches, June 19, 1963.

Hershfield writes that these sketches of three of his most famous characters, “Desperate Desmond,” “Homeless Hector,” and “Abe Kabibble,” are “Drawn especially and gladly for Carol and Jason Kanter— / Harry Hershfield / June 19—63."

A comic strip artist from age 14, Hershfield drew for some of the nation's largest newspapers, including the Chicago Daily News, the New York Herald-Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle.  He began in Chicago by drawing cartoons for the sports page.  It was there that he published his first comic strip, which featured this street mutt dog, “Homeless Hector."  In 1910, as an artist for William Randolph Hearst's New York Evening Journal, he launched his first major strip, a burlesque-type melodrama featuring the top-hatted, villainous character “Desperate Desmond." 

In 1914, Hershfield created “Abie the Agent,” featuring “Abe Kabibble,” the first syndicated Jewish comic strip character. It became Hershfield's most successful strip, published daily in black-and-white and Sunday in color until 1940.  Abe, a salesman, agent, and store-owner, was an endlessly anxious, extremely active, lower middle-class Jew in New York City.  Hershfield said that he made Abe a clean-cut, well-dressed specimen of Jewish humor because previous depictions of Jews on the stage and in burlesque had presented a type of Jewish humor not all complimentary to the Jewish people and not all justified.  The strip used Yiddish and other ethnic dialects, mostly Irish and German, and depicted those groups with both wit and good taste.  It appealed primarily to urban adults, both Jewish and Gentile.  

By the 1930s, Hershfield, whom one columnist dubbed “the Jewish Will Rogers,” was in such high demand as a toastmaster and emcee that he averaged some 200 events a year.  When “Abie the Agent" ended, Hershfield became a well-known radio personality, telling jokes on Stop Me If You've Heard This One and co-starring on NBC's Can You Top This?  He was also a frequent guest on early television shows in the 1950s.  He wrote a column for the New York Daily Mirror and two books, including Laugh Louder, Live Longer, a book of jokes and stories published in 1959.

Hershfield has drawn these characters and inscribed and signed the piece in blue ballpoint pen.  The paper, from a spiral-bound pad, shows a bit of handling.  The remnants of the binding, a couple of staple holes, and a small tear are at the top margin, but those could be matted out if the piece were framed.  The piece is in fine condition and would make an excellent display.

Unframed.  Click here for information about custom framing this piece.


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