(Roughly) Daily

The Joys of Knowing History, Illustrated…


from “Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse at the Circus” (click here to view)

Animated drawings were introduced to film a full decade after George Méliès had demonstrated in 1896 that objects could be set in motion through single-frame exposures. J. Stuart Blackton’s 1906 animated chalk experiment Humorous Phases of Funny Faces was followed by the imaginative works of Winsor McCay, who made between four thousand and ten thousand separate line drawings for each of his three one-reel films released between 1911 and 1914. Only in the half-dozen years after 1914, with the technical simplifications (and patent wars) involving tracing, printing, and celluloid sheets, did animated cartoons become a thriving commercial enterprise. This period–upon which this collection concentrates–brought assembly-line standardization but also some surprisingly surreal wit to American animation. The twenty-one films (and two Winsor McCay fragments) in this collection, all from the Library of Congress holdings, include clay, puppet, and cut-out animation as well as pen drawings. Beyond their artistic interest, these tiny, often satiric, films tell much about the social fabric of World War I-era America.

See these and other important– and enormously entertaining– animated films from 1900-1921 at the Library of Congress’ “Origins of American Animation“– Krazy Kat, Keeping Up With the Joneses, The Katzenjammer Kids, and more than a dozen other joys (that don’t start with “K”).


As we debate whether Windsor McCay or George Herriman was the greater genius, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that Mary Mallon– “Typhoid Mary”– died of a stroke on North Brother Island, where she he had been quarantined since 1915.  She was the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the pathogen associated with typhoid fever… before which, she inadvertently spread typhus for years while working as a cook in the New York area.




Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 11, 2011 at 1:01 am

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