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volume 9
february 2007

"It's almost got so you can't speak th' truth without commitin' an indiscretion."


  Abe Martin and American cartoon humor
by Kevin Howley
  Throughout the early 20th century, Frank McKinney "Kin" Hubbard (1868-1930) was one of the most beloved figures of American popular culture. For nearly three decades, Hubbard's daily cartoon, "Abe Martin," ran in the Indianapolis News, and over 300 daily newspapers across the United States. Among Hubbard's friends and admirers were such luminaries as humorist Will Rogers, novelist Meredith Nicholson, and poet James Whitcomb Riley. And yet, fans and students of comic art have overlooked Hubbard's considerable achievements. With this in mind, Kevin Howley here offers a concise reassessment of Hubbard's accomplishments.
1 Kin Hubbard as a cultural mediator. On 17 December 1904, a wry and unassuming cartoon character by the name of Abe Martin made his debut on the back page of the Indianapolis News. A product of the fertile imagination of American humorist and illustrator Frank McKinney (Kin) Hubbard, "Abe Martin" appeared as a single panel illustration of the rustic philosopher; beneath him an epigrammatic saying or two rendered in a rural Midwestern dialect. Over the years, Hubbard ascribed different labels to these pearls of wisdom: "Comments of Abe Martin," "Abe Martin's Sayings," and most accurately perhaps, "Abe Martin's Wisecracks." Regardless of what Hubbard called these witticisms, few subjects escaped Abe's notice, or his shrewd commentary; and while some of Hubbard's homespun humor may be lost on contemporary audiences, his more sardonic observations are as penetrating today as they were the day they first appeared in print: "It seems like th' less a statesman amounts to th' more he loves th' flag."
  Kin Hubbard's reputation and prodigious output did not begin and end with the daily cartoon, however. In addition to producing an original Abe Martin cartoon six days a week for the better part of three decades, Hubbard wrote comic essays, what he described as "Short Furrows," for the Saturday edition of the Indianapolis News. In 1906, Hubbard published Abe Martin of Brown County, Indiana — the first of dozens of yearly collections of Abe Martin cartoons and comic essays.
These annual books introduced readers to Abe Martin's friends and neighbors — a colorful cast of cartoon characters including the likes of Lafe Bud, Miss Fawn Lippincut, Uncle Niles Turner, Newt Plum, Miss Tawney Apple, and Mr. & Mrs. Tilford Moots — that populated his fictional town of Bloom Center. No less perceptive than Abe Martin, these eccentrics voiced their opinions in columns, essays, and editorials in Hubbard's fanciful newsweekly, the Bloom Center Weekly Sliphorn. Occasionally, this annual publication took on a more traditional sheen; the celebrated Abe Martin Almanack, an inventive parody of the perennial American form, featured imaginative lampoons of advice columns, news briefs, horoscopes, classified ads and other aspects of contemporary print culture. Like the daily cartoon, the annual collections and almanacs were widely read across Indiana. In 1910, syndication brought Hubbard's regional favorite to a national reading audience. Some time later, Hubbard's "Short Furrows" were likewise syndicated nationally. [1] Abe Martin graced the pages of the nation's newspapers until Hubbard's death in 1930.
Right: Tinted cartoon of Kin Hubbard's Abe Martin (click on the image for a larger view)

Largely forgotten today, Kin Hubbard's sly and incisive work was enormously popular with a nation of readers for nearly three decades. As Laurence J. Peter (1978: 71) reminds us, "When Kin Hubbard died ... a nation mourned. He received an unprecedented tribute: his funeral service was the first to be broadcast over a radio network." Small wonder then that Hubbard's illustrations and comic essays earned him the respect of America's comedic and literary elite: among Kin Hubbard's friends and admirers were novelist Meredith Nicholson, poet James Whitcomb Riley, and humorist Will Rogers. And yet, apart from flattering, but brief mentions in books on American humor and a handful of collected volumes of his work, Kin Hubbard's contribution to the growth and development of the comic strip remains unacknowledged. [2]

This essay represents a modest attempt to make up for this shortcoming and in so doing provide a critical assessment of Kin Hubbard's once popular, but overlooked and under-examined cartoon. Specifically, I chart Abe Martin's trajectory, from its origins and influences in antecedent cultural forms and traditions — most notably vaudeville, political caricature, and the cracker barrel philosopher — to the cartoon's influence on the art and craft of American comic strips and comic books. Throughout, I argue that Abe Martin vividly demonstrates popular culture's role in mediating social conditions and historical reality. [3]

  That is to say, I suggest that Abe Martin's comic musings reflect as well as refract the dramatic transformations in American culture — the ascendance of industrial production and subsequent craft deskilling; the development of urban mass culture and the attendant erosion of small-town pastoralism; and the resulting tensions surrounding profound changes in social, economic, and political relations — during the early 20th century. In saying this, I am drawing on work in media and cultural studies which investigates what scholars describe as "the circuit of cultural production" (Johnson, 1987; Lewis and Jhally, 1998). In this tripartite formulation, the production of media texts, the texts themselves, and the reception of these texts are viewed as discrete but related foci of cultural analysis. Here, special emphasis is placed on the social and cultural contexts in which the artifacts of popular culture — such as popular music, Hollywood movies, or in our example, newspaper cartoons — are produced, distributed, and understood.
  This approach encourages analysts to consider what media historians Chris Anderson and Michael Curtin (2001: 21) describe as popular culture's "characteristic double mediation." Thus, Abe Martin is best understood as a cultural artifact that incorporates the attitudes, sensibilities, and concerns of the day — industrialization, women's suffrage, prohibition, technological change, and consumer culture to mention but a few — and, through newspaper production, publication, and national syndication, makes these topical concerns available to reading publics in an intelligible and engaging fashion. In turn, the meanings constructed from the audience's reception and use of these texts are available for recirculation by cultural producers and institutions.
  We can detect this process of cultural mediation through Kin Hubbard's Abe Martin cartoon across three dimensions: first by relating aspects of Hubbard's background and personal history; second through an account of the significance of graphic illustrations, caricature, and cartoons to the growth and development of the modern newspaper; and finally, by observing the lasting impact Hubbard's cartoon has had on Brown County, Indiana — the "home" of Abe Martin.
2 "Experience is a dear teacher, but he delivers th' goods." The youngest of six children, Kin Hubbard was born on 1 September 1868 to Thomas and Sara Jane Hubbard. Thomas Hubbard, a Democratic Party loyalist, was a lifelong journalist and editor of the Bellefontaine, Ohio Weekly Examiner. [4] Despite youthful ambivalence toward the family newspaper business — Kin's earliest career aspirations involved a life in the theater, like that of his maternal grandfather, John B. Miller — Kin Hubbard's reputation rests on his long, successful, and rewarding association with the Indianapolis News. Hubbard's obituary in The New York Times (1930) may have put it best: "Although the philosophy of 'Abe Martin' has been compared with that of Josh Billings, Artemus Ward and other famous humorists of American literature, Mr. Hubbard from first to last was a newspaper man and was reared in a family of newspaper editors and publishers."
  At an early age, Kin displayed considerable artistic talents and formidable manual dexterity, first with paper and scissors and then, with pencil, pen and ink: skills that would serve him well in the time and labor-intensive work of newspaper illustration. Sara Hubbard nurtured Kin's creative impulses and the boy's innate theatricality enthralled the entire family. Indeed, his parents were neither surprised nor especially troubled by Kin's aversion toward schoolwork. Notwithstanding a brief stint at a Jefferson School of Art in Detroit when he was a young man, Hubbard's formal education ended with the seventh grade. Thus, a self-educated, non-conformist with an insatiable appetite for the popular entertainments of the day, Kin Hubbard spent his early years in and around the newspaper office, at his part-time job at the local paint store, and habitually, at the Bellefontaine Opera House.
  Kin's love for the theater — especially the vaudevillians whose eccentricities and affectations he both admired and emulated — was matched by his keen appreciation for more pastoral entertainments: the county fair and the traveling circus. Kin famously held a special place in his heart for those kings of comedy: the circus clowns. In these late 19th and early 20th century popular entertainments, we can detect some of Abe Martin's most distinctive and appealing characteristics. For instance, in the staples of the typical vaudeville program — caricature, dialect comedy, and comic monologues — Kin Hubbard found inspiration as well as road-tested techniques for tickling an audience's funny bone.
  An avid theatergoer, Kin Hubbard also wrote, produced, directed and appeared in theatrical works for the Bellefontaine stage. As Hubbard aficionado and interpreter David Hawes (1995: 10) notes, these theatrical pieces, such as Grand Operatic Minstrels and Frank K. Hubbard's High Class Vaudevilles, confirmed Kin Hubbard's knack for imitation, character sketches, and social satire: "From these initial forays as a comic writer and performer, Kin gained valuable insight and knowledge about what makes people laugh, and he had a chance to experiment with writing comedy and portraying comic characters." The odd yet compelling assortment of townspeople that would one day populate Hubbard's imagined community of Bloom Center were inspired no less by his keen observations of small town life in Bellefontaine, and years later in and around Brown County, Indiana, than by the uproarious comedic routines and well-honed caricatures common to the minstrel and vaudeville programs he frequented in his youth.
  Kin Hubbard likewise drew inspiration and insight from circus clowns. In terms of his physical appearance, dress, and puckish attitude, Abe Martin clearly resembles a clown: he is dressed in baggy pants, outsized shoes, black jacket and stripped bow tie. Beneath a weathered hat, Abe's pipe protrudes from a generous set of whiskers. Moreover, Hubbard imbues his cartoon character with those aspects of the circus clown's performance style — the clever sight gag, the throw away line, the well-timed comic aside — that makes the clown an endearing character; one who's jaundiced perspective is tempered by the wry smile, the knowing wink.
  Abe Martin's impish qualities provided a brilliant counterpoint to Hubbard's more philosophical inclinations. That is to say, in addition to his cartoon's clown — like demeanor, Hubbard invested Abe Martin with the insight and eloquence of yet another popular comic figure of the day: the cracker-barrel philosopher. This enduring figure of 19th century American literature and journalism is "a small-town citizen, well-known locally as a sharp, witty, independent sort of fellow, and he can be frequently found holding forth in the general store. He has little formal education but a lot of common sense" (Hawes, 1995: 21). Perched on a split-rail fence, warming his feet by a potbelly stove, or ruefully examining the daily newspaper, Abe Martin shared his thoughts and observations on human caprice, foibles, and frailties — all with a winning mix of bemusement and horse sense. Thus, by drawing on a popular, well-known and much-admired literary tradition, Hubbard's cartoon character resonated with reading audiences familiar with the cracker-barrel philosopher's penchant for jokes, gossip, and perspicacious storytelling.
  Here, then, we can observe how Hubbard's personal background — his small town roots, his intimate knowledge of literary, journalistic, and popular culture forms, as well as his lack of formal education — shaped and informed his cartoon character. What makes Hubbard's achievement even more noteworthy is the economy of style — a skill critical to the cartoon as well as the comic strip — with which his small-town philosopher made wry observations or related humorous tales. As fellow humorist Franklin Adams observed, Kin Hubbard's genius rests in large measure on his ability to "get a whole novel into a sentence" (quoted in: Hubbard, 1926).
  Left: American humorist Will Rogers, left, with his friend Kin Hubbard (click on the image for a larger view)

Upon learning of Kin Hubbard's death, America's preeminent humorist of the day, Will Rogers (1930: 15), wrote in The New York Times: "Just think, just two lines a day, yet he expressed more original philosophy in 'em than all the rest of the paper combined. What a kick Twain and that old gang will get out of Kin." The parallel Rogers draws between Mark Twain and Kin Hubbard is instructive. Both Twain and Hubbard were newspapermen. The two humorists relished social satire and each made significant contributions to the literary tradition of the cracker-barrel philosopher. Moreover, they both achieved a level of popular and critical success that few American humorists have enjoyed before or since. Whereas Twain's lasting fame rests largely upon his unique contributions to established literary traditions — the essay, the short story, and the novel — Hubbard's relatively unacknowledged triumph lies in his winning reconfiguration of extant forms, conventions, and practices in shaping an emergent cultural form: the comic strip.

3 "We'd all like t' vote fer th' best man, but he's never a candidate." Prior to the diffusion of half-tone technology that made high quality, photographic reproduction commonplace in mass circulation dailies, the illustrator and sketch-reporter were fixtures in the newsroom. Of all the graphic elements common to newspapers at this time — advertisements, portraiture, and news illustrations — the political caricature and the editorial cartoon were among its most popular and distinctive features. And as cultural historian Ian Gordon (1998: 14) reminds us, "the increased use of illustrated material in newspapers ... contributed to the development of comic strips." Tracing Kin Hubbard's early career as a caricaturist and sketch-reporter, we can observe how these antecedent forms influenced Hubbard's Abe Martin cartoon. As we shall see, Hubbard's innovations not only reflected contemporary trends in newspaper illustration and graphic arts; his unique contribution helped shape what readers would come to recognize as the newspaper comic. Exploring Hubbard's work in this fashion allows us to better understand the decisive role cartoons and comic strips played in shaping the modern newspaper.
In 1884, Kin Hubbard published his first caricature: a wood-block engraving of the James G. Blaine and John H. Logan, Republican candidates for President and Vice-President of the United States. Thomas Hubbard published the illustration in the Examiner and helped launch his son's early career as caricaturist. Some years later, a friend recommended Kin for a staff position at the Indianapolis News. Despite a promising start, however, Kin left the paper following what David Hawes (1995: 10) describes as "an honest disagreement with a new managing editor ... about the particulars of some extremely difficult work assigned to him." Still flirting with a career in the theater, Kin traveled across his native Ohio and picked up work as an illustrator and reporter-sketch artist at several publications, including the Cincinnati, Ohio Tribune and the Mansfield, Ohio News. Invariably, Hubbard returned home, where, thanks to a patronage position his father secured through the Democratic Party, Kin could always find work at the Bellefontaine post office. [5]
Over time, Kin Hubbard came to realize that his temperament, if not his talents, was poorly suited to acting — despite outward appearances to the contrary, Kin Hubbard suffered from stage fright. [6] He resolved instead to pursue a career in the newspaper business. In 1899, a fortuitous offer from the Indianapolis Sun took Kin Hubbard away from Bellefontaine, Ohio forever. Soon thereafter, the Sun's cross-town rival, the News re-hired Kin for his increasingly popular comic drawings. The year was 1901. Kin Hubbard remained on staff with the Indianapolis News until the day he died.
Between 1899 and 1904, the year of Abe Martin's "birth," Kin Hubbard developed his talents as a sketch-reporter and political caricaturist. Hubbard was particularly well suited to the later. After all, he had received a formidable political education through his father's work for the Democratic Party. Moreover, Kin's wry humor and keen eye for detail lent his political caricatures a kinder, gentler satirical quality than the far more scathing cartoons and caricatures made famous, and quite popular, by Thomas Nast and the scores of illustrators who emulated his seminal work for Harper's Weekly. [7] Hubbard's fanciful caricatures of the Indiana State Legislature were especially popular with readers of the Indianapolis News and Kin quickly gained a regional reputation for his sly renderings of the Hoosier state's political class.
  Political caricature of the Indiana State Legislature
(click on the image for a larger view)
  Aside from covering the Indiana state house, Kin Hubbard traveled across Indiana during the election season, attended both the state and national political conventions, and otherwise spent a good deal of time on the campaign trail. "His 'news report' consisted of caricatures, cartoons, or comic strips, sometimes accompanied by descriptive passages and snips of dialogue" (Hawes, 1995: 14). In the fall of 1904, Kin's travels with Indiana gubernatorial candidate John W. Kern took him to the isolated but rather idyllic Brown County, Indiana, where he began to flesh out a character he had been developing for some time.
  According to David Hawes, Hubbard grew quite fond of his "agriculturist" — the recurring character that began to frequent his illustrated dispatches to the Indianapolis News. This rustic wiseacre would make clever comments on the comings and goings of politicians. As the 1904 election season ended, Hubbard approached his editor with the idea of developing the cartoon character inspired by the locals, and locale, of Brown County. On 17 December Abe Martin made his very first appearance in the Indianapolis News. Neither Hubbard, the newspaper comic, nor Brown County would ever be quite the same.
Over the course of the next several years, Abe Martin grew increasingly popular with readers across Indiana. In 1910, Hubbard's friend, the writer George Ade, took it upon himself to promote Abe Martin to a national audience. [8] Writing in American Magazine, an influential monthly of the day, Ade praised Hubbard — and his cartoon sage — for his wit, wisdom, and whimsy. Ade's reputation as one of the country's leading humorists helped Kin Hubbard secure a nation-wide syndication deal with the George Mathew Adams Service.
  Founded in 1907, the Adams Service built its reputation on small panel cartoons that reflected George Matthew Adams' penchant for gentle humor, homespun advice and other inspirational messages. These panels proved enormously popular with newspaper editors across the country, as material of this sort was ideal for filling a daily paper's newshole. In short order, Abe Martin became the flagship of the Adams Service and helped secure the syndicate's standing within the newspaper industry. Although the Adams Service is usually remembered for its non-comic features, George Matthew Adams is credited with introducing readers to such genteel comics as Edwina Dumm's "Tippie and Cap Stubbs," Ed Wheelan's "Minute Movies," and some time later, Jack Kirby's "Sky Masters" among other popular comic strips. Somewhat uncharacteristically, the Adams Service also distributed a series of highly charged political cartoons during the Red Scare of 1918-1921.
With this in mind, we can begin to appreciate the role Kin Hubbard and his Abe Martin cartoon played in defining a uniquely American cultural form: the comic strip. That is to say, by merging the tradition of the political cartoon, known for its provocative, often-incendiary content, and the sly civility of the cracker-barrel philosopher, Kin Hubbard charted a middle ground that would appeal to both newspaper publishers and a mass audience. [9] Through national syndication, then, Hubbard's work contributed to the development of early 20th century American print culture.
  Right: Abe Martin, with inscription, circa 1911 (click on the image for a larger view)

Equally important for our purposes here, national distribution likewise influenced Hubbard's comic foil. That is to say, as his national readership grew, Hubbard tailored his cartoon to appeal to a broader, geographically dispersed and demographically diverse audience. In syndication, a younger, more vigorous Abe Martin casts his skeptical eye toward national events, issues, and trends. As David Hawes (1995: 24) concludes, "Abe looks less like a shrewd country bumpkin, more like an impish, witty-wise small-town citizen. For the most part, probably the later-day Abe Martin more believably communicates Kin Hubbard's satiric observations of American society in the 1920s." Thus, national distribution not only brought Hubbard's work to a heterogeneous reading public, syndication altered Kin Hubbard's comic character in subtle, yet revealing ways.

  Left: A younger, more vigorous Abe Martin appeared in national syndication (click on the image for a larger view)

Of special note here, then, is Hubbard's use of the recurrent character of Abe Martin in helping to forge a distinctive American cultural form. As Ian Gordon (1998: 9) observes, "American illustrated humor drew its form and some of its inspiration from European antecedents. But two factors — the use of continuing characters and their appearance in mass-circulated newspapers — set American comic strips apart from their earlier European form and made them mass market products." Citing the decisive role played by R.F. Outcault's "The Yellow Kid," Rudolph Dirks's "Katzenjammer Kids" and other prototypical comic strips, Gordon argues that the it was the comic's daily appearance and, crucially, its use of likeable, easily recognizable, and continuing characters that were integral to the rise of mass circulation newspapers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

  Thus, by reconfiguring extant cultural forms — the caricature, the political cartoon, vaudeville's dialect comedy, and the American literary tradition of the cracker-barrel philosopher — Kin Hubbard helped establish the cartoon and comic strip as a distinctly modern form: a form that is at once a product of, and commentary on, the dramatic cultural transformations that were shaping American life at the dawn of the twentieth century. This aspect of Hubbard's work is perhaps most evident when we consider the tensions his cartoon Abe Martin illuminates in Brown County, Indiana — the inspiration for Abe Martin's imagined community of Bloom Center.
4 "There isn't much to be seen in a little town, but what you hear makes up for it." When Abe Martin made his debut, Brown County inhabited a complex and contradictory place in the popular imagination. For residents of Indianapolis, Brown County was a backwater populated by coarse and inhospitable hillbillies. According to folklorist Dillon Bustin (1982: 8), "Brown County was used as a negative example by the business and political elite in Indianapolis, inspiring countless jokes, sermons, and editorials." Conversely, a small but increasingly influential group of writers and pictorial artists seized upon Brown County as refuge from the alienating effects of city life. "In the first decade of the twentieth century Brown County was established as an object of fascination by those who found industrial capitalism disturbing or distasteful" (Bustin, 1982: 9). Thus, Hubbard's decision to set his comic philosopher in Brown County was rather astute inasmuch as Brown County's reputation, ambiguous thought it may have been, was immediately recognizable to readers of the Indianapolis News.
  Already quite familiar with popular depictions of the hillbilly farmer of South-Central Indiana, audiences understood the social and cultural significance of Hubbard's cartoon character. And as Brown County was the site of competing discourses on modernity — an isolated but nonetheless idyllic hamlet perched on the cusp of the dramatic transformations associated with industrialization and the rise of mass culture — Brown County and its environs provided fertile ground indeed for Hubbard's philosophical musings. To his credit, then, Hubbard's invention charted a middle ground between these two opposing views: Abe Martin was neither the country bumpkin doomed to oblivion by the modern age, nor a quaint and naïve throwback to a bygone era. At his best, Abe Martin poked fun at the hubris of city dwellers' stereotype of the backward hillbilly farmer as well as the romantic gullibility of the artistic set enamored by a nostalgic and woefully uninformed appreciation of the "simple life."
None of which is to suggest, however, that everyone appreciated Hubbard's cartoon. Observing Abe Martin's popularity with readers in Indianapolis, Dillon Bustin (1982: 11) suggests that "Hubbard's series was deeply resented in Nashville, however, where it was hard to understand that the new publicity was not meant to be unkind." Bustin's account of photographer Frank Hohenberger's uneasy relationship with the residents of Brown County reveals considerable ambivalence toward Hohenberger, Kin Hubbard, James Whitcomb Riley and others whose words and images inspired a growing tourist trade to this once secluded part of the state. For those farmers who lived on and worked the rugged terrain, the introduction of rail and automobile transportation, the growing tourist trade, and finally, the establishment of Brown County State Park did indeed mark the end of a whole way of life. As Bustin recounts, longtime residents of Brown County were systematically bought off their land to make way for the state park, home of the popular tourist destination, the Abe Martin Lodge. [10]
  On the other hand, tourism solved the county's chronic financial problems. While other county seats had long ago established an economic base in agriculture, resource extraction, or manufacturing, the town of Nashville, Indiana and the surrounding area was severely depressed throughout most of its history, due in large part to the region's topography and inaccessibility. Today, tourism is Brown County's principal industry. Thus, Abe Martin was a boon to Brown County's economic fortunes. Over time residents viewed Kin Hubbard, and his cartoon characters, more favorably. In the forword to Hubbard's collection, Abe Martin, the joker on facts, William Herschell (1920) notes, "Brown County at first resented Hubbard's shafts of humor and satire, but today the residents recognize that he has made their county famous, and that his humor really discloses them as masters of a homely wit." In 1924, Nashville residents returned the favor when they named the town's new movie theater the Melodeon after the theater in Hubbard's fictional Bloom Center.
Right: Undated pen and ink for a series titled "Folks who are keeping Real Sports Alive in Indiana" (click on the image for a larger view)

With syndication, Abe Martin's folksy wisdom reached a national audience which, despite its geographic specificity, nonetheless resonated with readers' ambivalence toward the defining features of early 20th century American culture: urbanization, the automobile, mass culture, women's suffrage, and prohibition. And while it is difficult to chart a direct relationship, we can nevertheless detect Kin Hubbard's influence on subsequent comic art. For instance, the tensions between rural and urban culture, tradition and modernity — not to mention the uproarious use of dialect humor — present in Abe Martin is apparent in two "classic" American comic strips: Walt Kelly's "Pogo" and Al Capp's "Li'l Abner." Lesser known, but no less significant comics such as J.P. Alley's "Hambone's Meditations" and the incisive political and cultural critique of Norman Anthony's Depression-era comic magazine Ballyhoo likely drew inspiration from Hubbard's inventive social satire. [11] For fans of comic art, then, Kin Hubbard's prolific output is noteworthy and something of an unexpected pleasure. For scholars, Hubbard's cartoon represents an important, if neglected site to examine the dynamics of American print culture in general, and of comics in particular. As suggested above, such an analysis foregrounds the social, cultural, and political significance of this common, distinctive, yet largely overlooked feature of contemporary popular culture.


1. Hubbard rarely received the byline for these comic essays. Instead, Abe Martin, Hubbard's principal spokesperson, and his other comic characters were listed as the authors of these short furrows. Return to text
2. Cfr. Kelly, 1952; Hawes, 1995. Return to text
3. Cfr. Silverstone, 1999. Return to text
4. During the Civil War, one story has it, Thomas Hubbard was thrown out of the second-story window of the Dayton, Ohio Empire for publishing material in support of the Democratic Party. Return to text
5. As a reward for his fierce party loyalty, Thomas Hubbard was made Postmaster of Bellefontaine following Democrat Grover Cleveland's victory in 1884 presidential election. Return to text
6. An anecdote included in Hubbard's obituary in the New York Times (1930) suggests as much. Asked to appear in public in the guise of his cartoon character, Abe Martin, the story goes that Hubbard "appeared quite nervous while reading the article and vowed never attempt it again. This, perhaps, was the reason that, about a year ago, he turned down an offer to produce 'Abe Martin' in skits which he was to have broadcast from radio networks." Return to text
7. For a detailed account of the development of political caricatures and cartoons in late 19th century United States, see: Gordon, 1998, chapter 2 "From caricatures to comic strips." Return to text
8. For more on George Ade, see: Ashforth, 1987. Return to text
9. Here, I am drawing on cultural theorist Homi Bhabah's useful phrase to highlight Hubbard's use or parody and satire to critique modern society in a manner that was less strident, and therefore more acceptable to mass circulation dailies, and their advertisers, than overtly political cartoons might be (Bhabha, 1994). Return to text
10. Proponents of the state park planned their tribute to Kin Hubbard prior to his death. The Abe Martin Lodge, centerpiece of Brown County State Park, was dedicated in honor of Kin Hubbard in May 1932. Return to text
11. For a brief note on J.P. Alley's work, see: Kennedy, 1988. For more on Ballyhoo, see: McFadden, 2003. Return to text

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  • Ashforth, Albert (1987), "Hoosier humorist, three letters." In: American Scholar, 56, 4, 565-573.
  • Bhabha, Homi (1994), The location of culture. New York: Routledge.
  • Bustin, Dillon (1982), If you don't outdie me. The legacy of Brown County. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Gordon, Ian (1998), Comic strips and consumer culture, 1890-1945. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • Hawes, David (ed.) (1995), The best of Kin Hubbard. Bloomington: Indiana University Press (2nd edition).
  • Herschell, William (1920), "Forword." In: Kin Hubbard, Abe Martin, the joker on facts. Indianapolis: Abe Martin Publishing Company.
  • Hubbard, Kin (1926), Hoss sense and nonsense. Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill.
  • Johnson, Richard (1987), "What is cultural studies anyway?" In: Social Text 16, 38-80.
  • Kelly, Fred C. (1952), Kin Hubbard. Creator of Abe Martin. New York: Farrar: Straus and Young.
  • McFadden, Margaret (2003), "Warning — Do not risk federal arrest by looking glum! Ballyhoo Magazine and the cultural politics of early 1930s humor." In: The Journal of American Culture, 26, 1, 124-133.
  • Kennedy, Sara Beaumont (1988), "Corncob and Cornpone. A black Abe Martin." In: Nemo, 28 (January 1988), 15.
  • Lewis, Justin, and Sut Jhally (1998), "The struggle over media literacy." In: Journal of Communication, 48, 1, 109-120.
  • New York Times (1930), "Kin Hubbard dies. Famous humorist." Obituary in: New York Times, 27 December 1930, 13.
  • Peter, Laurence J. (1978), "One-liners for posterity." In: Human Behavior, September 1978, 71.
  • Rogers, Will (1930), "Will Rogers pays tribute to Hubbard and his humor." In: New York Times, 27 December 1930, 15.
  • Silverstone, Roger (1999), Why study the media? Thousand Oaks: Sage.

  All images are from the Hubbard manuscript collection, courtesy of the Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. The author would like to thank students in DePauw University's Media Criticism course (Fall 2004) for their assistance on an earlier draft of this paper.
  2007 © Soundscapes