The Cartoonists by Susanna McLeod         [email protected]

   

Edwina Dumm, Creator of "Cap Stubbs and Tippie"
and Cartooning Pioneer

June 23, 2011

   

Considered as the first woman editorial cartoonist in the United States in 1915, Edwina Dumm was also regarded as one of the first women to create a comic strip. An illustrator and artist, the pioneer in women's cartooning signed her work with only her first name, "Edwina."

Cartoonist Edwina Dumm

A little tomboy of a girl, Edwina Dumm loved to play outside with her brother and the neighbourhood kids. It didn't matter that she was a girl, she was in on the action and fun. Born in 1893, Edwina was raised in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

Newspapers and creativity were a staple in the Dumm home. Edwina's father, "Frank Dumm, had been a successful actor and playwright in New York before taking over his father's newspaper in Sandusky, Ohio," said Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Of the many creative members of the Dumm family, Edwina received the talent of drawing. Her brother, Robert Dennis Dumm, grew up to be a writer skilled in verse and language. Edwina set her sights on being a cartoonist.

 

In high school, Edwina studied the practical subjects of business courses and she gained work as a stenographer on graduating. She also took an art course through the mail from the C.N. Landon School of Illustrating and Cartooning based in Cleveland. (Founding the correspondence art school in 1909, Charles Nelson Landon was a professional illustrator, art director with the Newspaper Enterprise Association and art editor of Cosmopolitan magazine.)

Completing the coursework, Edwina was sufficiently qualified to receive a job as editorial cartoonist for the weekly Columbus Monitor in about 1915. The fledgling cartoonist was 22 years old. The once-a-week editorial cartoon job turned into a daily spot for Edwina when the Monitor became a daily publication. Edwina Dumm was considered the first woman to be working as a newspaper editorial cartoonist in the United States.

 

Making full use of her talents and pencils, Edwina took on occasional duties as comic strip creator with the newspaper, working on "The Meanderings of Minnie." The strip was about a rough-and-tumble little girl and her dog; perhaps "The Meanderings" cartoon nudged the creative machine in Edwina's mind into plotting her own comic strip.

"Edwina knew the big time for a cartoonists was New York," said Robert C. Harvey in the entry, "Dumm, Edwina" in The Encyclopedia of American Comics, From 1897 to the Present (Edited by Ron Goulart, Promised Land Productions 1990). "...by the fall of 1917, she had saved enough to stake herself to a year's trial there."

An astute young woman, Edwina sent off comic strip samples in advance to the George Matthew Adams Service, including something she gained a reputation for drawing - dogs. Visiting the syndicate on her arrival to the big city, Adams "told her he wanted her to do a strip about a boy and his dog."

Edwin Dumm in "Cartoons Magazine," 1917, Ohio State University Library  
Getting right to work on a comic strip, Edwina's "Cap Stubbs" was a success in the newspapers. Within six months of the strip's debut in 1918, Edwina was supporting herself through the daily comic, appearing on the funny pages Monday to Saturday.  

Featuring a little boy named "Cap Stubbs," the comic strip's characters also included Cap's parents Mary and Milton, and his grandmother, Sara Bailey. "Gran'ma" became a beloved part of the strip, and as she "scolded,nagged, and fussed, she still passed out candy or a slice of fresh-baked pie, one of a series of countless grandmotherly grestures of ill-concealed affection and tenderness," said Harvey. The short-haired dog Tippie advanced to position of co-star of the strip, displaying Edwina's skill in drawing the terrier and his expressions. (And Tippie looked very much like Edwina's own real dog, a lively terrier.)

The storylines of the strip were not always funny, not always full of action, but captured readers' adoration by sharing life through the eyes of a little boy and his dog. It worked out pretty well, considering the cartoonist's eyes were female, drawing memories of her happy tomboy childhood.

 

Accepting illustration work along with her comic strip, Edwina created an adorable long-haired pooch for Life, a humour magazine in the late 1920s. Named "Sinbad" through a reader contest, the full-page cartoon attracted the attention of Edwina's comic strip editors. They wanted her to change Tippie into the cute, long-haired Sinbad. Since dogs realistically can't change their fur type, a new storyline was devised in which the short-haired Tippie was given to a crippled child and the new long-haired Tippie joined Cap Stubbs. It was a happy ending for the characters and readers.

The comic strip title changed several times over the years, varying from the original "Cap Stubbs" to "Cap Stubbs and Tippie," just "Tippie" and occasionally, "Tippy."

"Tippie and Cap Stubbs" 10-cent comic book #210  

On the closing of the George Matthew Adams Service in the 1940s, King Features Syndicate took over "Cap Stubbs and Tippie" distribution, and the syndicate added the popular strip to the Sunday funnies. Along with her own strip, Edwina collaborated with her brother, Robert Dennis Dumm, on his strip, "Alec the Great," about, of course... an adorable dog. The strips were published by Crown in a book in 1946, "Alec the Great: 1001 Verses - Wise, Witty and Cheerful." The strip ran as a newspaper daily from the 1930s to the 1960s.

"Cap Stubbs and Tippie" ended publication when Edwina retired from her long career as a cartoonist in 1966. She had been drawing her feature for nearly 50 years, a regular in newspaper funnies pages. The artist never married nor had any children, her work was the passion of her life.

Frances Edwina Dumm died at her Manhattan home on May 1, 1990 at age 96. A pioneer in cartooning, Edwina achieved her childhood dream of becoming a cartoonist at a time when the art form was new and the possibilities were just beginning.

 
© Susanna McLeod 2011
TheCartoonists.ca