Born Jan. 14: R.F. Outcault
By Michael Baadke
Richard Felton Outcault, commonly known as R.F. Outcault, was a pioneer newspaper cartoonist born Jan. 14, 1863, in Lancaster, Ohio. He studied art at the McMicken School in Cincinnati, and became a technical artist for companies such as Edison Laboratories in New Jersey.
He found employment with Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, which in 1895 published his single-panel illustrated comic feature Hogan’s Alley in color. The feature introduced a bald street urchin named Mickey Dugan, better known as “The Yellow Kid” because of the yellow nightshirt he always wore. Text written on the nightshirt served to convey Dugan’s thoughts and words.
Outcault was hired by William Randolph Hearst the following year to produce the comic for the New York Journal. The competing publishers eventually went to court over the popular feature, with Outcault remaining at the Journal.
A few years later, he developed another popular character, Buster Brown.
Outcault died in 1928.
A 32¢ stamp depicting The Yellow Kid was issued Oct. 1, 1995, as part of the Comic Strip Classics set of 20 (Scott 3000a). An inscription on the reverse of the stamp reads, “The Yellow Kid, R.F. Outcault (1863-1928). The first popular newspaper color cartoon was Hogan’s Alley starring the Yellow Kid. The tenement exploits of the Irish immigrant kid ignited public affection; when two New York papers fought over rival versions, ‘Yellow Journalism’ was born. The cartoon ran 1895-1898.”
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