On This Day

first peanuts cartoon, first charlie brown cartoon, good ol' charlie brown
Associated Press
The first “Peanuts” cartoon, published Oct. 2, 1950.

On This Day: “Peanuts” Comic Strip Debuts

October 02, 2011 06:00 AM
by Kate Davey
On Oct. 2, 1950, Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip first appeared in several newspapers.

Schulz’s “Li’l Folks”

In 1947, Charles Schulz was working as an art instructor and cartoonist for a religious periodical when he began writing his own cartoon, “Li’l Folks,” and selling it to the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Saturday Evening Post.

In 1950, he sold “Li’l Folks” to United Feature Syndicate, which renamed the strip “Peanuts,” a name Schulz never really liked, according to the Schulz Museum. The renamed cartoon made its syndicated debut on Oct. 2, 1950, appearing in eight newspapers.

The four-frame debut strip, called “Good Ol’ Charlie Brown,” featured Charlie Brown skipping past Shermy and Patty, two characters who rarely appeared in later strips. In the last two frames, Shermy remarks, “Good Ol’ Charlie Brown … How I hate him!”

The Growth of “Peanuts”

Charlie Brown’s beagle Snoopy made his debut on Oct. 4. In the following years, Schulz added familiar characters such as Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Schroeder, Linus, Pig-Pen and Woodstock. From the first day it was published until Schulz retired, “Peanuts” would appear in over 2,600 newspapers worldwide.

“Peanuts” also made its way onto television, most notably in the animated movies is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Time magazine, including it as one of “The 100 Best TV Shows of All-Time,” writes, “TV doesn’t generally do melancholy, especially at ho-ho-holiday time. Which only makes this special about a loser adopting an anemic Christmas tree, more, well, special.”

The characters, particularly Snoopy and Charlie Brown, became some of the most loved cartoon characters of all time. NPR’s Scott Simon looks at Charlie Brown and sees him as more than just the little boy that can’t kick the football: “Despite all temptation and frustration, his bruised heart and backside, Charlie Brown is nice. And do we tell ourselves often enough, and do we tell our children, how important that really is?”

Biography: Charles M. Schulz

Bill Watterson, creator of the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes,” writes in a review of David Michaelis’ “Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography” that Schulz used the comic strip to play out the unhappiness in his own life.

Many “Peanuts” strips “vividly demonstrate how Schulz used his cartoons to work through private concerns,” writes Watterson. “We discover, for example, that in the recurring scenes of Lucy annoying Schroeder at the piano, the crabby and bossy Lucy stands in for [Schulz’s first wife] Joyce, and the obsessive and talented Schroeder is a surrogate for Schulz.”

Schulz’s family has disputed this depiction of Schulz as a distant, lonely and sad man. Schulz’s oldest son, Monte Schulz, “says the book accentuates the negative, gets some facts wrong and shortchanges his father’s ‘joys, his passions,’” according to USA Today.

PBS’s American Masters recounts events of Schulz’s life alongside strips from his comic. One such event includes Schulz’s drawings being rejected from his high school yearbook, shown beside a strip where Snoopy receives a rejection letter reading, “You are a terrible writer. Why do you bother us? … Leave us alone. Drop Dead.”

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