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The Buster Brown Comics
Contributed by Anne and Timmy


Anne and Timmy, two of PDM's oldest friends, read the letter from in the February issue, which mentioned 'Buster Brown' suits. As well as being lovers of the romance of the turf, and especially thoroughbred art, Anne and Timmy are avid collectors of the original Buster Brown comics.

Buster Brown was the first newspaper comic strip, and Buster himself was a charmingly mischievous little imp, with far more interest to him than the irritatingly gallant and good-hearted Little Lord Fauntleroy. I mention them together because both established a style of dress for boys which was, even at the time, seen as being unacceptably sissy. It is somewhat ironic, because neither fictional character was meant to be in any way effeminate, and yet that was how boys interpreted their clothing.

Buster had a long-suffering mother, as all the best little boys in  fiction have (such as Mrs Brown in the 'William' stories), and - a creation of real genius - his dog Tige. Tige's breeding was, to put it kindly, indeterminate, and he was able to not just think English (as a lot of comic strip canines can), but actually speak it, commenting on the action like the Greek Chorus in the plays of antiquity.

This is the first of a series of Buster Brown originals which will appear in 'Petticoat Discipline Monthly'. One of the mysteries in this sample is Tige's comment in the title frame, 'He may dance his way into the 400 - like Harry What's-his-name'. I believe I have the solution. 'The 400' was a term from the gilded age of American free enterprise for the richest 400 people in the United States. In fact, even today 'Forbes' magazine publishes a '400' list.

Harry Lehr was a unfeeling cad and a thoroughly nasty person, but he was facinated by 'Society', and though not from a moneyed background, he managed to become part of the set by marrying a widow who was wealthy. The story is told at this site:

Newport During the Gilded Age

The picture of Buster in frock and petticoats performing a lively dance at the top of the page is just wonderful; so dynamic, and so winning. And the last frame is funny but touching too, with Tige looking downcast and sorry for his master, and Buster quoting Herbert Spencer - comics certainly demanded a bit more intellect of the reader than they do today!  - and determining that he will be happy, despite his sore bottom. It is impossible not to like him.
Susan MacDonald

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