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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Lessons in (Boys') Life

Monday, May 22, 2006

Lesson #1: Guns
Forget today's gun amnesties and "Guns for Toys" drives. The NRA must look back on the 1950's with a wistful tear in its eye for those glorious days of the golden age of gun ownership. And every young lad was ready and willing to become a rootin' tootin' pistol packin' sharp-shooter, thanks to the encouragement of ads like these in the pages of Boys' Life, the magazine For All Boys as the cover proclaimed, with Over 1,750,000 Circulation. That's a lot of potential customers for the good folks at Winchester.

Of course Winchester wasn't alone in extolling the virtue of .22 caliber marksmanship. In the 1950's issues I own, gun and ammunition companies are the best represented of all Boys' Life advertisers.

Art chores on the first two strips shown here might be by Craig Flessel guesses TI list member Armando Mendez. "This is pure speculation on my part," he qualified, "maybe some other TI member will know."

I'm guessing the second two strips (from three years later) are by Tom Scheuer.

Both artists did work for an advertising art agency called Johnstone & Cushing, which specialized in comic strip-style advertising, and both did do work for Boy's Life during the 50's.

33 comments

  1. Great classic line work Leif!
    As you know,I am a HUGE fan of traditional,classic comic book work.GREAT STUFF!

    Now lets git to the porch 'an try to shoot some deer of my back deck!
    YEEEE-HAW!.......mebe even bag a commie or two!

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  2. These are great.

    Those 'pesky pre-pandemic birds ' had it coming ;)

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  3. You're not alone in your love of that classic line art, buddy. And don't forget, "Winchester gives you confidence!"

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  4. Armando Mendez gave me his permission to copy and paste the following email here:

    Leif,

    A bit of Johnstone and Cushing trivia.

    Tom Scheuer (as you know, later Sawyer) was Jerry Caplin's prime choice for Ben Casey but turned down the job. And it was Scheuer who then recommended 20 year old Neal Adams to Caplin for the job. Adams, in that frustrating way of his, claimed for 40 years he had no idea how he came to be considered for Casey. But last year, in a Back Issue magazine, he said offhand it was Scheuer.

    The one time I have talked to Adams about his early Johnstone and Cushing days (Adams said why waste time talking to him because "you obviously know more about this than I do") he remembered more about Scheuer than about Elmer Wexler or Stan Drake, although this might be as much about friendship as influence.

    Mando

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  5. That's what missing in my work: a Winchester rifle.

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  6. jeff Norwell3:34 PM

    Bang! Banng! Rene....yer dead!

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  7. CHris9:43 PM

    "Check local game laws before shooting varmints"

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  8. The way you talk about these ads insinuates that somehow, firearms ownership is now considered archaic and wrong. In reality, gun control laws of the present day can be traced to racist fears of blacks owning guns. Still think "gun control" is progressive policy? Racist much?

    In 1933, any child could order a military surplus fully automatic .30 caliber light machine gun by mail-order. MAIL-ORDER. NO BACKGROUND CHECKS OR LICENSES. Number of shootings in middle and high schools, nationwide for 1933: ZERO. Still think gun control is the solution? Think again.

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  9. Sorry, jlbraun, you obviously took a wrong turn on the internet if you think this is a forum for anything related to gun culture, pro or con. Please check your map to see where you lost your way - and your sense of humour.

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  10. Where's the humor in "Forget today's gun amnesties and "Guns for Toys" drives. The NRA must look back on the 1950's with a wistful tear in its eye for those glorious days of the golden age of gun ownership."

    I'd say that's a commentary on gun culture, making jlbraun's response on-topic.

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  11. Ask anyone older than about 40, they'll tell you about the rifle they owned when they were growing up.

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  12. In 1933, any child could order a military surplus fully automatic .30 caliber light machine gun by mail-order. MAIL-ORDER. NO BACKGROUND CHECKS OR LICENSES. Number of shootings in middle and high schools, nationwide for 1933: ZERO.

    I'd imagine in the middle of the Great Depression, most children had better things to spend their money on than a fully automatic machine gun.

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  13. Winchester gives you confidence,

    BUT....

    Smith & Wesson made all men equal...

    Kids in the city used to dream about guns....I was one of them.

    Kids in the country don't. They're good shots before they hit grade school :-)

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  14. Johannm12:10 AM

    Well now, this is a farm, and it appears the hawk is attempting to hijack a chicken, so justifiable use of a firearm in my opinion.

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  15. "I'd imagine in the middle of the Great Depression, most children had better things to spend their money on than a fully automatic machine gun."

    True, but you're missing the point. Back in the day, firearms were recognized for what they are - legitimate, useful tools for defense, hunting, and fun. The wholesome character of the strips shown here reflects this.

    Nowadays, if you tell someone you own and shoot guns, they look at you as if you told them you enjoyed some perverse sexual practice - it's not something you discuss in "polite society".

    Hi from Boing Boing, by the way.

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  16. Anonymous12:17 AM

    I remember reading those things in horror- I always liked animals and kept injured birds, turtles and I think a rabbit at my house over different summers. I quit the boy scouts by age 14. They were all jerks for whom a**hole gun ads would have appealed. Just seeing the kids encouraged to kill again freaks me out.

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  17. Anonymous12:59 AM

    tenlow: "anyone over forty" doesn't include women or minorities. You mean "rural white males." My dad, who is well into his 60's, grew up in Virginia a southern baptist and has never owned a gun.

    jlbraun: You clarified your actual point in a later post, but frankly your overall attitude is EXACTLY why I am scared to let people know I am a gun owner. First, comparing today to the 30's is comparing apples to oranges and you know it. Furthermore, couldn't you have made your point without accusing the author of being latently racist, or at the least mentioned that gun laws continue to be racially motivated? Finally, gun ownership to protect oneself in the home is legal nearly everywhere in this country. You can't argue that someone needs to go buy himself a fully auto browning to do that.

    I feel like a big problem here is that most gun owners try to justify their hobby as being useful somehow. While a firearm has it's uses, practicality and objectivity often goes out the window. Can you really justify a full auto rifle? Can you justify owning more than one gun if it is truly supposed to be a tool? The thing it its just a hobby, but one that needs to be legimized somehow. Your stance on gun control comes down to whether you believe it legimiate or not. I've seen too many yahoos with 15+ guns at the range rambling about "CQB" and "tactical use" to really take anything about this hobby very seriously anymore.

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  18. Anonymous3:57 AM

    Thank you, "anonymous" for a much needed dose of moderation and sanity here. Through hundreds of postings, TI has been a wonderful, insightful blog about art and culture from a bygone era. As he showcases the art, Leif occasionally makes wry or wistful remarks about baseball, the relationship between the sexes, cars, old fashined Christmas, domestic goddesses and Pepsi Cola. I suppose that several factions might have found a reason to take offense, but to the best of my recollection, everyone retained a sense of proportion and enjoyed the art until-- of course-- Leif accidentally tripped over the gun lobby.

    Jlbraun, if I was ever on the fence about gun control, I became persuaded it was necessary because everywhere I turn, gun advocates are perpetually outraged, indignant and inflexible-- the last type of person I want to have his finger on a trigger of a gun. You aren't doing your cause any good.

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  19. Whew! If I had known showing something gun related would get so many people to comment, I would have photoshopped a gun into every image I've sent out so far.
    Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment... let's see if you'll have as strong an opinion about today's topic: "shoes".

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  20. Anonymous10:33 AM

    ""anyone over forty" doesn't include women or minorities. You mean "rural white males." My dad, who is well into his 60's, grew up in Virginia a southern baptist and has never owned a gun."

    Actually, my mother owned and shot guns when she was a kid, and this was in a suburb of Chicago. Several black friends of mine (engineers now) shot guns when they were growing up. So your stab at "rural white males" doesn't hold water and further shows that you think women and minorities aren't capable of defending themselves with a gun. Typical victimology - tell people they can't defend themselves, then make a show of standing up for them. Disturbing.

    "Can you really justify a full auto rifle? Can you justify owning more than one gun if it is truly supposed to be a tool?"

    Do you own more than one screwdriver? You really don't need more than one, you know. Your example is specious and you know it.

    "Can you really justify a full auto rifle?"

    Yup. I want one, so why shouldn't I be able to have one if I'm a law-abiding citizen? Full autos are legal to possess by citizens in almost every state, dontchaknow.

    "I've seen too many yahoos with 15+ guns at the range rambling about "CQB" and "tactical use" to really take anything about this hobby very seriously anymore."

    Did any of these people hurt anyone, or even act unsafely? Didn't think so. Why not just let them be?

    "I became persuaded it was necessary because everywhere I turn, gun advocates are perpetually outraged, indignant and inflexible-- the last type of person I want to have his finger on a trigger of a gun. You aren't doing your cause any good."

    In the old saw, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." Did you know that we have over twenty thousand gun laws in this country? And everywhere we turn, they're trying to make more? Don't you think that some people saying "Stop, enough please!" is a reasonable reaction?

    In any case, I'm done here. Nice cartoons.

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  21. When Columbine happened, I was working for a guy who grew up in Texas in the 40s, and he told us about a kid in the next town over that brought a gun to school and shot the teacher and several kids.

    I'm sure that wasn't only "school shooting" to happen during those halcyon days. The difference was in the flow of information. There was no national media to speak of, and even regional media rarely had the resources to cover the hinterlands.

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  22. Anonymous12:30 PM

    I'm surprised at all the anti-gun vitriol. Hunting and shooting are more traditional passtimes in America than baseball. Some of you may not like guns, but they are a way of life in rural America, and one of the main sources of entertainment and, in some cases, sustenance.

    Get away from the city and the computer sometime. Consider that there may be an entirely different way of life going on out there.

    And yes, you can easily have more than 15 guns if you want an ideal tool for every job.

    Those cartoons are a nice throwback to a simpler time.

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  23. A simpler time, indeed. The Boy Scouts used to have a great Marksmanship merit badge. Scouts learned how to SAFELY handle firearms. They learned ballistics. They learned how to properly clean and maintain a firearm. Certified NRA instructors taught many of the classes, and (even around here in liberal California) not one single injury was recorded.

    Actually, I didn't realize that they still have it - it's just under a different name. http://www.sfbac.org/activities/act_fieldsports.cfm

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  24. Get away from the city and the computer sometime. Consider that there may be an entirely different way of life going on out there.

    Come now. You're asserting a stereotype equally as silly as the one you are seeking to dispel.

    I grew up in rural Alabama. It's a beautiful place. I shot a gun one time before I was 25. I was left with the impression that they were mostly loud and might could kill you. My father was never a gun owner really (one in the house, but that was it). My grandfather (still alive at 92, btw) was a hunter and gun owner and quite loved the hobby for a long time (but ultimately, music, violins and pianos were his ultimate passions for pasttimes, not guns) and owned many guns. I was around them plenty.

    At 25 I pretty much decided (while still living in Alabama) that I wanted to have a decent understanding of guns and firearm safety, and so I signed up for a class at the college I was at (UAH) and made it throught the class as the top marksman. It was a lot of fun. Very thoughtful hobby honestly.

    Do I own a gun now? No. First off, I live in a city and I don't own a car. I can't see myself hopping on the bus with my Sig Sauer tucked in my packback making my way to the shooting range. Second, I live in San Francisco, so owning guns indeed has a weird stigma that I honeslty don't understand it entirely myself. San Francisco has several gun clubs, including a gay and lesbian club called The Pink Pistols, so the city isn't exactly fulling on board with the "no guns" mania (I'm not, for example, I voted against the idiotic law of banning the sale of guns in the city).

    Yet, for the most part, well, after having spent 25 years in rural Alabama, and the last 15 in various small and large cities, I like living in the city. And I like sitting in front of my computer and reading, working on creative projects, etc. If friends wanted to go to the shooting range, I'd be 100% on board. It's a fun hobby and I still believe an important part of the constitution of the United States.

    That said, I sympathize with some gun control advocates. when I see a statement like "Can you really justify a full auto rifle?" Yup. I want one, so why shouldn't I be able to have one if I'm a law-abiding citizen? I wonder how that person feels about abortion, human cloning, stemcell research, birth control, sexual freedom, and a host of other issues thought of as "liberal causes". Because I can claim the same of all of these thigns. If I want to have an abortion (were I female), or take birth control of my choice, or support human cloning or stem cell research, or have consensual sexual relations with another adult no matter their sex, then, as a law abiding citizen I think I should be able to do those things just as much as I think as I should be able to purchase and own a firearm.

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  25. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  26. I had a gun when I was a kind, and that wasn't so long ago. It gave me "confidence." ;)

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  27. Dear smallerdemon:
    > That said, I sympathize with some
    > gun control advocates. when I see
    > a statement like "Can you really
    > justify a full auto rifle?"

    Yup.

    > I want one, so why shouldn't I
    > be able to have one if I'm a
    > law-abiding citizen?

    You should. Of course, you should also be required to carry insurance on it. Let the insurance company consider how much of a risk you are (discount for experience and training seems logical), just like you have to have insurance for your two-ton projectile which carries you to and from Von's (or wherever) for your groceries.

    > I wonder how that person feels about abortion,

    Pro-choice.

    > human cloning,

    Like Ghandi said about Western Civilization... Nice idea, if it ever happens. I'd prefer only humans got cloned, and leave the subhumans (like the Resident) behind.

    > stemcell research,

    Pro.

    > birth control,

    Pro.

    > sexual freedom,

    Pro.

    > and a host of other issues
    > thought of as "liberal causes".
    > Because I can claim the same of
    > all of these things. If I want
    > to have an abortion (were I
    > female), or take birth control
    > of my choice, or support human
    > cloning or stem cell research,
    > or have consensual sexual
    > relations with another adult
    > no matter their sex, then, as a
    > law abiding citizen I think I
    > should be able to do those things
    > just as much as I think as I
    > should be able to purchase and
    > own a firearm.

    There's a name for people like you...
    Libertarians.

    http://www.lp.org

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  28. Oh, and forgot to mention... since it was a hawk that killed one of my mother-in-law's favorite cats, and almost totalled the flame point Siamese I brought down from Canada for her, I don't have any compunction about my 11 year old niece being the crack shot she is. With a Winchester.

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  29. *heh heh* Indeed. I've been called that. I'm certainly sympahtetic to the libertarian stance (otherwise I probably couldn't listen to Penn Jillette's radio show every day).

    But there are just some things I'm not much of a libertarian on, and honestly, these comics bring a lot of that to light, like the cruel treatment of animals, the destruction of the environment we have to live in, etc.

    I do gotta say, I also love the artwork on these comics. Line art comics can really be great.

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  30. "I wonder how that person feels about abortion, human cloning, stemcell research, birth control, sexual freedom, and a host of other issues thought of as "liberal causes"."

    I'm the OP of the "anonymous" post above: "Yup. I want one, so why shouldn't I be able to have one if I'm a law-abiding citizen? Full autos are legal to possess by citizens in almost every state, dontchaknow."

    I am pro-choice, pro-cloning if it allows us to create needed organs from scratch, pro-stemcell for the same reason, I think that whatever you do with your willy or hoo-ha is your own damn business, think that education on birth control should be taught in public school (also think that we should POUR money into a male contraceptive).

    These causes make me a liberal, but not in the Dianne Feinstein, John Kerry sense. Wrong Tribe. These causes make me a liberal in the Jefferson, Franklin, and Washington sense. Big difference.

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  31. "Like Ghandi said about Western Civilization..."

    It's Gandhi, not Ghandi. It's funny how many people (including some very well informed ones) use the wrong spelling. It's not as if he's some mysterious guy like Ghaddafi/Quadaffi/Kadaffi.

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  32. Holy crap! A little comic strip started this whole debate, that's awesome. Something totally innocuous fifty+ years ago now causes a storm of comments. cool. Didn't something like this just happen in europe with anti muslim cartoons? And everyone was wondering what's the bid deal, it's just a silly comic.Just to stir the pot, How come Canada owns more guns per capita and has less murdersthan the US, and is life intolerable in England where guns are banned? sorry couldn't resist.

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  33. Shame on you brad, you pot stirrer. ;-)

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