While this early, drawn by hand "comic" strip (or graphic novel if you like) is nearly 100 years old, the young woman who drew it had little to base her format on. Dating to 1918 or so, there seems to have been only some 20 major published newspaper strips at the time being told in panels. The Katzenjammer Kids, which appeared in 1897, is credited as the first strip with a story told in panels. Mutt and Jeff came along ten years later. The third major strip of the era, Krazy Kat, appeared in 1913. The character had been part of "The Dingbat Family" a few years before it appeared as a spin-off.
The other characteristic defining a comic strip is the use of "balloons" to carry conversations. This has that as well.
The artist here is a young woman named Elizabeth Stohn of Newburgh, New York. This work was found with several sketchbooks filled with single drawings as well as an 88 page graphic novel drawn in 1921. She had progressed, and some of the work from that book are shown below.
Ms. Stohn seems to have seen her share of misery by an early age…and in fact "comic" strip is a misnomer. Her strip works are lurid. The earliest comic strips were often far from funny. As David Kunzle writes "the early (pre-19th-century) strip was seldom comic either in form or in content, and many contemporary strips are in no sense primarily humorous. The terms comics and comic strip became established about 1900 in the United States, when all strips were indeed comic." Still, if anything characterizes her strip work, it is perils of a young woman. This and the larger book work are filled with abuse and violence. One hopes it was not autobiographical. But she was ahead of her time.
There is a Hedwig Stohn from Newburgh, NY listed as being born in 1880. Father of Elizabeth? Husband? There is an Elizabeth Stohn born nearby in 1910, which would make the artist a child while doing the works shown here, and only 14 at the time of enrolling in the Associated Art Studios. Possible but unlikely? She passed in 1988, and could be our artist, if a precocious one. In an earlier post on Dull Tool Dim Bulb a drawing by the artist was shown requesting further information. As yet, no response. Should additional information be forthcoming, it would be nice to see the entire 88 page graphic novel "From Poverty to Luxary" (sic) published!
Works by Elizabeth Stohn 1918 - 1924 Collection Jim Linderman
(You may also be interested in the BOOK Eccentric Folk Art Drawings by the Author.
available from Blurb.