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 Bud (Harry Conway) Fisher  (1885 - 1954)

About: Bud (Harry Conway) Fisher
 

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Lived/Active: New York/Illinois      Known for: cartoonist, illustrator

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Bud Fisher
An example of work by Bud (Harry Conway) Fisher
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Bud Fisher was one of the first to establish that a comic artist could be rich and respectable. Fisher did that by creating Mutt and Jeff in 1907, and parlaying it into a multi million-dollar property.

Harry Conway Fisher was born in Chicago. He quit the University of Chicago after three months and went to California to make history. When he arrived at the San Francisco Chronicle, like most early cartoonists, he was assigned to the sports department. For a few years he did layouts and sports cartoons. Then, on November 15, 1907, Fisher made history he began what would become the first successful daily comic strip. The success of Mutt and Jeff, known initially as A. Mutt, established the strip form for daily newspaper comics and brought fame and fortune to Fisher.

His contributions to the medium did not end with defining its format. Fisher had the foresight to copyright the strip in his own name. Further, he had the audacity to go to court to protect his rights. His first legal skirmish took place within months of this strips debut. William Randolph Hearst had lured the cartoonist over to the San Francisco Examiner to draw his feature while the Chronicle continued to run the strip, now done by Russ Westover. Fisher sued, but dropped the action when the Chronicle stopped publishing their version in June 1908.

Fisher had to take his fight to court during the 1913 1915 period when he left Hearst to join John Wheelers Bell Syndicate. Hearst continued the strip without him, hiring Ed Mack to do it. In winning his suit, Fisher established a legal precedent: because of his copyright, the strip and its characters belonged to him and not, as had been customary, to Hearst or the paper that published the strip.

The dapper Fisher was a cocky, scrappy, hard-drinking, carousing denizen of city room and saloon, antagonistic and belligerent. By 1913, the popularity of Mutt and Jeff was so great that Wheeler was guaranteeing Fisher $1000 a week. The widely publicized deal added to Fishers already considerable fame, and he quickly habituated himself to enjoying both wealth and celebrity. The latter made him welcome in circles normally closed to newspapermen and other such vulgarians. He relished his position in high society. The first truly famous cartoonist, Fisher worked hard on his public image. He bought a stable of racehorses, drove about town in a Rolls Royce, and prowled nightclubs with a beautiful showgirl on each arm.

By the 1920s, Fisher was enjoying his social life so much that he left most of the work on the strip to his assistant, Ed Mack, whom he had hired after winning the suit against Hearst. The more he moved in societys salons, the less time he had for his erstwhile brethren of the sporting and cartooning worlds. He would often snub his one-time associates. From 1932 onward, his latest assistant, Al Smith, produced the strip without much guidance.

Fishers last years were desolate and lonely, spent almost entirely in the huge museum of his apartment. The ornate rooms had been purchased and moved from historic European houses. Near the end of his life, he seldom left his bedroom, where he slept on a bare mattress and used pillows without cases. The rest of his home slipped into shabby decay, its hallways lined with stacks of unopened envelopes from his bank. Like Miss Havisham, Fisher died amid the faded remnants of a once opulent lifestyle, as cartoonings first millionaire.


(Information on the biography above is based on writings from the book, "The Encyclopedia of American Comics", edited by Ron Goulart.)

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Chicago, IL in 1885.  "Bud" Fisher was pursuing a boxing career when he came to San Francisco.  He soon went to work for the Chronicle as a sports caricaturist and in 1907 his "A. Mutt" cartoon began in the Chronicle  and later became "Mutt and Jeff."  By 1926 he had settled in NYC where he remained until his demise on Sept. 7, 1954.  Fisher was one of the highest paid cartoonists of the 20th century.
Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
 SF Chronicle  and NY Times, 9-8-1954 (obits).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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