The Chapin-Horowitz Collection is my go-to treasure-trove for fun and unexpected sources on pretty much any undergraduate course topic that comes our way during the school year.
Take for instance a freshmen seminar like ENGL150W Writers about Writing. While compiling a list of primary sources that could serve as examples for different writing styles and genres, I came across the children’s book Tige – His Story, written and illustrated by R. F. Outcault (1863-1928), who is also the creator of some of the first modern-style cartoon characters.
After the success of Hogan Alley, that ran in the New York World for a little over a year in the mid-1890s, Outcault created Buster Brown, a regular feature in the New York Herald, beginning in 1902. The adventures of Buster Brown, the mischievous son of wealthy, urban parents, were considered subversive by some and conservative by others. Nevertheless, the series was hugely successful, so much so, that the characters were used to market products from food and cigars to clothing and shoes.
In the weekly cartoon installments, Tige the pet bull dog, who is Buster’s faithful companion, offers his comments and thoughts for the benefit of the reader (since the comic strip characters cannot understand him or any of the other animals, that occasionally pop up in the stories.)
It is another testimony to the popularity of the comic strip that the name of the main character, Buster Brown, can be left out of the title entirely and Outcault could still count on the audience to recognize the book as related to the Buster Brown series. Since Tige – His Story, is written entirely from the pet’s view, the book treats readers to a different perspective on the duo’s escapades, beginning with the day Buster and Tige met.
The traditional story book format is more suited to be read to younger children, while still delighting them with charming illustrations of the popular characters, which are interspersed throughout the volume.
Outcault published Tige – His Story in 1905, dedicating the book to his children. I imagine that his daughter was thrilled hearing about the role her namesake, Buster’s best friend Mary Jane, played in Buster Brown’s antics!