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Fascinating facts about the invention
of the
"Peanuts" comic strip by Charles Schulz in 1950.
"PEANUTS"

Charles Schulz, (1922~2000), was born November 26, 1922 to Carl and Dena Schulz of St. Paul, Minnesota. By week’s end, however, Charles became known as "Sparky," nicknamed by an uncle with a soft spot for Barney Google’s horse "Sparkplug." Schulz carries the nickname to this day, proof of a life devoted to comics. Early on, Schulz recognized his own talents, realizing he could draw even better than his older cousin. An insightful kindergarten teacher once told him, "Someday, Charles, you're going to be an artist." "It" seems beyond the comprehension of people that someone can be born to draw comic strips, but I think I was, "says Schulz. "My ambition from earliest memory was to produce a daily comic strip."

Snoopy & Woodstock During the Great Depression, Schulz's family found the means to enroll his their son in a correspondence course in cartooning at what is now the Art Instruction Schools, Inc. ("Draw Me"), in Minneapolis. A shy and insecure student, Schulz struggled through the program, submitting his coursework by mail instead of in person and earning only a C+ in "Drawing of Children."   Eventually Schulz completed the art course, but was unfortunately drafted into World War II before successfully selling any of his cartoons.

Returning to St. Paul a civilian in need of work, Schulz was poised to accept a job lettering tombstones. Through some confusion, the job did not materialize. It was "Timeless Topix," a small Roman Catholic magazine, that offered Schulz his first job in cartooning. The magazine hired him to letter already drawn comics. Although the position offered him no creative opportunities, it did keep Schulz on track and helped him to hone his lettering skills. Soon, Schulz took on a second job as a teacher with his alma mater, Art Instruction Schools. There, Schulz grew with the support of an artistic community. He practiced his drawing and met many of the people who would inspire his future work (including a friend named Charlie Brown and a girl with red hair who broke his heart). With growing confidence and an expanding portfolio, Schulz blanketed the comics market with samples of his work. Eventually, his persistence paid off and he sold a number of single comic panels in the "Saturday Evening Post." Buoyed by his success in the national magazine market, Schulz went on to land a weekly comic feature called "L'il Folks" in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The fruit of his creativity and labor, "L'il Folks" featured Charlie Brown and Shermy and became the sole focus of Schulz's career. When asked now if he thought the strip would last, Schulz replies "Sure, I thought it would last. I never intended to draw something that wouldn't last. In fact, when I started out, I thought, 'I'll be drawing this the rest of my life.'"

Marketing "L'il Folks" to syndicates around the country, Schulz finally received a reply from Jim Freeman at United Feature Syndicate. Freeman, a well-respected editor with 30 years' experience, wisely suggested that Schulz expand the comic from one panel to a strip format. Schulz had already been toying with the idea and jumped at the chance to accommodate the syndicate. The new strip format was different from other "kid strips" of the time in that each strip dealt with only a brief incident. The result was a strip with only four panels and a concept that United Feature Syndicate fell in love with. After being invited to visit their offices in New York City, Schulz signed a five-year contract with United Feature Syndicate and began his career as a full-time cartoonist. He celebrated with a steak dinner. The celebration was short-lived, however, when Schulz learned of the syndicate's first major decision. Because of legal issues surrounding the name "L'il Folks" ("Little Folks" and "L'il Abner" already existed), the strip was renamed "PEANUTS." This name made Schulz cringe. To this day, he feels the name connotes "insignificant" or "unimportant." But the syndicate and the newspaper market loved the idea. The strip, with its small size and matching name, was marketed as the flexible format for any newspaper. The strip was touted as "The Greatest Little Sensation Since Tom Thumb." Little attention was given to its insightful text and endearing drawings. But the comic's "foot" was in the door. It took several years for readers to grow attached to the PEANUTS gang. But nearly fifty years later, "PEANUTS" has grown into one of the longest running, most popular comics of all time.

Over the years "PEANUTS" has expanded beyond the realm of daily comics, growing beyond Charles Schulz's wildest dreams. In 1952 John Selby of Rinehart and Company took a risk when he published a collection of comics as "PEANUTS" the book. Little did he know the idea would inspire an entirely new genre in publishing. In 1961 Connie Boucher, a housewife from San Francisco, approached Schulz with the idea of creating a "PEANUTS" calendar. Schulz agreed to the idea and, putting a second mortgage on her home, Boucher produced the very first "PEANUTS Datebook." Snoopy put character merchandising on the map. Later Snoopy dolls, T-shirts, bedding, wristwatches, toothbrushes, and a host of other trinkets took the merchandising market by storm. Today you and your family can visit with Snoopy and the gang in person at your local shopping mall, watch them on videotape on your television, enjoy them in a school play or off-Broadway musical, marvel at their maneuvers in an ice arena, or even interact with them on CD-ROM on your computer.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Charles Schulz. Inventor Profile  from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Peanuts: A Golden Celebration
by Charles M. Schulz, David Larkin (Editor) / Hardcover - 254 pages (1999) / Harper Resource
This is a terrific compilation that serves well both as a chronicle of popular culture and as just a really funny collection of comic strips.
Peanuts 2000: The 50th Year Of The World's Favorite Comic Strip
by Charles M. Schulz (Illustrator) / Paperback: 167 pages / Ballantine Books (September 5, 2000)
How could any of us ever forget them? For fifty years, Charles Schulz and the whole Peanuts gang have delighted millions of readers around the world. Now, in celebration of the artist who quickly became a national treasure, this special anniversary volume brings together for the first time in book form the last year of the Peanuts comic strip. With Peanuts 2000, there's no need to say goodbye to old friends
Peanuts Treasury
by Charles M. Schulz / Hardcover: 256 pages / Metro Books; (October 2000)
The Peanuts Treasury is a fitting testimony to Charles Schulz's enduring legacy and will stand for years to come as a loving tribute to one of the most influential cartoonists of all time.
Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz
by Charles M. Schulz, Chip Kidd, Jean Schulz/ Hardcover: 336 pages /  Pantheon Books (2001)
This beautiful album will dazzle fans of Charles M. Schulz and his art, providing an unprecedented look at the work of the most brilliant and beloved cartoonist of the twentieth century. More than five hundred comic strips are reproduced, as well as such rare or never-before-seen items as a sketchbook from Schulz's army days.

ON THE WEB:
The Official PEANUTS Web site
Charles Schulz is both the brains and the brawn behind more than 50 years of Peanuts comics. He single-handedly designs, researches, writes, and draws every panel and strip that appear in daily and Sunday newspapers around the world.
(URL: www.snoopy.com/)
Peanuts Timeline
Important events over the last fifty years.
(URL: www.schulzmuseum.org/timeline.html)
Peanuts Collectors Club
The Web's #1 resource for everything related to the world of Peanuts!

(URL: www.peanutscollectorclub.com)
Bill Melendez - Animation Art
The first of 75 "Peanuts" specials was "A Charlie Brown Christmas". It won the first of the studio's nine Emmys, an honor later eclipsed when the show won the first Peabody Award for Broadcasting Excellence.
(URL: www.billmelendez.net)
The Home of Comics on the Web
Over 90 different comics availablr online, including PEANUTS. You can even have comics sent to you by eMail. Lots of COKKIES and POP-UP ADS at this site.
(URL: www.comics.com)

ON THE SCREEN:
Great Inventors
Video (1989) / VHS (NTSC format) / Color, Animated, HiFi Sound / Rated: NR  / Less than $10
Starring: Peanuts Gang 
Sally's school report spotlights people who turned ideas into reality: inventors Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford.
A Charlie Brown Christmas

Video (1965) / VHS (NTSC format) / Color, Animated, HiFi Sound / Rated: NR  / Less than $12
What does it all mean, Charlie Brown? A scrawny tree thrives on a little love, helping that round-headed kid rediscover the Christmas message.

WORDS OF WISDOM:
Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, "Why me?" Then a voice answers, "Nothing personal. Your name just happened to come up." - Charles Schulz

DID YOU KNOW?:

  • Because of legal issues surrounding the name "L'il Folks" ("Little Folks" and "L'il Abner" already existed), the strip was renamed "PEANUTS."
  • 1950: Peanuts debuts a s a daily strip with four characters; Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Shermy and Patty.
  • 1952: Lucy and Linus join the cast.
  • 1952: John Selby of Rinehart and Company took a risk when he published a collection of comics as "PEANUTS" the book. A new genre in publishing and marketing has begun.
  • 1955: It has been more than 45 years since Schulz has submitted "roughs" for approval by the syndicate. Instead, he submits finished strips.
  • 1959: Sally arrives.
  • 1965: "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has its first showing.
  • 1967: "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" opens off-Broadway. Gary Burghoff, who'll later play Radar on "M*A*S*H" stars.1968: Franklin integrates the strip.
  • 1968: Apollo 10 astronauts nickname their command module "Charlie Brown" and lunar module "Snoopy."
  • 1970: Woodstock appears.
  • 1984: "Peanuts" sold to its 2,000th newspaper.
  • 1990: The Louvre features "Snoopy in Fashion" exhibit.
  • 1996: Charles M. Schulz gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • 1999: Schulz announces his retirement.

 

Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised April, 2005.
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