Chic Youngs Blondie
by Sara W. Duke
Everyone knows Blondie. More than 2,000 newspapers publish the comic strip in fifty-five countries and thirty-five languages. The "Dagwood Sandwich" has made its way into Webster's New World Dictionary. The antics of the Bumsteads have been featured in movies, novels, and comic books. Blondie graces a United States postage stamp issued to commemorate the 1995 centennial of the American newspaper comic strip.
First appearing at the outset of the Great Depression, Blondie celebrates its seventieth anniversary in the year 2000. Now written by Dean Young, Chic Youngs son, and syndicated worldwide by King Features Syndicate, it retains its status as one of the most widely read comic strips in the history of the genre.
Blondie Gets Married! presents twenty-seven drawings,
classic examples of Chic Youngs much-loved creative wit, selected
from one hundred and fifty original works given to the Library of Congress
by Jeanne Young ONeil, the artists daughter. "I know
my father would be as proud as I am," states Jeanne, "to have
his work housed and preserved in the Library of Congress as part of
one of the finest, most extensive, and distinguished collections of
American cartoon art in the world. I believe my fathers comic
strip, Blondie, exemplifies middle-class family life in America
(and many times in the world), and I know the greatest opportunity for
his work to live on into generations to come is in the Library."
The Library, now in the midst of its Bicentennial
year, recognizes this major acquisition as a "Gift to the Nation,"
preserving the legacy of one of Americas most talented cartoon
Blondie Boopadoop entered the world nearly seventy years ago, on September 8, 1930, the featured character of a new comic strip by Murat Bernard "Chic" Young (1901-1973). A flighty flapper, at first she dated playboy Dagwood Bumstead, son of the millionaire, J. Bolling Bumstead, a railroad magnate, along with several other boyfriends. The comic strip floundered, however, until Young decided to have the couple fall deeply in love. Desperate to wed Blondie, in spite of his father's objections to her lowly social status, Dagwood went on a hunger strike until the elder Bumstead grudgingly acknowledged their relationship but refused to continue to support his son. The couple married on Friday, February 17, 1933, and Dagwood, now disinherited, stripped of his wealth and family connections, was nonetheless blissfully happy with his sparkling, vivacious, yet unfailingly practical new bride. Americans, caught up in the woes of the Great Depression, immediately took to Chic Youngs humorous daily reminders that love, not money, conquers all.
As a family strip Blondie was an instant success because it dealt
with universal themes: love, marriage, parenthood, work, relaxation,
eating, and sleeping. Like many American families, the Bumsteads lived
in a rented house, Dagwood caught a bus to work, and they rarely went
out for entertainment. Chic Young shied away from mentioning seasons
or making consumer goods specific in order to reach an audience that
might not own a car, the latest stove or refrigerator, or eat out regularly
in restaurants. Fans all over the world identified with the Bumsteads.
In fact, international readers were often surprised when they found
out that the comic strip did not originate in their own country.
While the Bumsteads could have been anyone living anywhere, Blondie
has been different from other comic strips from the start. Once she
had married, Blondie ceased to be flighty; she had barely left the altar
before asking Dagwood to help out with the housework, using flattery
and gentle trickery to bend him to her will. Since 1933 he has done
dishes, helped care for the children, cleaned the attic, and cooked
an occasional meal. Shortly after their marriage, in fact, Blondie organized
local housewives and lobbied for an eight-hour day. She led Dagwood
to the sink full of dirty dishes with a wink to newspaper readers, many
of whom might have felt overburdened by long days of managing a household.
Blondie is the center of the Bumstead family household, capable of stopping
Dagwoods tirades with a single look.
it is Dagwoods zany antics and constantly foiled pursuit of personal
pleasure that people remember: the huge sandwich made of apparently
incompatible foods, the nearly missed bus, running into the mailman,
Mr. Beasley, and the interrupted baths and naps. Dagwood is the perfect
foil to Blondies steady ways.
Chic Young made sure that family life in Blondie reflected real
life. Blondie and Dagwood have slept in a double-bed from the day they
were married, something it took television couples decades to achieve.
Baby Dumpling (Alexander) arrived on April 15, 1934, followed by Cookie
on April 11, 1941. Both children grew up, a rarity for gag-a-day comic
strips, until the 1960s when Chic Young realized that to retain the
character of a family strip they would need to remain teenagers.
Born in Chicago, Murat Bernard Young grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, with a dream of becoming a cartoonist. His 1919 William McKinley High School yearbook documents his early ambition and talent with several humorous drawings, citing his nickname as Chicken, from which he certainly derived his unusual pen name. Over the course of his celebrated career, he achieved his dream in spectacular fashion, producing Blondie seven days a week from 1930 until his death in 1973, with the exception of a years hiatus following the death of his first son in 1937, when he found drawing Baby Dumpling too painful to contemplate. He produced more than 15,000 Blondie strips during his lifetime, creating a legacy of inventiveness, humor, and creativity that stands the test of time and keeps us coming back for more.