Archive for Uncle Sam

James Montgomery Flagg: Lived Up To His Name

Posted in AMERICANA, Silent Film, VISUAL ART with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2017 by travsd

Illustrator James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) was born on June 18. Flagg’s best known work (above) is especially timely — the Uncle Sam/ “I Want You” poster was created one century ago as part of the World War One recruitment drive. It’s so well known and so frequently parodied I used it as the inspiration for a publicity still around the time I was launching my American Vaudeville Theatre around 20 years ago.

Photo by Joseph Silva

Flagg designed a slue of patriotic pictures during the Great War. I liked his rendering of Columbia encouraging Victory Gardens so much I acquired the fridge magnet version:

My wife (herself an illustrator) and myself took in many of his works during our recent pilgrimage to the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport. RI. 

There are other good connections to this blog. For example, from 1903 through 1907, Flagg drew the comic strip Nervy Nat for Judge magazine. Nervy Nat is a tramp character of the sort that was popular at the time, and paved the way in some sense sense for Chaplin’s screen character a decade later

There is a 1904 comedy short called Nervy Nat Kisses the Bride produced by Edison, directed by Edwin S. Porter, and starring Arthur Byron and Evelyn Nesbit, which is clearly inspired by the strip. It is available to watch on Youtube.

Flagg is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. I have visited his marker! (I am not obsessed or anything. I was visiting ALL the stars. Have more to go, too).

Flagg was a prodigy. Originally from Pelham Manor, New York, he was already publishing magazine illustrations by age 12. He attended the Art Students League from 1894 through 1898, after which he studied for a couple of years in London and Paris before returning the the States to pursue his professional career. At one point he was the highest paid illustrator in America. One of his favorite models was Mabel Normand! He also painted portraits of prominent people like Ethyl Barrymore and Mark Twain.

Dan Rice Days

Posted in AMERICANA, BOOKS & AUTHORS, Circus, Clown, Comedy, Impresarios, PLUGS, Stand Up with tags , , , , , , on August 5, 2010 by travsd

If you happen to find yourself near Girard, Pennsylvania between today and Sunday, may I suggest you take yourself over to the Dan Rice Days Festival?

“Who is Dan Rice and how’s he rate a festival?” you may well ask (and it’s sad that you had to). Dan Rice was one of the most important show business figures of the 19th century, up there with P.T. Barnum, Tony Pastor, and Harrigan and Hart. Many people aver that he was the visual model for Uncle Sam. Technically, he was a circus clown, but back in those nebulous days, with no textbook definition about what such a thing was supposed to be, circus clowns could talk. And Rice did. It was his whole bag. In many ways you could say he was the fore-runner of stand-up comedians, or at the very least, folksy monologists like Will Rogers. If you want to know more, I HIGHLY recommend this excellent book: Dan Rice: The Most Famous Man You’ve Never Heard Of by David Carlyon. It’s a highly entertaining book, rich in detail not just about Rice but in show business in general at the time. And, if you’re wondering why the Dan Rice Days Festival takes place in Girard, Pennsylvania, an excellent explanation is here.

And to learn still more about show business historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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