Boots Celebrates Her 25th Anniversary
BY HAL COCHRAN
NEA Staff Correspondent
A quarter of a century ago — to be exact, Feb. 18, 1924 — the girl who was to become known as the “Sweetheart of the Comics” made her first appearance in newspapers all over the country. She was Boots, star character then and still star character in Edgar E. Martin’s comic strip “Boots and Her Buddies.”
Today “Boots and Her Buddies” reaches an audience of more than 60,000,000 readers and is one of the notable features in the Daily Record — and today the 519 daily and 229 Sunday newspapers in which it appears are united in congratulating Edgar E. Martin as he celebrates the 25th anniversary of his popular comic.
It was in July, 1921, when Martin, then 23, landed a job in the comic art department of NEA Service, Inc. (The Newspaper Enterprise Association). Having first tried his hand at drawing when he made sketches of salamanders, frogs and grasshoppers, it was a big jump to comic sketches, especially to sketches of pretty girls.
Martin was born in Indianapolis, Ind., July 6, 1898. Shortly thereafter his family moved to Nashville, Tenn., and then to Monmouth, Ill., where his father was a professor at Monmouth College. It was in his early college days that Martin began drawing reptiles and such. In his junior year he quit Monmouth college to enter the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago. His art prospered and he joined NEA Service.
At first he drew several comics with varying success — “Fables of 1921,” “Efficiency Ed” and “Taken From Life.” In 1924 NEA was looking for a girl comic. Several artists who had submitted sample strips were asked to re-submit them. Martin heard about this and, in his off hours at home, tried his hand in that field. His comic, unsigned, was considered with the others — and it was the one picked. “How soon can we get this artist?” one of the comic board members asked. “In about one minute,” the comic art director replied. “He works here.”
So, on Feb. 18, 1924, Boots was “born” as the main character in “Boots and Her Buddies.” Originally the strip featured four girls — Boots, Cora, Marge and Ann. It wasn’t long, however, until Martin decided that four girls were too many for one fellow to keep track of, and Ann and Marge were dropped. Cora, a school teacher, remained true to type, while Boots was developed into a glamour girl and became widely known as the “Sweetheart of the Comics.”
Attending numerous style shows, Martin became a fashion expert. Years of dressing Boots developed a style sense that designers of feminine finery often copy.
In 1926 after Boots’ brother Bill took her to New York on a shopping spree, in preparation for the Easter Parade, on Fifth Avenue, Boots was given a new haircut and call the “Boots Bob.” It clicked immediately and was endorsed by leading hair dressers of New York and other large cities.
In 1927, when Cora, with whom Boots had been rooming, married Professor Stephen Tutt, Boots moved in with them. Meanwhile, a new character, Babe, entered the strip as a close friend of Boots.
In the early days Boots had her greatest following among high school and college students. They loved this glamour girl, delighted in her numerous romances. In 1939 Boots was honored guest, in sketch form, at the Yale Junior Prom, in New Haven. In formal attire, she occupied a place of honor among the ballroom decorations. Martin drew “Guest Ticket Number One” from the prom committee. One of Martin’s toughest jobs came later the same year when he was picked to settle a battle of beauty between co-ed teams from Akron university and Kent State university, at Akron, O. The Akron co-eds won — and Martin escaped from town all in one piece.
Popular little Pug, destined to become one of the cutest kids in the comics, first appeared in “Boots and Her Buddies” in March, 1939, when Boots took her from a summer resort to the Tutts’ home after Pug’s father, J.X. “Bettem” Hiigh, a world traveler, disappeared. Later, the father turned up and decided to leave Pug in Tutt’s care.
Martin kept Boots in gaiety and single blessedness until 1945. Readers will remember the numerous swains who come to pay court to her, but it was Rod Ruggles who brought a mighty crescendo of letters demanding wedding bells, and Martin decided to let Boots go to the altar. She and Rod were married Oct. 2, 1945. “Boots and Her Buddies” became a family comic, with appeal for all ages, when a new kind of romance come into the life of Boots — a baby boy, born July 4, 1946. Again Martin’s great army of readers displayed their interest by besieging him with suggestions for names for the baby and he picked the one that was most popular – David.
Recently Pug went to live with Boots and Rod. She became an established member of the family when her father’s yacht was lost at sea with all on board. As Pug has grown from a cross between Pollyanna and Peck’s bad boy to brash adolescence, her popularity has grown with millions of newspaper readers. She has became an invaluable character in Martin’s strip.
For years Edgar E. Martin lived in Cleveland, O., headquarters of NEA. He now makes his home in Clearwater, Fla., and though he still attends style shows and now and then judges a Boots contest, he prefers spending his time at home with his wife and daughters, and indulging in an occasional round of golf.
To his intimates, Martin is known as “Abe” — to millions of others, as the man who draws “Boots and Her Buddies,” the comic that is not only still going strong, but is more popular than ever — after 25 long years.
Statesville Daily Record (Statesville, North Carolina) Feb 21, 1949
Boots and Her Buddies – Clothes Make the Woman — Happy
Ironwood Daily Globe (Ironwood, Michigan) Aug 15, 1929
“Boots” Paper Doll Cut-Outs
Now You Can Dress This Famous Young Lady of the Comic Page to Suit Yourself.
Just think of this, youngsters! “Boots,” star character in the famous comic strip, “Boots and Her Buddies,” has a fine new wardrobe. Dresses galore — and for all occasions. And she wants you to help her try them on. That will be easy — and lots of fun! Just borrow mom’s shears and cut “Boots” and the dresses out. Then fit the dresses on her pretty little figure. Here is the first sketch of “Boots” and the first dress. If you have some crayons you can color the dresses. Watch for more pretty dresses tomorrow.
Daily News Standard (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) Jul 21, 1930
Here’s How to Dress “Boots” For Shopping or a Party
My oh, my! Don’t you think “Boots” used fine judgment when she picked out these two dresses? Or maybe you can’t decide until you try them on her. Just cut the dresses out and try them on the figure of “Boots” we gave you yesterday. This little smart character of the famous comic strip “Boots and Her Buddies” is very glad to have you help her try out her new wardrobe. Two more dresses for “Boots” will appear tomorrow. Save them all — and what a fine set of paper dolls you’ll have. If you have some crayons you can color the dresses.
Ogden Standard Examiner (Ogden, Utah) Jul 25, 1930
“Boots” Can Go Strolling Or Motoring In These
“BOOTS” can hardly wait until you help her try on these two new dresses. The one with the checkered collar, pockets and cuffs will be fine for motoring, don’t you think? And the other would look well out in the park. Just cut the dresses out and fit them on the figure of “Boots” we gave you the other day. Color them if you like. Then you can tell how well you like the fashion judgment of the star character in the famous comic strip, “Boots and Her Buddies.” Another sketch of “Boots” and another dress tomorrow.
Daily News Standard (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) Jul 23, 1930
“Boots” Can Play Tennis or Golf in This Outfit
HERE’S “Boots” again, youngsters! And with another of the snappy dresses out of her brand new up-to-date wardrobe. Short and sporty. And, gee, but wouldn’t it come in handy on the tennis court — or at the golf course? Just cut “Boots” and the dress out — and then fit the garment on the trim figure of the young lady whom you know so well in the famous comic, “Boots and Her Buddies.” Why not color the dress with crayons, too? Two more “Boots” dresses tomorrow!
Daily News Standard (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) Jul 25, 1930
Now “Boots” Is All Set for Afternoon or Evening
If “Boots” wants to just loaf around the house in the afternoon — or step out to rather an informal evening affair, you youngsters can help her dress for either occasion. Just cut out the dress at the left and fasten it to one of the figures of “Boots” we have recently given you. Then she’s ready for casual afternoon callers. Or use the dress at the right and any of her buddies can call to take her to a friendly dance or party. Maybe the dresses would look better, if you’d color them with crayons. Another sketch of “Boots” and another dress tomorrow.
Ogden Standard Examiner (Ogden, Utah) Jul 26, 1930
No Affair Too Stylish For “Boots” In This Gown
LAST, but far from least, in the “Boots” paper doll cut-out wardrobe is this very formal evening dress. And you just can’t realize how nice she looks in it until you cut the dress out and fasten it to her trim little figure. Now you have nine* dresses for “Boots.” That’s a fine wardrobe, isn’t it? And it will look even finer, if you color every one of them with crayons. In the meantime, be sure and look at the dresses “Boots” will wear every day in the “Boots and Her Buddies” comic strip. She knows styles — Uh huh!
Daily News Standard (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) Jul 28, 1930
UPDATE: I found the missing dresses in a different newspaper and have added them.
*I couldn’t find all the dresses for this set; some dates of the newspaper were missing from the collection.