Jiggs and his pals enjoy their low-brow pleasures. Artist: George McManus.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1913
Creator: George McManus
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When cartoonist George McManus was a boy, in St. Louis of the 1890s, he saw a play entitled The Rising Generation, about an Irish family's difficulty coping with …

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… sudden riches. He remembered it years later, when, after a string of well-received comics for the Pulitzer papers (including, among others, Nibsy the Newsboy and The Newlyweds), he was working for King Features and needed a theme for a new strip. On January 12, 1913, he debuted Bringing Up Father, about an Irishman named Jiggs, who doesn't understand why his ascension to wealth via the Irish Sweepstakes means he can't hang out with his friends, and his nagging, social-climbing wife, Maggie.

The strip was an instant hit, possibly because of its combination of an appealing cast of characters with a unique look of art-nouveau splendor. It inspired reprint books, several films, and a stage play. Perhaps its most unusual spin-off was done by restaurateur James Moore, whose eatery was one of McManus's favorites, and who was convinced he was the inspiration for Jiggs's friend, tavern keeper Dinty Moore. He changed the name of his establishment to "Dinty Moore's", and made a fortune from the connection to the popular comic. Later, the name was applied to a line of canned foods.

Like most popular King Features strips of the time, Bringing Up Father was adapted into animation during the 19-teens. The series ran less than a dozen cartoons, which came out from 1916-18 from Pathé Film Exchange. There was also a live-action silent comedy based on the characters, produced by MGM, which came out on March 17, 1928. J. Farrell MacDonald played Jiggs, Polly Moran played Maggie and Jules Cowles played Dinty Moore. Another live-action series ran from 1946-50, and starred Joe Yule and Renie Riano, with Tim Ryan as Dinty.

Jiggs and Maggie were never great comic book stars. There were some reprint books published by Cupples & Leon between 1919 and '34. They appeared in a few mid-1930s issues of King Comics, alongside Popeye, Mandrake the Magician, and other King Features stars. There were a couple of oneshots from Dell Comics in the 1940s and a brief bimonthly series from Harvey in the '50s. But none of those really took off.

Before McManus died, in 1954, Bringing Up Father made him two fortunes (the first was lost in the 1929 stock market crash). By that time, Jiggs's Irishness had faded — the new generation saw him as just a rich guy that liked to hang out with a regular crowd.

After McManus's death, the strip continued under other artists, but its popularity waned. The memory remains, however, and that's why Bringing Up Father was one of 20 strips, including The Yellow Kid and The Katzenjammer Kids, appearing in the 1995 "Comic Strip Classics" series of U.S. postage stamps.

The strip survived for decades under a succession of artists, the last of whom was Frank Johnson (Boner's Ark). An attempt was made to adhere to the surface elements of McManus's style, but without his artistry and design sense, it was like an empty shell. Finally, it gave up the ghost. The last one appeared on May 28, 2000. By that time, it had become the longest-running daily strip in the world.


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Text ©2000-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features Syndicate.