Grandma engaging in a typical activity. Artist: Charles Kuhn.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1947
Creator: Charles Kuhn
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Grandma, a daily and Sunday comic strip about a woman in the time of life sometimes called "second childhood", was created by a cartoonist who could, himself, have been said, in some ways, …

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… to have been in his own second childhood. At the age of 55, Charles H. Kuhn made the transition from a staid, serious editorial cartoonist, filling his days with politics, controversy and other weighty matters, to a frivolous, carefree comic strip artist, concerned only with making people laugh. He never looked back.

Grandma was known by no other name, to children and grownups alike, despite the fact that she gave no evidence of having actual progeny of her own. Like the much earlier Lady Bountiful, she palled around day in and day out with the neighborhood kids; but unlike her, Grandma wasn't interested in improving them. She was just having fun. Otherwise, she kept busy around the house, but of course, the household chores included a lot of baking. Kuhn derived much of her character from his own mother, who, in her dotage by most standards, was always ready to dress up, sing, and even dance a jig, to help out a small theatrical production put on by her friends, the children of the neighborhood.

Kuhn had spent decades building a name for himself, and a highly respected one at that, in political cartooning, first in Denver, then in Indianapolis, and finally — his longest gig — with The Chicago Tribune a major cartoon outlet by anybody's standards. He'd played with a few comics in his youth, but it wasn't until 1947 that he decided to embark on that as a full-time career. Grandma began Monday, April 14, 1947, from a very minor distributor in Indianapolis, called Richardson Feature Service.

The following year, Kuhn's strip came to the attention of William Randolph Hearst, who, characteristically, wanted it for his own King Features Syndicate, home of Flash Gordon and Blondie, where a couple of World War II comics, Hubert and Mr. Breger, had had recently taken up residence in civilian life. Grandma started at King on June 28, 1948. A Sunday version started on November 20, 1949. It included one panel with the coloring left off, so younger readers could use their crayons to supply it themselves.

Kuhn was wholeheartedly devoted to his creation, and listed Grandma as his main hobby. He also listed fishing as a strong interest, and in 1964 he packed up and moved to Florida so he could pursue that interest a bit more avidly — naturally, taking his comics operation with him.

Five years later, Kuhn decided to go into fishing full-time, and retired — again, taking his comics operation with him. The final Grandma strip appeared in 1969.


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Text ©2006 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features.