Current logo of the syndicate, now known as Tribune Media Services.


Primary Product: Newspaper Comics
Producing Since: circa 1910
Noted For: Gasoline Alley, Little Orphan Annie, The Gumps, Dick Tracy, Terry & the Pirates, and more
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In the early part of the 20th century, most American newspapers had staffs of cartoonists, and quite a few of them produced …

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… comic strips. In many cases, the papers would syndicate the strips to others around the country, for extra revenue. In running a syndicate of that sort, The Chicago Tribune was not at all exceptional. What made it stand out was its editor, Joseph Medill Patterson.

Captain Patterson (he achieved the rank during World War I and was known by it for the rest of his life) inherited his office as the Tribune's editor — his family owned the paper. But before taking it over, he proved he could make it on his own, working in a variety of areas, from dairy farming to politics. He also proved his creativity by writing novels and plays; in fact, three of his plays were performed on Broadway.

Patterson took a populist point of view as editor. His idea of news had lots of scandal and pictures and lurid sex in it. He also believed in the power of comics to attract an audience, and he had definite ideas on what kind of comics people would find attractive. He apparently had good instincts, as the nationwide demand for just one of them, The Gumps, turned him from a mere publisher/editor to head of one of America's most prominent newspaper syndicates.

It was Patterson who suggested adding a baby to the cast of Gasoline Alley, Patterson who gave Dick Tracy his name, Patterson who changed "Little Orphan Otto" into Little Orphan Annie … From Smilin' Jack to Moon Mullins to Winnie Winkle, the Tribune comics all bore the mark of Captain Joe Patterson — and an astonishing number of them became classics.

Patterson died in 1946, but by then, he'd established The Chicago Tribune Syndicate as one of America's top sources of comics. Its post-Patterson strips include Broom-Hilda, Mother Goose & Grimm, Shoe and many of today's other top comics.

The company's name is now Tribune Media Services. Besides comics, it handles editorial cartoons, newspaper columns, Internet databases, and a broad and expanding variety of other entertainment and information products. But its origins lie in the toon world, and in Captain Joe Patterson's appreciation of good comics.


Chicago Tribune Syndicate articles in Don Markstein's Toonopedia™:

Aggie MackBeyond MarsBobby Make-BelieveThe BreadwinnerBrenda StarrBroom-HildaChing ChowDeathless DeerDick TracyDondiLyonel FeiningerFred BassetFriday FosterGasoline AlleyGil ThorpGreen BeretsThe GumpsHarold TeenThe Kin-Der-KidsKudzuLittle JoeLittle LuluLittle Orphan AnnieLollyLouieLove Is …Mary Perkins On StageMoon MullinsMother Goose and GrimmMotley's CrewOld Doc YakOn StageRick O'ShayShoeSkull ValleySmilin' JackSmittySmokey StoverSpy vs. SpyTales of the Green BeretsThe Teenie WeeniesTerry & the PiratesTexas SlimTiny TimWee Willie Winkie's WorldWhite BoyWinnie Winkle the Breadwinner

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Text ©2000-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.