The Premier Pantomime Cartoonist

If you looked at a newspaper or magazine cartoon in, say, the 19th century, it might seem a little … off. The illustrations were packed with pen strokes, and captions were often comprised of two to four lines of wordy dialogue, resulting in the effect of a short conversation between two sketched characters.

One of the cartoonists responsible for upending this style — and pioneering the kinds of strips we know today — was Otto Soglow, born on this day in 1900. At The New Yorker and, later, in this magazine and newspapers across the country, Soglow pared down lines in his illustrations, presenting a clean, minimalist rendering of whimsical characters. In the way of captions, uniquely, he often used very few or none at all, making a name for himself as a pantomime cartoonist with his popular strip The Little King, which ran for almost 40 years.

Soglow didn’t set out to become a cartoonist. A passionate performer, he dropped out of high school to pursue a career in acting. He worked as a shipping clerk, a packer, and even as a baby rattle painter before taking up illustrating professionally. In the 1920s, Soglow drew toons for the pages of radical New York publications like The New Masses and The Liberator. Influenced by the politics and aesthetics of the Art Students’ League, his work during this time depicted gritty cityscapes, working-class scenes, and socially-conscious themes.

Political cartoon by Otto Soglow
New Masses, 1927, Library of Congress

 

Political cartoon by Otto Soglow
The Liberator, Apr, 1923, Marxists.org

In the August 1922 issue of The Liberator, which had published one of Soglow’s earliest illustrations the month before, the editors apologized for neglecting to credit him, saying “Soglow is to give the Liberator more of his strong work, so full of atmosphere, poetry, and sensitive observation.”

By the late ’20s, he was publishing toons and small illustrations in The New Yorker, alongside names like Peter Arno, Helen Hokinson, and James Thurber. In the magazine’s obituary for Soglow, the author noted that while his style was once busy with ink, it became purer over the years, eventually omitting all details except the most necessary: “There was nothing to distract the eye or the mind.” The New Yorker was also where Soglow introduced his most famous and enduring character: the little king.

In various weekly adventures for more than 40 years, Soglow’s “cartoon monarch” stumbled through silent, playful scenarios at the perplexity of his royal court. Far from a stereotypical depiction of a severe ruler, Soglow’s childlike king displayed no interest in power, but rather enjoyed simple pleasures like ice cream and zoo animals. While his barrel-chested guards smoked cigars, the short stubby sovereign blew bubbles out of a toy pipe. Soglow’s sight gags in his Little King strips — which were syndicated in papers around the country from 1934 to 1975 — were endearing nods to our better, more innocent, angels.

In taking his cartoons to a larger audience, the once-socialist Soglow struck a deal with newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. If this move wasn’t quite contradictory, his career quickly took a commercial turn as he began illustrating ads for Realsilk socks, Mutual Life Insurance Company, Fleischmann’s Yeast, Pepsi-Cola, oil companies, and others. His ads — of course, lacking the quaint charm of his other work — appeared in The Saturday Evening Post for decades. Soglow was also a staunch supporter of the war effort, designing propaganda posters and supporting art programs for soldiers.

Ads for Zippo lighters by Otto Soglow
Fleischmann’s Yeast, ZIPPO, The Saturday Evening Post, 1942–1946

Although he likely made a great deal of money illustrating and cartooning, Soglow never lost his desire to perform. New York newspapers in the ’30s and ’40s described him as a hit at parties, giving impersonations and magic tricks that rivalled Chaplin’s. Given his earlier penchant for the poetic and the critical, discerning audiences might be tempted to read some semblance of subtle geopolitical commentary into The Little King, but Soglow said that was baseless and “just plain silly.” As for the origin of the beloved character that graced funny pages for decades, he gave no deep, revelatory explanation; “He just happened.”

Soglow drew The Little King until he died in 1975. Although he isn’t remembered widely by the populace, the cartoonist is decidedly among the ranks of important New Yorker illustrators, and the magazine still uses his artwork in print and online. In a review of a new Little King coffee table book in 2012, Jeet Heer called Soglow “one of the central cartoonists of mid-century America.” Flipping through the comics of any paper in the country before and after Soglow, it would be difficult to disagree.

Otto Soglow's medical industry cartoons
“Dyspeptics Never Die,” The Saturday Evening Post, September 26, 1936

 

Two cartoons by Otto Soglow from 1962
INSERT IMAGE: [Soglow62]
“Who Says I’m Uncultured?”/ “Let’s Keep the Filibuster,”The Saturday Evening Post, June 16, 1962, July 14, 1962
Featured image: Scripto Manufacturing Company, The Saturday Evening Post, September 14, 1946

Cartoons: Soldier On

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Soldier punching a german kaiser
May 11, 1918
Herbert Johnson

 

Servicewoman wearing a hat with a flower on it.
“Why, it was like everyone else’s.”
Lundberg
September 13, 1941

 

Paratroopers
“I wish the boys back at the office could see me now…back at the office.”
December 6, 1941

 

Sailor with censored tatoos
“It’s the only way they’d let me go ashore.”
George Wolfe
March 28, 1942

 

Military tents
Ross
April 10, 1943

 

Battleship shooting back at a boat that insulted it through flag signals
“Good heavens! What do you suppose I said!”
Dave Geraro
April 10, 1943

 

Servicewoman reading a military manual; serviceman reading comics.
George Wolfe
June 19, 1943

 

A military couple comments on being in the South Asian Sea
“This is what we always dreamed of, dear, being alone together on a South Sea Island.”
Atkins
July 17, 1943

 

Two armies meet each other on a narrow mountain road
Chas. Allen
December 4, 1943

 

Army recruiter speaks to a prospective enlistee
“And every single morning you wake up to music!”
Gardner Rea
December 15, 1951

 

G.I. keeps messing up a drill
“Let’s go through that drill once more, Coogan!”
Tom Henderson
March 17, 1956

 

TV crew member asks a military unit to fight for the cameras
“Could you fellows make your counterattack 100 yards to the right? That’s where our TV cameras are set up.”
Don Orehek
March 25, 1967

 

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Cartoons: Bowling Is the Best!

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Bowler taking score
“How much does the pin boy count?”
Wesley Thompson
November 15, 1952

 

Two men talking in a den; a bowling ball has been turned into a flower pot on a nearby table.
“As a matter of fact I haven’t been bowling since I got married.”
O’Brien
November 12, 1955

 

Woman preparing to bowl; a young boy lays on the pins.
“Just once, I’d like to get that kid!”
Gallagher
November 5, 1955

 

Wife buys an expensive coat after her shocked husband loses a bowling bet.
“…then he laughingly replied, ‘Sure, I’ll buy you one if you bowl a perfect game’…”
Bob Barnes
September 17, 1955

 

Man sticks his fingers into his ears while his bowling ball rolls down the lane.
“It’s that confounded overconfidence of his that bothers me.”
Scott Brown
March 17, 1951

 

Man throws a powerful strike during a round in bowling
“Now that’s what I call a strike.”
W.F. Brown
March 3, 1956

 

People at a bowling alley talking about the noise.
“We try to think of it as thunder.”
Eric Ericson
February 25, 1951

 

Woman bowls slowly
Gallagher
February 10, 1951

 

Woman charges the bowling pins
“You have to admire her determination.”
Zeis
February 9, 1957

 

Women bowling with their boyfriends
“I’ll be glad when George and I are married and I won’t have to pretend to enjoy this.”
Jane Sperry
November 17, 1951

 

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Cartoons: Halloween Is for Grownups, Too

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Costume parties must have been popular in the 1950s, because these cartoons aren’t just from our October issues. But we’re posting them in this collection to remind you that adults can have fun at Halloween, too!

Woman dressed as a witch makes a stew using a witch's brew pot.
“I thought we’d have a quick bite before going to the party.”
O’Brien
October 29, 1955

 

Woman comments on her husband's devil costume.
“Aren’t you rather thinly disguised?”
Walt Wetterberg
November 12, 1955

 

Party guests comments on a couple's Halloween costume theme
“They came as today’s daily double.”
Les Colin
April 7, 1951

 

Man in a dog suit takes a glass of whiskey at a Halloween party
Tom Henderson
February 11, 1956

 

Woman is upset that her husband has her as the bottom half of their horse costume.
“I suppose this is your idea of good casting!”
Busino
February 12, 1966

 

 

Party guests comment on someone's Halloween costume, which is a corpse on a hospital gurney
“Now, why didn’t I think of that?”
Bob Barnes
January 1, 1955

 

Woman teases her husband's pirate costume.
“You make quite an authentic looking pirate…sunken chest and all.”
Fred Levinson
June 4, 1955

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Cartoons: Election Time

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Two men talking about an upcoming election in a bar filled with FDR memorabilia
“Frankly, I almost have to vote for him. I can’t stand the expense of redecoration!”
Jeff Keate
October 7, 1944

 

women agree to meet after the election after their husbands beat the crud out of each other over a political argument
“We must get together again…sometime after the election.”
Bill King
September 13, 1952

 

An aide congratulates his boss after he gives a speech during a senatorial campaign.
“Great speech, sir. I liked the straightforward way you dodged those issues.”
Hoff
July 12, 1952

 

Elephant grabs a man out of a window with his trunk while campaigning for a political candidate
“You’ve got to hand it to Ribley, he certainly gets out the vote.”
Richter
March 15, 1952

 

Man talks to his friend about his physical injuries, which were apparently caused by someone who claimed he doesn't care about politics
“All I can say is, for a guy who never bothers to vote, he certainly takes politics seriously.”
Stan Hunt
December 8, 1951

 

A candidate and his team leaves a crowd at a train station, with a mother's baby
“One of the most appreciative crowds I’ve ever talked to…look at that woman, she’s still waving!”
Clyde Lamb
December 1, 1951

 

Woman returns to a polling place asking if she can change her vote.
“I know I voted this morning, but I’ve changed my mind.”
David Pascal
November 5, 1955

 

Woman asks her husband for the name of a candidate at the voting booth
“What’s the name of that man I simply despise?”
Don Tobin
November 4, 1950

 

Woman binds her husband to a chair so that he doesn't thrash about while hearing the election returns.
“There now, I think we’re ready to hear the election returns.”
Mary Gibson
November 4, 1944

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Cartoons: Mirth at the Market

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A couple picking out groceries
“Never mind the large economy size …get the small, expensive box we can afford.”
Chon Day
September 3, 1955

 

A grocer waves a pair of pork chops at a pair of women
“They certainly are pushing the pork chops today!”
Goldstein
August 14, 1954

 

Grocery shoppers dropped their bags near each other
“This is going to be complicated.”
Goldstein
July 17, 1954

 

Man whines before he pays his grocer
“Don’t just stand there whimpering. Pay the man!”
Bob Barnes
May 5, 1951

 

Grocer hides the price on his cash register
“Guess!”
Irwin Caplan
April 21, 1951

 

Grocer checks a shopper out at the cash register.
Ted Morris
April 10, 1954

 

Kids fight in a grocery store
“Isn’t there a cereal that will sap their energy?”
Bill Harrison
February 8, 1958

 

Cashier talks to a shopper
“No, that doesn’t include the cart!”
Bill King
November 19, 1955

 

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Cartoons: Working Stiffs

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Woman demands the refrigerator repairman to quit eating and start working
“How about getting on with the job?”
Brad Anderson
November 20, 1954

 

Construction workers notices that their newlywed coworker has fancy gifts in his lunchbox.
“Newlyweds.”
Irwin Caplan
November 19, 1955

 

Man walks into a soda shop wearing bathing trunks and a scuba mask
“How are things over at the car-wash, Ed?”
Dave Hirsch
October 8, 1955

 

A hat for cash donations is set on a conveyor belt so that assembly workers could put money in it.
Al Kaufman
September 3, 1955

 

Highway surveyors ask a homeowner to open his back door so they could measure how a freeway would run through it.
“Mind opening your back door?”
Joseph Zeis
August 20, 1955

 

Public workers pick up trash in a city park. One mentions a method he uses to make the job go by faster.
“I find it makes the job more interesting to imagine that they’re ten-dollar bills.”
Mischa Richter
December 15, 1951

 

Jack Markow
February 27, 1954

 

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Cartoons: Pigskin Grins

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A lost football player sits next to a hobo at a camp near some train tracks
“Other players have run the wrong way but managed to live happy, useful lives.”
Lamb
November 27, 1954

 

Son tosses a football at his tired father
“What kept you? Let’s go!”
Harry Mace
November 15, 1952

 

Team doctor treats a giant football player's foot
“I dropped a quarterback on it.”
November 1, 1980

 

A thoroughly trounced football player walks back to his line coach.
“Where were you on that last play, Ferguson?”
Al Johns
October 26, 1957

 

Coaches examine a football kicker's performance.
“He’s a great kicker.”
Zeis
October 25, 1958

 

Coach directs his player to fetch him a sandwich during a game
“Chyzzinyski? Go in there and get me a ham on rye!”
Walter Wetterberg
October 25, 1952

 

Coach tells his player to get in the game
“I’m sending you in there, Bogwell, because you’re the one man on this team whose father is dean of the university!”
Gallagher
October 16, 1954

 

Coaches watch a football player piggy-backing off of his larger teammate during a game.
“I still say, Witt never would make all-American if it weren’t for Kozmeniuk.”
Bernhardt
September 25, 1954

 

Coach crying on his players shoulder during a losing game
“Coach is taking it rather hard….”
Roy Wilson
September 18, 1954

 

Coach talks to his team in their locker room during half time.
“During the first half, did any of you happen to notice that other goal, down at the far, far end?”
Ernie Garza
December 9, 1944

 

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Cartoons: Getting from Here to There

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Couple waiting for a train
“If you hadn’t hurried me so, we wouldn’t have to wait so long for the next one!”
Bo Brown
June 30, 1951

 

Airport employee rushing a ramp to an airplane as a passenger is getting off
Shirvanian
June 21, 1952

 

Two men waiting for a bus
“It wouldn’t be so bad if you could depend on ‘em, but some mornings they run on time.”
Bernhardt
May 19, 1951

 

Eager man with flowers waiting for a plane to land on top of a staircase on the tarmac
“Relax, mister, we’ll let you know as soon as it shows up!”
Lundberg
May 10, 1952

 

Man waiting for a train while the gentleman at the ticket counter talks to him
“Year, sir, I believe yours is the first ticket I’ve sold since the train quit stopping here.”
Tom Hudson
May 28, 1951

 

Married couple driving on a freeway while the rest of traffic follows behind
“Where’s all the Sunday traffic, I wonder?”
Stan Hunt
November 22, 1952

 

A couple in a car stuck in traffic
“This is nothing. You should see it on week ends.”
October 25, 1952

 

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Cartoons: Doctor, Doctor

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Could be poor
“It could be worse, Mr. Jackson. You could be poor.”
Evan D. Diamond
August 7, 1954

 

Women talking to each other in a doctor's waiting room.
“What I like about him is he doesn’t belittle your symptoms.”
Chon Day
September 16, 1950

 

Patient keep his arms away from the doctor
“Before I give you my arm, what happened to that pointed thing that was on the desk?
Al Johns
September 16, 1950

 

Patient talking to his doctor in a medical library
“Stumped, eh?”
Rodriguez
October 11, 1952

 

Doctor talking to his patient
“Good heavens! Didn’t I tell you to exhale?”
Wesley Thompson
October 11, 1952

 

Patient lifting his doctor over the bed.
“All right, so you are getting stronger, but you’re still not well enough to go home.”
Al Johns
October 20, 1951

 

Doctor speaks to a patient in his office.
“Let’s simplify matters, madam. Suppose you give me your diagnosis first.”
Don Tobin
October 25, 1952

 

Doctor tries to make a house call in the middle of a blizzard, but the patient tells him that it was a false alarm.
“False alarm, doc!”
Walt Wetterberg
November 17, 1951

 

A green-faced patient walks into the doctor's office.
“I’m going to take you off the green pills for a while.”
Bill Mittlebeeler
December 5, 1953

 

A doctor and nurse examine their patient.
“In a few days, Mr. Hedgewick, you’ll be well enough to start thinking about what this is costing.”
Goldstein
March 7, 1953

 

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Cartoons: Babysitter Blather

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Babysitter being swarmed by her clients' children
“If they give you any trouble…”
Zeis
June 4, 1955

 

A babysitting couple is left with their friends trouble child, who is holding a saw and a hammer.
“We’ll be back at twelve; and don’t worry about Georgie, he knows how to amuse himself.”
Lepper
April 19, 1952

 

A teenage girl in a clothing store calls one of her babysitting clients, hoping to get a job where she can pay off the expensive clothes she is looking to buy.
“Hello, Mrs. Williams? This is Sue – I was wondering if I can expect any sitting jobs from you this month?”
Clara Gee Restain
April 10, 1954

 

A babysitter and all of her friends arrive at her client's home to begin babysitting duties.
“Dear, the sitter’s here.”
Locke
January 19, 1952

 

A babysitter sees her charge's parents off as they begin their date.
“Try to have a good time, Mrs. Lee, and forget what you’re paying me!”
Ben Roth
September 15, 1951

 

A grumpy man tells his wife his displeasure at having to sit through a musical performance.
“I wish I was making that 75₡ an hour and the sitter was here with you!”
Salo
June 14, 1952

 

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Cartoons: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

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A baseball cartoon, where an entire baseball team arrives at a couple's apartment door.
“Dear, were we expecting the Browns?”
Bo Brown
June 28, 1952

 

A baseball cartoon, where a tired pitcher is being propped up by a teammate.
“Better warm up a new pitcher. Herb’s beginning to tire.”
Tom Henderson
June 21, 1952

 

A baseball cartoon, depicting a failing pitcher being led away from the field by his coach.
“Look at it this way, Lefty…you may not be the best pitcher in the league, but you’re the cleanest!”
Dave Eastman
June 12, 1954

 

A baseball cartoon, where a coach is giving instructions to his on-deck batter.
“Harris, I want you to go in there and knock it clear out of camera range.”
Chon Day
April 19, 1952

 

A baseball cartoon, where a baseball fan reads disturbing articles in a newspaper until he reaches his baseball team's boxscores.
Stan Hunt
April 17, 1954

 

A baseball cartoon where a pair of players remark on a cowering teammate.
“What can I do? — he’s batting .400…”
Bill Harrison
April 16, 1955

 

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Cartoons: Carpentry Capers

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A middle-aged married couple shake hands on a deal concerning their D.I.Y. projects.
“O.K., it’s agreed! If you won’t knit anything for me, I won’t make any furniture for you!”
Bob Barnes
October 9, 1954

 

A woman shows her friend the shoddily-made end table her husband made.
“Henry made it out of an old table.”
Don Tobin
September 18, 1954

 

A woman and her friend comment on one of their husband's awful D.I.Y. project, which is a short end table made out of an old log.
“I know just how you feel – my husband went through the same phase.”
Frank O’Neal
July 31, 1954

 

A woman tells her husband to keep the awful chair he made in the basement.
“I’ll say it’s built to stay! Right down here!”
Ben Roth
July 3, 1954

 

Woman comments on her husband's carpentry project to her friend.
“So far, he’s made two things – sawdust and noise.”
June 26, 1954

 

Woman shows her husband's D.I.Y. projects to their friends while insulting him.
“Vincent made all the furniture himself. We call this the ‘Bizarre Room.’”
Peter Wyma
May 7, 1955

 

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Cartoons: Funny Money

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Two women sit in a room with wallpaper that has dollar signs on it.
“I think it makes the room awfully pleasant to live in, don’t you?”
Brad Anderson
July 3, 1954

 

Woman speaks to her husband about their debt situation
“Now that you’re earning more, dear, I feel we can finally afford to be in debt.”
Mort Temes
May 15, 1954

 

Wife going through the family budget
“The solution to our financial problem is simple. You got to make more money.”
Bill King
April 24, 1954

 

Banker refusing to give a customer a loan
“I’ll try to be as brief as possible Mr. Denton. No.”
Al Johns
April 17, 1954

 

Doctor speaks to a patient in a hospital bed
“Sorry I brought up the matter of your bill yesterday.”
David Pascal
April 17, 1954

 

People sit in a bare, darkened room discussion their kids' college tuition
“And how are your children doing at college?”
Stan Fine
April 10, 1954

 

 

Man speaks to another on a park bench about money
“With me, money is no object. I haven’t any.”
Ken Duggan
April 9, 1955

 

Older citizen goes over his budget
“According to my figures, I could retire at sixty with an income of $239 per month.”
Bill Mittlebeeler
December 5, 1953

 

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Cartoons: Lawn Laughs

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Shoppers talking to a lawn care specialist
“What has big flowers, grows anyplace, and requires no care whatsoever?”
Gallagher
May 14, 1955

 

Man waters his lawn using his neighbor's hose
Rodriant
September 27, 1952

 

Wife comments on her husband tying down a small plant in their lawn
“Afraid it’ll escape?”
Goldstein
September 20, 1952

 

Man using a wagon to carry him as he uses a lawn mower
Tom Henderson
August 23, 1952

 

Woman dumping the excess tomatoes from her husband's garden as he carries more into their house.
H. Middlecamp
August 18, 1951

 

Two neighbors speaking to each other over their fence
“I had phenomenal luck with my garden this year – not a thing came up.”
Bill Yates
June 19, 1954

 

Weeds grow around the pegs used to help tie down a dying tree.
Larry Harris
June 14, 1952

 

Man sleeps under a tree after mowing six feet of lawn
Walt Wetterberg
June 7, 1952

 

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Cartoons: Oh, Waiter!

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Waiter looks at a father with pity after the man's family had finished their meal
“Stop looking at me pityingly. How much?”
Goldstein
June 9, 1951

 

Waiter delivers a patron's order
“I’m glad you ordered this, sir – it’s one of the few dishes the management makes a real profit on.”
Leo Garel
June 9 1951

 

Waiter checks in on a couple as they peruse a menu in an expensive restaurant
“Find anything you can afford?”
Goldstein
June 2, 1951

 

Waiter speaks with a patron
“We’re suggesting the special fillet of sole today, sir – and if you ask me, we should have suggested it yesterday.”
Gardner Rea
June 2, 1951

 

A waiter leaps for joy in a restaurant
“I’d certainly like to know the size of that tip.”
Dan Q. Brown
May 21, 1955

 

Waiter speaks with a patron
“I can’t honestly recommend anything – I’ve watched them make the stuff.”
Roy Fox
May 1, 1954

 

Waiter speaks with two patrons
“I’ve waited five years to see you two guys have lunch together!”
Gallagher
April 10, 1954

 

Patron notices a full waiter's tray resting between his seat and the wall.
“I’ll get that out of your way in just a second.”
Tom Henderson
March 1, 1952

 

Waiter speaks with a patron
“The only thing I can honestly recommend is an extravagant tip.”
January 23, 1954

 

A frog leaps off of a dinner plate
“Now – that’s what I call fresh frog legs.”
Frank O’Neal
July 16, 1955

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