George Leonard Fett (July 7, 1920 - November 6, 1989) was a 20th-century American cartoonist best known worldwide for his Sniffy and Norbert comic strips.
Life and career
George Fett was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He was the only child of Frank J. and Elizabeth Horvath Fett, Hungarian immigrants. From his earliest days, he enjoyed cartooning and would draw on walls, fences and sidewalks.
He graduated from Collinwood High School in 1938. After high school, Fett studied at the Cleveland School of Art, completing his classes in 1941. He joined the United States Merchant Marine and served on ships in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. He regretted not having a chance to sail on the Pacific Ocean, but was able to sketch a variety of characters he met on the North African coast.
When I was young, I would listen to George's stories about Cleveland community, his time in the merchant marines. He was an unbelievable story teller. His one story about during WWII that he made it to Italy and he and another sailor ended up buying an entire whore house then gave it to the employees. One of his many words of wisdom was his observation on getting old. When I (George) was a kid, I would get a little boat and go fishing in Lake Eried inside the break wall and sometimes go out into the country and do a little hunting. Now, I've worked all my life so I can get a little boat and go fishing and sometimes go hunting.
In 1944, he married his high school sweetheart. Fett attended the Colorado School of Art on a scholarship program. On their way to New York to pursue job opportunities, the Fetts stopped in Cleveland to visit family and decided to stay. Fett began an engineering career that lasted for decades. He worked for industrial ryon where he met my dad, Howard Bennett. My dad quit Industrial ryon to start his own engineering firm and George went with him where George worked until he retired from engineering.
He had several comic strip ideas he submitted before Sniffy was accepted. One was about a lion in the colliseum in Rome who was supposed to fight the gladiators but all the lion wanted to do was be a fireman. It was bizarre but really good.
In 1961, Fett decided to pursue his lifelong dream of drawing a comic strip, but it was not until June 29, 1964, that Sniffy first appeared in syndication by Bell-McClure.
When the orphaned dog Little No-No became a major character after 1966, the comic strip was renamed Little No-No and Sniffy in 1970. Sniffy eventually left the comic strip and Little No-No matured into Norbert. The comic strip was again renamed Norbert in 1973. This was one year after United Feature Syndicate took over syndication of Fett's comic strip.
Norbert was very popular in Australia and Japan, but never achieved major success in the United States. On the other hand, however, Fett continued drawing Norbert until the final daily strip was printed on January 2, 1982. Dick Cavalli, who drew Winthrop, continued the strip until September 26, 1983.
In his retirement, George Fett continued his artistic development by painting watercolors and oils, but consistently refused to show his work in public. A true artist, he was never fully satisfied with his efforts.
While not drawing, Fett was an avid hunter and billiards player. When George had his house built, they dug the basement,then they put his pool table in the basement and built the house on top of it. This way he didn't have to have his pool table taken apart to put in the basement. He died on November 6, 1989, at the age of 69.
The World of Sniffy and Norbert
Fett took his comic strip inspiration from the animals he knew. The inhabitant's of Fett's comic strip world were, for the most part, dogs. In fact, the original title character Sniffy was named after Fett's own pet beagle. Other dogs included Caesar, Charley and Queenie. Clyde (a cat), Big John (a mouse) and other animals, birds, insects and plants were included in the strip as years went by. Eventually, Sydney and Cynthia (a boy and girl) were also included.
Little No-No, the future Norbert, was left on Sniffy's doorstep in January, 1966. As the years went by, Charley became very much a father figure to Norbert.
A variety of marketing merchandise was created in the 1970s and early 1980s, including pencil cases, bags, T-shirts and beach towels, mainly for Japanese markets. In fact, much of the merchandise is labeled with the Japanese name for the comic strip, Norbert Mac.
- George L. Fett - Ohio History Central