George McManus (January 23, 1884 – October 22, 1954) was an American cartoonist best known as the creator of Irish immigrant Jiggs and his wife Maggie, the main characters of his syndicated comic strip, Bringing Up Father.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri of Irish parents, McManus had an innate gift for drawing and a sense of humor. He recalled an incident when he was in high school: "My teacher sent home to my parents a picture I had drawn of a classmate named Sweeney. 'This is what your boy has been doing,' the teacher wrote, icily. I laid the note in Pop's lap and headed wearily for the woodshed. But Pop, instead, put on his hat and coat and went to the editor of The Republican. He showed Sweeney to the editor. Next day I had a job on The Republican at $5 a week—as an errand boy."
At The Republican, he created his first comic strip, Alma and Oliver. In 1904, after winning $3000 at the racetrack, he went to New York City and a job with the prestigious New York World, where he worked on several short-lived comic strips, including Snoozer, The Merry Marcelene, Ready Money Ladies, Cheerful Charlie, Nibsby the Newsboy in Funny Fairyland, Panhandle Pete and Let George Do It.
Comic strip evolution
In 1904, McManus created the first American family comic strip, The Newlyweds, about an elegant young couple and their baby Snookums. The popularity of the strip prompted the management of The New York American to invite McManus to work for their newspaper, which he did from 1912 on. Renaming The Newlyweds as Their Only Child, he continued that strip and began other daily strips: Rosie's Beau, Love Affairs of a Mutton Head, Spareribs And Gravy and Bringing Up Father.
Syndicated internationally by King Features Syndicate, Bringing Up Father achieved great success and was produced by McManus from 1913 until his death, when Vernon Greene and Frank Fletcher replaced him. McManus was inspired by The Rising Generation, a musical comedy by William Gill that he had seen as a boy in St. Louis, Missouri's Grand Opera House, where his father was manager. In The Rising Generation, Irish-American bricklayer Martin McShayne (played by the fat Irish comedian Billy Barry in the stage production McManus saw) becomes a wealthy contractor, yet his society-minded wife and daughter were ashamed of him and his buddies, prompting McShayne to sneak out to join his pals for poker. McManus knew Barry and used him as the basis for his drawings of Jiggs. Two years before his death, McManus said that Bringing Up Father had earned him $12,000,000 during his lifetime.
McManus' wife, the former Florence Bergere, was the model for daughter Nora in Bringing Up Father. Zeke Zekley was his assistant on the comic strip from 1935 to 1954.
For his contribution to American humor, Roanoke College honored McManus with an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.
Jiggs serves as insignia of the U.S. Air Force's 11th Bomb Squadron, with whom McManus served during World War I. In 1995, the comic strip was one of 20 included in the "Comic Strip Classics" series of commemorative United States postage stamps.
- "The Press: A Gag a Day" (December 10, 1945) Time magazine
- Newlyweds and Their Baby (1907) at Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries