Pee-Wee Harris

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Pee-wee Harris
First appearance 1915
Created by Percy Keese Fitzhugh
Portrayed by Al Gar Bloom
Information
Nickname(s) Pee-wee
Aliases Walter Harris
Gender male
Occupation Boy Scout
Title First Class Scout
Religion Christian [1]

Walter "Pee-wee" Harris is a fictional Boy Scout who has appeared in several series of boy's books by Percy Keese Fitzhugh as well as in a long-running comic strip in the magazine Boys' Life. Originally spelled "Pee-wee", his name has occasionally been spelled "Pee-Wee" and is spelled "Pee Wee" in the Boy's Life comic strip.

Books[edit]

Pee-wee Harris first appeared in 1915 as a supporting character in Fitzhugh’s series of novels about the Boy Scouts of "Troop 1, Bridgeboro, NJ". Though Pee-wee is small of stature and young of age, he is the quintessential First Class Boy Scout. He is almost always wearing one of his many Scout uniforms, and carries a compass, a pocketknife, a belt axe, and some food to appease his never-ending appetite. His fellow Scouts would say that "Pee-wee is not in the Boy Scouts, the Boy Scouts are in him."

His adventures were so numerous that in 1922 Pee-wee was given a book series of his own. The series revolves around him using Scouting skills such as signaling and stalking to have adventures and solve mysteries.[2] The hero of these stories usually gets himself into predicaments through his enthusiasm for the Scout way and his noble intentions. But Pee-wee is the kind of boy who always lands on his feet. He takes a situation that he manages to screw up with his zeal and, with his Scout knowledge and a huge dose of luck, always seems to come out on top. “Even when he loses, he wins”. The series also featured other Scouts from the "First Bridgeboro Troop" such as Tom Slade, Roy Blakeley, and Westy Martin, who each also had their own series of books, the first two preceding the Pee-wee series and the last following it. The Pee-wee Harris book series ran until 1930.[3]

Like many of the Scouts in Fitzhugh's novels, Pee-wee was based on a real person, in Pee-wee's case – one Al Gar Bloom, whose father ran a newsstand near Fitzhugh's studio in Hackensack, NJ. Al, himself a Scout, would regularly pester Mr. Fitzhugh to see the manuscripts before they were sent off to his publisher. When the Pee-wee Harris series began; Al was the natural choice as the Scout who would grace the cover of the first volume. Al lived in Hackensack for many years, eventually becoming a reporter for the Bergen Evening Record. In an interview given in the 1970s, Al had this to say about PKF’s books: “Fitzhugh’s books – moral, humorous – were well suited to my generation just as the Rover Boys, Horatio Alger and Oliver Optic were rigidly keyed to the moral tone and drive for material success of their respective eras.”

13 Pee-wee Harris books were published by Grosset & Dunlap:

  • Pee-wee Harris (1922) [4]
  • Pee-wee Harris on the Trail (1922) [5]
  • Pee-wee Harris in Camp (1922)
  • Pee-wee Harris in Luck (1922)
  • Pee-wee Harris Adrift (1922)[6]
  • Pee-wee Harris F.O.B. Bridgeboro (1923)
  • Pee-wee Harris: Fixer (1924)
  • Pee-wee Harris: As Good As His Word (1925)
  • Pee-wee Harris: Mayor For A Day (1926); serialized in Boys' Life as Pee-Wee's Patrol
  • Pee-wee Harris and the Sunken Treasure (1927)
  • Pee-wee Harris on the Briny Deep (1928)
  • Pee-wee Harris in Darkest Africa (1929)
  • Pee-wee Harris Turns Detective (1930)

In addition, these two stories are known to exist:

  • "Pee-wee Harris Warrior Bold" (1930) - published as a serial in Boys' Life magazine
  • "Pee-wee's Gold Brick" - an unpublished manuscript

Around 1935 Grosset & Dunlap sold the rights to the first two Pee-wee Harris books to Whitman Publishing. These books, along with 4 other Fitzhugh titles, were added to their extensive "2300" series of books for young adults. They remained in their catalog until the 1950s.

An abridged audio book of the seminal novel was published in December 2009.

Boys' Life[edit]

In April 1920, A short series ran in Boys' Life called "Roy Blakely's Camp on Wheels" that featured Pee-wee and ran for eight issues. In 1952, Pee-wee made the transition to the comic strip, appearing in the "Pee Wee Harris" comic strip in Boys' Life (September issue). This is when his name was first spelled with the capital "W" and the hyphen was removed. This project was begun by editor and writer, Alfred B. Stenzel, who was given the task of capturing the essence of Pee-Wee’s character. The first artist was Bill Williams who drew it from 1952 to 1963. The strip originally carried the byline "by Percy K. Fitzhugh" even though Fitzhugh had died in 1950. The comic strip originally followed story lines from the books. Over the years, it has been changed in both artistic style and story line. Westy Martin from Fitzhugh's original stories transferred over to comics. In the latest incarnations of the strip, relative new characters named Sam, Chubb, Carlos appear in supporting roles. Responsibility for the strip has been handed down over the years, and previous artists include Manny Stallman and Frank Bolle. It now rests with illustrator Mike Adair.[7] Stories include Pee Wee attempting scout skills in a humorous way. Boys Life's website includes this description of Pee Wee; "From high adventure to cooking, nobody explores Scouting like Pee Wee Harris. Join him and his friends each month in the pages of Boys’ Life magazine." Boyslife.org has an archive for all Pee Wee comics back to March 2010.[8] In March 2011, on Boys' Life 100th anniversary his character appeared in an interview that talked about Boys' Life's comic section history called "How I Became a Comic Page Hero." An online version of this interview included a video and Pee Wee was voiced by Zachary Gordon.

References[edit]