Tad Dorgan

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Thomas Aloysius Dorgan
Born(1877-04-29)April 29, 1877
DiedMay 2, 1929(1929-05-02) (aged 52)
Occupation(s)Journalist, Cartoonist, Sportswriter
Notable credit(s)San Francisco Bulletin, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Journal
SpouseIzola M. Dorgan
FamilyThomas J. Dorgan
Anna Dorgan

Thomas Aloysius "Tad" Dorgan (April 29, 1877 – May 2, 1929) was an American cartoonist. He is known for his cartoon panel Indoor Sports and comic strip Judge Rummy, as well as the many English words and expressions he coined or popularized.[1]

Early life[edit]

Dorgan was born in San Francisco on April 29, 1877.[2] He was one of at least eleven children[3]—six sons and five daughters – of Thomas J. and Anna Dorgan.[4] His brother John L. "Ike" Dorgan (born April 1879) was publicity manager for the Madison Square Garden, and his brother Richard W. "Dick" Dorgan (born September 1892) was an illustrator and cartoonist.

Polytechnic High School teachers Rosey Murdoch and Maria Van Vieck recognized and encouraged Tad's talent as an artist. When Dorgan was a child, he lost several fingers of his right hand in an accident whose details are unclear. Cosmopolitan writer O. O. McIntyre, a friend of Dorgan's, wrote that when Dorgan "was eight, he was fooling around on a house-moving job and attempted to ride a shovel on a rope that was propelled by a big pulley. He turned his head for a second and his right hand was caught in a pulley, crushing off four fingers of that right hand, which was reduced to a thumb and a piece of knuckle."[5] Henry Morton Robinson's description of the incident is largely the same, except that he said it took place when Dorgan was nine.[6] Westbrook Pegler, another friend of Dorgan's, wrote that Dorgan had lost "the first two fingers and half of the palm of his right hand" in an incident with a buzzsaw.[7] Comics historian John Adcock has noted that, of all the "dozens of different stories", only McIntyre's version accorded with the statement on Dorgan's draft card that he had "all fingers except thumb off of right hand".[8]

After the amputation, Dorgan took up drawing for therapy. When he was 14 he joined the art staff of the San Francisco Bulletin.

Strips and panels[edit]

Installment of Dorgan's "City Life"(1921)

He created his first comic strip, Johnny Wise, for the San Francisco Chronicle in 1902. By 1905 he was working in New York City at the New York Journal as a sports writer and cartoonist.[1] Jack Dempsey described him as "the greatest authority on boxing."

In addition to his work as a sports journalist, Dorgan did a humor feature, "Daffydills." His dog cartoons, including Judge Rummy (1910-1922), evolved into the strip Silk Hat Harry's Divorce Suit. This was accompanied by a one-panel gag series called Indoor Sports which became his main feature, along with an occasional Outdoor Sports.


Dorgan is generally credited with either creating or popularizing such words and expressions as "dumbbell" (a stupid person); "for crying out loud" (an exclamation of astonishment); "cat's meow" and "cat's pajamas" (as superlatives); "applesauce" (nonsense); "cheaters" (eyeglasses); "skimmer" (a hat); "hard-boiled" (tough and unsentimental); "drugstore cowboy" (a loafer or ladies' man); "nickel-nurser" (a miser); "as busy as a one-armed paperhanger" (overworked); and "Yes, we have no bananas," which was turned into a popular song.

In addition to his humorous and sports-related cartoons, Dorgan also drew political cartoons, such as this example, "The Road to Dividends", in which a young child is weighed down by a heavy burden while several wealthy men march behind her.

In the New York Times obituary, he was bracketed with George Ade and Ring Lardner as a popularizer of "a new slang vernacular." His obituary also credited him as the originator of "Twenty-three, Skidoo," "solid ivory," "Dumb Dora," "finale hopper," "Benny" for hat, and "dogs'" for shoes.[1] W. J. Funk, of the Funk and Wagnall's dictionary company, placed Dorgan at the top of the list of the ten "most fecund makers of American slang."[9]

Dorgan was erroneously credited with coining the usage of the phrase "hot dog" as slang for sausage.[10][11]

Life in Great Neck[edit]

"Tad" signature of Tad Dorgan

Tad Dorgan and his wife, Izole M., lived in Great Neck, New York in a house valued at $75,000. They had no biological children, but they raised two Chinese children to adulthood. Dorgan stopped attending sporting events in the early 1920s because of poor health, and a heart ailment kept him at home for the last eight years of his life, but he continued to produce sports comics for Hearst until his death. He died in Great Neck of heart disease, hastened by pneumonia.[1] Hearst newspapers announced his passing in front-page headlines and some of his cartoons were reprinted for a short time. Izole, a writer before she married Dorgan, was the vice-president of the National Doll and Toy Collectors Club. After Tad's death, she started a successful business manufacturing doll furniture.[12]


Dorgan's first book collection was Daffydills, published by Cupples & Leon in 1911. This was followed by several Indoor Sports collections.


Tad Dorgan was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007 in the category of "Observer"; that is, print and media journalists, publishers, writers, historians, photographers, and artists.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d "'Tad,' Cartoonist, Dies In His Sleep". The New York Times. May 3, 1929. Thomas A. Dorgan, Famous For His 'Indoor Sports,' Victim of Heart Disease. Was A Shut-In For Years. Worked Cheerfully at Home in Great Neck on Drawings That Amused Countless Thousands. His slangy breeziness won immediate circulation. It was he who first said 'Twenty-three, Skidoo,' and 'Yes, we have no bananas,' 'apple sauce' and 'solid ivory.' Other expressions that are now part of the American vernacular include 'cake-eater,' 'drug-store cowboy,' 'storm and strife,' 'Dumb Dora,' 'dumb-bell,' 'finale hopper,' 'Benny' for hat and 'dogs' for shoes.
  2. ^ World War I draft registration
  3. ^ Tad Dorgan and his siblings:
    The Children of Thomas J. and Anna R. Dorgan née Tobin
    Name Nickname Birth Death
    Thomas Aloysius Dorgan Tad 29 April 1877 2 May 1929
    San Francisco CA Great Neck NY
    John Leo Dorgan Ike 15 April 1879 27 December 1960
    San Francisco CA Bayside NY
    Catherine Dorgan 13 November 1880
    San Francisco CA
    Marie Helen Dorgan 20 February 1882 20 May 1939
    San Francisco CA Cincinnati OH
    Charles James Dorgan 16 June 1883 28 September 1922
    San Francisco CA Colfax CA
    Edwin Joseph Dorgan 27 November 1885 31 October 1956
    San Francisco CA Flushing NY
    Anna Loretta Dorgan Nan 14 January 1888 1 June 1967
    San Francisco CA Bayside NY
    Irene Dorgan Eileen / Eile 12 September 1890 5 October 1945
    San Francisco CA Flushing NY
    Richard William Dorgan Dick 24 September 1892 5 May 1953
    San Francisco CA Bayside NY
    Joseph Vincent Dorgan Joe 25 December 1894 8 August 1945
    San Francisco CA Bayside NY
    Alice Anita Dorgan 19 April 1898 15 November 1963
    San Francisco CA Bayside NY
  4. ^ Twelfth Census of the United States
  5. ^ Tad — a Close-up of a Man Who Amuses the World, by O. O. McIntyre, originally published in New York Journal, 1927; republished in Nemo: the Classic Comics Library, issue 13, July 1985; archived at Inside Jeff Overturf; retrieved April 29, 2020
  6. ^ Tad for Short - Cartoonist and Phrase-Maker, a Victim of Circumstance, by Henry Morton Robinson, in The Century Magazine, Autumn 1929; archived at Allan Holtz's StrippersGuide
  7. ^ TAD IS DONE, SERIOUSLY, by Westbrook Pegler, in The Washington Post; published May 3, 1929; archived at Allan Holtz's StrippersGuide; retrieved April 29, 2020
  8. ^ TAD Dorgan and Friends in San Francisco, by John Adcock, at Yesterday's Papers; published December 7, 2017; retrieved April 29, 2020
  9. ^ Slogans in Advertising
  10. ^ Wilton, David (2004). Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 58–59. ISBN 0-19-517284-1.
  11. ^ Popik, Barry (2004-07-15). "Hot Dog (Polo Grounds myth & original monograph)". The Big Apple. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  12. ^ Adcock, John. Yesterday's Papers
  13. ^ International Boxing Hall of Fame: Observers


  • McCrory, Amy. "Sport Cartoons in Context: TAD Dorgan and Multi-Genre Cartooning in Early Twentieth-Century Newspapers," American Periodicals: A Journal of History, Criticism, and Bibliography – Volume 18, Number 1, pp. 45–68. The Ohio State University Press, 2008.
  • Zwilling, Leonard. A TAD Lexicon. Etymology and Linguistic Principles: V.3, Rolla MO: G. Cohen, 1993.
  • TAD IS DONE, SERIOUSLY - obituary by Westbrook Pegler; published in The Washington Post, May 3, 1929; archived at Allan Holtz's StrippersGuide

External links[edit]