This Day in Texas History: First Appearance of Popeye

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This Day in Texas History: First Appearance of Popeye

This Day in Texas History:

First Appearance of Popeye

January 17, 1929

On this day in 1929, Popeye, the Sailor Man, renowned comic-strip character, first appeared in print.

Popeye the Sailor

Popeye the Sailor

The Victoria Advocate is credited as the first newspaper in the nation to run Elzie Crisler Segar’s comic strip, originally called “Thimble Theatre,” which starred the spinach-eating hero. Segar (1894-1938) was born in Chester, Illinois, and worked as a moving-picture machine operator, a house painter, and a photographer before his first cartoon effort was rejected by a St. Louis paper. Segar became a popular cartoonist in the 1920s.

Popeye was probably inspired by Frank “Rocky” Feigle of Segar’s hometown. By 1932 Popeye was the undisputed star of “Thimble Theatre,” as evidenced in fan mail, toys, games, novelties, and jokes. Segar himself called the Victoria Advocate Popeye’s “hometown.” In gratitude he contributed a special cartoon for the Advocate’s historic 1934 anniversary issue. Speaking to the newspaper’s editor through Popeye, Segar wrote, “Please assept me hearties bes’ wishes an’ felitcitations on account of yer paper’s 88th Anniversity….Victoria is me ol’ home town on account of tha’s where I got born’d at.”

Crystal City, Texas, also claims a special relationship to Popeye. The spinach industry credited Popeye and Segar with the 33 percent increase in spinach consumption from 1931 to 1936, and in 1937 Crystal City, the “Spinach Capital of the World,” erected a statue to honor Segar and his sailor.

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