Once upon a time, starting in 1879, there lived a cartoonist named Walter Wellman. He was not a cartoonist yet when he was born, in 1879, that is to say. He probably wasn’t allowed access to ink until he was able to crawl around and grab it./ Anyhow, he was one of those cartoonists who was already drawing for his college newspapers, and was probably drawing in the margins of his notebooks in earlier years as well.
The golden age of postcards started when Walter was in his late 20s, and it proved to be a gold mine for a talented artist who didn’t like to be pinned down to a job where he had to have a comic strip for each day’s edition, or continue the same characters over a period of years. This is not to say that he was incapable of doing a series or a comic strip. He did one long series of postcards in which a story was told in three panels, each of which contained just one word (and the three words rhymed, making him a pioneer in flash poetry.)
Among his most popular series was one h produced just at the start of the Golden Age, in 1908, as the United States announced one whole side of a postcard could be for the picture alone. It proved so popular that it served as the basis of a silent movie in 1918. These were the adventures of Dan Cupid, M.D., who went through the world dispensing, well, a certain kind of medical advice.
At first glance, the jokes are jolly, and fairly obvious. What you may have skipped over, in your hurry to get to the punchline, is all the detail that went in here. Throughout the series, Dr. Cupid’s posture and expression count, and there is usually a counterpoint in the sampler hanging on the wall. The patients are not all the same, nor are the prescriptions, but they do follow a pattern. The patient is generally a rather foolish young man, while the prescription—or fellow patient—is generally elegant. It will be noticed that Walter was a keen satirist of female fashion, and I’m sure you noticed something immediately about the young lady above. This was, in fact, his trademark, and appeared on the backs of many of his cards as a sort of brand name.
Yes, the ladies always had that massive pile of hair
Note also that Dr. Cupid’s invoice changes from case to case as well, ranging from relatively modest
To higher prices in critical cases
He made house calls even outdoors
And was not afraid to prescribe drastic remedies
I, personally, think some of his plans sound a little dangerous, but a medical career is not for the timid.
I have not been able to track down just how many postcards appeared in the Dan Cupid series: I have seen about two dozen, counting the ones I have here and others for sale at random around the Interwebs. And, of course, he did other series as well. Besides the three-act dramas mentioned above, there was his Black Hand series, which parodied sensational fiction and the national scare over an early crime syndicate of that name.
And he continued in the business for many years, always keeping an eye on feminine fashion, and perhaps—I say perhaps—detailing his new ideal of 1930s womanhood, who does not look a LOT like the high-haired beauties of yore