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Clip From “Raggedy”: Gruelle’s Early Career

Gruelle's mentor James Whitcomb Riley

Here’s another new clip from our upcoming documentary “Raggedy.” Just like what was stated in the video, Johnny’s father Richard was none too pleased about him becoming a cartoonist. However, family friend James Whitcomb Riley new that Johnny would be successful in something he had his heart fully invested in, which is exactly what happened.

During his first job as a cartoonist at the Indianapolis Star newspaper, Johnny simply signed his name as “GRUE” or in the phonetic manner “GRUE*L. His comedic sensibilities showed in his caricatures of people and events. Gruelle was also known to be a quick worker, especially during fishing season. He would often show up to work dressed in his fishing gear during the summer. However, his exceptional talent allowed for him to complete his work in brief periods with no impact on quality.

During his stint at the Indianapolis Star Gruelle created his first continuous cartoon character: Jim Crow (not related to Jim Crow Laws). Jim Crow was a weather bird that was specifically dressed in accordance to the weather. If it was warm, Crow would wear a straw hat and fishing pole, while if it were cold he would adorn a hat, coat and boots. In fact the Star still uses Crow as their funny weather bird to this day, although he has been renamed “Joe” Crow for obvious purposes.

Gruelle took his success to Cleveland and then on to New York, where he drew for the Herald. It was there that he created a new and award winning character, named Mr. Twee Deedle. The creation of this character further cemented his talents as an inventive mind. Mr. Twee Deedle was actually created by Gruelle family friend Solon Borglum, who described him as an “elf who lived in a gnarled tree and had the ability to make himself invisible.” Gruelle actually approached Borglum about making Mr. Twee Deedle into a cartoon character. Borglum happily agreed.

Mr. Twee Deedle

Interestingly enough, Mr. Twee-Deedle was Gruelle’s first foray into the doll-making world. The lovable creature was made into a doll by A. Steinhardt & Bro. in New York City. The price of the doll at the time was between $1.00 and $1.70. Although the doll wasn’t a massive hit, it gave Gruelle exposure and confidence in the doll and toy world. Surely without Mr. Twee Deedle their would be no Raggedy Ann, who made her debut in the elf’s cartoon.

Please visit our site so we can get our documentary done! Thanks for reading!

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