It was seventy-five years ago, on September 8, 1930, that comic strip readers were introduced to a new character, a bird-brain flapper named Blondie Boopadoop. Her fondest admirer, Dagwood Bumstead, was a mild-mannered playboy and a son of the railroad tycoon, J. Bolling Bumstead. Dagwood was always drawn wearing a bow tie and never combing his hair. Created by Chic Young (1901-1973) during the dark days of the depression, Blondie, might have faded into oblivion but for a stroke of creative genius: the couple fell in love. Dagwood defied his parents who were opposed to a wedding and married Blondie. The wedding, on February 17, 1933, was easily the most notable marriage in America that year. When Dagwood was disinherited, the couple vowed to “live on love.” They moved to a modest house in the suburbs, where they struggled over bills, bought furniture, met neighbors and fought and made up just like millions of couples everywhere.
Blondie’s popularity expanded, so did the Bumstead family. A son, Baby Dumpling (real name Alexander) was born on April 15, 1934, and, in 1941 came a second child, Cookie. These two children grew up to become teenagers and have remained that way since 1960. Why has this comic strip family survived for 75 years? Eating. Sleeping. Making a living. Raising a family. Loving and laughing. With these universal themes Blondie has transcended it origins as a pretty-girl romance to become the most widely read strip in comic art history. Today 250 million readers, including me, keep up with the Bumsteads’ enduring domestic comedy seven days a week. My Sundays aren’t complete without first reading this comic strip in the Vindicator.
Blondie has received phenomenal worldwide exposure through books, radio, television and movies. “The Dagwood Sandwich” with it’s variety of fillings, including avocados and olives, is now a part of our language. The U.S. Postal System even featured Blondie on a stamp commemorating the first 100 years of newspaper comic strips back in 1995.
When “Chic” (for Chicken) Young died, his son Dean inherited the strip. Dean Young credits Blondie’s durability to his determination to keep the strip contemporary and human. He had Blondie end her 60 year stint as a housewife by having her open her own catering business on Labor Day 1991. He even had Dagwood give up smoking a pipe (see the 1951 strip below) but keeps him knocking down the mailman, Mr. Beasley. Dog lovers, the world over, particularly enjoy watching the Bumsteads’ dog, “Daisy,” get in trouble by occupying the living room couch when Dagwood wants to take a nap.