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Milton Caniff

Septmember 21, 2012

Milton Caniff was one of the most influential cartoonists of the 20th century, creating the newspaper strips Dickie Dare, Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon, among other projects. He was the winner of the National Cartoonist Society's first ever Cartoonist of the Year award (1946), and there are a tremendous number of Hall of Fame caliber illustrators who list him as one of their main influences.

While we've covered the the characters of Caniff's creation in other entries, we thought we'd share with you a rare look in the early life and career of the cartoonist himself, as presented in The Magazine of Sigma Chi Fraternity.

Just seven years after his college graduation, the cover of the July 1937 issue features Caniff at a drawing board with the captions, "Milton Caniff, Ohio State '30" and "The Creator of Terry and the Pirates is America's Youngest Major Cartoonist."

The 16-page spread includes color and black and white original Caniff illustrations, as well as a copy of correspondence dated June 16, 1937 and addressed on Chicago Tribune - New York News Syndicate letterhead from an M. Slott, Assistant Manager, which states: "There are about 100 newspapers taking Terry and the Pirates with an estimated circulation of 14,684,450."

The article also includes interesting anecdotes about Caniff's early, pre-college sketches with the Dayton Journal and how a mosquito bite which eventually caused a five-week bout with phlebitis kept him bed-ridden and helped him stay ahead of his strict and challenging deadlines (Sunday strips had to be turned in nine weeks in advance, daily strips four weeks).

Sigma Chi was obviously proud of its fraternity member's ability to make good in the highly competitive world of cartooning so soon after graduation. His well over fifty-year career, multiple accolades and syndication deals have proven to all his successors that with a bit of talent and a load of diligence, you Caniff you try.

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