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A. Piker Clerk: First Daily Comic Strip

Cartoonist: Clare Briggs

Debuted: 1903

Syndicated in Chicago American (William Randolph Hearst)

Run: Short-lived

Collection: San Francisco Academy of Comic Art


A. Piker Clerk was a Chicago horseplayer, whose triumphs and bust outs at the track were the fodder of the first regular daily comic strip. Comic historian Don Markstein has described the character as a “thin-necked, pop-eyed fellow with slack chin and heavy mustache who was dressed in high society clothes.” “Piker” is slang for a small-time gambler, a player who makes only tiny bets. A. Piker Clerk’s humorous trials and tribulations revolved around his boastful, big-time self-image and the precarious methods he employed (often borrowing money) to back his claims and hunches. Clare Briggs wrote the comic strip at the request of an editor, who thought the theme would play well on the sports pages. Although A. Piker Clerk would last a relatively short time, it is considered “the first true comic strip,” according to Coulton Waugh, in The Comics, meaning that it used the cross-page form. Briggs’ editor, Moses Koenigsberg, invented the character as a way to engage sports readers and chose Briggs to draw and write the strip. Briggs roughed out 18 strips, readers loved it, and the pioneering idea seemed destined for huge success. But the higher-ups considered the content “vulgar,” and thus the end came sooner rather than later.

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