The Countryboy Cartoonist of National Fame
Abe Martin and Kin Hubbard Explained
Back in May 2005, Opus 162, we did a short piece on Abe Martin and Kin Hubbard that contained a few inadvertent inaccuracies (“Kin,” for example, was not named for a relative), errors we discovered whilst revising and vastly expanding the article for a chapter in my forthcoming book, Insider Histories of Cartooning (due out in the spring of 2014). Eager to correct mistakes wherever they are found, we rush into the digital ether with this, the latest version of the Kin Hubbard Story. More pictures, more words. More satisfying. More accurate. Read on, MacDuff.
A FAVORITE USED BOOK STORE of mine in Evanston, Illinois, Bookman's Alley, was always worth a visit, not just for the printed treasures you might find in its cavernous embrace but because it was virtually a museum of oddifacts—Navajo blankets, hats of all sorts, vintage military uniforms and weapons—arranged to augment kindred subjects in the books on the shelves. Wandering the displays one time, I chanced upon a small volume of pithy comments, decorated, here and there, with cartoonish drawings of a funny-looking rural personage. The book had two names on the cover—Abe Martin and Kin Hubbard—and for a while, I didn't know which was the author. But I eventually, given the generous passage of time, supposed that Hubbard had invented Martin. And, as it turned out, I was right.
I also learned something of the extent of my ignorance: Abe Martin and Kin Hubbard were such celebrated humorists in the first quarter of the twentieth century that they attracted the attention and admiration of another humorist, Will Rogers, who wrote, when Hubbard died in 1930: “Kin Hubbard is dead. To us folks that attempt to write a little humor, his death is just like Edison’s would be to the world of invention. No man in our generation was within a mile of him, and I am so glad that I didn’t wait for him to go to send flowers. I have said it from the stage and in print for twenty years. Just think—only two lines a day, yet he expressed more original philosophy in ’em than all the rest of the paper combined. What a kick Twain and all that gang will get out of Kin” (New York Times, December 27).
And so I kicked myself mentally that I’d never heard of Kin Hubbard.
The most thoroughly convivial biography of Kin Hubbard that I know of is The Life and Times of Kin Hubbard Creator of Abe Martin by Fred C. Kelly. The official biographer of the Wright Brothers and a newspaperman of some pioneering distinction (he is reputed to be the first to get syndicated with a Washington personalities column, “Statesman Real and Near,” 1910-1918), Kelly knew Kin for many years and was the one who urged the Hoosier to get Abe Martin syndicated. Kelly was also a fellow newspaper humorist, as you might suppose from his dedication to doing a Washington column, and so his book about Kin is laced with gleanings from its subject’s own utterances, carefully mined from the Hubbard canon by an empathetic observer.
"Kin" is not, as you might suppose, hillbilly dialect for "Ken"; no, it's short for McKinney, which is Frank Hubbard's middle name, taken hostage from a friend of his father’s.
On September 1, 1868, in Bellefontaine in Logan County, Ohio, Kin was born, the youngest of six, into the newspaper business, his father being the publisher and editor of one.
Kin’s father was a Democrat in a Republican stronghold, and he wasn’t quiet about it, writing editorials both witty and vigorous. Kelly describes the consequences: during the Civil War when he was publishing a paper in Dayton, “he received a call one day from an irate committee of professional patriots who threw him out of a second-story window. The fall was broken by an awning and he wasn’t seriously injured.” He moved to Bellefontaine, where he was given a printing plant on the condition that he publish a newspaper that opposed the Republican sheet, run by a church-going man named Quincy Campbell that Hubbard always referred to as Elder Campbell. The printing plant consisted of a few fonts of type and a hand press. Kin’s father did his own typesetting, standing at the typecase; he never wrote out his editorials but composed them directly in type.
One of Kin’s sisters worked at the newspaper and took great pride in her family. When asked, once, if Elbert Hubbard, the celebrated lecturer and writer, was any relation, she said, simply, “He thinks he is.”
Kin hung around the newspaper office a little as he grew up, but his passion was circuses. Any time he heard of the proximity of a circus, he dropped everything and went. He quit school before the seventh grade at about the age of twelve and went to work in a paint shop. Asked by the proprietor what he aspired to be, and he replied: “I want to be the sole proprietor of a good, well-painted, comprehensive, one-ring circus.” The “well-painted” component showed that he knew which side his bread was buttered on.
Apart from his addiction to circuses, Kin had theatrical aspirations as a youth, but most of his talent in that realm was devoted to wearing a flamboyant wardrobe of the sort he’d heard actors affected—“a loud plaid cape overcoat, a close reefed brown derby, long narrow shoes, a massive buckhorn cane, and long matty hair.”
But he was afflicted with an ability to draw that exceeded his talent for acting. His artistic bent started when he was about five years old, as soon as he was able to hold a pair of scissors, which he would use to cut from paper “any kind of an animal, wild or domestic, with a correctness and deftness that was almost creepy.” He was equally deft at profiles of the neighbors, who would drop in, Kelly says, “to witness his extraordinary gifts as a silhouette artist.”
In The Best of Kin Hubbard, David S. Hawes belabors the obvious when he speculates that Kin’s ability with scissors displayed “a fundamental skill essential to the work of a portrait artist or caricaturist” and later, when the boy learned to draw, “he substituted a pencil or pen and ink for scissors and found that his hand-eye coordination worked as well for him in doing drawings as in making silhouettes.”
But Kin had other ideas about his touted ability. “I was always handicapped by not knowing how to draw. I could execute rude, sketchy caricatures that were readily recognized, but I knew nothing of composition, light and shade, and perspective.”
Despite this disclaimer from the mouth of the horse, while still in school, Kin made pictures as easily with pen or pencil. His first publication in the family newspaper took place when he was sixteen and produced woodcuts of the Republican candidates for the highest office in the land, James G. Blaine and John A. Logan. “From that time on, I was regarded as a natural born artist and everybody said that something ought to be done with me,” Kin said, quoted by Kelly.
When Grover Cleveland was elected President over Blaine in 1884, Kin’s father, the town’s fiercest and most vocal Cleveland supporter, was appointed postmaster, where he gave Kin a job at the general delivery window at which Kin worked, off and on, for four years after quitting the paint shop. The occupation, however, was too tame for a young man. Craving adventure, Kin “took up” with a traveling snake oil salesman as a silhouette artist, his pictures and the man’s banjo attracting and holding crowds throughout the South until the snake oil pitch began.
When not traveling or clerking in the post office, Kin hung around the local theater, the Bellefontaine Grand Opera House, and performed odd jobs (dusting the seats) in exchange for free tickets to all the shows. Suffering from thespian temptations, he occasionally drummed up talent shows among the natives. In 1891, he wrote about one of the shows in a letter to a friend in Indianapolis, decorating the margins of the epistle with thumbnail sketches, some tinctured with water colors. His correspondent showed the pictures to John H. Holliday, owner and editor of the Indianapolis News, who wondered aloud about whether his newspaper should install an artist. Kin’s friend wrote Kin, urging him to come to the Hoosier capital and apply for the job. Kin did, telling Holliday that salary was no object: all he wanted was a start. Holliday hired him at $12, saying, “I reckon you’ve gotta live.”
Kin said he illustrated “pretty much everything that happened in town.” But the good times didn’t last.
After Kin had been at the News for about three years, a new managing editor showed up and assigned the artist a task he was unequal to—architectural renderings. Kin left and returned to Bellefontaine, where he soon received a letter from the new managing editor, who confirmed the young man’s instincts by saying that he was hoping to hire “a real artist who could draw anything.” Kin went South again and “when I failed to get a job, I signed up with the manager of a mummified Aztec Mother and Child, who were exhibited in a covered wagon. I sold tickets with one hand and took them with the other while the manager lectured.”
Drifting north, Kin held numerous and sundry jobs, including driving a bread wagon with two mules “hitched in tandem” before landing at Cincinnati where he drew pictures until spring at the Cincinnati Tribune. When he was “turned adrift,” he found employment at an amusement park for the ensuing summer. “I was nearly in show business,” he commented with pleasure.
He went back to Bellefontaine briefly, then to Mansfield for a stint at Mansfield News, then, after visiting Cleveland, he returned to Bellefontaine to stage more amateur shows. While back at the post office, Kin got an invitation to draw at the Indianapolis Star, where he spent the next two years, getting better at drawing, he said. Finally, in 1901, the Indianapolis News invited him back, and he went. And stayed for the rest of his life.
Kin was often assigned to cover political conventions, where he drew caricatures of the aspiring statesmen. He was good enough at caricature to inspire publication of a collection of his political drawings in 1903, Caricatures of Lawmakers, Clerks, and Doorkeepers of the Sixty-fourth General Assembly of Indiana.
In the fall of 1904, Hubbard was assigned to report on the campaign swing being made through the southern part of the state by John W. Kern, the Democratic candidate for governor. In addition to portraying the gubernatorial candidate in various unguarded moments, Kin observed the indigenous population and made sketches and notes as he did.
“In drawing the odds and ends of humanity,” Kin said, “I had to write a few lines under each sketch to identify it. Sometimes I tried to make these breezy or humorous. Frequently, I would stick in a country character in a hotel lobby and have him making comments on some of the bigwigs.” One of these drawings depicted "a satisfied agriculturist,” who, puffing a pipe, says: "Durned ef I see any excuse fer a change ez long ez we are all doin' so well." The drawing was published on or about October 1, 1904, and, in the interest of the historical record, we’ve posted a terribly bad copy of it in our forthcoming visual aid.
When Hubbard returned to Indy and the newspaper office, he had a good deal more material in his sketchbook than the coverage of the campaign itself required. He showed his sketches to his editor and said he hoped he could re-tool some of them to use in some way, and his editor encourage him. As Hubbard doodled with his material, he grew increasingly fond of his whiskery "agriculturist" who he depicted wearing huge boots and plaid pants.
Kelly says the name Abe Martin surfaced on November 11 without the country bumpkin in person: the drawing showed two other people, one of them saying: “—I’m ’clined to think like Abe Martin—.” Hubbard had considered other names— Seth Martin, Steve Martin, and Abe Hulsizer—before settling, at last, on Abe Martin. On Saturday, December 17, on the back page of the News, a single column-wide drawing depicted the visually refined “agriculturist” in Kin’s best galoot-style of rendering. Headed “Abe Martin,” it was signed “Hub” and would run henceforth always on the back page of the paper, where it achieved the highest visibility after the front page. The neighboring visual aid shows Abe Martin’s visual progression through the years.
The feature, as Hubbard put it years later, "caused some favorable comment and it was decided to continue it." And so he did—nearly every day for the next 26 years. Almost immediately, he gave Abe a habitat: on February 3, 1905, the crusty rube announces that he's going to move to Brown County; and on the next day, Kin shows Abe atop a towering wagon-load of household goods, making his way into the rural setting where he will spend the rest of his career, uttering faux wisdom and country gossip of a warped albeit amusing kind.
Hubbard picked Brown County because it was remote and rugged “without telegraphic or railroad connections—a county whose natives for the most part subsist by blackberrying, sassafras-mining and basket-making.” More likely, as Kelly said, Brown County as a good choice because it was “an area free from urban hubbub, where people could observe human caprice and quiddities.” Or maybe because it was far enough from Indianapolis that no one could check to verify the accuracy of whatever Abe Martin said
Abe Martin was a philosopher of the bumpkin cracker-barrel sort, Kelly said. “It would be quite in character for Abe to come into a country store and tell, deadpan, of a man up the road who fell off a load of hay and died before his teeth could be X-rayed. It seemed to him worth mentioning that there was a time when people did not mow their lawns with a machine but borrowed a cow.”
“Abe Martin caught on from the first,” said Kelly, “because Kin could show us our most secret weaknesses in a way to set us laughing at ourselves.”
The earliest renditions of Abe Martin were more carefully drawn than later, when Kin hit his stride in comedy, achieving it with a looser, more relaxed composition/line. Abe's whiskers became more and more stylized, eventually appearing to be more of a muff around the character's neck than a beard on his chin. Abe looked a little more impish as he grew older, but otherwise, he didn't change much over the years. And he still pretty much just stood around a lot and mused aloud for us to overhear.
Hubbard earns praise from his biographers for a curious innovation: he usually accompanied his Abe Martin drawing with two rustic witticisms, not just one; and the two were usually completely unrelated. I suspect a good number of readers spent no little time trying to figure out how the two sayings were connected, contorting mentally in an existential exercise that no doubt divulged the music of the spheres if pursued avidly enough. It has led me nowhere, however, so I was delighted to discover that the essential unrelatedness of the utterances was deliberate and that they were never intended to be connected at all.
Apart from appreciating Abe's insights, the other pleasure the feature affords is in the drawings. In defiance of the cartooning custom I've been extolling all these years as a measure of excellence (that words and pictures blend, neither making comedic sense alone without the other), these drawings are as unrelated to the sayings, usually, as the two sayings are to each other. And at first blush, the pictures of Abe Martin seem distinguished by a monotony of pose that is breathtaking.
Upon inspection, however, you'll discover, as I did, that the comedy transpires in the distance, in the tiny background details in front of which ol' Abe stands so sturdily, both booted feet firmly on the ground at almost all times (except when impossibly balancing himself on a barbed-wire fence). We see frolicking barnyard critters, cows and horses kicking up their heels in sheer animal exuberance, and all sorts of comically rendered farm machinery and rickety buildings. Hence, our pleasure at perusing Abe Martin is three-fold: each of the two unrelated sayings affords its own delight, and the drawing offers yet another source of amusement. As I say, in defiance of cartooning custom. So much for the universality of that theory.
Given the construction of the feature, Hubbard could have used his drawings over and over after a sufficient interval had passed since the initial publication. But he insisted on producing a new drawing every day—altogether, it is estimated, over 8,000 drawings.
Kelly felt there was never a decline in the quality of Abe Martin humor. Kin’s humor was observational: “He looked at life from his own point of view, and to discover absurdities was effortless. Wherever he looked, he saw something ridiculous. ... He quietly observed all the nonsense caused by national prohibition and summed up that whole crazy period when he wrote: ‘Mr. an’ Mrs. Tipton Bud wuz awakened at an early hour this mornin’ by burglars singin’ in the cellar.’”
One of Abe Martin’s most familiar utterances is this antique axiom: “What this country needs is a good five cent cigar,” a remark that became famous and attributed to numerous other wits, among them Vice President Tom Marshall, who was, Kelly assures us, “an ardent Kin Hubbard fan.”
Other evidences of the wit and Arcadian wisdom of Abe Martin include:
Th’ safest way to double yer money is t’ fold it over onct and put it in yer pocket.
When a woman says, ‘I don’t wish t’ mention any names,’ it hain’t necessary.
Th’ feller that says, ‘I may be wrong, but—’ does not believe ther kin be any such possibility.
A never failin’ way t’ git rid of a feller is t’ tell him somethin’ fer his own good.
“So you hain’t spoken t’ your wife fer three years? Why?” asked Judge Pusey of a husband this mornin’, an’ th’ husband replied, “I didn’t want ti’ interrupt her.”
It’s almost got so you can’t speak th’ truth without commitin’ an indiscretion.
A diplomat is a feller that lets you do all the talkin’ while he gits what he wants.
Th’ louder a feller laughs at nothin’ th’ more pop’lar he is.
When a feller says, ‘It hain’t th’ money, but th’ principle o’ the’ thing,’ it’s the money.
Others of Abe’s insightful utterances are found in our next exhibit.
Hubbard once wrote down in the form of a poem his recipe for making such epigrammatic sayings:
The qualities rare in a bee that we meet
In an epigram never should fail;
The body should always be little and sweet
And a sting should be left in the tail.
Kin visited Brown County only twice. Once on April 23, 1906, when the first train ventured into the vicinity, Kin was aboard for the ride. And then again in about 1914 soon after Kin bought his first automobile, a Buick. It was not a successful visit because Kin had heard the natives thought he was making fun of them and didn’t like some of the characters he’d created so he was afraid of being recognized.
He need not have worried: few people knew who Kin Hubbard was. In 1923, he went to New York, and during his sojourn there, he attended a performance of the Ziegfeld Follies. Will Rogers was among the follies, and he often introduced prominent persons he saw in the audience. Spying Kin, he asked him to stand up, saying, “Meet Kin Hubbard.” Polite applause ensued. Then Rogers completed his introduction—“the man who created Abe Martin.” The audience went wild, standing up and cheering. “Never in the days when he wanted to be an actor had he dreamed of having an audience so complete at his feet,” said Kelly.
At noon on Columbus Day, October 12, 1905, Hubbard married Josephine Jackson, who admired him so extravagantly that she broke off her engagement to another. Despite the excess of her admiration, she didn’t know that he was Abe Martin.
About a year after the nuptials, Kin was looking for ways to increase his income now that he had marital responsibilities. His solution was to publish a book, a collection of Abe Martin’s sayings and some of the drawings entitled Abe Martin of Brown County, Indiana. It included a poem by James Whitcomb Riley, with whom Kin had become friends after caricaturing him. The first lines went like this:
Abe Martin!—Dad-burn his old picture!
P’tends he’s a Brown County Fixture—
A kind of comical mixture
Of hoss-sense and no sense at all!
His mouth, like his pipe, ’s allus goin’,
And his thoughts, like his whiskers, is flowin’—
And what he don’t know ain’t worth knowin’—
From Genesis clean to baseball!
The artist, Kin Hubbard, ’s so keerless
He draws Abe ’most eyeless and earless;
But he’s never yit pictured him cheerless.
The first book sold so well that Kin brought one out every year—some years, more than one, usually under the running title Abe Martin's Almanack; and the profits, Kelly reported, “exceeded by a good margin Kin’s annual salary.” Orders for the books came from all over the world.
Hubbard worked in a section of the paper’s newsroom known as the “Idle Ward” because he and two of the other residents (one of whom was another cartoonist, Gaar Willams) always had time to talk. They all did a lot of work, but they seemed to idle away most of the hours of the day with talk, usually started by Kin, who, reading the newspaper, would be inspired by what he saw there to comment—“I can remember when corn plaster advertisements just showed a foot and didn’t feature legs,” f’instance. When his comments produced laughs, he knew he had something for Abe Martin.
If doubtful about the comedy, he often called Josephine and tried the line on her. If she laughed, good; if she said it wasn’t funny, Kin might respond: “I know it isn’t funny. Who ever said it was? But it’s nearly nine o’clock,” his daily deadline..
Kin continued to produce caricatures of politicians for the News during conventions and legislative sessions, but as a rule, he had little to do every day after conjuring up two sentences and a drawing for Abe Martin. He could have worked at home, but he preferred the eddying atmosphere of the newsroom, and he thought the management appreciated his staying around and putting in regular hours. But he always left the office before three o’clock in the afternoon.
Hubbard was a shy man and avoided the spotlight. If some enterprising journalist called for an appointment for an interview, Kin would agree but set the time after three o’clock.
His salary eventually equaled that of the paper’s general manager, and in recognition of the prestige he brought the paper, he was moved out of the Idle Ward into a private office with his name on the frosted glass door.
When not in the newspaper office, Kin tended to want to enjoy marital bliss without any company other than his wife. The Hubbards seldom entertained because, Kelly says, Kin was afraid of being a bore. Josephine occasionally persuaded her husband to invite friends over, saying that people need human contact.
“Yes, I suppose it’s good for a home to have company occasionally,” Kin conceded, “even if the dishes do pile up.”
He took up golf briefly, but he didn’t enjoy it and gave up soon after making a hole in one. Everyone marveled at his modesty in not proclaiming his feat. “I thought,” he said, “it was what a player was supposed to do.”
Hubbard tried to get Abe Martin distributed to other newspapers, but no syndicate seemed interested until George Ade, then at the pinnacle of his fame as a humorist and playwright, wrote a few complimentary words about Abe in American magazine: “His comments on men and affairs prove him to be a grim iconoclast, an analytical philosopher and a good deal of a cutup. ... Abe Martin is as quaint and droll as Josh Billings and Artemus Ward ever dared to be” (quoted in Kelly).
Suddenly, Kin was awash in letters of inquiry from syndicates. He signed with George Matthew Adams, but, six years later went with John Dille, who was just starting his syndicate and offered Kin a guaranteed annual income. Abe Martin soon appeared in nearly two hundred newspapers nationwide. Said Kelly: “Kin’s two brief unrelated sentences a day with a column-wide drawing brought as high as $50 a week from some of the larger papers. No other writer ever took in so much money week after week, year after year, for so few words.”
Kelly reports that Kin was “a little embarrassed, in a way almost annoyed, by the success of Abe Martin. ‘Perhaps,’ he once said, ‘if I had been born with less sense for the ridiculous and with more application, I might be a good printer or a good photographer or a good sign writer today. I might be a cartoonist with some knowledge of drawing.’”
Urged often to go to New York where all famous creative personalities convened, Kin declined, citing a remark of a friend who’d been invited to relocate to Denver: “I’d rather stay here where I’m known and can play in the band.”
In 1910, the feature was being distributed nationally, and Hubbard, who thought of himself as a writer, not a cartoonist—technically, in the jargon of the trade, a "paragrapher" (that is, a writer who produced short human interest and/or humorous feature material in paragraph doses)—became a national figure, praised by Will Rogers and Franklin P. Adams (the famed FPA who produced "The Conning Tower" for the fabled New York Herald Tribune).
After a time, Kin’s syndicate manager proposed a way to fill the cartoonist’s otherwise idle hours in the office. How about doing something longer than two sentences that subscribing newspapers could use on Sundays? And so Kin began plowing Short Furrows, essays intended to fill one-half to two-thirds of a column. The essays were supposedly written by Abe Martin or by one of the numerous picturesque personages that resided in his neighborhood.
Over the years, the Hubbard dramatis personae multiplied, a recitation of their names and preoccupations providing an ample portrait of Abe Martin’s Brown County: Lafe Bud, traveling representative Red Seal Beer makings; Mrs. Lafe Bud, late o’ the optometrist counter of the Monarch 5 and 10; Newt Plum, town constable and federal rum sleuth; Gabe Craw, proprietor New Palace Hotel and manager of Melodeon Hall; Uncle Miles Turner, first white child born west of St. Paris, Ohio; Miss Mame Moon, ex-proprietor of the O.K. livery barn and pioneer in the movement for the emancipation of women; Miss Tawney Apple, ticket seller at the Fairy Grotto Picture Palace; Miss Myrt Purviance, fifteen; Miss Fawn Lippicut, elocutionist, writer and authority on affairs of th’ heart; Doctor Mopps, ear, eye, nose, throat and president of Hazel Nut Country Club (office hours, Monday afternoons); Pinky Keer, a slip-horn player of wonderful aptness. And more.
Niles Turner “delights to while away the evening of his life telling the most outrageous and preposterous Indian stories and scaring little children. He also makes axe handles.” Uncle Ez Pash, who “has a marvellous memory and little or no regard for the truth,” and Barton Crosby, who “after a long and tortuous siege in the public schools finally graduated with a well-defined mustache.”
Hubbard decorated his Short Furrows with drawings attuned to the subjects being discussed. Abe Martin didn’t appear in them (except, maybe, in the accompanying visual aid where the portrait at the upper left looks suspiciously like Abe to me).
Kin’s characters became popular because they could be found in every neighborhood; everyone recognized them as accurate even if they’d never known anyone quite like them, Kelly said.
Hubbard himself was just such a character. At a circus one day, Kin noticed a pretty girl wearing pink silk stockings and mused: “What chance has virtue got against stockings like that?”
Kin pursued the subject in a 1920s Short Furrow, written by Miss Mame Moon with the title: “Women’s Legs an’ Advertisin.’”
Th’ present day exploitation o’ women’s legs fer ever’ conceivable sort o’ advertisin’ shows th’ trend o’ th’ American mind. Seventy-seven out o’ eighty-one advertisements in a current magazine were illustrated by women’s legs in some shape or other, crossed, or kickin’ up, or in repose. No magazine story is complete without a flapper curled up on a davenport showin’ a pair o’ legs. ... It’s amazin’ how darin’ women become jest th’ minute they hit a bathin’ resort. I hain’t heard o’ one endurin’ romance that begun below th’ thighs. ... What I started in t’ remonstrate agin is th’ shameless way our legs are bein’ used t’ advertise citrus farms in the Rio Grande valley, vacations in Honolulu, hog cholera cures, auto bodies, humidors, roup remedies, tuna fishing, fertilizes, glaciers, tooth brushes, roach paste, Airedale pups an’ trips t’ th’ Holy Land. ... I guess exposed legs an’ knees belong t’ th’ times th’ same as wife tradin’, gin, big alimony, Seminole pajamas, an’ th’ corn borer (quoted by Hawes).
Abe Martin and Fawn Lippicut and Lafe Bud and the rest put Brown County on the national map, establishing it as a destination for all sorts of the writing and drawing classes, a reputation it continues to enjoy to this day. Indiana expressed its appreciation by naming a Brown County mountain ridge after Hubbard; and a lodge was named after Abe Martin when it was built in the Brown County State Park, which was established in 1932, two years after the cartoonist died at the age of 62.
At the end of Christmas Day 1930, Kin went to bed saying it had been his happiest Christmas. The next morning, he awakened, complaining of not feeling well. “Too much holiday, I guess,” he said. “Didn’t we have a good Christmas? I think it was the happiest day of my life.”
He got up to walk over to a chair where he’d left his shoes and sank to the floor. He was suffering a heart attack. He died a few minutes later.
The flags at City Hall and the State House were flown at half mast.
“I doubt if Kin ever quite understood himself,” said Kelly. “I think he was always puzzled by his own success. All he did was go along being himself, expressing the kind of thoughts he would have expressed no matter what he was doing, and yet great rewards poured in. ... His friends simply accepted him as a genius, not to be governed or estimated by ordinary standards, and all agreed on one thing: what an amusing, companionable fellow he was.”
As a companionable finale, here are a few more pictures and pronouncements by Abe. In our first display, we see the older Abe; in the second, another sheet of Abe Martin as the feature was distributed by its syndicate (six dailies on a single sheet), with a couple extra vignettes tossed in; and, finally, a smattering of Abes and some Short Furrows illustrations.