Mutt and Jeff

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Mutt and Jeff are two of America’s most loved comic personalities, but there is some historical disagreement regarding the inspiration for the characters of Mutt and Jeff. There is a suggestion that Mutt was a racetrack denizen who the artist met while doing sports reporting, and that Jeff was a Swiss immigrant who was a California shopkeeper. Another source claims that both Mutt and Jeff were inspired by a comedy team who often appeared in California vaudeville venues.

Either way, the vigorous interplay between the two characters, when adapted in a comic medium, with Mutt, the tall guy as a scheming straight man, and Jeff, the short and bumbling foil, quickly became beloved characters in ways that changed the entertainment world.

The change came in San Francisco in November 1907 when A Mutt (and later, Mutt and Jeff), a comic strip that was created by Bud Fisher first appeared in newspapers and quickly gained popularity among readers of all ages. The strip featured two main characters, the tall and skinny Mutt and the short and stout Jeff, who got themselves into various humorous situations and dozens of misadventures.

For example, on April 23, 1917 . . .

In frame one, Mutt is saying to Jeff, “By golly I’d hate to be so stupid that the army would have to detail an officer to drill me all by myself – now let’s see if you can obey this command.”

In frame two, Mutt gives Jeff an order, “Right about, face.”

In frame three, Jeff begins to write on the wall, “The f…”

In frame four, Jeff steps away from his writing, it reads: “The funniest thing I ever saw outside a circus. After reading what Jeff wrote, Mutt demands, Jeff’s pencil and asks, “What d’ye mean by writing that nonsense while I’m trying to drill you?”  Jeff replies, “You told me, Right about face. Didn’t you?”

In frame five, Mutt answers, “Yes” to Jeff’s question, and Jeff’s retort is, “Well, I wrote about your face.”


The Characters:
The tall fellow is Augustus Mutt, a ne’er do well who is constantly looking for the scheme that requires very little work but will yield millions. He has been described as dimwitted, but it would seem in some cases that he is as sly as a fox. He is married to Mrs. Mutt and the Mutts have a son named Cicero. 

Mutt first encountered his half-pint companion, Jeff, in 1908. Jeff was short, bald, and unshaved. He had no last name and neither did his twin brother Julius. Rarely does Jeff change from his habitual outfit of top hat and suit with wing collar.

In the very early years, Mutt was the only character in the strip, but when Jeff began to appear frequently, Jeff’s name was added to the title and the theme concentrated on Mutt’s many outlandish, get-rich-quick schemes. Jeff usually served, often as a reluctant partner.

Other sometime characters included Gus Geevem, Joe Spivis, and the Englishman Sir Sidney.

The Artist:
Harry Conway “Bud” Fisher was the American cartoonist who created the first successful daily comic strip in the United States. The strip first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle under the title A Mutt, but when a second character was introduced in 1908, Fisher renamed his strip, Mutt and Jeff.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in April 1885, Fisher was the son of a shopkeeper who attended a public high school and then studied for three years at the University of Chicago. After a short-lived career as a professional athlete and later a sign painter, he became a layout designer in the production department of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Fisher, who used his nickname “Bud” was a perfect fit in California, where he carved out a career as a cartoonist. By 1916, Fisher was earning in excess of $150,000 a year and by the mid-1920s, merchandising and growing circulation had increased his income to an estimated $250,000 – a colossal income for anyone at that time.

After 25 years (in 1932) Fisher had tired of the routine and authorized Albert Schmidt, who worked under the pseudonym Al Smith, to produce the strip under his supervision. Smith drew Mutt and Jeff for 48 years. After Fisher died on September 7, 1954, Smith began signing his own name and continued to draw the strip until 1980 when George Breisacher took over for its final two years. The last strip appeared on June 26, 1983.

Throughout the years, Mutt and Jeff went on countless adventures, (like joining the foreign legion – see April 1917 example above) that included everyday routines as well as intricate schemes. However, whatever the duo was up to, it met with hilarity and chaos that left the readers wanting more.

Although Mutt and Jeff’s popularity began to wane in the latter half of the 20th century, the strip remains a beloved classic among comic strip aficionados and the misadventures of the characters enjoy great popularity.


Mutt and Jeff postcard are few. It seems fair to state that the only ones ever made are a pair of cards made to advertise a stage version of the Mutt and Jeff saga presented at the Hagerstown (Maryland) Opera House, on March 29th, and a set published by the New York American – a Hearst Syndicate Publication – circa 1909.

From the Opera House:

From the Opera House

And from the New York newspaper . . . three examples from what may be a set.

Yep, life is just one great thing after another: a lot like collecting postcards.

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I was born in 1959, and remember “Mutt and Jeff” appearing in a local newspaper.

Born in 1949 – enjoyed these in NY’s Journal-American

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