Monthly Archives: February 2007

America’s very own Montagues and Capulets

The Hatfields and McCoys. America’s very own Montagues and Capulets. Symbols etched in America’s mind for Appalachian lawlessness, vigilantism, and ruthless violence. Note that the most famous feuds all clustered in the closing years of the 19th century: Hatfield-McCoy (1880–1887), Martin-Tolliver (1874–1887), French-Eversole (1885–1894), and Hargis-Callahan-Cockrell (1899–1903). By the Depression era they were the stuff […]

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Barney Fife’s hometown

Remember the images: There’s cocky Barney, hitching up his belt, jutting out his lower lip and cocking his head, taking on the role of crimefighter. And there’s Andy, rescuing Barney from the bad guys or from himself — after he had locked himself in a cell. There’s high-strung Barney, the scrawny deputy agitatedly rousting law-abiding […]

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Mammy Yokum, Pappy Yokum, and Fearless Fosdick

In 1934 25-year-old cartoonist Al Capp took his hillbilly idea to United Features Syndicate (creating a lifelong public feud with Ham Fisher, whose popular boxing strip “Joe Palooka” he’d been ghosting) and “Li’l Abner was born. The comic strip starred Li’l Abner Yokum, the lazy, dumb, but good-natured and strong hillbilly who lived in Dogpatch […]

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The New Deal — social elixir or socialist plot?

“I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people,” said newly nominated Democratic presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt on July 2, 1932. Editorial cartoonists had a field day with the alphabet-soup of agencies the newly elected Roosevelt spun out starting in 1933: the AAA, CAA, CCC, CWA, FAP, FCA, FMP […]

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West Virginia bluebeard

Herman Drenth, alias “Harry F. Powers,” startled the nation in 1931 after he confessed to the brutal murders of three women and two children. This West Virginia based traveling salesman used matrimonial correspondence agencies to ensnare lonely women, whom he robbed then murdered. Police estimated that before his arrest he had killed fifty victims, although […]

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