BEFORE Red Ryder: "On the Range" from Bronc Peeler by Fred Harman
The Search for On the Range Begins!
I recently came across a piece of ephemera that had me scratching my head: two large colored panels from the Sunday "funnies" of the 1930s, glued to both sides of a large piece of black construction paper.
I learned a lot just by following the clues (and I give full credit to the wonders of the internet in aiding my search!).
The "comics" aren't really comics at all, but they're titled "On the Range" by Fred Harman. One is dated April 11, 1937 and the other May 16, 1937. Each one features a large Western scene, plus there's a side panel featuring Western lore.
Do You Remember Fred Harman's Red Ryder?
My initial search for information on Fred Harman led me straight to Red Ryder. Sure, I remember Red Ryder--I was a child of the first tv generation in the 1950s and watched re-runs of the Red Ryder movies. Red Ryder and Little Beaver were a big deal to my generation.
Random trivia: A young Robert "Bobby" Blake played Little Beaver.
Before tv, though, the Red Ryder comic strip, comic books and radio series were big hits in the U.S. and the series was heavily merchandised. That Daisy Red Ryder BB gun has practically been immortalized by the film "A Christmas Story," with Ralphie constantly being told "You'll shoot your eye out" with that BB gun.
Red Ryder was created in 1938 and ran through 1964. Before that, in 1933, Fred Harman created Bronc Peeler, another cowboy comic strip. The Sunday strip of Bronc Peeler was in full color and included a large Western scene (separate from the storyline in the strip), as well as a text panel entitled "On the Range."
Red Ryder was essentially a re-worked version of Bronc Peeler--red-headed, steely-eyed cowboy Bronc Peeler became Red Ryder and Little Beaver was his sidekick in both strips.
(Photo courtesy of the Fred Harman Western Art Museum.)
So......Are Those Bronc Peeler Comics Worth Anything?
Good question! I've had limited luck finding "comparables," online.
While there are tons of the Red Ryder Sunday comic strips for sale on eBay, I found only one Bronc Peeler comic strip. It's a full-page one from 1937 which includes "On the Range" and is offered at $16.95.
Of course, Bronc Peeler ran from 1934-1938, while Red Ryder was much more successful and ran from 1938-1964.
The ones I have are pretty cool pieces, whatever their monetary value. It's unfortunate that they're glued onto reverse sides of the same piece of construction paper.