Charles M. Schulz: Creator of the Peanuts Comic Strip
Charles Schulz was a well-known cartoonist. He is the creator of the famous comic strip Peanuts. Schulz was the genius behind such memorable characters as Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus, and others. Many consider Schulz to be one of the most influential cartoonists to ever practice the craft. His Peanuts comic strip is still popular around the world. It was expanded into books, television shows as well as other types of merchandise and more.
Charles Monore Schultz was born on November 26, 1922, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was the only child of Dena Halverson and Carl Schulz. There was a horse named Sparky Plug in a comic strip done by Billy DeBeck. Schulz's uncle started calling him Sparky and the nickname would be with him the rest of his life. Schulz loved drawing starting when he old enough to hold a pencil. One of his favorite subjects was Spike, the family dog. Their dog would eat unusual things like tacks and pins. When Schulz was 15 years old, he drew a picture of Spike. He sent it to Ripley's Believe It or Not! The drawing was published in the syndicated panel of Robert Ripley. The caption below it had “A hunting dog that eats pins, tacks, and razor blades is owned by C. F. Schulz, St. Paul, Minn.” It was added the picture was drawn by Sparky. Schulz was a student at Gordon Elementary School. He was a gifted student and was able to skip two grades. This resulted in Schulz being a timid and shy teenager. He was also the youngest in his Central High School class. Schulz knew he wanted to be a cartoonist at an early age. He took a course from the Federal School of Applied Cartooning in Minneapolis. During this time, he would regularly submit his cartoons to publications around the country.
In 1942, the United States Army drafted Schulz. During World War II, he was a staff sergeant and squad leader attached to the 20th Armored Division in Europe. Schulz was on a .50 caliber machine gun team. His unit only saw combat toward the very end of the war. During the one opportunity Schulz had to fire his .50 caliber machine gun, he had forgotten to load it. Unable to fire his machine gun facing enemy soldiers, Schulz admits he was lucky. The German soldiers he would have shot at were anxious to surrender. Charles Schulz was discharged from the Army on January 6, 1946.
Before being discharged from the Army, Schulz continued drawing cartoons. Upon returning home, he started working as an instructor at his old school, the Federal School of Applied Cartooning. This job made it possible for him to work for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He created a series of weekly four one-paneled drawings known as Li'l folks. This was published from 1947 to 1950. When Schulz was drawing Li'l folks, it was the first time he referred to one of his comic strip characters as Charlie Brown. The name was used for three different boys. The panel drawings also had a dog that resembled Snoopy. In 1948, Schulz sold one of his one paneled drawings to The Saturday Evening Post. During the next two years, the magazine published over 16 of Schulz's untitled drawings. He did this while still working for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Schulz attempted to have Li'l Folks syndicated. He approached the Newspaper Enterprise Association with the idea. Initially, the newspaper syndicate was interested, but a deal never materialized. The Pioneer Press stopped publishing Li'l Folks during January 1950.
Creation Of Peanuts
Toward the end of 1950, Schulz approached the newspaper syndicate United Features Syndicate. He showed them his one-panel series Li'l Folks. At this time, Schulz had worked on developing a comic strip. It consisted of four panels instead of one. United Features Syndicate preferred the four-panel comic strip. On October 2, 1950, Peanuts first appeared in seven newspapers. The first time the Peanuts comic strip was seen in Sunday newspapers was on January 6, 1952. It had a slow start but soon became popular. Peanuts went on to become one of the most influential as well as the popular comic strips in newspaper history.
When Peanuts was at its highest level of success, it was published in over 2,500 newspapers in more than 74 countries. It was translated into over 21 languages. The Peanuts comic strip was published for over 50 years. Nearly 18,000 comic strips were drawn by Schulz. The comic strips, merchandise as well as the endorsement of products generate over $1 billion a year. During his entire career, Schulz took only one vacation. In 1997, he took a break for five weeks to celebrate his 75th birthday.
Schulz was visited by a television producer in the early 1960s. His name was Lee Mendelson. He wanted to film a documentary about Schulz. The documentary was never televised, but Mendelson and Schulz worked together to produce the television special called A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was televised in 1965. The program won a Peabody Award and an Emmy in 1966. This was also the year the television special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was first televised.
Charles Schulz married Joyce Halverson in April 1951. Haverson had a daughter from a previous marriage and Schulz adopted her. Later in the year, the family moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado. The family had their son Monte in February. The family then returned to Minneapolis, Minnesota and had three more children. They stayed there until 1958 and then moved to Sebastopol, California. There Schulz built a studio for his work. Before this, he worked in a small rented office. Schulz and his family moved again in 1969 to Santa Rosa, California. Schulz divorced his wife in 1972. In 1973, he married Jean Forsyth Clyde.
Schulz had heart bypass surgery in July 1981. When he was in the hospital recovering, President Ronald Reagan phoned him and wished him a speedy recovery. A few years after this, Schulz started complaining about his one hand shaking so badly he was forced to hold his wrist to draw. This condition was treated with beta-blockers. Schulz was still determined to draw his comic strip without help. Schulz suffered several small strokes in November 1999. It was determined he had a blocked aorta. Schulz was also found to be suffering from metastasized colon cancer. He had trouble seeing, and it had to deal with chemotherapy. This led to Schulz announcing he was retiring effective December 14, 1999.
On February 12, 2000, Charles Schulz passed away at his home from colon cancer. He was 77 years old. The final original Peanuts comic strip was published the following day. Schultz was buried at Pleasant Hills Cemetery in Sebastopol, California. In his contract with United Features, no other artist was permitted to draw the Peanuts comic strip. The newspaper has honored that agreement.
In 1962, Schulz was given the National Cartoonists Society's Humor Comic Strip Award. In 1980, he was given the Elzie Segar Award. Schulz was the first person to win the Reuben Award twice, in 1955 and again in 1964. In 1999, he was given the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award. A recognized fan of hockey, Schulz was given the Lester Patrick Trophy. This was for his outstanding contribution to the sport of hockey. In 1993, Schulz was also inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was given to Schulz on June 28, 1996. In September 2015, Schulz was inducted into the California Hall of Fame.
The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center opened in 2002 and is located in Santa Rosa, California. It features displays of original artwork, photographs, letters, and other Schulz memorabilia. The Peanuts characters are still seen in daily newspapers, television specials, anniversary books as well as commercials and more. A new Peanuts 3D movie was in theaters in 2015.
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