A Short Biography of Joseph Stopford Archibald
Back in the olden days, before computers were invented, millions of little boys grew up reading about sports in comic strips, comic books and library books. You may know some of these boys, who are now considered middle-aged or downright elderly. If you ask your grandfather, uncle or other “older man”, you might hear about a writer named Joe Archibald.
Joe was born on September 2, 1898 in Newington, New Hampshire. He was the son of Alexander and Angelina Stopford Archibald. He grew up in the household of his grandfather Joseph Stopford, who was a muleskinner who came to the U.S. from England during the Civil War. Since there was no such thing as radio or television back then, Joe had to read the newspaper to find out what was happening in football or baseball or any other sports. He loved to draw pictures but he flunked English during his sophomore year in high school. He had no idea he would someday become an author.
Joe joined the United States Navy in 1918, at the age of 20, and served for one year. By that time, cars had been invented, and the world was changing right before his eyes. He loved sports and he loved to draw, so he attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts for eighteen months, then got a job as a cartoonist in New York. All through the 1920s, he earned a living by drawing pictures of touchdowns, home runs, and other sports events. He created the very first story cartoon strip, which was called “The Saga of Steve West”.
By the time World War II came along, Joe was in his forties and well-established as a sports cartoonist. He entertained military personnel at air and naval bases in U.S., West Indies, the Far East, the Pacific Islands and many Army and Navy hospitals. He served as a field director of the American Red Cross in the European theater of operations in 1945.
After the war, remembering how he had felt about the writers of those sports books he had read as a boy, he decided to try his hand at writing. He didn’t want to “write down” to teenagers. He said he “believes in using words of more than two syllables, for if a young reader has to refer to the dictionary, so much the better”. He received a check shortly after submitting his first story, and that convinced him to continue.
In 1972, he wrote, “I do not believe there is a more rewarding profession in this world than being a writer. A cartoonist draws a funny picture that is almost immediately forgotten. An author’s words are preserved and are read over and over again by youngsters. It is my contention that Somebody Up There has been more than kind to me, blessing me with two talents”.
Joe passed away in March 1986, at the age of 87. He left a legacy of more than 50 books and hundreds of sports cartoons to generations of sports fans. Some reviewers are of the opinion that his Crazy Legs McBain is the best juvenile sports novel ever written.