The Press: Veiled, Vindictive Annie

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The Huntington, W. Va. Herald-Dispatch solemnly stopped publishing the famed comic strip, "Little Orphan Annie," last week on the ground that "Annie has been made the vehicle for a studied, veiled, and alarmingly vindictive propaganda."

For the past month saucer-eyed Annie has almost entirely disappeared from Cartoonist Harold Gray's strip and the adults associated with her have engaged in a riot of skulduggery. Two villains, Claude Claptrap, a popular demagog, and J. Gordon Slugg, financier, have emerged to harass Annie's foster-parent, Daddy Warbucks, who continues to be a model of industrious honesty. He has begun to market a remarkable new building material when Slugg and Claptrap rouse a mob to burn the factory and kill the inventor. That crime ruins the enterprise and Daddy Warbucks. Daddy behaves with restraint and fortitude, saying only, "Slugg's a crook but he's not important. What is important is that so many people can be fooled by a Claptrap who'd casually ruin a whole people in venting his selfish spite. . . ." Of Claptrap's demagogic promises, Daddy Warbucks says, "I never heard of a politician who got hold of anything offering to share with anyone else. . . . It's a game that's been played for thousands of years—on one side, the political racketeers, the Claptraps and his kind—on the other, real patriots—diligent, honest and intelligent citizens."

To diligent, honest and intelligent Editor James Clendenin of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, this sounded like arrant propaganda for "rugged individualism." A Progressive Republican, Editor Clendenin appeared to feel that Daddy Warbucks and Orphan Annie were oldline Republican Tories. Last week he published a front-page editorial:

". . . In the opinion of the Herald-Dispatch, the creator of the comic strip Little Orphan Annie has violated his sacred reader trust. ... In the latest instance, all political leaders, and it follows every public official, are at once indicted as 'crooks' and to accept such a sweeping indictment is to permit the creator of Little Orphan Annie and . . . the Chicago Tribune Syndicate, to attack and condemn all persons, all institutions, and all ideas save those they choose to label acceptable. . . ."

On its comic strip page, above "Moon Mullins," "Reg'lar Fellers," "the Gumps" and "Mutt & Jeff," the Herald-Dispatch ran in Annie's place a big black banner: DELETED! FOR VIOLATION OF READER TRUST.

Editor Clendenin's criticism of the Annie strip seemed serious enough to the Chicago Tribune Syndicate to prompt it to wire Mr. Clendenin: "Orphan Annie artist ordered to stop editorializing and has already started new series. Feel sure you will like it."