The Writer’s Almanac for October 2, 2015
The comic strip Peanuts made its debut 65 years ago on this date in 1950.
The strip’s creator, Charles M. Schulz (books by this author), was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1922 and grew up next door in St. Paul. His kindergarten teacher had told him, “Some day, Charles, you are going to be an artist.” When he got to first grade and discovered that he had a knack for drawing Popeye, he decided that he would become a cartoonist. Young Charles, or “Sparky” as he was then known, skipped two and a half grades of grammar school, so he was always the youngest and smallest in the room, and the other kids picked on him. He became a shy, timid teenager, failing at least one subject every year of high school. Discouraged, Schulz gave up on going to college and enrolled in an art school as a correspondence student.
In 1950, he approached a large U.S. syndication service with the best of his work, and he was given a syndication of eight local papers in a variety of U.S. cities. His strip was named Peanuts. The strip was an almost immediate success that expanded from its original eight newspapers to more than 2,600 papers in 75 countries at its peak.
Schulz began every morning with a jelly doughnut, sitting down to think of an idea that might come after minutes or hours. He would produce all aspects of Peanuts by himself, from the original script to the final art and lettering, refusing to hire an inker saying, “It would be equivalent to a golfer hiring a man to make his putts for him.” During the life of the strip, Schulz took only one vacation – five weeks off to celebrate his 75th birthday.
On the evening of February 12th, 2000, Charles Schulz died at home in his sleep. The following day, the final Peanuts strip of all time ran in the papers, showing Snoopy atop his red doghouse, his typewriter in front of him, musing over a farewell letter from Schulz, who had written to say: “I have been fortunate to draw Charlie Brown and his friends for almost fifty years […] Unfortunately, I am no longer able to maintain the schedule demanded by a daily comic strip. My family does not wish Peanuts to be continued by anyone else, therefore I am announcing my retirement […] Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy […] how can I ever forget them.”