Happy Birthday Charley Brown

On this day in 1950 the comic strip Peanuts, written and illustrated by Twin Cities native Charles M. Schulz (books by this author), was first published.

Peanuts Comic Strip for October 02, 1950

Schulz 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,” and 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 and so always found himself the youngest and smallest in the room, rebuffed and ignored by his schoolmates in much the same way that his protagonist, Charlie Brown, would later be. He became a shy, timid teenager, failing at least one subject every year of high school, saying later that he was sustained only by the desire to draw. Utterly discouraged, Schulz abandoned the idea of college and enrolled in Art Instruction, Inc., of Minneapolis as a correspondence student to avoid having to face any of his instructors in person.

Following a brief period as an Army draftee and machine gunner in Europe at the end of World War II, Schulz took a job as an art teacher with Art Instruction, Inc., and began producing some early comic strips. In 1950 he approached a large U.S. syndication service with the best of his work, and was given a syndication of eight local papers in a variety of U.S. cities, his strip under its new name, 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. Peanuts grew into dozens of original books and collections, Emmy Award-winning television specials, full-length feature films, Broadway musicals, and record albums. Schulz’s 1963 book, Happiness Is a Warm Puppy, sold more that year than any other hardcover book for children or adults, and in 1969 NASA named the lunar and command modules of its Apollo 10 mission Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

The series and its creator won award after award and Peanuts was lauded for its deft social commentary, wry wisdom, and the satirical eye that Schulz would train on any subject from the Vietnam War to school dress codes to the New Math movement of the 1960s. Schulz would not address issues like equality explicitly but rather assumed that both gender and racial equality were self-evident — that Charlie Brown’s baseball team was co-ed was at least a decade ahead of its time.

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.” (https://www.garrisonkeillor.com/radio/twa-the-writers-almanac-for-october-2-2021/)

The First Peanuts Cartoon Strip

Discover the Original Title for the Peanuts Cartoon Strip

Picture of Charles Schulz, the creater of the Peanuts comic strip.
Portrait of American cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, creator of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip, sitting at his studio drawing table with a picture of his character Charlie Brown and some awards behind him. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

By Jennifer Rosenberg

Updated April 03, 2017

The very first Peanuts comic strip, written by Charles M. Schulz, appeared in seven newspapers on October 2, 1950.

The First Peanuts Strip

When Schulz sold his first strip to the United Feature Syndicate in 1950, it was the Syndicate that changed the name from Li’l Folks to Peanuts – a name that Schulz himself never liked.

The very first strip was four panels long and showed Charlie Brown walking by two other young children, Shermy and Patty. (Snoopy was the also an early character in the strip, but he did not appear in the very first one.)

Most of the other characters that eventually became the main characters of Peanuts did not appear until later: Schroeder (May 1951), Lucy (March 1952), Linus (September 1952), Pigpen (July 1954), Sally (August 1959), “Peppermint” Patty (August 1966), Woodstock (April 1967), Marcie (June 1968), and Franklin (July 1968). (https://www.thoughtco.com/the-first-peanuts-cartoon-strip-1779352)

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