Chasing Sadie

My remembrances of Sadie Hawkins Day don’t stem from reading the well-known “Li’l Abner” comic strip by Al Capp, although it was his imagination that created the pseudo-holiday. Growing up in the early 90s, participating was a sort of rite of passage for the girls at my school, both junior high and high school. The novelty: girls ask the guys out to a dance. We took it a step further and bought matching plaid shirts for our dates and ourselves to get even more in the spirit.

While this event may not be so relevant today, it’s interesting that a nationwide fad began with a comic strip.

Capp introduced Sadie Hawkins Day on Nov. 15, 1937. In his comic strip, Sadie was the “homeliest gal in all them hills.” Her father, Hekzebiah Hawkins, a prominent resident of their town Dogpatch, was concerned that his daughter would never get married. So he declared Sadie Hawkins Day, bringing all the town’s eligible bachelors together to be chased down by the resident single ladies in a footrace.

The idea really caught on with the public. A Dec. 11, 1939, double-page spread in Life Magazine proclaimed, “On Sadie Hawkins Day, Girls Chase Boys in 201 Colleges” and printed pictures from Texas Wesleyan University. Two years later, Life again reported on a day of “humorous osculation” at the University of North Carolina, along with 500 other colleges, clubs and Army camps across the country.

According to Capp, he received, “tens of thousands of letters from colleges, communities and church groups,” asking when he would declare Sadie Hawkins Day that year so they could make plans accordingly.

In an article Capp wrote for the March 31, 1952, issue of Life, he said, “And how about that Sadie Hawkins Day? It doesn’t happen on any set day in November; it happens on the day I say it happens.”

The comic strip’s main characters, Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae, did the song-and-dance for 15 years before finally getting married, after Daisy Mae caught her prize.

According to Sara Duke, curator in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, the feature generally began with an announcement that the day was occurring and a few mystical elements about how Li’l Abner was to avoid being trapped. The story line invariably shifted away from Sadie Hawkins Day, only to weave back in a few days before the race.

"Midnight madness. Warnin to all Dogpatch bachelors - Sadie Hawkins Day comes on Nov. 6th." Al Cap, Sept. 25 1943. Prints and Photographs Division. © Capp Enterprises, Inc. Used by permission.

“Midnight madness. Warnin to all Dogpatch bachelors – Sadie Hawkins Day comes on Nov. 6th.” Al Cap, Sept. 25 1943. Prints and Photographs Division. © Capp Enterprises, Inc. Used by permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this 1943 three-panel strip (above), L’il Abner reads the notice about the upcoming Sadie Hawkins Day. And while he predicts that he will be “as far outa her reach as – as – as them stars,” he is horrified when he looks to the sky to see the constellations in the shape of a girl catching her man.

Here’s another strip (below) from the 1943 series, in which it appears that Li’l Abner is trapped.

"This is it. Oh *sob* feet! After all we has gone through together ... "/ Al Capp, Nov. 15, 1943.  © Capp Enterprises, Inc. Used by permission.

“This is it. Oh *sob* feet! After all we has gone through together … “Al Capp, Nov. 15, 1943.
© Capp Enterprises, Inc. Used by permission.

In the footrace, the men took off first, followed shortly thereafter by the women. Whomever was caught by sundown had to marry. The race started on the announcement day and generally lasted for several days afterward. Li’l Abner always figured out – usually by accident – how to avoid the marriage trap and narrowly escaped – that is until 1952.

“Capp had a wonderful sense of humor and a great ability to tell a story,” Duke said.

The bold cartooning style, use of effective black and Capp’s ability to spin a yarn made “L’il Abner” an award-winning comic strip from 1934 to 1977.

The Library has about 1,000 “Li’l Abner” comic strips in the Art Wood Collection, which have been cataloged but do not yet appear online. There are additional original drawings in the Swann Collection for Caricature and Cartoon and from the George Sturman collection, for which there are some digital images.

The Library’s collections are also rich in American cartoon prints and original drawings, British cartoons and is the repository for the Herblock collection.

LC in the News: October 2014 Edition

Just as the Washington Nationals were closing out a winning baseball season, the Library of Congress discovered rare footage of the Washington Senators’ 1924 World Series victory over the New York Giants. “Finding footage that has probably not been seen since its last theatrical run 90 years ago is usually a moment for celebration for […]

Celebrating Native American Heritage: Whispering Giants

November is Native American Heritage Month and a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. When looking through the Library’s collections to find blog post ideas, I came across this picture of a carved statue of Cherokee leader Sequoyah taken by photographer Carol […]

Royalty, Justices Help To Celebrate Magna Carta

(The following is an article written by Mark Hartsell for The Gazette, the Library of Congress staff newsletter.) The Library of Congress will celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and the opening of its new exhibition about the historic charter with programs, both public and private, featuring three U.S. Supreme Court justices and a […]

Pianist, NLS Making Beautiful Music Together

Jazz pianist Justin Kauflin is quick to laugh and down to earth, taking his national success in stride, especially for a 28-year-old musician. Kauflin has a CD of his original music coming out in January, is currently promoting a documentary film about his friendship with noted jazz trumpeter Clark Terry and has toured with the […]

Opera Onstage, Drama Offstage

Today marks the anniversary of the opening of the original Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, on Oct. 22, 1883.  This is the hall, no longer in existence, where Enrico Caruso performed “Vesti La Giubba” in “Pagliacci”; where Geraldine Farrar sang “Un Bel Di,” in “Madame Butterfly.”  Thanks to radio broadcasts, it was the […]

A-B-C … Easy as One, Two, Three

On Oct. 16, 1758, Noah Webster, the “Father of American Scholarship and Education” was born. Lexicographers everywhere celebrate his contributions on his birthday, also known as “Dictionary Day.” As a young, rural Connecticut teacher, he used his own money to publish his first speller in 1783. Reissued throughout the 19th century, the 1829 “Blue Back […]

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage: Cultural Contributions

(The following is a guest post by Tracy North, reference specialist in the Library of Congress Hispanic Division.) As Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15) comes to a close, now is an excellent time to reflect on the many ways in which Hispanic Americans have contributed to our nation’s cultural and political landscape. […]