Merry Ironic Christmas From Hogan’s Alley

Class conflict and tensions in The Yellow Kid ranged from the grim to satires of the middle classes to pokes at violence and pretension among the emigre classes themselves. As I work through his strips I am impressed by the range of his sympathies and diverse perspectives on the city, poverty, violence, race and social class. The Dec. 15 1896 “Merry Christmas Morning in Hogan’s Alley” is a painfully ironic depiction of the holiday among Alley-ites. A “Deer Santy Klaws” letter on the fire escape instructs Santa to use the nearby ladder because there is no chimney. Another chortling boy holds his Merry Christmas sign above a drunk passed out at the foot of a tenement. Somber faces stare into the mayhem of the street. Two mothers shake their fists at each other in the background, a child taunts a foreign missionary asking for donations and handing out tracts. A ruffian uses a pea shooter on another child trying to celebrate in paper hat and drum. The one child in the scene with a gift is an obviously middle class child (in Lord Fauntleroy haircut) hugging her dolly tight as street children look on, some numb-faced, others smirking. The entire scene is framed in the foreground by a cherubic girl holding her hand out to the viewer in search of alms. 

It is a biting, scolding view of class disparity and how some commonplaces of the growing middle class are out of reach of Outcault’s urchins.

Credit: From Blackbeard, Bill, R. F. Outcault’s The Yellow Kid: A Centennial Celebration of the Kid Who Started the Comics. Northampton, Mass.: Kitchen Sink Press, 1995. Located at UVA xRoads

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