Cartoonist Al Capp (1909-1979) created "Li'l Abner," regarded by many as the greatest comic strip of all time. He was born Alfred Gerald Caplin in New Haven, CT. At the age of nine he lost his left leg in a trolley accident. Encouraged by an artistic father, young Alfred developed his own cartooning skills. At 19, he became the youngest syndicated cartoonist in America, drawing "Colonel Gilfeather," a daily panel for Associated Press. But, bored with the staid and formulaic Gilfeather, Capp left AP and soon was ghosting the popular boxing strip "Joe Palooka" for Ham Fisher. But Capp found the working conditions in Fisher's studio intolerable.
Besides entertaining millions, Capp permanently affected the popular culture. In 1937 he introduced the annual Sadie Hawkins Day race into his strip. It quickly inspired real life girl-asks-boy dances across America and Sadie Hawkins Day became a national institution. In 1948 his lovable Shmoo characters became a national sensation, creating the largest mass merchandising phenomenon of its era, followed on its heels by the Kigmy. After nearly 20 years of prominent bachelorhood, Li'l Abner finally married Daisy Mae in 1952, an event that shocked the country and made front page news.
In addition to the enormous popularity of his comic strip,
Capp's fame stemmed from a high media profile. He was a frequent
and outspoken guest on the "Tonight" show, spanning
hosts Jack Paar, Steve Allen and Johnny Carson. He authored
his own newspaper column and radio show and was a guest lecturer
at campuses nationwide. Capp retired the strip in 1977 and died
two years later. Capp's "Li'l Abner" stands the test
of time as a pinnacle of cartoon art and social satire.