Costumes of American Literary Characters: Buster Brown Story Lines

Figure 1.--Here Buster is seen in his bangs and red tunic suit. Note that the girl wears ringlert curls. Also note that both Buster and the little girl wear white socks and starp shoes.

We do not have very much ingformatuion on the kinds of story lines in the Buster Brown cartoons. Basically they involved some innocent prank and how Buster got into trouble. A key part of the strip was Buster being punished for his micheviousness. The strip was in many ways a mini-morality play. I know that they the strip sometimes touched upon clothing and hair styles. I do not think, however, that Buster ever got teased by his friends--but they clearly did not want to wear one of his suits. Some sample plot lines include the following. "Buster Brown's Sweetheart" (Buster Brown, 1906 Sunday) R. F. Outcault. Jane is coming, so Buster gives Tige a bath in the bathtub. He Fools Tige" (Buster Brown, 1906 Sunday) / R. F. Outcault. Buster puts a wolf skin rug on the floor, and Tige rips it to pieces. "Laugh and the World Laughs With You" (Buster Brown, 1915) R.F. Outcault. Tige gets a toothache, the dentist gives him laughing gas and he laughs the tooth out. Other titles include: "Tige Hears a Ghost Story." Buster Brown : Mary Jane and Tige / by R.F. Outcault. -- 1906?; "The Silhouette Man"; "Accidents will Happen"; "Tige Hears a Ghost Story"; "Nervousness is Awful So is Dear Little"; "Busterand Tige at the Turkish Baths"; "Who Owes the Band?"; "Buster the Photographer"; "Such a Stuck-Up Pair of Girls"; "Buster and Tige at Coney Island"; "Down by the Deep Blue Sea"; "Grandpa Grouch's Hat"; "Auto Racing"; "Looks Like Rain & Things"; "Buster and Tige Inspect the Circus"; and "At the Aquarium". On the comic strips poor Buster often wound up with a spanking, not fully cpmprehending what he had done wrong. This was less common in the film versions.

Specific Strips

The Buster Brown comics have details, not only about clothing, but about hair styles and child raising standards. The strip also has wondrful insights on the mentality of small boy. Outcault had an amazingly perspective insight on how small boys saw their world.

Buster Brown's Experience with Matches (1918)

This Buster Brown strip appears to have been drawn in 1918, although we are not possitive about that. Buster wears bangs with a red middy blouse rather than a tunic suit and above the knee knickers and strap shoes with white socks. The girl wears a blue dress with a large hair bow. Here clothing enters the plot. His mother tells him not to get his pants diery. Buster particularly likes his new pamts because they have pockers. This is a typical Buster Brown strip. He is not really a mischievious. He seems to get into trouble prmarily throught the actions of others, in many instances girls. Here it is really the little girl who wants to play with matches. Tige is as usually the voice of reason who Buster ignores.

Buster Brown Puts on Girls' Clothes (19??)

I'm not sure about the date of this Buster Brown comic strip. Here Buster wears bangs. He has his classic red tunic suit with a white cllar and black bow and above the knee knickers. The girl wears ringlets with a dress and very large hair bows, but the same white socks and strap shoes (figure 1). Buster seems to think mother will be tickled to see them change clothes. I doubt that, but cutting his little friend's hair apparently was a big mistake. Most of the boys in the Buster Broen strip have short hair. Buster has bangs and longish hair at the sides. It is the girls who are drawn with ringlets. Boys wore ringlers in the late 19th century, but this declined in popularity after the turn of the 20th century.

Girl Nemesis

For Buster, beguiling little girls often led him onto trouble. Other major boy characters also had similar experienes. There were differences. The most invidfious girl character was ceratianly Willaims's Violet Elizabeth Bott. Dennis' Margaret was a clear second. Penrod was a bit older and had a different outlook on girls.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: January 9, 2003
Last updated: January 9, 2003