Wednesday, 3 October 2007


A bhay Khosla writes a Short Historical Piece about the cartoonist Percy Crosby and his creation, Skippy.- Monday, October 01, 2007. he gives links to online samples of Crosby's artwork, and he finishes: You can find out more about Skippy at the Skippy website. You can also read about the never-ending legal battle between Crosby and the owners of Skippy peanut butter at that website; Crosby's daughter has fought it for more than three decades. You might also enjoy the Filboid Studge blog entry on the topic as it includes examples of Crosby's work (which I would say is quite nice). Of course, Don Markstein's Toonopedia is an invaluable resource. And there's a book out there supposedly-- Jerry Robinson's Skippy and Percy Crosby.
I immediately take down from the shelf my copy of the Robinson book, published by Holt, Rhinehart and Winston in 1978, which I found only recently through excellent book trader Stuart Ng, and find this passage that left me stunned when I first read it:

"I was all alone here on Christmas Eve in 1949-- my first Christmas of confinement, and the hideous aspect of it all is too terrible to relate." Crosby wrote in a memoir. His sudden and stunning ruin left him bewildered and almost smothered his spirit. "I began to take myself apart wondering how everything had gone wrong." But within months he was writing Carolyn of plans for the future. He was eager to resume his career, and most of all to finish several novels. He clearly anticipated a complete recovery and an early release. Soon he found to his dismay that a mental institution was much like communism: "It was easy to get into the place, but getting out was similar to running a race through a briared garden maze." This time the maze had no exit.
Percy Crosby was diagnosed "paranoid schizophrenic." A later report described him as being forever litigious and expressing delusional trends involving high government officials. Crosby's litany of persecutors included President Franklin D Roosevelt, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and J Edgar Hoover, The Internal Revenue Service, Al Capone and other racketeers, and Skippy peanut butter, among others. ("The steal of Skippy peanut butter," as Crosby termed it, became one of his most obsessive complaints. For years he had been in litigation with the manufacturer, claiming infringement of the Skippy trademark, registered by Crosby on march 15, 1923.) Such seemingly wild and bizarre postulations, coupled with his suicide attempt, led to the diagnosis.
Tragic questions remain unanswered about Crosby's years at King's Park. There is reason to believe that today Crosby would either not be committed, or at least would not be confined for sixteen years. In retrospect, there is a question about the correctness of his diagnosis. This involves, in part, a judgment as to the extent that his 'delusions' correspond to reality. An investigation would have established that some of his fears-- surveillance by the FBI, the IRS campaign, Skippy peanut butter, had some substance. In the light of what is known in the 1970s about actions taken by J Edgar Hoover and the FBI in the surveillance, ilegal wiretapping, violation of postal laws, and other measures directed toward what they percieved as 'enemies of the state,' it is not unreasonable to speculate that Crosby's "threats" in the Washington papers might have earned such attention from Hoover. certainly, Crosby's fears would not now be so readily described as paranoia as they were then.

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Blogger Abhay said...

That's fascinating; thank you, sir.

3 October 2007 at 12:46:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Steven Rowe said...

Part of the things that have changed is medicine itself. While there are still no cures for schizophrenia, there are plenty of medicines that can make symptoms more bearable.
which is why the average stay at a psychiatric hospital is around 7 days.
There is definitely not enough information to either agree or disagree with the diagnosis.

3 October 2007 at 18:37:00 GMT-5  

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