antedating of "Jeep" (the airplane meaning) (1937)

Sat Sep 6 19:18:35 UTC 2003

        If Art Chester was naming his airplanes Jeep and Goon (as he was), then he clearly had in mind the characters Eugene the Jeep and Alice the Goon in the then enormously popular Thimble Theatre comic strip (aka Popeye, the Sailorman), written and drawn by E.C. Segar.  HDAS says that the Jeep first appeared on March 3, 1936, while the Straight Dope says March 16, 1936.  It is the Straight Dope that is correct.

        The strip is reprinted in The Complete E.C. Segar Popeye, Volume 10:  Dailies 1935 - 1937 (Rick Marschall ed. 1990).  Near the end of a storyline entitled "You Can't Expect April Showers from War Clouds" (Segar often named his storylines), about a war between Brutia and Popeye's own Spinachova, Segar inserted a teaser in the last panel on March 16, 1936.  The panel shows a wooden crate with a cat-like tail sticking out vertically through a hole in the top.  The panel is captioned:

>>What is a "Jeep"
Hah! If you owned one
your troubles would
be over - Coming -
"Eugene the Jeep"<<

There are also the words "Jeep's tail," with an arrow pointing to the tail, and the crate is labeled "To Olive Oyl."  All of these words are, of course, in all capital letters, in normal comic strip style.

        The rest of the jeep did not make an appearance until April 1, 1936, when Eugene finally came out of his box.  The jeep resembled a small, spotted dog, but walked on its hind legs.  Its name derived from its only cry, "jeep!"  It had fourth-dimensional powers, including the ability to tell the future and to teleport.  It came from darkest Africa and ate only orchids.

John Baker

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