DeBeck's Office Door
featuring Barney Google and Spark Plug
DeBeck (1890- 1942) had intended to work as a comic artist
until he had enough money to finance his fine arts ambitions.
He never quite got around to changing careers, instead, he
went on to create some of the most memorable comic strip characters
of the 1920s and 1930s, among them Barney Google, a race horse
called Spark Plug, and a hillbilly by the name of Snuffy Smith.
Google, For Instance made its debut in the sports
pages of newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst as a
strip about a henpecked husband who was obsessed with the
much anticipated Dempsey-Willard boxing match in July, 1919.
It remained a domestic strip until 1922 when DeBeck introduced
Spark Plug, a two year old race horse whose meager frame was
covered in a horse blanket, down to his hooves. The horse
became so beloved by readers that the name of the strip was
changed to Barney Google and Spark Plug.
yet another new character to the strip in 1934. Barney Google
inherited an estate in North Carolina, and in June of that
year he arrived at a ramshackle cabin in the heart of hillbilly
country and immediately became enmeshed in a romantic triangle
that resulted in a huge wedding where a local by the name
of Snuffy Smith and his wife, Loweezy, were guests. As the
1930s drew to a close, the strip's name was changed once more
to Barney Google and Snuffy Smith to reflect the increasing
popularity of the cantankerous hillbilly.
death in November 1942, his longtime assistant, Fred Lasswell,
took over the strip. Barney google was eventually fazed out
in favor of a daily hillbilly gag. The name was changed to
Snuffy Smith, reflecting the new direction the strip
The door (painted
circa 1931) was donated to Special Collections and Archives
by DeBeck's secretary and Richmond native, Mrs. Addison C.
Armstrong, Jr. Also donated were 121 books from DeBeck's personal
library and several sketches.
Source: The Encyclopedia
off American Comics, Ron Goulart, ed.,
New York, Facts on File, 1990