Mickie the Printer’s Devil

If you have ever spent much time looking through 1920s and early 1930s US newspapers you may have encountered a comic strip, “Mickie the Printer’s Devil.” This widely syndicated comic strip drawn by Charles Sughroe shows episodes in the life of Mickie, a printer’s apprentice. It was common for boys to learn the trade of printing as an apprentice pretty much since the advent of the art. Though the origin of the term is uncertain, such boys were called “printer’s devils.” Printer’s devils would do all manner of tasks in a printing office, including setting type and sweeping up. A number of famous people were printer’s devils, including Ambrose Bierce, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Mark Twain.

Here is a strip from the October 7, 1921 edition of the Middlebury Register in which Mickie mentions that Presdient Harding was a printer’s devil as well (click the strip to get a larger version):

Mickie the Printer's Devil, Oct. 7, 1921

The strips often depicted what daily life was like for a small town newspaper printer, showing conflicts with subscribers, amusing happenings, and the demands of running a print shop. This, no doubt, appealed greatly to small publishers, and explains Mickie the Printer’s Devil’s wide syndication. The strips below are from the 1920 and 1921¬† Middlebury Register (click the strip to get a larger version):

Mickie is always drawn with ink up to his elbows, and appears to be ready for just about any event in the print office.

The strip ran into the early 1930s. you can look for strips from 1920-1922 in the pages of Vermont newspapers like the Middlebury Register. These issues of the Middlebury Register are still in process, but they will be available on Chronicling America soon. This is just one more interesting item in our growing collection of online Vermont newspapers. At just over 72,000 pages from 1836-1922, growing monthly towards 130,000 Vermont newspaper pages, and closing in on five million pages total on Chronicling America, there are countless other interesting items in the collection. Enjoy!

Tom McMurdo