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Harold Teen and Carl Ed's Childhood Home

Great River Trail

Arts, Entertainment & Sports

When Harold’s cousin Horace comes to visit from New York, Harold becomes envious of his sweetheart’s attention to Horace’s snazzy beachwear. Only later does Lillum reveal she thought it was ugly, and Harold sheepishly goes to return the beach robe he made his mother buy for him.

If you thought that superheroes were the first characters to jump off the pages of the comics and onto the silver screen, no one would blame you. Comic-film crossovers have dominated Hollywood in the 21st century, though they’ve been a popular genre since the 1940s. But in the 1920s, many comic strips were adapted into films, including Harold Teen, a massively popular strip by Carl Frank Ludwig Ed (1890–1959). Ed, pronounced EE-d so it rhymed with Swede, was born in Moline and grew up in this house on Railroad Avenue. [1] According to his obituary, Ed attended Moline High School and Augustana College before taking a job as a sportswriter for the Rock Island Argus. After several years in that job, he moved to a Chicago newspaper and started drawing sports cartoons. Around this time, he also began drawing cartoon strips, which drew notice from the Chicago Tribune. Harold Teen made its debut in that paper in 1919, and, true to its name, it followed the love life of a teenager named Harold for the next 40 years. By the time of Ed’s death, in 1959, the comic strip was running in 90 newspapers. [2]

Like superheroes today, fans in the 1920s and ‘30s bought Harold Teen-branded merchandise, from pins to ukuleles. In 1928, First National Pictures released a silent film directed by Mervyn LeRoy that was based on the strip, and in 1934, Warner Studios turned Harold Teen into a movie musical. (You can watch the trailer on YouTube.) Despite Warner Bros. best attempts to market the film—sending each of the 165 newspapers carrying Harold Teen a photograph of the movie’s star, Hal Le Roy, reading from their pages—it was not very successful. Media and cinema scholar Blair Davis found newspapers from the period reporting that Harold Teen was “not the sort of booking” favored by a Baltimore theater’s “sophisticated following.” [3]

Despite the film version’s flop, Ed and Harold Teen continued together until the end of the artist’s life. Ed grew old, but Harold forever remains a teenager.

 

  • [1] 1900 U.S. Census, Moline, Rock Island, Illinois, 13A, Enumeration District 0094, Dwelling 50, Family 66, John Ede, Ancestry.com, accessed February 1, 2021; 1910 U.S. Census, Moline, Rock Island, Illinois, 13A, Enumeration District 0094, Dwelling 159, Family 236, Eva Ed, Ancestry.com, accessed February 1, 2021.
  • [2] "Carl Ed, Cartoonist, Dies at 69; Drew ‘Harold Teen’ Comic Strip,” New York Times, October 11, 1959, 86.
  • [3] Blair Davis, Movie Comics: Page to Screen/Screen to Page Book (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2016), 26, 257n46.
References

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