With a fluid pen-drawn line, an unexpected mixture of philosophy and humor, and a cast of young characters wiser and wittier than their years, Charles Schulz introduced the world to PEANUTS, the most beloved comic strip of all time.
Never before had a comic strip featured pint-sized characters musing on love, faith, and psychiatry of the 5-cent variety; or suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in the form of a kite-eating tree or a perennially losing baseball team; or entering the colorful inner life of an over-imaginative beagle. All of that sprang from the pen of Charles Schulz.
The creator of PEANUTS once said that he was “born to draw comic strips.” In fact, Schulz was given a comic strip-inspired nickname—”Sparky,” for the horse known as Spark Plug in Barney Google—by an uncle, two days after Schulz was born on November 26, 1922 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Schulz’s growing-up years were shaped by the Sunday morning ritual of reading the funnies with his father, and soon his daily life was finding its way into his drawings. In 1937, when Schulz was just a teenager, Ripley’s newspaper feature, Believe It or Not, published his drawing of the family dog, Spike. Another family experience, a yearlong sojourn to Needles, California in 1929, would later wind up in PEANUTS, with Snoopy’s brother—Spike—hailing from that small desert town.
Even while serving as a machine-gun squad leader in the Army during World War II, Schulz couldn’t help but sketch episodes of daily life. And when he was discharged in 1945, he returned to St. Paul, Minnesota to begin his cartooning career in earnest. In 1947, he created the weekly comic panel Li’l Folks, which ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press until 1950; during this time he also sold 17 comic gags to The Saturday Evening Post.
On October 2, 1950, Schulz finally realized his dream of creating a nationally syndicated daily comic strip: PEANUTS (a title created by the syndicate and one that Schulz never liked) debuted in seven newspapers. By 1970, Schulz and PEANUTS had won Emmy and Peabody awards for A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and three other television specials; launched the off-Broadway musical, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which has gone on to become the most-produced musical in America; and had even gone to the moon, when Snoopy and Charlie Brown accompanied the astronauts on Apollo X.
Today PEANUTS is featured in 2,200 newspapers in 75 countries, has inspired thousands of consumer products, and has been translated into 21 languages, while creating a universal language—including “Good grief!,” “security blanket,” “Happiness is…,” and “You blockhead!”— all its own.
From the time the strip began until the day Schulz retired almost 50 years later, in December 1999, he drew every one of the 18,000 PEANUTS comic strips himself. Charles Schulz died on February 12, 2000, just hours before the final PEANUTS Sunday strip appeared in newspapers around the world.