on this U.S. postage stamp, a young boy in a yellow nightgown rides a brown dog, holding onto the dog’s ears

The Yellow KidRichard F. Outcault

Yellow ink

The yellow kid, named Mickey Dugan, partly owes his place in comic-strip history, on 5 May 1895, to the four-color rotary printing press and gave his nickname to sensationalized news without regard for the niceties of factual reporting, “yellow kid journalism.”

Speech balloons

Richard F. Outcault introduced the modern cartoon speech balloon. Before 15 November 1896, everything the kid said was written on his oversized yellow nightgown. Other cartoonists had experimented with various word ribbons and banderoles, but after Outcault’s work the balloon gradually replaced these and captions below or between the panels.

Hogan’s Alley

The kids in the fictional Hogan’s Alley, were odd characters typical of a New York City slum. Sunday 5 May 1895 shows a circus enactment in progress— a boy in ragged pants juggling rocks and a tin can a boy performing a handstand and two boys hanging from a high horizontal bar a boy having jumped from the back of a goat caught a paper hoop held by another boy standing on a wooden bucket wearing clown makeup and hat a boy on a toy drum and a girl on a tin horn provide musical accompaniment above them a sign: DONT GUY THE PERFORMERS (GUY meaning “mock”) and the barefoot kid, laughing, out of the main scene of action, is wearing a dirty light blue nightgown.

Social commentary

The kids enact parodies of adult society—circus, wedding, boat race, horse race, football match— played for laughs, but also showing the misery of the poor, such as noting the untimely death of Liz Clinchy’s brother Patsey who couldn’t eat and died within a “stone’s trow of Tanksgivink.”