Dusty Rhodes the popular tramp

U 14.1546-7: Golly, whatten tunket's yon guy in the mackintosh? Dusty Rhodes. Peep at his wearables. By mighty! What's he got? Jubilee mutton.

U 15.1864-6: Maimun begat Dusty Rhodes and Dusty Rhodes begat Benamor and Benamor begat Jones-Smith and Jones-Smith begat Savorgnanovich […]

“Dusty” is a nickname traditionally given to people named “Miller” and “Rhodes” (dusty roads). Don Gifford correctly identifies Joyce’s “Dusty Rhodes” as a cartoon tramp:

Rhodes - "Dusty" was a common nickname for men named Rhodes; one Dusty Rhodes was an American comic-strip character from about 1900, the tramp who weathers continuous comic misfortune.

Ulysses Annotated, p. 447

The point at issue is whether “Dusty” was an American comic-strip character from about 1900, and – if so – where did the comic strip appear?

A tramp called Dusty Rhodes starts to appear in the American newspapers around 1891. At this stage his exploits do not seem to be illustrated, but they are presented in short dialogue exchanges:

Ginsling – Here, you bum; I don’t mind giving you a drink to cool your coppers, but what do you mean by putting the glass in your pocket?

Dusty Rhodes – I have a friend who is a glass-eater.

Lock Haven (Pennsylvania) Express (1891), 6 August, p. 3 (quoting the Lake Shore News)

and another:

Mrs. Dogood – Even if you are just out of prison that does not prevent you from going to work.

Dusty Rhodes – It do, mum; they cut my hair and my business is ruined.

Mrs. Dogood – What business were you in?

Dusty Rhodes – The Circassian beauty line, mum.

Wichita (Kansas) Daily Eagle (1891), 27 August, p. 7 (quoting the New York Sun)

Dusty’s exchanges with Mrs Dogood were a stock feature of America’s Puck magazine:

Dusty Rhodes. – Lady, did I understand you to say "beef"?

Mrs. Dogood. – I said "biff".

Puck (1891), 14 October p. 115

Increasingly, Dusty’s exploits came to be illustrated, by individual sketches or cartoons rather than in a strip (see, for example, Puck on 10 October 1894). Puck published a ‘library’ of comic books too. No 107, “Knights of the Road”, came out in mid 1896, advertised as “Puck’s Best Things About Dusty Rhodes & Co.”

But to find a regular source of Dusty Rhodes comic strips on this side of the Atlantic, we need to look at Chips (or in full Illustrated Chips), a comic magazine published by Harmsworth from 1890. We know from the list of magazines stocked by the Dublin newsagent Tallon that Chips was readily available to a Dublin audience in 1898.

Chips is better known for the regular comic strip by Tom Browne featuring Weary Willie and Tired Tim, who ambled their way through the comic from 1896. Dusty Rhodes in fact makes his appearance slightly earlier, in 1894. A comic strip for 7 July is entitled “Dusty Rhodes Gets a Regular Dyeing”, in which Dusty clambers into a dog kennel which has been booby-trapped with paint by two conspiratorial boys. By August 1898 we see the “guy in the mackintosh” that Joyce refers to, in a strip entitled “Rather Tall, But Strictly Untrue!”:

Dusty Rhodes doesn’t compete with the likes of Weary Willie and Tired Tim. His own sidekicks are often the less renowned Weary Walker and Tatterden Torne. But by the first decade of the twentieth century they were well enough known to make occasional illustrated appearances in the Weekly Irish Times.

John Simpson

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