About Charles Monroe Schulz
Charles Monroe Schulz (November 26, 1922 – February 12, 2000), nicknamed Sparky, was an American cartoonist, best known for the comic strip Peanuts.
Early life and education
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Schulz grew up in Saint Paul. He was the only child of Carl Schulz, who was born in Germany, and Dena Halverson, who was Norwegian. His uncle called him "Sparky" after the horse Spark Plug in Billy DeBeck's comic strip, Barney Google.
Schulz loved drawing and sometimes drew his family dog, Spike, who ate unusual things, such as pins and tacks. Schulz drew a picture of Spike and sent it to Ripley's Believe It or Not!; his drawing appeared in Robert Ripley's syndicated panel, captioned, "A hunting dog that eats pins, tacks and razor blades is owned by C. F. Schulz, St. Paul, Minn." and "Drawn by 'Sparky'" (C.F. was his father, Carl Fred Schulz.)
Schulz attended St. Paul's Richard Gordon Elementary School, where he skipped two half-grades.
He became a shy, timid teenager, perhaps as a result of being the youngest in his class at Central High School. One episode in his high school life was the rejection of his drawings by his high school yearbook. A five-foot-tall statue of Snoopy was placed in the school's main office 60 years later.
Military service and post-war jobs
In 1943, Schulz was drafted into the United States Army. He served as a staff sergeant with the 20th Armored Division in Europe, as a squad leader on a .50 caliber machine gun team. His unit saw combat only at the very end of the war. Schulz said that he only ever had one opportunity to fire his machine gun but forgot to load it. Fortunately, he said, the German soldier he could have fired at willingly surrendered. Years later, Schulz proudly spoke of his wartime service.
After being discharged in late 1945, Schulz returned to Minneapolis. He did lettering for a Roman Catholic comic magazine, Timeless Topix, and then, in July 1946, took a job at Art Instruction, Inc., reviewing and grading lessons submitted by students.:164 Schulz himself had been a student of the school, taking a correspondence course from it before he was drafted. He worked at the school for a number of years while he developed his career as a comic creator, until he was making enough money from comics to be able to do that full time.
Schulz's first regular cartoons, a weekly series of one-panel jokes entitled Li'l Folks, were published from 1947 to 1950 by the St. Paul Pioneer Press; he first used the name Charlie Brown for a character there, although he applied the name in four gags to three different boys as well as one buried in sand. The series also had a dog that looked much like Snoopy. In 1948, Schulz sold a cartoon to The Saturday Evening Post; the first out of 17 one-panel cartoons by Schulz that would be published there. In 1948, he tried to have Li'l Folks syndicated through the Newspaper Enterprise Association. Schulz would have been an independent contractor for the syndicate, unheard of in the 1940s, but the deal fell through. Li'l Folks was dropped from the Pioneer Press in January 1950.
Later that year, Schulz approached the United Feature Syndicate with the one-panel series Li'l Folks, and the syndicate became interested. However, by that time Schulz had also developed a comic strip, using normally four panels rather than one, and reportedly to Schulz's delight, the syndicate preferred this version. Peanuts made its first appearance on October 2, 1950, in seven newspapers. The weekly Sunday-page debuted on January 6, 1952. After a somewhat slow beginning, Peanuts eventually became one of the most popular comic strips of all time, as well as one of the most influential. Schulz also had a short-lived sports-oriented comic strip called It's Only a Game (1957–1959), but he abandoned it due to the demands of the successful Peanuts. From 1956 to 1965 he contributed a single-panel strip ("Young Pillars") featuring teenagers to Youth, a publication associated with the Church of God.
In 1957 and 1961 he illustrated two volumes of Art Linkletter's Kids Say the Darndest Things, and in 1964 a collection of letters, Dear President Johnson, by Bill Adler.
At its height, Peanuts was published daily in 2,600 papers in 75 countries, in 21 languages. Over the nearly 50 years that Peanuts was published, Schulz drew nearly 18,000 strips. The strips themselves, plus merchandise and product endorsements, produced revenues of more than $1 billion per year, with Schulz earning an estimated $30 million to $40 million annually. During the life of the strip, Schulz took only one vacation, a five-week break in late 1997 to celebrate his 75th birthday; reruns of the strip ran during his vacation, the only time reruns occurred while Schulz was alive.
Schulz said that his routine every morning consisted of first eating a jelly donut, and then going through the day's mail with his secretary before sitting down to write and draw the day's strip at his studio. After coming up with an idea (which he said could take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours), he began drawing it, which took about an hour for dailies and three hours for Sunday strips. Unlike many other successful cartoonists, Schulz never used assistants in producing the strip; he refused to hire an inker or letterer, saying that "it would be equivalent to a golfer hiring a man to make his putts for him."
Charlie Brown, the principal character for Peanuts, was named after a co-worker at the Art Instruction Inc. Schulz drew much more inspiration than this from his own life, some examples being:
Like Charlie Brown's parents, Schulz's father was a barber and his mother a housewife.
Like Charlie Brown, Schulz admitted in interviews that he'd often felt shy and withdrawn in his life.
Schulz had a dog when he was a boy, reportedly a rather intelligent one at that. Although this dog was a pointer, and not a beagle such as Snoopy, family photos of the dog confirm a certain physical resemblance.
References to Snoopy's brother Spike living outside of Needles, California were likely influenced by the few years (1928–1930) that the Schulz family lived there; they had moved to Needles to join other family members who had relocated from Minnesota to tend to an ill cousin.
Schulz's inspiration for Charlie Brown's unrequited love to the Little Red-Haired Girl was Donna Mae Johnson, an Art Instruction Inc. accountant with whom he fell in love. When Schulz finally proposed to her in June 1950, shortly after he'd made his first contract with his syndicate, she turned him down and married another man.
Linus and Shermy were both named for good friends of his (Linus Maurer and Sherman Plepler, respectively).
Peppermint Patty was inspired by Patricia Swanson, one of his cousins on his mother's side. Schulz devised the character's name when he saw peppermint candies in his house.
The Charles M. Schulz Museum counts Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates) and Bill Mauldin as key influences on Schulz's work. In his own strip, Schulz regularly described Snoopy's annual Veterans Day visits with Mauldin, including mention of Mauldin's World War II cartoons. Schulz (and critics) also credited George Herriman (Krazy Kat), Roy Crane (Wash Tubbs), Elzie C. Segar (Thimble Theater) and Percy Crosby (Skippy) among his influences. In a 1994 address to fellow cartoonists, Schulz discussed several of his influences. However,
“It would be impossible to narrow down three or two or even one direct influence on [Schulz's] personal drawing style. The uniqueness of Peanuts has set it apart for years... That one-of-kind quality permeates every aspect of the strip and very clearly extends to the drawing. It is purely his with no clear forerunners and no subsequent pretenders.”
— Good Grief: The Story of Charles M. Schulz, Rheta Grimsley Johnson, p. 68
In 1951, Schulz moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado. In April the same year, Schulz married Joyce Halverson. His son, Monte, was born the following year, with their three further children being born later, in Minnesota. He painted a wall in that home for his adopted daughter Meredith Hodges, featuring Patty, Charlie Brown, and Snoopy. The wall was removed in 2001 and donated to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California.
Schulz and his family returned to Minneapolis and stayed until 1958. They then moved to Sebastopol, California, where Schulz built his first studio. It was here that Schulz was interviewed for the unaired television documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Some of the footage was eventually used in a later documentary, Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz. Schulz's father died while visiting him in 1966, the same year his Sebastopol studio burned down. By 1969, Schulz had moved to Santa Rosa, California, where he lived and worked until his death.
By Thanksgiving 1970, it was clear that Schulz's first marriage was in trouble, and their divorce was final in 1972. Schulz married Jean Forsyth Clyde in September 1973; they'd first met when Jean brought her daughter to Schulz's hockey rink. They remained married for 27 years, until Schulz's death in 2000.
Schulz had a long association with ice sports, and both figure skating and ice hockey featured prominently in his cartoons. In Santa Rosa, he was the owner of the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, which opened in 1969 and featured a snack bar called "The Warm Puppy". Schulz's daughter Amy served as a model for the figure skating in the 1980 television special She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown.
Schulz also was very active in senior ice-hockey tournaments; in 1975, he formed Snoopy's Senior World Hockey Tournament at his Redwood Empire Ice Arena, and in 1981, Schulz was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to the sport of hockey in the United States.
Schulz also enjoyed playing golf and was a member of the Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club from 1959 to 2000.
In July 1981, Schulz underwent heart bypass surgery. During his hospital stay, President Reagan called him on the phone to wish him a quick recovery.
On Sunday, May 8, 1988, two gunmen wearing ski masks entered the cartoonist's home through an unlocked door, planning to kidnap Jean Schulz, but the attempt failed when the couple's daughter, Jill, drove up to the house, prompting the would-be kidnappers to flee. She saw what was happening and called the police from a neighbor's house. Sonoma County Sheriff Dick Michaelsen said, "It was obviously an attempted kidnap-ransom. This was a targeted criminal act. They knew exactly who the victims were." Neither Schulz nor his wife was hurt during the incident.
In 1998, Schulz hosted the first Over 75 Hockey Tournament. In 2001, Saint Paul renamed the Highland Park Ice Arena the Charles M. Schulz Highland Arena in his honor.
Retirement and death
In his later years, Schulz suffered from Parkinson's Disease. As a result, he experienced hand tremors that made his linework shaky. He admitted that the tremors sometimes were so bad that while working, he had to hold onto the side of his desk with one hand to steady himself. He changed the daily strip from four panels to three, starting on February 29, 1988, to reduce the amount of drawing needed.
In November 1999 Schulz suffered several small strokes along with a blocked aorta and later it was discovered that he had colon cancer that had metastasized. Because of the chemotherapy and the fact he could not read or see clearly, he announced his retirement on December 14, 1999. This was difficult for Schulz, and he was quoted as saying to Al Roker on The Today Show, "I never dreamed that this was what would happen to me. I always had the feeling that I would probably stay with the strip until I was in my early eighties. But all of a sudden it's gone. It's been taken away from me. I did not take this away from me."
Schulz was asked if, for his final Peanuts strip, Charlie Brown would finally get to kick that certain football after so many decades (one of the many recurring themes in Peanuts was Charlie Brown's attempts to kick a football while Lucy was holding it; Lucy, of course, always pulled it back at the last moment, causing Charlie Brown to fall on his back). His response: "Oh, no! Definitely not! I couldn't have Charlie Brown kick that football; that would be a terrible disservice to him after nearly half a century." Yet, in a December 1999 interview, holding back tears, he recounted the moment when he signed the panel of his final strip, saying, “All of a sudden I thought, 'You know, that poor, poor kid, he never even got to kick the football. What a dirty trick — he never had a chance to kick the football!'”
At around 9:45 pm, Schulz died in his sleep at home on February 12, 2000. Although he was dying of cancer, he suffered a fatal heart attack. The last original Peanuts strip was published the very next day, on Sunday, February 13. Schulz had previously predicted that the strip would outlive him, with his reason being that his comic strips were usually drawn weeks before their publication. Schulz was buried at Pleasant Hills Cemetery in Sebastopol, California.
As part of his will, Schulz requested that the Peanuts characters remain as authentic as possible and that no new comic strips based on them be drawn. United Features had legal ownership of the strip, but honored his wishes, instead syndicating reruns of the strip to newspapers. New television specials have also been produced since Schulz's death, but the stories are based on previous strips, and Schulz always stated that Peanuts TV shows were entirely separate from the strip.
Schulz was posthumously honored on May 27, 2000, by cartoonists of more than 100 comic strips, who paid homage to him and Peanuts by incorporating his characters into their comic strips on that date.
Schulz received the National Cartoonists Society's Humor Comic Strip Award in 1962 for Peanuts, the Society's Elzie Segar Award in 1980, and was also the first two-time winner of their Reuben Award for 1955 and 1964, and their Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. He was also an avid hockey fan; in 1981, Schulz was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding contributions to the sport of hockey in the United States, and he was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993. On June 28, 1996, Schulz was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, adjacent to Walt Disney's. A replica of this star appears outside his former studio in Santa Rosa. Schulz is a recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award, the highest adult award given by the Boy Scouts of America, for his service to American youth.
A proponent of manned space flight, Schulz was honored with the naming of Apollo 10 command module Charlie Brown, and lunar module Snoopy, launched on May 18, 1969.
On January 1, 1974, Schulz served as the Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.
On February 10, 2000, Congressman Mike Thompson introduced H.R. 3642, a bill to award Schulz the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor the United States legislature can bestow. The bill passed the House (with only Ron Paul voting no and 24 not voting) on February 15, and the bill was sent to the Senate where it passed unanimously on May 2. The Senate also considered the related bill, S.2060 (introduced by Dianne Feinstein). President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law on June 20, 2000. On June 7, 2001, Schulz's widow Jean accepted the award on behalf of her late husband in a public ceremony.
Schulz was inducted into the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2007.
Biographies have been written about Schulz, including Rheta Grimsley Johnson's Good Grief: The Story of Charles M. Schulz (1989), which was authorized by Schulz.
The lengthiest biography, Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis (2007), has been heavily criticized by the Schulz family, with son Monte stating it has "a number of factual errors throughout ... [including] factual errors of interpretation" and extensively documenting these errors in a number of essays; for his part, Michaelis maintains that there is "no question" his work is accurate. Although cartoonist Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin & Hobbes) feels that the biography does justice to Schulz's legacy, while giving insight into the emotional impetus of the creation of the strips, cartoonist and critic R.C. Harvey regards the book as falling short both in describing Schulz as a cartoonist and in fulfilling Michaelis' stated aim of "understanding how Charles Schulz knew the world", feeling the biography bends the facts to a thesis rather than evoking a thesis from the facts. A review of Michaelis' biography by Dan Shanahan in the American Book Review (vol 29, no. 6) faults the biography not for factual errors, but for "a predisposition" to finding problems in Schulz's life to explain his art, regardless of how little the material lends itself to Michaelis' interpretations. Shanahan cites, in particular, such things as Michaelis' crude characterizations of Schulz's mother's family, and "an almost voyeuristic quality" to the hundred pages devoted to the breakup of Schulz's first marriage.
In light of David Michaelis' biography and the controversy surrounding his interpretation of the personality that was Charles Schulz, responses from his family reveal some intimate knowledge about the Schulz's persona beyond that of mere artist.
When the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota opened in 1992, the Amusement Park in the center of the Mall was themed around Schulz' "Peanuts" characters, until the Mall lost the rights to use the branding in 2006.
In 2000, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors renamed the county airport as the Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport in his honor. The airport's logo features Snoopy in goggles and scarf, taking to the skies on top of his red doghouse.
The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa opened on August 17, 2002, two blocks away from his former studio, celebrating his life's work and art of cartooning. A bronze statue of Charlie Brown and Snoopy stands in Depot Park in downtown Santa Rosa.
The Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center at Sonoma State University is one of the largest libraries in the CSU system and the state of California, with a 400,000-volume general collection and with a 750,000-volume automated retrieval system capacity. The $41.5 million building was named after Schulz, and his wife donated $5 million needed to build and furnish the structure. The library opened in 2000 and now stands as one of the largest buildings in the university.
Peanuts on Parade has been St. Paul, Minnesota’s tribute to its favorite native cartoonist. It began in 2000 with the placing of 101 5-foot-tall (1.5 m) statues of Snoopy throughout the city of St. Paul. Every summer for the next four years, statues of a different Peanuts character were placed on the sidewalks of St. Paul. In 2001, there was Charlie Brown Around Town, 2002 brought Looking for Lucy, then in 2003 along came Linus Blankets St. Paul, ending in 2004 with Snoopy lying on his doghouse. The statues were auctioned off at the end of each summer, so some remain around the city, but others have been relocated. The auction proceeds were used for artists' scholarships and for permanent, bronze statues of the Peanuts characters. These bronze statues are in Landmark Plaza and Rice Park in downtown St. Paul. Santa Rosa, CA celebrated the 60th anniversary of the strip in 2005 by continuing the Peanuts on Parade tradition beginning with It's Your Town Charlie Brown (2005), Summer of Woodstock (2006), Snoopys Joe Cool Summer (2007) & Look Out For Lucy (2008)
In 2006, Forbes ranked Schulz as the third highest-earning deceased celebrity, having earned $35 million in the previous year. In 2009, he was ranked 6th. According to Tod Benoit in his book Where Are They Buried? How Did They Die?, Charles M. Schulz's income during his lifetime totaled more than $1.1 billion.
Schulz often touched on religious themes in his work, including the classic television cartoon, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), which features the character Linus van Pelt quoting the King James Version of the Bible Luke 2:8–14 to explain "what Christmas is all about." In personal interviews Schulz mentioned that Linus represented his spiritual side.
Schulz, reared in the Lutheran faith, had been active in the Church of God as a young adult and then later taught Sunday school at a United Methodist Church. In the 1960s, Robert L. Short interpreted certain themes and conversations in Peanuts as being consistent with parts of Christian theology, and used them as illustrations during his lectures about the gospel, as he explained in his bestselling paperback book, The Gospel According to Peanuts, the first of several books he wrote on religion and Peanuts, and other popular culture items.
From the late 1980s, however, Schulz described himself in interviews as a "secular humanist":
“I do not go to church anymore... I guess you might say I've come around to secular humanism, an obligation I believe all humans have to others and the world we live in."
Charles M. Schulz's Timeline
November 26, 1922
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
February 12, 2000
Santa Rosa, California, USA
Sebastopol, Sonoma , California, USA