"It seems beyond the comprehension of people that someone can be born to draw comic strips,
but I think I was," said Charles M. Schulz, creator of PEANUTS
. "My ambition from earliest memory was to produce a daily comic strip." And that was exactly what Schulz did everyday since PEANUTS
debuted in seven newspapers on October 2, 1950.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 26, 1922, Schulz was nicknamed "Sparky" after Barney Google's horse "Sparkplug." He began his fascination with comic strips early, reading the Sunday comics from four different newspapers with his father each week. With encouragement from his father, a barber, and his mother, Schulz enrolled in a correspondence course in cartooning at what is now the Art Instruction School, Inc. in Minneapolis.
His career in cartooning was interrupted in 1943 when he was drafted into the Army and soon embarked for Europe in the fight against Germany. Upon his return, Schulz landed his first job in cartooning at Timeless Topix, a Catholic comic magazine. Soon after, he took on a second job as a teacher at Art Instruction, where he worked with Charlie Brown, Linus and Frieda, who later lent their names to the PEANUTS comic strip.
Schulz's first break came in 1947 when he sold a cartoon feature called "Li'l Folks" to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "Li'l Folks" ran as a weekly feature for two years. In 1948 he sold a cartoon panel to the Saturday Evening Post and would go on to sell 15 more panels between 1948-50.
In 1950, after many mailbox rejections, Schulz boarded a train from St. Paul to New York with a handful of drawings for a meeting with United Feature Syndicate. On October 2 of that year, PEANUTS, named by the syndicate, debuted in seven newspapers. When asked if he thought the strip would be a success, Schulz replied, "Sure, I thought it would last; in fact, when I started out I thought, 'I'll be drawing this for the rest of my life.'"
Almost 50 years later, PEANUTS appears in over 2,600 newspapers worldwide and Charles M. Schulz has become a household name. The strip has maintained its universal appeal throughout five distinctly different decades. "As a youngster, I didn't realize how many Charlie Browns there were in the world," said Schulz. "I thought I was the only one. Now I realize that Charlie Brown's goofs are familiar to everybody, adults and children alike."
Schulz would work six weeks ahead on daily and Sunday strips and, unlike many cartoonists, drew every comic strip without the assistance of an art staff. He also wrote all the scripts and storyboards for the PEANUTS television specials, earning him five Emmy and two Peabody Awards, and was involved in all aspects of the PEANUTS publishing and licensing programs through United Media Licensing in New York. His company, Creative Associates, was formed in 1970 to handle his business affairs and assist in maintaining the high quality standards associated with PEANUTS.
Obviously, even after producing almost 18,000 comic strips, Schulz remained dedicated to PEANUTS. When questioned about the overwhelming devotion to his work, Schulz explained, "Why do musicians compose symphonies and poets write poems? They do it because life wouldn't have any meaning for them if they didn't. That's why I draw cartoons. It's my life." Among other numerous honors, Schulz received two Reuben Awards from the National Cartoonists Society (Outstanding Cartoonist and Best Humor Strip) and was inducted into the Cartoonist Hall of Fame.
Although the strip remained his first love, Schulz was an avid sports enthusiast with a long-time passion for golf (he regularly participated in the Pro Am at Pebble Beach, California). He also enjoyed tennis. Above all, he loved ice-skating and the game of hockey, and was the only non-hockey professional to be presented the coveted Lester Patrick Award for his contributions to the game. To share skating with his community, he built the Redwood Empire Ice Arena near his home in Santa Rosa, California.
On February 12, 2000, Charles Schulz died in Santa Rosa, CA, of complications from colon cancer. It was only hours before his last original strip was to appear in Sunday papers. His wife, Jeannie, his five children, two stepchildren, and their families survive him.