Creator of “Peanuts”
Charles Schulz is the most widely syndicated cartoonist in history. His work has been in over 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries. “Peanuts” is one of the best-known comic strips in the world. Schulz’s Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, and Linus characters appear in holiday TV specials and are found on clothing and other items in stores worldwide.
Charles Schulz was born in the fall of 1922 to Karl and Dena Schulz. He was the only child of the St. Paul, Minnesota, barber and homemaker. Karl Schulz did his best to provide for his family, but when the Depression hit, times were tough. He earned only 35 cents per haircut and at one time was seven months behind on rent at the family barbershop.
Charles Schulz’s passion for drawing could be seen at a young age. As a kindergartener, he drew a man shoveling snow with palm trees in the background (some relatives had just moved to California). His kindergarten teacher saw the drawing and said, “Charles, someday you’ll be an artist.”
His awkward years of junior high and high school were not as encouraging. In fact, Schulz hated high school. At Central High in St. Paul, he was treated like an outcast and flunked many classes. His senior year, he was asked by the art teacher to draw some school scenes for the senior yearbook. He enthusiastically completed the work. Unfortunately, his cartoons were deemed unworthy, and they did not appear in the completed 1940 yearbook.
Discouraged but not defeated, Schulz began taking cartooning courses from the Federal School of Applied Cartooning (now known as Art Instruction Schools) in Minneapolis. By 1945, Schulz was an instructor at the school earning $85 a week.
It was at the Art Instruction Schools where one of Schulz’s most famous characters was born. Schulz worked at the school with a man named Charlie Brown. However, the real Charlie Brown was like the comic strip Charlie Brown in name only. Schulz transferred many of his own early frustrations and his worrisome attitude into his beloved main character. Schultz had another friend from Minneapolis named Linus.
Schulz’s diligent cartooning efforts began to pay off in the late 1940s and early 1950’s. In 1947, he sold a cartoon called “Li'l Folks” to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. It ran weekly for two years. In June of 1950, Schulz signed a five-year deal with United Feature Syndicate of New York, which named his strip “Peanuts.” On October 2, 1950, “Peanuts” debuted in seven newspapers.
By 1958, “Peanuts” was in 355 U.S. papers and 40 foreign dailies. In that same year, Charles Schulz moved from his home in the Twin Cities to Santa Rosa, California, where he built a twelve-room house and studio. The address of his new home was One Snoopy Place.
By the 1990s, Schulz grossed 20 million dollars a year. He retired from the “Peanuts” strip on January 3, 2000. His health had declined due to colon cancer and a series of small strokes. Ironically, Charles Schulz died on February 12, 2000, one day before his final Sunday comic strip appeared.