was a comic strip character created in 1902 by Richard Felton Outcault who was known for his association with the Brown Shoe Company. (The name “Buster” came either directly or indirectly from the popularity of Buster Keaton, then a child actor invaudeville.)
This mischievous young boy was loosely based on a boy near Outcault’s home in Flushing, New York. His physical appearance, including the pageboy haircut, was utilized by Outcault and later adopted by Buster Brown. The actual boy’s name was Granville Hamilton Fisher, son of Charles and Anna Fisher of Flushing. The family subsequently moved to Amityville, New York where Charles Fisher ran a real estate and insurance business on Merrick Road. Granville operated a phonograph and radio sales and repair shop across the street from his father until his sudden death in 1936.
Richard Barker played Buster Brown in the Brown Shoe Company advertising campaign as a small child. There is a book written about Richard Barker and his life as Buster Brown in the advertising campaign. The book about Richard Barker is titled “Buster Brown and the Cowboy”.
Buster Brown, his sweetheart Mary Jane, and his dog Tige, an American Pit Bull Terrier, were well known to the American public in the early 20th century. Tige is thought to be the first talking pet to appear in American comics, and, like that of many of his successors, his speech goes unnoticed by adults.
Buster Brown is a young city-dwelling boy with wealthy parents. He is disturbingly pretty (contrast him to The Yellow Kid, or Frederick Opper’s creations), but his actions belie his looks. He is a practical joker who might dress in a girl’s outfit and have her wear his clothes, break a window with his slingshot, or play a prank on a neighbor. The trick or transgression is discovered and he is punished, usually by being spanked by his mother, but it is unclear if he ever repents. Many strips end with Buster delivering a self-justifying moral which has little or nothing to do with his crime. For example, a strip from May 31, 1903, shows him giving Tige a soda from a drugstore soda fountain. The drink splashes, not only the front of his own clothes, but the skirts of a woman’s splendid dress. Horrified by his clumsy misadventure, Buster’s mother takes him home and flogs him with a stick. In the last panel the boy has written a message beginning, “Resolved! That druggists are legalized robbers; they sell you soda and candy to make you ill, then they sell you medicine to make you worse.”
The comic strip began in the New York Herald on May 4, 1902. Outcault left for William Randolph Hearst’s employ in 1906, and after a court battle, Outcault continued his strip, now nameless, in Hearst papers, while the Herald continued their own version of Buster Brownwith other artists. The latter lasted until 1911 or so, and the former until at least 1921.
A series of live-action two-reelers were produced from 1925 to 1929 by the Stern Bros. forUniversal Pictures. Buster was played by the actor Arthur Trimble. Pal the Wonder Dog (who played Tige) and director Gus Meins were both later associated with the popular Our Gang(Little Rascals) comedies, where Pal at some point came to be known as Pete the Pup, a name inherited by one of his pups who carried on the role after Pal died of poisoning in 1930.
Buster Brown’s association with shoes began with John Bush, a sales executive with the Brown Shoe Co. He persuaded his company to purchase rights to the Buster Brown name, and the brand was introduced to the public at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The logo is still used on Brown shoes today. The character’s name was also used to describe a popular style of suit for young boys, the Buster Brown suit, that echoed his own outfit.
Midgets were hired by the Brown Shoe Co. to play Buster in tours around the United States. These little people, who were each accompanied by a dog, performed in department stores, theaters and shoe stores from 1904 until 1930.