Schulz, Charles M.

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

Charles Schulz was the author and illustrator of Peanuts, one of the most influential and popular comic strips of all time. Since its debut, Peanuts has appeared in thousands of newspapers and been enjoyed by hundreds of millions of readers worldwide.

Charles Monroe Schulz was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on November 26, 1922, the only child of Dena and Carl Schulz. He became interested in comic strips at an early age. A relative nicknamed him Sparky after a character in the comic strip Barney Google. During his senior year of high school, he enrolled in a correspondence course in cartooning. Schulz later served in the army, between 1943 and 1945.

In 1947, Schulz began publishing a cartoon he called Li'l Folks. He eventually sold his comic strip to United Feature Syndicate, a company that distributed comic strips to many newspapers. However, the syndicate decided to change the name of his strip to Peanuts. Schulz never liked the name. The first Peanuts comic strip appeared in newspapers on October 2, 1950. It introduced Charlie Brown, a lovable loser who had bad luck at everything from flying a kite to playing baseball. Joining Charlie Brown was a large cast of equally memorable characters. These included Linus, who always carried his security blanket around with him; Linus' bossy sister Lucy; Schroeder, who liked to play Beethoven on his piano; and Pigpen, who was always surrounded by a cloud of dust. Perhaps the most popular character of the comic strip was Charlie Brown's dog, Snoopy. Snoopy was based on a pet dog named Spike that Schulz had as a child. Through his characters, Schulz gave voice to his simple yet thoughtful reflections on life.

The first animated Peanuts cartoon was the award-winning A Charlie Brown Christmas. It made its debut on television in 1965 and became an instant classic. This was followed by other popular television specials. Among these were It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973). Peanuts was also the basis for a musical, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. It was first produced in 1967.

Suffering from poor health, Schulz retired in late 1999. He died in Santa Rosa, California, on February 12, 2000. This was one day before his final original strip appeared in newspapers. During his life, Schulz received many honors. He was twice named Cartoonist of the Year (1955, 1964) by the National Cartoonists Society. In 1987 he was inducted into the National Museum of Cartoon Art's Cartoonist Hall of Fame. After his death, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Cartoonists Society. In 2001, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

When Schulz retired, he decided Peanuts would retire with him. It would not continue with a new writer and illustrator. But the characters continue to appear on clothing, greeting cards, and thousands of other kinds of merchandise. Many of the television specials have become traditional viewing during the holidays. And Schulz's original comic strips are reprinted daily in newspapers around the world.

Reviewed by Lisa Monhoff
Archivist,
Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center

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