Charles M. Schulz

From Academic Kids

Charles Monroe Schulz (November 26, 1922February 12, 2000) was a 20th-century American cartoonist best known for his Peanuts comic strip.

He was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, to Dena and Carl Schulz. His nickname "Sparky" was given by his uncle, after the horse Spark Plug in the Barney Google comic strip.

He attended St. Paul's Richard Gordon Elementary School, where he skipped two half-grades. As a result, he was the youngest in his class when he attended St. Paul Central High years later, which may have been the reason why he was so shy and isolated as a young teenager. After his mother died in February, 1943, he was drafted into the army and sent to Camp Campbell in Kentucky. He was then shipped to Europe two years later to fight in World War II. After leaving the United States Army in 1945, he took a job as an art teacher at Art Instruction Inc., which he attended before he was drafted.

First published by Robert Ripley in his Ripley's Believe It or Not!, then in a series of chronicles, The Saturday Evening Post, his first regular comic strip, Li'l Folks was published in 1947 by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. (It was in this strip that Charlie Brown first appeared, as well as a dog that looked much like Snoopy). In 1950 he approached the United Features Syndicate with his best strips from Li'l Folks, and Peanuts made its first appearance on October 2, 1950. This strip became one of the most popular comic strips of all time. He also had a short-lived sports-oriented comic strip called It's Only a Game (1957-1959), but abandoned that strip due to the demands of the success of Peanuts.

He put a lot of his own life into Peanuts' main character, Charlie Brown. For example:

  • Schulz's father was a barber and his mother a housewife.
  • Schulz also had a dog when he was a boy. Unlike Snoopy, Schulz's dog Spike was a pointer). Eventually, it was revealed that Snoopy had a desert-dwelling cousin... named Spike.
  • Schulz was also shy and withdrawn.
  • Schulz's Little Red-Haired Girl was Donna Johnston, an accountant at Art Instruction Inc., with whom he had a relationship. He asked her to marry him, but she refused. However, they remained friends for the rest of his life.

Schulz was married twice. He married his first wife, Joyce Halverson, in 1951. They had five children, but divorced in 1972. He later married Jean Forsyth Clyde in 1973, with whom he was married for the rest of his life.

Schulz's father died in 1966 while visiting him, the same year his studio in Sebastopol, California, burnt down.

Schulz touched on religious themes in his work, including the classic television cartoon, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), which features the character Linus van Pelt, Charlie Brown's best friend, in a show-stopper, quoting the King James version of the Bible (Luke 2:8-14) to demonstrate "what Christmas is all about." Schulz had been active in the Church of God as a young adult and then later taught Sunday school at a United Methodist Church, but his religious views evolved over the years. By the late 1980's he told one of his biographers (Rheta Grimsley Johnson, 1989) that he identified with Secular Humanism. In the Sixties, Robert L. Short interpreted certain themes and dialogues in Peanuts as being in agreement with parts of Christian theology, as he (Short) explained in his bestselling paperback book, The Gospel According to Peanuts. Schulz did not endorse Short's specific interpretations and often said that "the only theology is no theology."

Peanuts ran for nearly 50 years without interruption and had appeared in over 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries. In November 1999 Schulz had a stroke, and later it was discovered that he had colon cancer that had metastasized to his stomach. Because of the chemotherapy and the fact he couldn't read or see clearly, he announced his retirement on December 14, 1999, at the age of 77. This was difficult for Schulz, and he was quoted as saying "I never dreamed that this would happen to me. I always had the feeling that I would stay with the strip until I was in my early eighties, or something like that. But all of sudden it's gone. It's been taken away from me. I did not take it away. This was taken away from me."

The last original strip ran on February 13, 2000. Schulz had died at 9:45 p.m. the night before in Santa Rosa, California of a heart attack. Ironically, Schulz had always predicted that the strip would outlive him (with his reason being comic strips are usually drawn a few weeks before their publication.) As part of his will, Schulz had requested that the Peanuts characters remain as authentic as possible and that no new comic strips based on them be drawn. To date his wishes have been honored, although reruns of the strip are still being syndicated to newspapers. He is interred in Pleasant Hills Cemetery, in Sebastopol, California.

On August 17, 2002, the Charles M. Schulz Museum opened to the public in Santa Rosa.

He was also a fan of hockey and was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.


See also


"[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." (Quoted from "Good Grief: The Story of Charles M. Schulz," p. 68.)

External links



  • M. Thomas Inge (Ed.) (2000). Charles M. Schulz: Conversations. Jackson, MS: Univ. Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1-57806-305-1.
  • Rheta Grimsley Johnson (1989). Good Grief: The Story of Charles M. Schulz. New York: Pharos Books. ISBN 0-88687-553-6.
  • Chip Kidd (Ed.) (2001). Peanuts: the Art of Charles M. Schulz. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN M. Schulz

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