“The University of Missouri, approached me to do a sculpture of Beetle Bailey for the campus, since I was a graduate,” Mort Walker explained in his autobiography.
“I had seen a sculpture by Gutzon Borglum (the Mount Rushmore creator) of Lincoln seated on a bench with space beside him. I had watched kids climb up to sit with Lincoln and get their pictures taken. So I adapted the idea and designed Beetle sitting in a booth at the Shack with room beside him.”
The early Beetle Bailey strips were set at Rockview University, which closely resembled Mort Walker’s alma mater, the University of Missouri. Here is an aerial view of the quad at Rockview from a strip dated November 7, 1950.
The University of Missouri campus looks like this today.
The Columns at Francis Quadrangle are all that remain from a fire that destroyed the original Academic Hall on Jan. 9, 1892.
This King Features sales brochure announced the launch of Beetle Bailey.
The first strip ran in twelve newspapers on September 4, 1950. Here is the first week of strips in the order that they were published. Compare these to Mort’s original selection in the previous post.
Mort decided to use a large cast of characters in Beetle Bailey right from the beginning (see the strip dated 9/8/50 above). Beetle lived together with his buddies – Freshman, Bitter Bill, Diamond Jim, Sweatsock and Plato. Buzz was Beetle’s first girlfriend. On a few occasions, a bearded, pipe-smoking professor made an appearance as well as Beetle’s parents.