Memory Lane: The Teenie Weenies

The Teenie Weenies - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

Anybody out there remember the Teenie Weenies? They inhabited a syndicated cartoon strip created by William Donahey and published in many news papers for more than 50 years, starting in 1914. I read it in the Sunday funny papers that my grandparents had; our Newark Star-Ledge funnies didn’t have the Teenie Weenies.

As you can see, the Teenie Weenies were miniature people for whom expressions like “a house of cards” could be taken literally: like the Borrowers, they had to build their homes and tools from objects created by us gigantic people. Unlike the Borrowers, there was a whole community of Teenie Weenies living together, each of them defined by some external characteristic–The Cowboy, The Clown, The Policeman, The Chinese Man, etc. Most of them didn’t have names, but were called by the costumes that they wore.

Yeesh. That’s starting to sound like college. Or a Democrat convention. I suppose you could think of the Teenie Weenies as The Village People in HO scale–but all of this does them a disservice. The Teenie Weenies were who they were, it was pure fantasy, and a lot of people liked them just the way they were.

Astonishing False Facts: Today communities of Teenie Weenies are often found living on the fringes of golf courses, where they specialize in stealing golf balls and tees. We have not yet discovered what they do with them.


About leeduigon

I have lived in Metuchen, NJ, all my life. I have been married to my wife Patricia since 1977. I am a former newspaper editor and reporter. I was also the owner-operator of my own small business for several years. I wrote various novels and short stories published during 1980s and 1990s. I am a long-time student of judo and Japanese swordsmanship (kenjutsu). I also play chess, basketball, and military and sports simulations. View all posts by leeduigon

13 responses to “Memory Lane: The Teenie Weenies

  • unknowable2

    People look back at those times and think that they were times of nearly universal racial hatred and discrimination, yet I see that many people were accepting of others, as they were.

    The Chinese were not accepted by many people when they came to these shores, but it looks as if the Teenie Weenies were ok with having a Chinese man in their midst.

    People forget that the US was a melting pot. In the late 19th and early 20th century, especially in NYC, you might run into all sorts of people, including some that had just arrived and had very limited English skills. When someone just in from Germany tried to talk to someone who had just come from Italy or France, using English that was heavily accented on the part of both people, the potential for communication problems was off scale.

    Along came the Marx Brothers, which was an act that specialized in what was known as “dialect humor”. Chico had an Italian accent, Groucho a German accent and Harpo could only honk a horn, which I take to mean that he portrayed someone that was capable and wanted to help, but neither spoke, nor understood so much as a word of English. After WW I, German accents didn’t seem very funny, so Groucho became sort of a smart Alec, while the rest of the act stayed the same. The wealthy dowager that showed up represented the old guard Americans whom had been here for generations and were perplexed by all of this.

    People could relate to their humor, because they dealt with similar situations daily, in their real lives. No one took it as an insult, because it poked fun at the situation (the language difficulties of a melting pot) and not at the individuals or their background. These days, they’d be decried for promoting hate, but it was really just a matter of seeing the humor in the situation of everyday life during those times.

    I see a lot of variety in that picture and no one seems to have a problem with it. Perhaps Donahey was sending a positive message.

    • leeduigon

      To say nothing of “The Education of H*y*m*a*n K*a*p*l*a*n” by Leo Rosten… Mr. Kaplan’s twisting of the English language was the whole basis for the comedy. And people didn’t mind!

      Can we say that Political Correctness has made people nicer to each other?

      Only if we’re nincompoops.

      • unknowable2

        The whole thing astounds me. I have a unique perspective, in that I am both Caucasian and Asian. I don’t appear particularly Asian, so I am occasionally present when people joke about Asians. Truly, I don’t care in the slightest. They are not harming me in the slightest.

        If anyone tries to harm me, I am perfectly capable of standing up for myself; ask anyone that has tried to intimidate me. Technically, I am part of a minority group, and I’ll be damned if I need anyone to stand up for me.

    • thewhiterabbit2016

      I remember Grocho Marx’s TV show “You Bet Your Life.” He was really funny but sometimes too risque. It was fun to see if anyone would accidentally say the hidden word.

      • unknowable2

        Groucho was a comic genius. He definitely had a raunchy side and I was more than glad when he kept that side hidden.

        All three Marx Brothers were incredibly gifted. Harpo was an obviously gifted musician and Chico was right there with him. There is a clip of Groucho playing guitar and serenading a young lady in a boat and I was impressed that he seemed to have a good grasp of the instrument, not to mention that he was playing an absolutely beautiful Gibson L-5.

  • marlene

    No, I never heard of them. In my time, it was the “Teenie Weenie Polka Dot Bikini” – lol!

  • Marge Hofknecht

    I never heard of these either but I sure would have been a reader if the strip had been in our newspaper. We would get the Philadelphia Inquirer (properly pronounced “in-kwire” if you’re a Philadelphian), the Sunday edition only. I have read the funny papers as far as I can remember, at least after learning to read. We also got The Evening Bulletin and The Philadelphia Daily News which both carried funny papers. I’d read and reread the strips studying them almost. I loved the artwork as well as the story lines or gags. And I read each strip whether it was Peanuts or Prince Valiant. Loved them all.

    • leeduigon

      When I was a boy, the Teenie Weenies were only in the New York papers; the Jersey papers didn’t have them. But we saw either set of grandparents just about every Sunday, so I got to read their comics pretty often.

  • thewhiterabbit2016

    I love your Memory Lane posts, especially if I have heard of the subject discussed. I have no knowledge or experience with the Teenie Weenies – unless you are talking about the acuity of Shiff, Pelosi, or Hillary (and now her daughter).

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