New York Newspaper and Mail Deliverers Union Strike

Mayor LaGuardia reads Dick Tracy!

During the summer months of 1945, the Dick Tracy comic strip enjoyed an unexpected bit of promotion with the spotlight placed squarely on the gorgeous villainess, Breathless Mahoney. In naming Breathless, Chet cleverly used the name Mahoney in reference to incoming U.S. Secretary of Labor, Lewis B. Schwellenbach, who first gained public attention while unsuccessfully defending James E. Mahoney in 1921 against charges of murdering his wife—a bizarre case known as the Mahoney Trunk Murder.

Demanding higher wages, vacations with pay, and an employer-financed benefit fund, the Newspaper and Mail Deliverers Union in New York City went on strike Saturday, June the 30th, shutting down the distribution of all but one of the major New York newspapers–PM. The New York Daily News captured and preserved the events of the strike in a color film production entitled, Seventeen Days.

During the strike, radio took the spotlight, but visual features such as comics required translation. The public in New York could go without its favorite daily papers, stand in long lines at the newspaper plants to buy them directly, or tune in to catch the news on the radio. New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia ordered municipal station WNYC to read the comics to their audiences every day of the strike and himself gave a memorable Sunday reading of Dick Tracy’s adventures for July 8, 1945.

The July 8, 1945 installment of Dick Tracy. Click for full size!

Gould received a call in his office the following morning, informing him that the newsreels had recorded the New York mayor reading the strip. After lunch, he headed for a theater in the Loop, hoping to catch it. As Chet walked into the theater, a cheery LaGuardia appeared on screen sitting at a desk in front of a microphone thumbing through the Sunday funnies of the New York News.

Chet was riveted by the reel, spending the remainder of the afternoon at the theater and catching the newsreel a second time. Upon arriving home, he raced through dinner and rounded up Edna and Jean to drive into Woodstock to its movie theater so they could enjoy LaGuardia’s performance as a proud family.

For your viewing pleasure, we introduce the film Seventeen Days, the July 8, 1945 installment of the Dick Tracy comic strip and the July 9, 1945 Universal newsreel featuring Mayor LaGuardia.

Seventeen Days