Al Capp

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Alfred Gerald Caplin (September 28, 1909 – November 5, 1979), better known as Al Capp, was an American cartoonist and humorist best known for the satirical comic strip Li'l Abner. He also wrote the comic strips Abbie an' Slats and Long Sam. He won the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award in 1947 for Cartoonist of the Year, and their 1979 Elzie Segar Award (posthumously) for his "unique and outstanding contribution to the profession of cartooning."

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Early life

—Milton Caniff, 1985

Born in New Haven, Connecticut of Russian Jewish heritage, Capp was the eldest child of Otto Philip and Matilda (Davidson) Caplin. Capp's parents were both natives of Latvia whose families had migrated to New Haven in the 1880s. "My mother and father had been brought to this country from Russia when they were infants," wrote Capp in 1978. "Their fathers had found that the great promise of America was true—it was no crime to be a Jew." The Caplins were dirt poor, and Capp later recalled stories of his mother going out in the night to sift through ash barrels for reusable bits of coal.

Capp lost his left leg in a trolley accident at the age of nine. This childhood tragedy likely helped shape Capp’s cynical worldview, which, funny as it was, was certainly darker and more sardonic than that of the average newspaper cartoonist.[1] "I was indignant as hell about that leg," he would reveal in a November 1950 interview in Time magazine.

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