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A Little Bit About Charles Schulz's Peanuts

One little boy dreamed of being a comic strip artist. His drawings in kindergarten so impressed his teacher that she remarked, "Someday, Charles, you're going to be an artist." (The Joy of a Peanuts Christmas, Charles Schulz, p. 120) The boy grew up, experimentally drawing different strips, and happened to show one of them to a co-worker who marveled at his work and encouraged him to send it off to United Feature Syndicate. The young man sent it off as encouraged, and received a five-year contract beginning that year, 1950, to produce his strip featuring thoughtful little children he'd entitled "Li'l Folks".

But the producers did not accept this title, for there were complications with other similar titles already being used, such as "Little Folks" and "Li'l Abner." So they chose the title Peanuts for the strip without consulting the young man.

When the young man heard the title, he disliked it and protested against it, but could do nothing to change it since the deadline was up and the producers had not liked the names of "Charlie Brown," or "Good Ol' Charlie Brown," which he had volunteered. This young man's name was, of course, Charles Schulz.

Schulz's first Peanuts strip showed up on October 2, 1950 with a younger-looking, bigger-headed Charlie Brown, compared to the Charlie Brown we know now. Charlie Brown had Snoopy as his pet then, too, but Snoopy had not yet begun to thing out loud in thought bubbles or realize his sophistication.
Many of the other characters, such as Peppermint Pattie, got their development later in years, not beginning in 1950 with Charlie Brown. For the development and naming of characters, Schulz used people he knew in life. For instance, the name Charlie Brown was the name of one of his co-workers. The little red-haired girl, whom Charlie Brown loved, was inspired by a red-haired woman named Donna Wold with which Schulz had been in love.

When Wold refused Schulz's marriage proposal, Schulz decided that Charlie Brown would never win the love of the little red-haired girl, just as he could not win the love of his own redhead. Sigh. This love of Charlie Brown's is only one example of the unrequited love found in Peanuts. Sally loves Linus, who can't stand her; Lucy loves Schroeder, who loves only his piano, and Linus loves his teacher, Miss Othmar, but she has a boyfriend already. Good grief!

Schulz once stated that he never realized how many Charlie Browns there were in the world. Readers would write to him, telling stories of how they felt defeat just like Charlie Brown did when he got his kite stuck in the tree, or when he longed for mail in the mailbox and never received any. These readers identified with his characters, which is why they read Peanuts for the fifty years Schulz wrote.
Schulz announced his retirement of the strip fifty years after his strip began, because of illness, but many readers wondered if there were not more to his plan of retirement than he had led on: Charles Schulz died on February 12, 2000 - just hours before his goodbye Peanuts strip appeared in papers.

Old Peanuts strips continue to be printed in many newspapers. And his readers continue to read them, again, still identifying with the characters that began long ago in a small boy's mind. Today Peanuts are cultural phenomenon, you can find these beloved characters pretty much everywhere: in magazines, on t-shirts, street art, and even as a subject of college papers and essays. Charles Shultz has created a masterpiece for generations to enjoy.
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