"Aunt Marion was right... Never marry a musician, and never answer the door." -- Charles M. Schulz
Charles Monroe Schulz (November 26, 1922 — February 12, 2000) was an American cartoonist, whose comic strip Peanuts proved one of the most popular and influential in the history of the medium, and is still widely reprinted on a daily basis.
"A whole stack of memories never equal one little hope.""All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.""Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life.""Decorate your home. It gives the illusion that your life is more interesting than it really is.""Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.""I have a new philosophy. I'm only going to dread one day at a time.""I love mankind; it's people I can't stand.""I think I've discovered the secret of life - you just hang around until you get used to it.""If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself.""It doesn't matter what you believe just so long as you're sincere.""Jogging is very beneficial. It's good for your legs and your feet. It's also very good for the ground. If makes it feel needed.""Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.""Life is like an ice-cream cone, you have to lick it one day at a time.""My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I'm happy. I can't figure it out. What am I doing right?""No problem is so formidable that you can't walk away from it.""No problem is too big to run away from.""Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.""Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask why me? Then a voice answers nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.""Sometimes I lie awake at night, and ask, 'Where have I gone wrong?' Then a voice says to me, 'This is going to take more than one night.'""That's the secret to life... replace one worry with another.""The way I see it, it doesn't matter what you believe just so you're sincere.""There is no problem so big it cannot be run away from.""There's a difference between a philosophy and a bumper sticker.""Try not to have a good time... this is supposed to be educational.""Yesterday I was a dog. Today I'm a dog. Tomorrow I'll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There's so little hope for advancement.""You're a good man, Charlie Brown."
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Schulz grew up in Saint Paul. He was the only child of Carl Schulz, who was German, and Dena Halverson, who was Norwegian. His uncle nicknamed him "Sparky" after the horse Spark Plug in the Barney Google comic strip.
Schulz loved drawing and sometimes drew his family dog, Spike, who ate unusual things, such as pins and tacks. Schulz drew a picture of Spike and sent it to Ripley's Believe It or Not!; his drawing appeared in the comic published by Robert Ripley, captioned "A hunting dog that eats pins, tacks, and razor blades is owned by C. F. Schulz, St. Paul, Minn." and "Drawn by 'Sparky'" (C.F. was his father, Carl Fred Schulz.)
Schulz attended St. Paul's Richard Gordon Elementary School, where he skipped two half-grades. When he was in first grade, his mother helped him get valentines for everybody in his class, so that nobody would be offended by not getting one; but he felt too shy to put them in the box at the front of the classroom, so he took them all home again to his mother.
He became a shy, timid teenager, perhaps as a result of being the youngest in his class at Central High School. One episode in his high school life was the rejection of his drawings by his high school yearbook.
In 1943, he was drafted into the United States Army and served as a sergeant with the 20th Armored Division in Europe. The unit saw combat only at the very end of the war. Years later, he proudly spoke of his wartime service.
After discharge in late 1945, he returned to Minneapolis where he took a job as an art teacher at Art Instruction, Inc....he had taken correspondence courses before he was drafted. Schulz, before having his comics published, began doing lettering work for a Roman Catholic comic magazine titled Timeless Topix, where he would rush back and forth from dropping off his lettering work and teaching at Art Instruction Schools, Inc.
Schulz's first regular cartoons, Li'l Folks, were published from 1947 to 1950 by the St. Paul Pioneer Press; he first used the name Charlie Brown for a character there, although he applied the name in four gags to three different boys and one buried in sand. The series also had a dog that looked much like Snoopy. In 1948, Schulz sold a cartoon to the Saturday Evening Post; the first of seventeen single-panel cartoons by Schulz that would be published there. In 1948, Schulz tried to have Li'l Folks syndicated through the Newspaper Enterprise Association. Schulz would have been an independent contractor for the syndicate, unheard of in the 1940s, but the deal fell through. Li'l Folks was dropped from the Pioneer Press in January, 1950.
Later that year, Schulz approached the United Feature Syndicate with his best strips from Li'l Folks, and Peanuts made its first appearance on October 2, 1950. The strip became one of the most popular comic strips of all time. He also had a short-lived sports-oriented comic strip called It's Only a Game (1957—1959), but abandoned it due to the demands of the successful Peanuts. From 1956 to 1965 he also contributed a single-panel strip ("Young Pillars") featuring teenagers to Youth, a publication associated with the Church of God .
Charlie Brown, the principal character for Peanuts, was named after a co-worker at the Art Instruction Schools; Schulz drew much more inspiration from his own life:
Like Charlie Brown's parents, Schulz's father was a barber and his mother a housewife.
Schulz and Charlie Brown were shy and withdrawn.
Schulz had a dog when he was a boy, although unlike Snoopy the beagle, it was a pointer.
References to Snoopy's brother Spike living outside of Needles, California were likely influenced by the few years (1928—1930) that the Schulz family lived there; they had moved to Needles to join other family members who had relocated from Minnesota to tend to an ill cousin.
Schulz's "Little Red-Haired Girl" was Donna Johnson, an Art Instruction Schools accountant with whom he fell in love. Schulz was planning to propose to her, but before he got an opportunity to do so, she agreed to marry another man.
Linus and Shermy were both named for good friends of his (Linus Maurer and Sherman Plepler, respectively).
Peppermint Patty was inspired by Patricia Swanson, one of his cousins on his mother's side.
The Charles M. Schulz Museum counts Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates) and Bill Mauldin as key influences on Schulz's work. In his own strip, Schulz regularly described Snoopy's annual Veterans Day visits with Mauldin, including mention of Mauldin's World War II cartoons.
Critics have also credited George Herriman (Krazy Kat), Roy Crane (Wash Tubbs), Elzie C. Segar (Thimble Theater) and Percy Crosby (Skippy) among Schulz's influences. However,
In 1951, Schulz moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado. The same year, Schulz married Joyce Halverson. His son, Monte, was born at this time, with their three further children being born later, in Minnesota. He painted a wall in that home for his adopted daughter Meredith Hodges, featuring Patty, Charlie Brown and Snoopy. The wall was removed in 2001 and donated to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California.
Schulz's family returned to Minneapolis and stayed until 1958. They then moved to Sebastopol, California, where Schulz built his first studio. It was here that Schulz was interviewed for the unaired television documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Some of the footage was eventually used in a later documentary titled Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz. The original documentary is available on DVD from the Charles M. Schulz Museum.
Schulz's father died while visiting him in 1966, the same year his Sebastopol studio burned down. By 1969, Schulz had moved to Santa Rosa, California, where he lived and worked until his death.
By Thanksgiving 1970 it was clear that Schulz's first marriage was in trouble, and their divorce was final in 1972. Schulz married Jean Forsyth Clyde in 1973; they met when Jean brought her daughter to Schulz's hockey rink.
Schulz had a long association with ice sports, and both figure skating and ice hockey featured prominently in his cartoons. In Santa Rosa, he was the owner of the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, which opened in 1969 and featured a snack bar called "The Warm Puppy". Schulz's daughter Amy served as a model for the figure skating in the 1980 television special She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown.
Schulz also was very active in senior ice-hockey tournaments; in 1975, he formed Snoopy's Senior World Hockey Tournament at his Redwood Empire Ice Arena, and in 1981, Schulz was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to the sport of hockey in the United States.
On Sunday, May 8, 1988, two gunmen wearing ski masks entered the cartoonist's home through an unlocked door, planning to kidnap Jean Schulz, but the attempt failed when the couple's daughter, Jill, drove up to the house, prompting the would-be kidnappers to flee. She saw what was happening and called the police from a neighbor's house. Sonoma County Sheriff Dick Michaelsen said, "It was obviously an attempted kidnap-ransom. This was a targeted criminal act. They knew exactly who the victims were." Neither Schulz nor his wife were hurt during the incident.
In 1998, Schulz hosted the first Over 75 Hockey Tournament. In 2001, Saint Paul renamed the Highland Park Ice Arena the Charles Schulz Arena in his honor.
A number of biographies have been written about Schulz, including Rheta Grimsley Johnson's Good Grief: The Story of Charles M. Schulz (1989), which was authorized by Schulz.
The lengthiest biography, Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography, by David Michaelis (2007) has been heavily criticized by the Schulz family, with son Monte stating it has "a number of factual errors throughout... [including] factual errors of interpretation" and extensively documenting these errors in a number of essays; for his part, Michaelis maintains that there is "no question" his work is accurate. Although artist Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin & Hobbes) feels that the biography does justice to Schulz's legacy, while giving insight into the emotional impetus of the creation of the strips, cartoonist and critic R.C. Harvey regards the book as falling short both in describing Schulz as a cartoonist and in fulfilling Michaelis' stated aim of "understanding how Charles Schulz knew the world", feeling the biography bends the facts to a thesis rather than evoking a thesis from the facts. A review of Michaelis' biography by Dan Shanahan in the American Book Review (vol 29, no. 6) faults the biography not for factual errors, but for "a predisposition" to finding problems in Schulz's life to explain his art, regardless of how little the material lends itself to Michaelis' interpretations. Shanahan cites, in particular, such things as Michaelis' crude characterizations of Schulz's mother's family, and "an almost voyeuristic quality" to the hundred pages devoted to the breakup of Schulz's first marriage.
In light of David Michaelis' biography and the controversy surrounding his interpretation of the personality that was Charles Schulz, responses from his family reveal some intimate knowledge about the Schulz's persona beyond that of mere artist. Archived on July 28, 2008.
Peanuts ran for nearly 50 years, almost without interruption; during the life of the strip, Schulz took only one vacation, a five-week break in late 1997. At its peak, Peanuts appeared in more than 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries. In November 1999 Schulz suffered a stroke, and later it was discovered that he had colon cancer that had metastasized. Because of the chemotherapy and the fact he could not read or see clearly, he announced his retirement on December 14, 1999. This was difficult for Schulz, and he was quoted as saying to Al Roker on The Today Show, "I never dreamed that this would happen to me. I always had the feeling that I would stay with the strip until I was in my early eighties, or something like that. But all of sudden it's gone. I did not take it away. This has been taken away from me."
Charles Monroe Schulz died in his sleep at home at around 9:45 pm on February 12, 2000. The last original Peanuts strip was published the very next day, on Sunday, February 13, 2000, just hours after his death the night before. Schulz was buried at Pleasant Hills Cemetery in Sebastopol, California.
Schulz indicated that his family wished for the strip to end when he was no longer able to produce it. Schulz had previously predicted that the strip would outlive him, with his reason being that comic strips are usually drawn weeks before their publication. As part of his will, Schulz had requested that the Peanuts characters remain as authentic as possible and that no new comic strips based on them be drawn. United Features has legal ownership of the strip, but his wishes have been honored, although reruns of the strip are still being syndicated to newspapers. New television specials have also been produced since Schulz's death, but the stories are based on previous strips.
Schulz had been asked if, for his final Peanuts strip, Charlie Brown would finally get to kick that football after so many decades. His response: "Oh, no! Definitely not! I couldn't have Charlie Brown kick that football; that would be a terrible disservice to him after nearly half a century." Yet, in a December 1999 interview, holding back tears, he recounted the moment when he signed the panel of his final strip, saying, “All of a sudden I thought, 'You know, that poor, poor kid, he never even got to kick the football. What a dirty trick ... he never had a chance to kick the football!'”
He was posthumously honored on May 27, 2000, by cartoonists of more than 100 comic strips paying homage to him and Peanuts.
Schulz received the National Cartoonist Society Humor Comic Strip Award in 1962 for Peanuts, the Society's Elzie Segar Award in 1980, their Reuben Award for 1955 and 1964, and their Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. He was also a hockey fan; in 1981, Schulz was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding contributions to the sport of hockey in the United States, and he was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993. On June 28, 1996, Schulz was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, adjacent to Walt Disney's. A replica of this star appears outside his former studio in Santa Rosa. Schulz is a recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award, the highest adult award given by the Boy Scouts of America, for his service to American youth.
On January 1, 1974, Schulz served as the Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.
On February 10, 2000, Congressman Mike Thompson introduced H.R. 3642, a bill to award Schulz the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor the United States legislature can bestow. The bill passed the House (410-1)(with only Ron Paul voting no and 24 not voting) on February 15, and the bill was sent to the Senate where it passed unanimously on May 2. The Senate also considered a bill S.2060 (introduced by Diane Feinstein). President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law on June 20, 2000. On June 7, 2001, Schulz's widow Jean accepted the award on behalf of her late husband in a public ceremony.
Schulz was inducted into the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2007.
When the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota opened in 1992, the Amusement Park in the center of the Mall was themed around Schulz' "Peanuts" characters, until the Mall lost the rights to use the branding in 2006.
In 2000, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors rechristened the Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport in his honor. The airport's logo features Snoopy in goggles and scarf, taking to the skies on top of his red doghouse.
The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa opened on August 17, 2002, two blocks away from his former studio and celebrates his life's work and art of cartooning. A bronze statue of Charlie Brown and Snoopy stands in Depot Park in downtown Santa Rosa.
The Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center at Sonoma State University is one of the largest libraries in the CSU system and the state of California, with a 400,000-volume general collection and with a 750,000-volume automated retrieval system capacity. The $41.5 million building was named after Schulz, and his wife donated $5 million needed to build and furnish the structure. The library opened in 2000 and now stands as one of the largest buildings in the university.
Peanuts on Parade has been Saint Paul, Minnesota’s tribute to its favorite native cartoonist. It began in 2000 with the placing of 101 statues of Snoopy throughout the city of Saint Paul. Every summer for the next four years, statues of a different Peanuts character were placed on the sidewalks of Saint Paul. In 2001 there was Charlie Brown Around Town, 2002 brought Looking for Lucy, then in 2003 along came Linus Blankets Saint Paul, ending in 2004 with Snoopy lying on his doghouse. The statues were auctioned off at the end of each summer, so some remain around the city, but others have been relocated. The auction proceeds were used for artists' scholarships and for permanent, bronze statues of the Peanuts characters. These bronze statues are in Landmark Plaza and Rice Park in downtown Saint Paul.
In 2006 Forbes ranked Schulz as the third highest-earning deceased celebrity, having earned $35 million in the previous year. In 2009, he was ranked 6th. According to Tod Benoit in his book Where Are They Buried? How Did They Die?, Charles M. Schulz's income during his lifetime totaled more than $1.1 billion.
Schulz touched on religious themes in his work, including the classic television cartoon, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), which features the character Linus van Pelt quoting the King James Version of the Bible to explain "what Christmas is all about." In personal interviews Schulz mentioned that Linus represented his spiritual side.
Schulz, reared in the Lutheran faith, had been active in the Church of God as a young adult and then later taught Sunday school at a United Methodist Church.
From the late 1980s, however, Schulz described himself in interviews as a "secular humanist":
In the 1960s, Robert L. Short interpreted certain themes and conversations in Peanuts as being consistent with parts of Christian theology, and used them as illustrations during his lectures about the gospel, as he explained in his bestselling paperback book, The Gospel According to Peanuts, the first of several books he wrote on religion and Peanuts.