Lost Literacies: Experiments in the 19th Century US Comic Strip


American Antiquarian Society
185 Salisbury Street
Worcester, MA 01609
United States

Alex Beringer delves into the surprising history of comic strips in America before the rise of the Sunday Funnies.  It’s a story that not only involves little-known artists and editors like Frank Bellew and T.W. Strong, but also some well-known names in nineteenth-century U.S. literature and culture like Walt Whitman and Mark Twain.  Based on his new book, Lost Literacies: Experiments in the 19th Century US Comic Strip , Beringer reveals the variety and ambition of nineteenth-century American comic strips. These early playful, multi-panel graphics emphasized stories and featured distinctive characters, settings, and plots. Since the medium was new, there were few rules for how to tell stories with pictures.  Beringer shows how an explosion of experimental approaches to graphic storytelling went far beyond the speech bubbles and panel grids familiar to us today. 

This hybrid program will be held in person at Antiquarian Hall and livestreamed to a virtual audience on YouTube. Advance registration is required for both. Doors open at 6:30pm. 


Alex Beringer is professor of English at the University of Montevallo. His book, Lost Literacies: Experiments in the Nineteenth-Century US Comic Strip, was published in January 2024. He was a Jay and Deborah Last Fellow at AAS in 2018-19.