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Bil Keane Cartoons

An inventory of his cartoons at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: --
Date: 15 May 1968

Biographical History

Bil Keane (1922- ) is an American cartoonist and creator of the comic strips Silly Philly, Channel Chuckles and The Family Circus.

Bil Keane (1922-) was born in Philadelphia on October 5, 1922. Keane taught himself to draw and began cartooning before entering high school. Keane’s first published cartoon appeared on the amateur page of the Philadelphia Daily News on May 21, 1936. While attending Northeast Catholic High School Keane regularly published cartoons and illustrations in the school’s Good News Magazine. During WWII, Keane served in Australia and created publicity art for the Theater Fiscal Office of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East. His illustrations were used to sell life insurance to soldiers and war bonds.

After the war in 1945 Keane started working as a staff artist for the Philadelphia Bulletin where from 1947-1961 he drew the Silly Philly Sunday strip featuring a young Quaker boy based on William Penn. In 1954, Keane’s first nationally syndicated strip, Channel Chuckles was introduced with the Register and Tribune Syndicate. Channel Chuckles appeared for 22 years.

Keane moved near Phoenix, Arizona in 1959 where he began to work from home. Finding inspiration from his young children and his wife Thel, Keane created another nationally syndicated strip, The Family Circle in 1960, which was renamed The Family Circus a few months later.

Keane served as president for the National Cartoonists Society from 1981-1983. The NCS awarded The Family Circus with the Newspaper Panel Cartoon award in 1971, 1973 and 1974 and honored Keane with the Elzie Segar Award in 1982.

With his own children grown, Bil Keane began taking inspiration from his grandchildren. The strip also became a family endeavor. As of 2009 Keane’s youngest son Jeff colors and inks The Family Circus. And the strip is syndicated in over 1500 newspapers by King Features Syndicate.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Bil Keane Cartoons contain original artwork and consist of three series: Silly Philly, Channel Chuckles and The Family Circus. There are approximately 3533 cartoons.

The Silly Philly series contains 83 Sunday cartoons that appeared in the Philadelphia Bulletin from 1954-1961, with the bulk dating from 1958-1961. Keane regularly included jokes and puns from readers under the heading "Silly Philly's Record Collection".

The bulk of the collection consists of approximately 2020 daily and 150 Sunday original panels from Channel Chuckles (1954-1966). In Channel Chuckles, Keane explored the then new medium of television and its impact on everyday life. Several recurring characters were featured: Teevy, Aunt Tenna and Dim Viewer. The strip often referenced real television shows such as I Love Lucy and television personalities including Jackie Gleason and Jack Parr. The majority of the strips are dated with only months and days and not specific years. These strips are grouped together as circa 1954-1957 and circa 1956-1966. Also, in this group there is a box of cartoons circa. 1956-1966 arranged by subject such as "1960 Election" and "Television Shows". Box 1 contains a folder of biographical information donated by Bil Keane and a folder of Channel Chuckles circa 1954 that are numbered but undated.

The final series is The Family Circus which consists of 936 daily and 98 Sunday cartoons from 1960-1963. Of particular interest is the first Family Circus panel which debuted on February 29, 1960. In these early strips the father was named "Steve" which was later changed to Bill. Also included are some of the earliest strips featuring PJ who was introduced in August 1962. At the end of the series are 3 cartoons with page numbers. Several of the panels have overlays in red marker and other panels have notations in blue pencil about color.

The strips were done in ink on illustration board. Several The Family Circus cartoons contain vellum overlays colored with red marker. Also, traces of blue pencil as well as pasteovers are present.

Arrangement of the Collection

For each title, daily and Sunday cartoons are arranged separately in chronological order.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Three published compilations of cartoons signed by Bil Keane have been removed from this collection and sent to cataloging.

Special Collections Research Center has collections of over one hundred cartoonists. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Keane, Bil, 1922-

Corporate Bodies

Des Moines Register and Tribune Company.
King Features Syndicate.
Philadelphia Bulletin.

Associated Titles

Channel Chuckles (comic strip)
Family Circus (comic strip)
Silly Philly (comic strip)


American wit and humor, Pictorial.
Caricatures and cartoons -- United States.
Cartoonists -- United States.
Comic books, strips, etc. -- United States.
Families -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Television -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Television and culture.

Genres and Forms

Cartoons (humorous images)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Bil Keane Cartoons,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Bil Keane, 1967 and 1969.

Table of Contents

Silly Philly

Channel Chuckles

The Family Circus