Charles Schulz, the artist who gave us Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Woodstock, Linus & Lucy, and so many other memorable cartoon characters, showed artistic talent at an early age. His kindergarten teacher told him, “Someday, Charles, you’re going to be an artist.”
The young “Sparky,” as his uncle called him, was always drawing things. He loved reading comic books, especially Popeye and Disney characters. In 1934, Charles got a dog, named Spike. He drew a sketch of Spike in 1937, and it was published in the famous magazine Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
He continued drawing throughout his school years and enrolled in a special art school. When World War II broke out, Schulz went to war, too. He survived and returned, more determined than ever to be an artist.
He finally got his wish when his local newspaper, the St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press began to publish the comic strip Li’l Folks. This was the beginning of Snoopy and the gang. (Spike later showed up as Snoopy’s brother.)
Schulz sold cartoons to the national magazine The Saturday Evening Post. Then, he got a contract with a national service, United Features Syndicate. Someone at this company changed the name of the comic strip to Peanuts, a title that Schulz never liked.
Peanuts began appearing in newspapers throughout America and around the world. Schulz began publishing books of his comic strips. The first of these was Happiness Is a Warm Puppy, which came out in 1962. Not long after, the stage musical You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown opened in New York. It eventually became the most-produced musical in the country.
The Peanuts characters also appeared in television shows, like A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, on greeting cards, and as dolls and toys. The characters, especially Snoopy, became household names everywhere.
Peanuts has appeared in dozens of languages in hundreds of countries all round the world. Snoopy, especially, is one of the most well-known comic strip characters ever. The fame of Schulz's creations and of the man himself far exceeded the vision that he had for himself when he followed his kindergarten teacher's advice.
Charles Schulz is no longer with us. He died in 2000. But the wonderful characters he created live on and with them, so does his gentle spirit.