70 years ago, Peanuts began publication on October 2, 1950.

Many fans are surprised to learn that the earliest comic strips featured a smart-aleck Charlie Brown absent of his signature zig-zag shirt, and Snoopy as a dog that walked on all fours. In those formative years, Charles M. Schulz applied steady black lines to create sharply drawn characters and compositions, revealing the ambition of a young man who dreamed since childhood of being a cartoonist.

As you view the daily Peanuts comic strips in this exhibition, note the rich detail of early strips contrasted with the minimalism of those published in later years. In his matter-of-fact style, Schulz explained the changes this way:

“The evolution of the drawing in comic strips is something that you’re not even aware of. I’m not aware that Charlie Brown gets a little fatter, he gets a little thinner. Snoopy’s nose gets longer, narrower, fatter or shorter . . .” —Charles M. Schulz

Charlie Brown

As Charlie Brown developed over time, his attitude changed considerably. Schulz acknowledged the originally flippant side of his main character, who gradually grew into the kinder, gentler hero who most readers are now familiar with. In 1971, Schulz said, “I used to say he tried too hard, and that he wanted everyone to like him too much, but I’ve grown away from that.” The relationships Charlie Brown maintained with girls also changed. Early on, Violet, Patty, and Lucy criticized and harassed Charlie Brown, but they occasionally showed him their kinder sides as well.

As Peanuts entered the 1960s, Charlie Brown revealed the personality traits that became lasting hallmarks of his character, including insecurity, and perseverance in the face of immeasurable defeat. His interactions with girls also grew more defined: Lucy both advised and harassed him, and the unseen Little Red-Haired Girl became the object of his unrequited love. When girls started to actually like Charlie Brown, such as Peppermint Patty, he often reacted with awkwardness and tried to avoid the subject.

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Charles M. Schulz
Li’l Folks (newspaper clipping detail)

May 30, 1948

This cartoon represents the first time that Schulz named a character Charlie Brown. Drawn for his first weekly cartoon series, called Li’l Folks, this pre-dated Peanuts by more than a year. Li’l Folks was Schulz’s first regular newspaper feature, appearing in his hometown newspaper, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, from 1947–1950.

At the time, Schulz worked at Art Instruction Schools, Inc., in Minnesota. A fellow instructor by the name of Charles F. Brown was pleased when Schulz asked to use his name for a character. He referred to four different Li’l Folks characters as Charlie Brown, but these youngsters bore little resemblance to the eventual Peanuts protagonist. Li’l Folks also regularly featured a puppy that looked like an early version of Snoopy.

Fun Fact! The strip below is one of the earliest Peanuts comic strips in the Museum’s collection.

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
November 25, 1950
Ink on paper

This Peanuts strip is significant for the fact that Charlie Brown appears without his iconic zig-zag shirt. Schulz did not add this detail until December 21, 1950.

Fun Fact! The red hue of Charlie Brown’s shirt in the strip below was colored in by a previous owner of the strip.

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
June 25, 1956
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
November 8, 1969
Ink on paper

“He’s a caricature. We all know what it’s like to lose, but Charlie Brown keeps losing outrageously. It’s not that he’s a loser; he’s really a decent little sort.”              —Charles M. Schulz

Schroeder

As a young man, Schulz caddied with a friend whose last name was Schroeder. Added to the Peanuts repertory in 1951, Schroeder first appeared in Peanuts as a toddler but aged quickly. Schulz gave him a toy piano after purchasing a similar one for his daughter Meredith. Playing Beethoven sonatas with the black keys painted on, Schroeder celebrates the birth of his favorite composer each year. He regularly plays catcher for Charlie Brown’s baseball team, and contends with Lucy, who vies for his attention in vain.

Fun Fact! The music in the comic strip below is an excerpt from Beethoven, Opus 13/II, Adagio cantabile from Sonata #8 (“Pathetique”). Though painstaking, Schulz enjoyed carefully copying authentic sheet music in his cartoons, and knowledgeable readers liked to identify the music.

Identified by William Meredith, Ph.D., Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, San Jose State University.

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
October 2, 1951
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
January 23, 1956
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
December 16, 1970
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
June 17, 1995
Ink on paper

Snoopy

When asked which of his characters changed the most, Schulz responded that Snoopy, whom he first drew as a puppy, saw the most significant revisions, both in personality and outward appearance. In the earliest years of Peanuts, Snoopy looked like a normal dog that walked on four legs, barked, and enjoyed playing catch. Over time, his increasingly humanistic thinking emerged.

Fun Fact! In the fourth panel of the strip below, the date and copyright have been whited-out. This was done by publishers of the early Peanuts reprint books, to give the strip and overall book a cleaner look.

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
September 20, 1952
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
November 27, 1957
Ink on paper

“Snoopy was the slowest to develop, and it was his eventually walking around on two feet that turned him into a lead character.” —Charles M. Schulz

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
May 1, 1963
Ink on paper

Snoopy outgrew chasing sticks and other ordinary dog activities, and began ice skating, dancing, and occasionally walking on two legs in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Fun Fact! In the beginning, Snoopy’s doghouse was shown from the front, and also had Snoopy’s name on it. In later years, Schulz felt that the doghouse viewed from the side represented an essential part of Snoopy’s fantasy world. If viewers saw the doghouse from the front or its interior, the universe Snoopy inhabited suddenly became too real. Schulz explained, “Snoopy himself had become a character so unlike a dog that he could no longer inhabit a real doghouse.”

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
January 26, 1981
Ink on paper

Snoopy began using his imagination to dream of being a World-Famous Author, Flying Ace, and Joe Cool, among more than 100 additional personas. Using this model, “The strip took on a completely new dimension,” noted Schulz.

Lucy

Introduced to Peanuts as a toddler in 1952, Lucy initially had round, doll-like eyes. Following the suggestion of an editor, Schulz modified this, and began drawing half-circles on the sides of her eyes instead. When her brothers Linus and Rerun debuted, they featured this same physical trait.

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Excerpt of a letter from Charles Schulz to Jim Freeman at United Feature Syndicate
January 31, 1952

Fun Fact! Schulz signed the comic strip below with the inscription in the fourth panel, “A Daddy.” At the time, Schulz found himself enjoying early fatherhood. The comic strip was a gift from Schulz to his neighbor who also had children and reflected their mutual young families.

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
March 24, 1952
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
January 6, 1964
Ink on paper

“Lucy is the part of me that’s capable of saying mean, sarcastic things . . . It’s nice to have someone who can do that . . . Yet Lucy has her soft, vulnerable side.”                —Charles M. Schulz

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
May 19, 1970
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
December 13, 1996
Ink on paper

Linus

Like his sister Lucy, Linus also debuted in Peanuts as a toddler. He grew quickly and became a close confidant and friend to Charlie Brown. His blanket became his trademark, an element inspired by Schulz’s own blanket-toting children. Linus and his purity of heart helped make his belief in the Great Pumpkin conceivable to readers, along with other storylines that emphasized his varied eccentricities.

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
November 17, 1953
Ink on paper

Fun Fact! In 1962, Schulz briefly drew Linus with eyeglasses, perhaps as a nod to his intellectualism. Schulz found, however, that glasses interfered with the expression lines, and quickly returned to drawing Linus without them.

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
February 21, 1962
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
October 28, 1975
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
July 21, 1983
Ink on paper

Pigpen

Despite his popularity with fans, Pigpen was featured in just over 100 of the 17,897 Peanuts comic strips that Schulz created. Generating new storylines suited to Pigpen’s messiness proved challenging for Schulz, who explained, “Usually, I just run out of ideas for him, but somehow he keeps hanging in there.” From his first appearance in 1954, to his last in 1999, Pigpen evolved in the way that Schulz portrayed his dirtiness.

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
August 18, 1954
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
August 21, 1965
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
October 20, 1981
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
August 13, 1994
Ink on paper

Sally

Sally joined the Peanuts Gang as a toddler in 1959. Schulz saw charm in the way she humorously fractured the English language, and her school reports served as a basis for especially whimsical wordplay. She also adopted personal philosophies such as, “Who Cares?” “Life Goes On,” and “How Should I Know?” Sally can also be characterized by her efforts to win the attention of Linus, who she called her “Sweet Babboo,” and kept company while waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive. With all of her various peculiarities, such as talking to school buildings, her older brother Charlie Brown understood her no better than he did the other girls.

“Sally stands for all the frustration and confusion that little kids experience at school. She is a favorite of many people because she is so uninhibited.”                          —Charles M. Schulz

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
October 24, 1960
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
November 7, 1973
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
May 20, 1982
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
February 20, 1988
Ink on paper

Peppermint Patty and Marcie

A dish of candy inspired the name for Peppermint Patty, who debuted in 1966. “I just created the character and gave her the name so that no one else would steal it before I used it,” Schulz said. Years after her introduction to Peanuts, Schulz gave Peppermint Patty a surname—Reichardt. The name derived from his then-recently married secretary, Sue Reichardt, who recalled being pleasantly surprised at finding her name in the cartoon. In the case of Marcie, Schulz named the character after a friend of his two youngest daughters.

The first two comic strips below are among the earliest Peanuts cartoons to feature Peppermint Patty and Marcie. Having met at summer camp, Marcie calls Peppermint Patty “sir” out of respect and misguided etiquette.

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
August 23, 1966
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
July 20, 1971
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
June 2, 1980
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
May 23, 1986
Ink on paper

Franklin

Los Angeles schoolteacher Harriet Glickman felt that a popular comic strip like Peanuts could help sway American attitudes on race, and her letters to Schulz prompted Franklin’s debut in the summer of 1968. Schulz said that his first Franklin cartoons “brought the strongest criticism I remember. There weren’t many letters, but they were quite vehement.” As time went on, Franklin became a familiar presence in Peanuts, exchanging humorous classroom dialogue with Peppermint Patty, playing on the neighborhood baseball team, and sharing stories about his grandfather with Charlie Brown.

Fun Fact! “Sparky,” the lifelong nickname by which Schulz was known best, is inscribed in the margins of the comic strip below. Likely made by Schulz’s secretary, whenever this notation appeared it was a message to the syndicate to return the strip to Schulz.  Especially in this instance, he would have wanted to keep the first strip to introduce Franklin!

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
July 31, 1968
Ink on paper

Beginning on July 29, 1968, Schulz presented a multi-day storyline placing Charlie Brown and his sister Sally at the beach—setting the stage to introduce a new character. Schulz saw the beach as a neutral place where children from every neighborhood could meet and interact by building sandcastles and throwing beach balls. This comic is the first appearance of Franklin in Peanuts.

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
April 30, 1974
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
June 6, 1985
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
April 1, 1996
Ink on paper

Woodstock

“I’ve been drawing birds in the strip for some time—at least 10 years. Like a lot of things in this medium, suddenly your drawing starts to work. At one point I began to draw the bird a little better. I needed a name for him, and with the Woodstock festival being so prominent in the news, I said ‘Why not?’” —Charles M. Schulz

In 1970, Schulz named Woodstock, and the little yellow bird of Peanuts quickly captured the hearts of fans. Together with Snoopy, he pondered the philosophies of life, went camping with the Beagle Scouts, and explored the bonds of friendship.

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
February 28, 1970
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
June 27, 1970
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
November 22, 1986
Ink on paper

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Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts
February 10, 1996
Ink on paper

Peanuts Toys and Products Over Time

Just as the characters from Peanuts comic strips have evolved over time, so too have the toys and products modeled after them. Pigpen has proved especially challenging for licensees to interpret, with his ubiquitous dust cloud and general messiness presenting manufacturing complexities. Charlie Brown is most often associated with a yellow zig-zag shirt, though he has appeared with tops of varying hues throughout the years, including red, blue, and orange. And Snoopy, with his various personas, has inspired the creation of numerous playthings in addition to a countless array of cute and cuddly plush dolls.

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Hungerford Plastics Corp.
Charlie Brown Doll, 1958
Plastic

LEGO
Snoopy Bobble Head, 1959
Papier-mache, paint, and metal

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ANRI/Schmid, Co.
Lucy Music Box, 1972
Song played: “Love Story”
Wood, metal, and paint

Determined Productions, Inc./Boucher and Company
Linus Pocket Doll, 1966–68
Plastic, vinyl, cotton, and paint

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Determined Productions, Inc.
Italian Bank Sally, 1969
Ceramic and paint

Hungerford Plastics Corp.
Pigpen Doll, 1958
Plastic

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Determined Productions, Inc.
Schroeder and Lucy Figurescene, 1971
Paiper-mache and paint

Schmid, Co.
Peanuts 30th Anniversary Commemorative Plate, 1980
Porcelain

Casting a comic strip is “like casing a drama company…  Schulz said, “you must have actors who can play whatever roles are called for (by the artist).” He observed that as characters became more developed and defined over time, “humor began to flow from their personalities.” 

Due to COVID-19 regulations, the Schulz Museum is temporarily closed until further notice. Visit our Calendar page for online events.

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