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About the project

Mr. BunionNews

  • "The Waking Life of Winsor McCay: Social Commentary in A Pilgrim's Progress by Mr. Bunion" was published in the International Journal of Comic Art. A version is available digitally on the University of Richmond scholarship repository.
  • A feature story about this catalog was published on the University of Richmond website.
  • The research process for this project was featured in the University of Richmond magazine.

About the Catalog

Winsor McCay’s A Pilgrim’s Progress by Mr. Bunion first appeared in the New York Evening Telegram on June 26, 1905. The comic ran on Mondays and Thursdays through that year, and then regularly on Tuesdays from May 1906 to May 1909. The title character, Mr. Bunion, is constantly trying to rid himself of a heavy valise he carries, labeled “Dull Care.” Mr. Bunion believes that if he could just get rid of the valise, he would enjoy a life of freedom, ease, and luxury.
The catalog documents each episode of A Pilgrim's Progress by Mister Bunion, complete with a scanned image of the original strip and transcription. The source for most comics was the New York Evening Telegram on microfilm, kindly provided by the New York State Library in Albany, N.Y.
McCay's punctuation was sometimes curious. The transcription in this catalog aims to make the text understandable, often translating McCay's punctuation into something more grammatically correct and readable. Any misspellings of McCays are marked [sic]. Please report any errors using the contact form on this site.
Users can view comics by year (using the Browse by Year tab), or view the collection in its entirety. The search function will search all information in the database, including the text transcription of each strip. Under the Browse items tab, users also have the option to take advantage of a tag cloud.

What is Dull Care?

The term Dull Care seems to have first appeared in the early 19th century. It is best understood as the necessary, daily monotony of a working-class existence. Closer to McCay’s time, it was used by a secret society, The Bohemian Grove. The society, started in 1872 by newspapermen in San Francisco, is still in existence today. Over the years its roster has included leaders of industry and U.S. presidents. Each year the society meets for a midsummer, two-week retreat spent camping on its private land amongst the redwoods in northern California.

The retreat begins with an evening event known as The Cremation of Dull Care, wherein “Dull Care,” represented by a dummy of the human form, is burned in effigy at the height of a druid-like ceremony. The Bohemian Grove members leave their responsibilities, concerns, and most importantly, business matters behind, an act symbolically represented by this opening rite. 

While today it is difficult to find common use of the term “dull care” outside of Bohemian Grove references, given McCay’s audience, his use of it suggests that it was at least a commonly understood concept. Throughout the strip, other characters carry burdens and some, even valises, one labeled Hard Knocks and the other Daily Grind. These terms are both synonymous with Dull Care.