The Actual ‘Popeye the Sailor’ Was Truly a Laborious-Consuming Bar Brawler with a Coronary heart of Gold

When most individuals consider Popeye, we in all probability take into consideration a hard-hitting sailor man fueled by a love for canned spinach. However the true inspiration for the rowdy animated mariner got here from somebody who was identified to be a fighter and was more than likely to throw palms after a couple of drinks — however actually not over olive oil.

Frank “Rocky” Fiegel was a longtime resident of Chester, Illinois, and was actually not a sailor. However at 5’11” and 175 kilos, many locals believed Rocky may have been a champion boxer if he had gone that route moderately than simply combating in bars and saloons. As a substitute of that, within the early Nineteen Twenties, these brawls earned him a notoriety that may prolong far previous the county line and properly past his loss of life in 1947.

The inspiration for Popeye the Sailor, Frank “Rocky” Fiegel of Chester, Illinois. (St. Louis Put up-Dispatch)

He labored as a normal laborer when he wasn’t within the barroom, and he was identified to point out off feats of power and toughness, even throughout lengthy days of arduous work. For all his power and intoxicated bravado, nonetheless, Rocky liked youngsters and was identified for handing out sweet and sweets to the city’s youngsters. The cartoonist and creator of “Popeye,” E.C. Segar, was a kind of youngsters.

When Segar created his soon-to-be legendary comedian character in 1929, he not solely used Fiegel’s power and penchant for confrontation, however the man’s look as properly. Similar to the fictional spinach-loving mariner, Fiegel was a one-eyed, pipe-smoking curmudgeon with a jutting chin.

Segar wanted a sailor for his long-running day by day comedian, “Thimble Theatre,” for the Jan. 17, 1929, strip. Popeye was recruited from the native docks to take the principle character, Castor Oyl, to an island. Segar modeled Popeye after Fiegel, in all probability considering he’d shortly overlook concerning the sailor man perpetually.

However readers did not overlook. Newspapers started requesting Popeye’s return, and only a few months later, Segar obliged. Readers liked Popeye the sailor a lot that it wasn’t lengthy earlier than he turned the central character of the complete cartoon. What number of of you studying this proper now even keep in mind that Castor Oyl existed?

the primary look of Popeye the Sailor, in Thimble Theatre on January 17, 1929.

Popeye’s recognition exploded all through the Thirties, however again in Chester, Illinois, Rocky Fiegel continued to work odd jobs and battle in bars. He had no thought he was the inspiration (visually, at the very least) for considered one of America’s hottest comedian characters, featured in 500 newspapers throughout the nation and animated cartoons.

Segar died of leukemia in 1938, on the age of 43. Again in his hometown, Fiegel was 69 and as wiry and rambunctious as ever. It was solely then that Fiegel discovered how shut he actually was to his hometown’s famed sailor man. To mark the “Popeye” creator’s passing, the St. Louis Put up-Dispatch, the closest main newspaper to Chester, printed a photograph of Fiegel, sitting in a rocking chair with a pipe in his mouth, noting that he was the inspiration for Segar’s iconic character.

Nobody is basically certain what impact it had on the person. A number of the locals aren’t certain Fiegel ever knew he was Popeye. The outdated man lived along with his mom for the remainder of her life, then lived in the identical home for the remainder of his personal life. He died in 1947 and was buried in an unmarked grave. It remained unmarked till the Official Popeye Fan Membership erected a gravestone for him that featured a 1929 rendition of Popeye the Sailor.

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