Saturday, April 13, 2024
Heroes and Villains, Neighborhood: East Side

Walt Kelly: Creator of Pogo

By:  Mary K. Witkowski, Bridgeport City Historian

Cartoonist Walt Kelly, who created the comic strip “Pogo,” about a group of swamp animals that discuss politics, developed his talent as a young man here in Bridgeport.

Born Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr. in 1913 in Philadelphia, Walt Kelly moved with his parents, Walt Sr. and Genevieve, and sister Bernice, to 457 East Avenue in Bridgeport’s East End. His parents worked at General Electric.  In the 1930 census, it shows that Genevieve also worked for General Electric.

Walt went to Harding High School, where he began a long interest in drawing. He drew for the high school yearbook and the school newspaper before graduating in 1930.  The Bridgeport Post employed Walt as a cartoonist.  Kelly drew a cartoon version of the life of famed showman and Bridgeport mayor P.T. Barnum.

Kelly took a job at Disney studios in California in 1936, working on many of the company’s animated films.

His health prevented him from serving in World War II, so instead he took a job with Dell comics, where he developed the Pogo character — an anthropomorphic possum who discussed politics with an alligator, porcupine and various other animals, many thinly veiled caricatures of political figures of the day.

After World War II, Walt took a job working for the New York Star, where he became a political cartoonist. 

With the syndication of “Pogo” in newspapers throughout the country, Kelly, his political satire and even the Okefenokee swamp became famous.

Walt Kelly died in 1973 in California. His second wife, Selby, continued to draw the series for two years after his death.

Want to learn more about Walt Kelly and Pogo?  The Bridgeport History Center has the following materials available:

Mary Witkowski
Mary K. Witkowski is the former Bridgeport City Historian and the Department Head of the Bridgeport History Center, Emeritus. She is the author of Bridgeport at Work, and the co-author with Bruce Williams of Bridgeport on the Sound. Mary has had a newspaper column in the Bridgeport News, a blog for the Connecticut Post, and a weekly spot on WICC. She continues to be involved in many community based activities and initiatives on local history and historic preservation.