Monday, April 3, 2023

Comics: Helen Chu aka Duffy Mohler, Artist and Letterer

Duffy Mohler was born Sui Fong Chu on June 11, 1917, in China. The birth date is from the Social Security Death Index. Mohler was given the Christian name, Helen, by her parents George Chu and Jeung Shee (Miss Jeung), later known as Georgia Chu. 

Chu was born on December 12, 1889 in San Francisco, California, according to his Chinese Exclusion Act case file (in New York), passport application and World War I draft card. He was a laundryman. On December 22, 1914, Chu sailed from Seattle, Washington bound for China. In the interview he said he married Jeung Shee on the “24th day, 3d month, of this year, Republic 5” which was April 26, 1916. Chu said she was from the “Moy Got village, Sun Woo district” which was one of the four Sze Yup districts. It’s likely Chu’s ancestral home was in the same district. 

Sun Woo/Sun Wui is now called Xinhui in Mandarin. The Sze Yup districts sent thousands of Chinese men to the United States where they looked for gold and, later, many of them labored on the transcontinental railroad. 

Chu’s wife was pregnant when he returned to the United States. He arrived in Seattle on December 14, 1916. His case file said he resided in Albany, New York at 670 Broadway. 

On June 5, 1917, Chu signed his World War I draft card. His daughter was born six days later. He lived at 3515 Haverford Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he was a partner in a laundry. 

The 1920 U.S. Census recorded Chu and his laundry partners at the same address. 

Chu prepared for his return to China by filing a passport application. He had purchased a ticket to sail on April 28, abroad the steamship Asia from Seattle.

On November 28, 1921, Chu, his wife and daughter arrived in Seattle and made their way to Philadelphia. (Unfortunately, the immigration files for all of them are missing at the Seattle branch of the National Archives. The  interviews would have details about them plus photographs.) 

The Morning Herald (Gloversville, New York), July 7, 1922, reported the arrival of the Chu family.
George Chu, formerly of Philadelphia and Amsterdam has purchased the laundry of Charley Joe, at 133 North Main street and has already taken possession. Mr. Chu who was born in San Francisco, speaks excellent English. His wife and young daughter are also in Gloversville. The former owner of the laundry, Charley Joe will go to Seattle, Washington.
The Chu family was in the news again as reported in the Morning Herald, January 25, 1923. 
A Chinese baby, the first one believed to have been born in Fulton County, was born Saturday at the Nathan Littauer hospital to Mr and Mrs. George Chu. He has been named Kenneth Kay Chu. The father owns the Chinese laundry at 133 North Main street. Dr. George Lenz was the attending physician.
Seven-year-old Mohler was the oldest of three children in the 1925 New York state census. Her family was at the same location. (The 1920 population was 22,075.)

The Chu family were members of the First Presbyterian Church. The Morning Herald, June 11, 1927, covered the Children’s Day programs.
First Presbyterian.
The Sunday school of the First Presbyterian church will provide a program at the morning service on Sunday, in observance of Children’s Day, when the graduation exercises of various departments will take place. The program to be carried out is as follows: ...

Recitation—That’s What I’d Do ..... Helen Chu ...

The Morning Herald reported the graduation of the Estee School students. On June 21, 1929, the paper said
Estee School Will Graduate Record Class
“Musical Portraits” Will Be Unique Offering at Graduation

When the largest class in the history of the Estee school is graduated at the commencement exercises of the school in the Glove theatre Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 an unusual program will be carried out. This will consist of “Musical Portraits” in which various members of the class will appear in fancy costume showing what they can do with the various musical instruments. ...

Musical Portraits

1. The Music Lesson
Butterflies Dollafield 
Pupil Frances Fairchild 
Music Master Patsey Casaburl

2. Cherry Blossom Time
Reader Helen Chu
Violinist Virginia Bennett
Piano Catherine Johnson ...
The June 22, 1929 edition said
Estee School to Graduate 210 Students
Exercises Will Be Held in Theatre Tuesday Afternoon at 2:30

A class of 210 students are to be graduated from the Estee school at tho exercises in the Glove theatre Tuesday afternoon at 2:30. These students will be the first to enter the Junior High school when it is opened in the Fall. They will continue their work in the Junior High school and enter the High school a year later as sophomores. ...

… The list of graduates is as follows: ... Helen Chu ...
The June 25, 1929 paper said
Estee Honor Students
Honor students in the Estee school have been announced by Principal James D. Coon. In connection with the announcement it was stated that the Estee Year Books are ready for distribution and they can be secured at the Glove theatre this afternoon.

The following is the list of honor students in the school during the last term: ...

Honors in Penmanship

... Helen Chu 92; ...
On June 26, 1929 the last graduation article said 
210 Students Bid Adieu to Estee School
Largest Class in History of School Receive Their Diplomas
Enter Junior High
Excellent Program of Music Given; Many Honor Awards Made

Yesterday afternoon the largest graduating class of Estee history, class of ’29, received certificates at the commencement exercises held in the Glove theatre before a capacity audience. Presentation was made by Superintendent Harry W. Langworthy to 210 students who will enter the new Junior High school in the fall. 

Many prizes for scholastic distinction were awarded and the different honor students received the cups presented each year. An excellent program of musical numbers was given under the direction of Mrs. Elizabeth C. Ward. Principal James D. Coon presented the awards. ...

Opening Features

As an opening feature the Estee orchestra under the supervision of Mrs. Ward played a selection followed by the pronouncing of the invocation by the Rev. Leon B. Randall, pastor of the Fremont street Methodist church. The chorus of graduates then fang “Au Revoir” and Miss Edith Camm gave the class poem.

A one-act play entitled “In Arcady” presented by the graduates was one of the most colorful features of the program. The main characters were Thomas Persico, Martha Johnson and Mary Marmorstein. Rustic dancers who played parts were Billie Bledsoe, Ruth Tanner, Clark Cummings, Helen Chu, Abraham Finkle, Esther Dunn, Robert Gardner, Helen Tyler, Volkert Smith, Jeanne Conover, Willard Smith, Sarah Lewis, Kenneth Swann and Catherine Noyes. The play was given in appropriate costume and drew warm applause. 

Musical Portraits

Another attractive feature was a series of musical portraits. Members of the class, garbed in costumes to represent different characters posed in a clever arrangement of picture frames and rendered various appropriate selections. This number received much applause from the audience.

Those who took part in this portion of the program were Frances Fairchild, Patsy Casaburl, Helen Chu, Virginia Bennett, Catherine Johnson, James Riggs, Will Riggs, Richard Maxson, Edwin Nulty, Holden Bachner, Theron Blodgett, Allan Goodemote, Donald Huxley, Annette Bomstein, Ronald Riley and Webster Haywood. ...
In the 1930 census, Mohler had four brothers. The Chu family lived at the same address. The population was 23,099. 

Mohler was a member of Estee’s school yearbook, Echo. The Morning Herald, February 25, 1930, said
Estee Echo Staff Plans Card Party
Saturday, March 1, the Estee Echo staff is giving a card party and dance in the new Estee Junior High School gymnasium. Mrs. Luella Norton, advisor of the staff; will be the faculty member in charge. The hostesses will be Anna O’Hare, chairman; Charlotte Aubert, Mary Strong, Helen Kasson, Faith Carr, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Herrick, Estelle Murphy, Helen Chu, Marion Porter, Jane Thompson, Minnie Finklestein, Edith Cam, Arlene Welch. Checking room committee, George Madnick and Webster Haywood. Ticket committee, Donald Huxley and Will Riggs. Properties, Thomas Persico, Benjamin Welner, Theron Blodgett and Mark Blanchard.

Mohler in second row, second from left

Mohler in second row, fifth from left

The Morning Herald, June 6, 1930, said Mohler received a letter for her work on the Echo. The June 21, 1930 paper said Mohler was an honor student in the Regents Biology examination. The Morning Herald, June 26, 1930, said Mohler was one of the 107 students to enter the Senior High School. 

According to the Morning Herald, Mohler was active in school during her sophomore year. Mohler was on the soccer team; a member of the drama club called Masque and Wig; and a basketball guard.  

During the summer, the Morning Herald, June 26, 1931, said Mohler won the potato sack race at the annual First Presbyterian Church picnic. The August 14, 1931 paper said
Swimming Feat Is Performed at Lake
Miss Lois King, 13, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John V. King, 480 North Perry street, and Miss Helen Chu, 14, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Chu, 133 North Main street, Gloversville performed a credible swimming teat for girls of their age when they swam across Canada Lake last Monday afternoon. They swam from the King cottage on the north shore to the opposite bank of the lake.
The Morning Herald, December 8, 1931, said Mohler joined the volleyball team. 

In 1932 Mohler was on the honor roll during her junior year as reported by the Morning Herald, March 17, 1932. The following month she joined the class team for speedball, a combination of basketball and soccer. In May, Mohler competed in the first annual interclass track meet. She was second in the 50-yard dash. 

The Leader-Republican, May 15, 1972, reprinted an article published on May 15, 1932.
Miss Chu’s Painting Displayed
Miss Helen Chu, 13-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Chu of North Main Street, has a display of her paintings, done in water colors, in the window of the Gloversville News Agency, Last winter she designed a clever snow woman in front of her father’s laundry which attracted much favorable comment.
The Morning Herald, June 16, 1932 said
Camp Poster Awards Made
Helen Chu and Rose Grant Divide Honors in Y. W. C. A. Annual Contest

Judges in the annual Y. W. C. A. damp poster contest have divided the first prize of two weeks in camp between Rose Grant and Helen Chu, their posters having been adjudged almost equally meritorious. Provision will be made made whereby both will share in this special privilege as a reward for their poster drawing. 

Lorraine Warner and Betty Mahoney were given honorable mention for their work in drawing the camp posters.

Judges in the contest were Mrs. George D. Beckwith, Camp committee chairman; Miss M. Catherine Hancock, art supervisor of Gloversville High school, Mrs. Charles Burton and Mrs. John Harter.

All of the posters will be displayed soon in prominent places about the community in the hope that it will hasten the registration of girls for what promises to be a banner camp season. Camp will open July 30 for adults and August 1 for regular campers. ...
At the annual Presbyterian Picnic, Mohler won the potato race according to the Morning Herald, June 20, 1932.

The Morning Herald, March 30, 1933, said Mohler was awarded an honorable mention in the Buy American poster contest. 

The June 26, 1933 Morning Herald said Mohler was one of 168 graduates. 

Mohler submitted a design for the “Tillie the Toiler” amateur dress design contest. Local winners were announced each day. The Times-Union (Albany, New York), July 2, 1936, said Mohler was awarded $1.50 for second place. 

Mohler was the alumni editor on the December 1933 Echo. Her signature is at the top of the cover, and comment and initial at the top of page one. She wrote “The Weaker Sex?”. Page twenty-one has her update on graduates.

Helen Chu was a member of the Hippodrome Girls bowling team which won two matches from the Glove Girls as reported in the Morning Herald, April 24, 1937. 

The Leader-Republican (Gloversville, New York), October 4, 1937, said Mohler was one of five Gloversville students to enroll at Syracuse University. She was in the College of Fine Arts. The Morning Herald, March 2, 1938, said 
Miss Helen S. Chu, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Chu of 133 North Main street is one of 75 students in the College of Fine Arts at Syracuse University included in the honor roll for the first semester having maintained an average grade of B or better, it has been announced by Dean Harold Butler.
The Morning Herald, February 25, 1939, said
Miss Helen S. Chu, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Chu of 133  North Main street, is one of 78 students named to the honor roll in the College of Fine Arts at Syracuse University.

Miss Chu is a sophomore majoring in painting.
The 1940 census named Mohler’s five brothers, Kenneth, James, Edward, William and Raymond. The Chu family’s Gloversville address was 129 North Main Street. The population was 23,329. 

The Morning Herald, April 25, 1940, said 
Miss Helen Chu, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Chu of 129 Main street, Gloversville, is one of 13 Syracuse university students who were initiated into Tau Sigma Delta, honorary architecture and allied arts society, Tuesday night.

Miss Chu is a Junior in the College of Fine Art and is majoring in painting.

Mohler graduated in 1941.

1941 Onondagan, Senior Portrait

The Leader-Republican, January 12, 1956, profiled Mohler’s father and said about her: 
… Mrs. Mohler graduated from Syracuse University with a Fine Arts degree in painting and held two university scholarships.

After graduation, she attended the Art Students League and the Grand Central School of Art in New York City. Prior to her marriage she had been on the staff of Parents magazine and Fawcett Publications. She now works as a free-lance artist.
In his interview with Jim Amash, Herb Rogoff recalled Mohler lettering at Hillman. It was published in Alter Ego #42, November 2004. 
Rogoff: … Alex Hillman was a fat, cigar-smoking tightwad. He was around sixty years old; Ed was around 50. Comics were only one part of Hillman’s publishing company. …

The comics department was in the back of a big office. Ed [Cronin], Tex [Blaisdell], and I were all in one room. It was a fairly decent-sized room, with desks and cabinets to hold the artwork. There was a drawing board there, where Ed lettered the covers. He was a good letterer. We did all the production work: art and lettering corrections, paste-ups, etc. We had two letterers: Ben Oda, who was the best there ever was, and a Chinese woman named Dusty [sic] Mohler. She wasn’t around there long. There was another guy named Jim Wroten, who did Leroy lettering. I didn’t see the advantage of that boring, sterile, sexless lettering. Jim said that you could give a story to four people, and with Leroy lettering it’d come out looking like it was done by one person. But we had to put in our own balloons and rule panel borders. Ben Oda could do all of that, plus clean up the pages in half the time it took the Leroy letterers to do what they did.
In Alter Ego #35, April 2004, Jim Amash interviewed Al Jaffee who talked about his time at Timely.
Jim Amash: There were a lot of Asian people working there.

Jaffee: There were. There was a period when I wound up in another room. One of the people in that room was the fellow named Hung, and a Chinese girl was there, who was engaged to an Israeli. What a combination! She lettered, too.
John G. Pierce’s interview with William “Red” Mohler appeared in Alter Ego #120, September 2013.
Mohler: I left New York—and the [comics] industry—at the end of 1946, and went to Toronto until 1953, then came to Columbus [Ohio], where my mother was terminally ill. I’m now a self-employed ad artist. I’ve been working while we’re talking! …

JP: What can you tell us about some of the other Fawcett people you knew?

Mohler: … And then there was a Chinese girl named Chu who did lettering. She may have done some lettering for Beck, too. …
Red was disingenuous when he recalled “a Chinese girl named Chu”. They obtained a Manhattan marriage license on September 22, 1944 and married on September 27. Their daughter, Liane, was born in August 1945. The Mohler’s divorced in 1946. Forbidden Adventures: The History of the American Comics Group (1996) said Mohler did lettering for ACG in 1946.

I started working for him in 1948, probably sometime that spring. At that time I shared an apartment with Duffy Mohler and her little girl, Liane. Duffy had been married to “Red” Mohler who, I believe, was a cartoonist, but they were already divorced when I met Duffy. She had studied art at Syracuse and had gotten a job in the art department at Parents Magazine when she came to New York. That’s when she started lettering. She started for a few cartoonists, and eventually she was lettering for just about everybody in comics. ...
In the 1950 census, Mohler and her daughter were Manhattan residents at 156 East 49th Street, third floor.

lived with Nadine French [King], who also lettered and worked as support staff for St. John. Being a freelance artist gave Mohler the flexibility she needed as a single mother, and she found work with a wide variety of publishers. Throughout her commercial career, she continued her work as a fine artist.
Page 211. “The House That Jackdaw Built” (Adventures into Darkness no. 8, February 1953), inked by Mike Peppe

... The text lettering is an improvement over Herb Field’s usual pinched glyphs; according to writer Greg Theakston, Duffy Mohler and Gonzales also lettered at Standard.
During 1961, Mohler was a staff art assistant at Humpty Dumpty’s Magazine for Little Children. Her name appeared in seven issues: February, April, July, September, October, November and December

Mohler’s father passed away on October 11, 1967 according to the New York State Death Index. He was laid to rest at the Prospect Hill Cemetery. An obituary appeared in the Leader-Republican, October 11, 1967.
George Chu, Ex-Laundry Owner, Dies
George Chu, 77, of 16 North Hollywood Avenue, retired operator of a laundry formerly located at 129 North Main Street, died at 7 this morning at Littauer Hospital. He had been hospitalized the past several months.

He was born Dec. 12, 1889, in San Francisco, Calif, and had resided in Gloversville since 1922. He had operated the laundry until retiring 12 years ago.

Mr. Chu is survived by his wife, Georgia; one daughter, Mrs. Helen Mohler of New York City; five sons, Kenneth Chu and William Chu of Rochester, Raymond Chu and James Chu, of Syracuse, and Edward Chu of Bloomfield, N. J.; and four grandchildren.
Ten years later, Mohler’s mother passed away. The Leader-Republican, May 18, 1977, said
Mrs. Georgia Chu, 80, of 16 North Hollywood Avenue, died at 6:15 last night at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Helen Mohler in New York City, where she had been staying the last 10 days.

She was born Dec. 26, 1896, in Canton Province, China, and came to Gloversville in 1922 with her husband, George Chu, who opened a laundry on North Main Street. Mr. Chu died Oct. 11, 1967.

Survivors include five sons, Kenneth Chu of West Epping, N.H., William Chu of Weston, Mass., Raymond Chu of Syracuse, James Chu of Fayetteville, Onondaga County, and Edward Chu of Parsippany, N.J., and eight grandchildren.
She, too, was laid to rest at Prospect Hill Cemetery

Mohler passed away on June 19, 2008. The Social Security Death Index said her last residence was New York, New York. The Women in Comics Wiki has an expired link to the Leader-Herald obituary. 

Mohler has two entries at Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999: Helen Chou [sic] and Helen Mohler. She is in the Grand Comics Database. A photograph of Mohler is here

Samples of Mohler’s Lettering

Mohler lettered “Two-Timer” which was published by Standard Comics in New Romances #13, September 1952. On the original art, “Duffy Mohler” was written at the top of page one. 

Laugh Comics #137, August 1962, “The Day the Fly Stopped Flying!”

Weird War Tales #103, September 1981, “The Tomb at the Top of the Stairs!”

SIDEBAR: “Red” Mohler

William Hugh “Red” Mohler was born on November 14, 1920, in Mishawaka, Indiana according to his birth certificate at His parents were Robert V. Mohler and Marie Boles. 

The 1930 United States Census said Mohler, his parents and paternal grandfather were Mishawaka residents at 118 North Race Street. His father owned a drugstore. 

In 1938 Mohler graduated from Mishawaka High School. “Bill Mohler” did not have a senior photograph. 

According to the 1940 census, Mohler and his mother lived in Manhattan, New York City at 925 3rd Avenue. He completed one year of college, possibly at an art school. 

On February 16, 1942, Mohler signed his World War II draft card. His address was 141 East 44th Street, New York, New York. Sometime later it was updated to 148 East 34th Street. The student was described as six feet, 160 pounds, with red hair and blue eyes. 

Mohler was interviewed by John G. Pierce in Alter Ego #120, September 2013. 
In December of 1942, I was hired on a six-month trial basis as an inker for Mac Raboy. I worked with Mac only on “Captain Marvel Junior.” ... Gene MacDonald and I were hired on the same day. I was fired six months later. Raboy left and opened an office. Gene and I went with him. …

… I left New York—and the [comics] industry—at the end of 1946, and went to Toronto until 1953, then came to Columbus [Ohio], where my mother was terminally ill. I’m now a self-employed ad artist. …
Mohler’s 1944 marriage to Helen Chu ended in divorce in 1946. The Carson City, Nevada Marriage Index, at, said Mohler and Davina I. Hetzel married on July 7, 1947. 

The 1954 Columbus, Ohio city directory listed Mohler and his wife, Davina, at 2890 Oaklawn. He was a commercial artist at Jeffrey’s. The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio), August 18, 1955, published a notice stating Davina’s divorce from Mohler was granted. 

The Dispatch, May 20, 1956, announced Mohler’s engagement. 
Miss Claar Will Marry Mr. Mohler
Mr. and Mrs. Clarence K. Claar of Ashland, Ky., announce the engagement of their daughter, Marilyn Lee, to Mr. William H. Mohler, 1161 19th Av.

Miss Clara is a graduate of Ashland High School and Ohio State University. She is associated with the Faculty Club. Her fiancé is associated with the William P. Simpson Advertising Co.

The wedding will be an event of early autumn.
The 1957 Columbus, Ohio city directory listed Mohler and his wife at 1161 East 9th Street. He was an artist at the printing firm, Warner P. Simpson Company. The 1960 directory had a new address, 143 West South  Street in Worthington.

In 1971 Mohler and Charles Biro illustrated Pat, the Pilot for the Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company. Mohler drew Tom, the Reporter

At some point Mohler retired to St. Petersburg, Florida where he passed away on February 20, 2003. Three years later his wife, Marilyn, passed away on July 23, 2006 in St. Petersburg. 

SIDEBAR: Duffy Mohler’s Siblings

Mohler’s five brothers were college graduates.

Kenneth Chu, 1943

James Chu, 1943

Raymond Chu, 1949

Comics Letterers Posts

(Updated November 22, 2023; next post on Monday: Nadine French King, Model, Letterer, Secretary and Editor)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the useful information and resources you've shared