Charles Schulz

On this date in 1922, Charles Monroe Schulz was born in Minneapolis. After graduating from high school in St. Paul, he took a correspondence course from Art Instruction Schools Inc. He was drafted into the Army in 1943 and served as a staff sergeant in France and Germany until 1945. After the war he worked as an instructor for Art Instruction Schools and did freelance cartooning. Starting in 1947, he drew a comic strip, “Li’l Folks,” for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In 1950, the United Feature Syndicate agreed to distribute the strip and renamed it “Peanuts.”

By 1953 “Peanuts” with its now-iconic lead character Charlie Brown was a hit. Over the years, Schulz received many awards and licensing deals for his work and wrote several “Peanuts” animated television specials. He had married Joyce Halverson in 1951 and they had five children before divorcing in 1972. In 1973 he married Jean Forsyth Clyde. In 1999 he was diagnosed with colon cancer and announced he was retiring, but that new strips would run daily until Jan. 3, 2000, and every Sunday until Feb. 13. He died in his sleep Feb. 12, 2000. His Chicago Tribune obituary noted he had once said that “The best theology is probably no theology; just love one another.”

Schulz was raised a Lutheran and as an adult served as a Methodist Sunday school teacher for ten years. In the 1980s and 90s, however, he started to describe himself as a “secular humanist.” Schulz’s characters continued to quote the bible, discussing religion’s inconsistencies among their other philosophical musings.

Some readers have taken Schulz’s Halloween storyline of the character Linus’s persistent belief in the Great Pumpkin, expected to bring toys to the pumpkin patch but never showing up, as an allegory on religion. But Schulz did not claim any such thing and often said of “Peanuts” that he was just trying to write funny strips on time, not to expound any profound philosophical points. (D. 2000)

PHOTO: Library of Congress; Schulz in 1956.

Freedom From Religion Foundation