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Charles Schulz was one of the best-love cartoonists in history, notably for his creation of the daily comic strip Peanuts. This strip, which featured popular characters Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and their friends, ran continuously for 50 years between 1950-2000. Schulz is remembered for his gentle satirical humor, his memorable characters and his own love of sports and aviation.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1922, Charles Schulz would become a precocious artist as an only child. In 1943, Schulz was drafted into the United States Army and fought in the European theater during World War II. After returning from war as a decorated sergeant and teaching art for several years, Schulz began submitting comic strips originally titled L’il Folks to a local newspaper. In 1950, Charles Schulz approached United Features Syndication with examples of his comics, which they began publishing nationwide under the name of Peanuts.
The main character of the strip, Charlie Brown, was based in part on the life and frustrations of Charles Schulz himself. According to some reports, Charlie Brown’s obsession with the Little Redheaded Girl was a tribute to a woman in his own life, who had turned down his marriage proposal. Charlie’s dog, Snoopy, was based on a dog Schulz had owned as a boy, who was famous for eating metal and sharp objects. Many of the other characters were named for friends of the Schulz family, or intended as sometimes mocking tributes to people in Schulz’s life.
Charles Schulz and his family moved around the country for several years before finally settling in the northern Bay Area of California. It was here that the first Peanuts television special was envisioned, which was released in 1965 as A Charlie Brown Christmas. The short film has become an animated classic and is a part of Christmas television broadcasting each year. The TV special began Schulz’s lifelong association with two partners, director and producer Bill Melendez, and jazz composer Vince Guaraldi. This partnership would lead to several more Peanuts films, and cement the characters in the minds of fans worldwide.
Once settled in the small town of Santa Rosa, CA, Schulz built and owned the Redwood Empire Ice Arena to fulfill his longtime love of hockey and ice skating. The arena, known as Snoopy’s Home Ice, is themed after the Peanuts world and hosts several hockey leagues and Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament for international teams every year. Schulz built his office across the street from the arena, and could be seen working there for nearly thirty years.
In 2000, Schulz announced his retirement from cartooning just weeks before succumbing to cancer. His final new daily strip appeared on 13 February 2000, one day after his death. On 27 May 2000, tribute strips ran in 42 other weekly comics, honoring the legacy, characters and impact of Schulz.
The towns of Santa Rosa, CA and St. Paul, MN host a variety of tributes to the Charles Schulz. Both cities have adopted a program in which artists and sponsors paint and decorate dozens of statues of one character per year, which are then displayed around the town. Bronze statues of favorite can also be found in both towns.
In Santa Rosa, the county airport was renamed the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, and a Charles Schulz museum has recently opened on the same property as the ice-skating rink. Although Schulz’s will stipulated that no new strips should ever be produced with his trademark characters, through the TV specials and the wide legacy of their creator, it is doubtful that Charlie, Snoopy, and their gang of pals will ever stop gaining new fans.