Since 2006, a new Popeye character has been honored with a statue in Chester, Illinois.
Frank Fiegel was never afraid to go for a donnybrook. Rocky, who lived in Chester, Illinois, about an hour south from St. Louis, enjoyed beer, naps and a pipe after his shift at the saloon. Fiegel was a muscular man in Chester, with a prominent chin, a strong build and a tendency to show his strength. This figure was known all over the globe in 1929 under a different name.
Elzie Crisler, a 34-year old cartoonist, introduced a recurring character that was based on Fiegel in his Thimble Theater comic strip. Popeye was a giant sailor with massive muscles, and a large jaw. Popeye was a national sensation within weeks of his debut and received his own strip. Popeye was undoubtedly the most well-known character from the Thimble Theatre series but he was only one of many based on Segar’s hometown.
Fred M. Grandinetti’s Popeye. An Illustrated Cultural History reveals that the character J. Wellington Wimpy was at most partially inspired by William Schuchert, Chester Opera House manager, who gave Segar his first job. Windy Bill, like his cartoon version loved hamburgers. He enjoyed tall tales and also loved hamburgers. Olive Oyl was, in turn, a cartoon of Dora Paskel who owned Chester’s general shop. Grandinetti wrote that she was tall and thin, with her hair tightly twisted in a bun. She also wore the button-up shoes and looked like Miss Oyl during that period.
Chester started to look into the cartoon history of the organization in the 1970s. United Press International reports that the local Beta Sigma Phi chapter raised $10,000 over two years to purchase a bronze statue of the spinach-guzzling Sailor. Robert Walker, a St. Louis-based sculptor, designed the cast. It was unveiled to great fanfare in 1977. Popeye has been joined by many of his funnies friends over the 45 years that he has lived in Chester. Every year since 2006, Chester has been home to a new statue for a character from the Popeye Series.
Fiegel’s case is unique in that the character named after him occupies a prominent spot in town. His grave has been also accented to show his contributions to cartoon lore. According to Grandinetti’s book Fiegel’s plot in an unmarked cemetery received a marker in 1996. Grandinetti writes that the marker was inscribed with Segar’s Popeye 1929 edition. It is the original design that the sailor used, and it most closely resembles his actual life counterpart.
Each year since 2006, a new character has been honored with a statue in Chester, Illinois.
2007: Olive Swee’Pea & Eugene The Jeep
2009: Castor Ole & Whiffle Hen
2010: Sea Hag & Bernard
2012: Alice, the Goon, & Her Child
2013: Poopdeck Pppy
2014: Prof. Wotasnozzle
2016: Four Nephews
2017: King Blozo
2018: Nana Oyl
2019: Popeye’s Pups
2019: Sherlock & Segar
2021 Harold HamGravy