Readers of the December 12, 1897 edition of the New York Journal had no idea that they were seeing something their great-great-grandchildren would still be reading more than a century later. That was the day The Katzenjammer Kids debuted, starting a run that would earn it the distinction of being the longest-running comic strip in history.
Rudolph Dirks’ comic strip creation featured the Katzenjammer brothers, Hans and Fritz, who delighted in playing practical jokes on adults. Their last name, Katzenjammer, is German for “the wailing of cats,” which aptly describes the effect on the nerves of the adults whom the boys tormented.
In addition to being the longest-running comic strip, The Katzenjammer Kids is also notable for being the first comic strip to use speech balloons to express dialogue between the characters.
Between the years 1897 and 2006, The Katzenjammer Kids was authored by Rudolph Dirks, Harold Knerr, Doc Winner, Joe Musial, Mike Senich, Angelo DeCesare, and Hy Eisman. It concluded its run of original material on January 1, 2006, but it remains in syndication through King Features Syndicate to this day, making it the oldest comic strip in syndication.