Sadie Hawkins Day originated as the invention of Alfred Gerald Caplin, the cartoonist, for his comic strip entitled "Li'l Abner." He introduced the day in 1938, as an occasion upon which the maidens and spinsters of the mythical town of Dogpatch might lawfully pursue the unattached males of the community in a free-for-all race, the males being obliged to "marry up" with the females who caught them.
Mr. Caplin did not realize he was filling a gap in the American cultural pattern, but such was apparently the case, since the day has subsequently been observed in many localities throughout the United States, particularly on a large number of college campuses where the Dogpatch ceremony, humorously reenacted, is an annual occurrence on November 9. Most Old World countries have a similar day and the lack in America was presumably felt, leading to the enthusiastic adoption of Sadie Hawkins Day by the marriageable young people. In France St. Catherine's Day supplies the desired opportunity to unmarried females for acquiring a mate, although what must have begun as a serious custom, intended to solve a social problem, has degenerated there and everywhere into a mere game or hilarious ceremony without actual matrimony resulting. In the United States, the Sadie Hawkins Day observance is also incorporated in various promotional and publicity programs. But wherever the day is celebrated, on the campuses or elsewhere, the captured male is simply the temporary property of his captor, the enforced partner at a dance or some mock ceremony, and is spared the permanent bond of marriage.
However, no such lenience is shown the victims of the Dogpatch race. In Mr. Caplin's comic strip Sadie Hawkins Day is a desperate crisis for the bachelors, and Dogpatch the scene of the type of melodrama that has made the strip and its author-illustrator famous. "Li'l Abner" started on August 13, 1934, in eight newspapers. In 1946 it was syndicated to upwards of five hundred papers with a combined circulation of twenty-seven million which, together with advertising fees, grossed an income of two hundred thousand dollars for its creator, who is popularly known as Al Capp.
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