Charles Schulz with his Peanuts characters in 1962. (CBS via Getty Images)

How Charles Schulz created “Peanuts” (and hated the name)

Charles Schulz, who spent much of his life in Santa Rosa, created a childhood world for Charlie Brown and the gang that became among the most influential comic strips in history, with more than 355 million daily readers worldwide.

But one element of the strip always bothered Schulz. He hated the name. “Peanuts” was chosen by an editor when the United Feature Syndicate first agreed to buy the strip. Schulz preferred the title Good Old Charlie Brown, but he was too inexperienced to stand his ground.

Years later, he said of “Peanuts,” “It’s totally ridiculous, has no meaning, is simply confusing — and has no dignity. I think my humor has dignity.”

Schulz with his children in Sebastopol, circa 1960s, where the family lived for several years before moving to Santa Rosa.
Sonoma County Library

But he didn’t let the disappointment stop him. Schulz, who refused to let assistants ink or letter his comics, created his strip every day for more than 50 years, a singular achievement.

In 1999, after being diagnosed with colon cancer, he recalled pondering the plight of poor Charlie Brown as he signed his final Peanuts strip. No matter how many times Charlie trusted Lucy to hold a football for him to kick, she always pulled it away at the last moment.

Holding back tears, Schulz said, “All of a sudden I thought, ‘You know, that poor, poor kid, he never even got to kick the football. What a dirty trick — he never had a chance to kick the football.'”

His last cartoon appeared in Sunday newspapers on Feb. 13, 2000, just hours after Schulz died in his sleep. He was 77. As he had predicted, the comic strip outlived him. TIME

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