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Martin Branner in 1939
Martin Michael Branner (1888 - May 19, 1970), known to his friends as Mike Branner, was a cartoonist who created the popular comic strip Winnie Winkle. He was born in New York, a twin and one of nine children of Bernard Brenner, a Jewish immigrant lacemaker and small-time New York politician.


Martin Branner's Winnie Winkle (January 5, 1936)
In 1905, Martin Branner was an assistant to two men who booked vaudeville acts. He was a dancer who met Edith Fabbrini (1892-1966) when he was 18 and she was 15. A few days after they met, they married, and the couple soon entered vaudeville as a dance team. Billed as Martin and Fabbrini, they spent 15 years performing in stock, musical comedy and vaudeville on the Keith Orpheum and Pantages circuits. In Manhattan, Martin and Fabbrini played the Palace Theater the second week it opened, and they often made return engagements.

Some of Branner's earliest artwork was published during this period when he did advertising illustrations for Variety. However, two shows a day sometimes increased to three and more shows daily, and bookings for the dance team became fewer during and following World War I.

Branner served his WWI military duty with the Chemical Warfare Service of the U.S. Army. On his return after WWI, he left vaudeville and launched a new career as a cartoonist in 1919, beginning with a short-lived strip, Looie the Lawyer, for the Bell Syndicate. He followed with a Sunday page, Pete and Pinto, which ran for 20 weeks in the New York Herald and The Sun.

Winnie begins

He launched Winnie Winkle the Breadwinner as a daily strip in September 1920, followed by a Sunday page in 1923.

By 1939, Winnie Winkle the Breadwinner was printed in 125 newspapers in America and Europe for a combined circulation of more than eight and a half million. The title was shortened to Winnie Winkle in 1943. Edith Branner served as the model for the character of Winnie Winkle. After they retired their dance act, the Branners became the parents of Bernard Donald Branner and the noted art historian Robert Branner. Martin Branner converted to Roman Catholicism shortly after leaving the stage.


Winnie Winkle and the Diamond Heirlooms by Branner and Helen Berke was a 248-page hardcover novel published by Whitman in 1946.

Awards and public career

Branner wrote and drew Winnie Winkle from 1920 to 1962, receiving the National Cartoonists Society Humor Comic Strip Award in 1958. In 1957, Branner was a guest challenger on the television panel show To Tell the Truth. He was a noted wit and drew heavily on his vaudeville background for the gags appearing in his cartoons.

Martin and Edith Branner lived at 27 Riverside Drive in Waterford, Connecticutmarker, and they were the designers of Waterford's Town Seal. During their many visits to New York, the Branners enjoyed living in hotels; they were frequent guests at the Iroquois Hotel, which Branner called "the poor man's Algonquinmarker."


Martin Branner's Winnie Winkle (March 6, 1927)
Branner's 1934-36 assistant was the French cartoonist Robert Velter, and his later, long-time assistant was Max Van Bibber, who took over Winnie Winkle after Branner suffered a stroke in 1962. Following the stroke, Branner began to use a wheelchair. Without the use of his right hand, he continued to draw with his left.

The Branner family usually spent summers boating and swimming in Connecticut. Martin Branner died at age 81 on May 19, 1970, at the Nutmeg Pavillion Convalescent Home in New London, Connecticutmarker.


Syrcause University's Special Collections house the Martin Branner Cartoons collection of 300 original daily cartoons from Winnie Winkle (1920-1957). There is a complete week from each year represented, with additional random cartoons from each year. There are no holdings for 1946-47. The daily cartoons display traces of graphite, blue pencil, Zipatone, brush, pen and ink on illustration board measuring approximately 7 ¼ x 22 ½ inches.


  1. Monchak, Stephen J. "Branner Enters 20th Year with "Winnie," Editor & Publisher, August 5, 1939.
  2. NCS Awards
  3. Syracuse University Special Collections: Martin Branner Cartoons


  • Branner family reminiscences
  • Strickler, Dave. Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists, 1924-1995: The Complete Index. Cambria, California: Comics Access, 1995. ISBN 0-9700077-0-1

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