Cover page of 2 April 1892 issue
Wikimedia Commons

Alexander “Ally” Sloper is a character created by Charles Ross, then editor of the satirical magazine JudyBritish satirical magazine published from 1867 until 1907., and which first appeared in cartoon form in the magazine on 14 August 1867. Sloper went on to become the first continuing comic-strip hero, and so popular that he was subsequently featured in his own regular weekly magazine, Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday, the first issue of which was published on 3 May 1884.[1]

The art historian David Kunzle has described Sloper as “an endearing justification of naughty but commonplace fantasies of living by one’s wits rather by real work”.[2] Ross drew the early cartoons himself, before his wife Isabelle Emily Louisa Tessier took over under the name of Marie Du Val.[3]

Sloper’s name was derived from the period term “alley sloper”, Victorian vernacular referring to people who dodged the rent collector by sloping off down the alley.[3][a]“To slope off” is slang for moving away slowly. His physical appearance – bulbous nose, bald-head, spindly legs – owed much to the illustrations of Charles Dickens’s Mr Micawber in David Copperfield (1850).[1]

Later developments

Ross sold all rights to the character of Ally Sloper in 1884, to the publisher and engraver Gilbert Dalziel, the founder of Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday. The character was from then drawn by William Giles Baxter (1856–1888), who went on to create a “vast” Sloper family, which included Mrs Sloper and her pretty showgirl daughter Tootsie, her naughty son Master Alexander, Sloper’s boozing-pal Mr McGooseley and the shaggy dog, Snatcher.[1]

Following Baxter’s death in 1888 the character was drawn by William Fletcher Thomas (1862–1938), who drew Sloper until the final issue of the Half Holiday in 1923.[1]

Adaptations and merchandising

Cast-iron door stops in the form of Sloper and his wife, c. 1880
Image [&] Narrative

For the fledgling cinema industry at the beginning of the 20th century, Ally Sloper was an obvious choice of subject; surviving records suggest that four Sloper films were made between 1898 and 1900, none of which have survived.[4]

One of the more macabre promotional gimmicks employed by the Half Holiday magazine was its Railway Accident Life Policy, which offered subscribers a payout of £150 if they were found dead with a copy of the magazine, equivalent to about £19,000 as at 2022.[5][6]


a “To slope off” is slang for moving away slowly.