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The Cultural History of The Addams Family

They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky... The Addams Family came to life as a single-panel magazine comic in the 1930s. Then it was a TV series in the 1960s. The family returned for a couple of movies in the '90s. They went to Broadway in 2010. And this weekend, The Addams Family is in theaters in a new animated feature film. What makes us keep coming back to The Addams Family?   

It might stand to reason that the man behind the family, Charles Addams, was a lost soul with a troubled background who brought his pain to the pages of the New Yorker. But in reality, born in 1912 in Westfield, New Jersey, Addams grew up in a warm, loving household as the only child of devoted parents; his father sold pianos. Charles was known to be a scamp who loved a good gag—a favorite being when he would scare his grandmother by popping out of his home’s dumbwaiter. He once told Linda H. Davis, author of Charles Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life, “It would be more interesting, perhaps, if I had a ghastly childhood—chained to an iron bed and thrown a can of Alpo everyday. But I’m one of those strange people who actually had a happy childhood.”

What Addams always had was a love for the macabre (the common descriptor of his work he eventually grew weary of), be it exploring graveyards, trespassing in an abandoned neighborhood Victorian mansion, or drawing German Kaiser Wilhelm II in all manner of graphic death scenes.

Addams' creation exploded in popularity with the TV series, and carved its own niche that outlived him. Read about all the incarnations of The Addams Family and what made them special at Smithsonian.


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Of corpse--er--course, there was the long standing question of preference: Addams Family or Munsters? I have always preferred the Addamses. When I was about 10 and the show was on the air, I managed to make my own Thing out of one of my mom's rubber dish washing gloves and a cigar box from my dad. Thing and I used to watch the show together.
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