Popeye the Sailor Man was a squinty-eyed sailor who was the main character of a comic created in the late 1920s by E.C. Segar. Like many beloved characters, he didn’t begin as the star of the story – he was a minor character hired to be apart of a ship’s crew. While he was only meant to be around for a few strips, the Popeye character quickly became very popular and the focus of the strip. Popeye eventually won the heart of the originally unimpressed and at times fickle, Olive Oyl and becomes the adopted father of Swee’Pea, a baby he finds in the mail.
Elzie Segar, the creator of the comic, knew a man in Illinois named Frank “Rocky” Fiegel who inspired the character Popeye. Frank “Rocky” Fiegel was born January 27, 1868 in Poland. He was a retired sailor contracted by Wiebusch’s tavern in the city of Chester, Illinois, to clean and maintain order. He had a reputation to be always involved in fighting, so he had a deformed eye (“Pop-eye”). He had demonstrated his strength in so many fights that he became a local legend. He always smoked his pipe, so he spoke only with one side of his mouth. Like the character Popeye was similar to “Rocky” in that he smoked a pipe and was toothless, but Segar took a few other liberties. Fiegel was less of a spinach eater and more of a drinker, and instead of a sailor he was actually a bartender.
Olive Oil also existed, she was Dora Paskel, owner of a grocery store in Chester. She is also described to dress just like Olive Oil. Segar kept in touch with Frank and had always helped him with money. Frank and Popeye also carried some inherent features like courage, chivalry and virility. Fiegel wasn’t really aware of his role in the creation of Popeye until his final years of life. An engraving of Popeye’s face is on his gravestone. A statue of Popeye was put up in his honor in Chester, Illinois. He died on March 24, 1947.