A few months ago, while perusing the records for real-life instances of the unusual name “Gloomy,” I happened to spot a 3-year-old Georgia boy listed as “Gloomy Gus Edwards” on the 1920 U.S. Census.
Turns out that wasn’t his real name — the 1930 U.S. Census reveals that he was simply a Floyd — but spotting him did make me curious about the origin of the phrase.
“Gloomy Gus” — defined by dictionaries as a someone with a sullen outlook or demeanor — can be traced back to a character in the comic strip Happy Hooligan (1900-1932). Happy and Gloomy were brothers.
Of course, after learning this, I had to check for people named Happy Hooligan. And you know what? I discovered two. One was another census find, so it may not have been legit, but the other came from a birth record, which is more promising. Happy Hooligan Johnson was born in Tennessee in 1909:
Happy and Gloomy also had a third brother — the snobbish Montmorency. I wasn’t able to find any 20th-century Americans with the name “Montmorency,” though.