Who was the real Popeye?

| David Lewis | Art & Entertainment



Everybody knows the iconic Popeye the Sailor – a fictional American cartoon character created by Elzie Crisler Segar. However, it is a little-known fact that Popeys character was based on a very real person named Frank “Rocky” Figel.

Rocky was born in Poland in 1868, emigrated as a child with his family to America, and in 1887 enlisted in the U.S Navy. After an honorable discharge, he settled in Chester, Illinois. Rocky was very friendly and although he was never married had no children of his own, he liked sitting with the town’s kids holding the pipe in the corner of his mouth, and tell them about his adventures. 

Rockey had a prominent chin, sinewy physique, characteristic pipe, and natural skill for fist-fighting. He Liked boasting of his physical strength and some say he loudly claimed that spinach is the food that makes it invincible.  

The creator of Popeye E. C. Seger, Popeye’s creator, was born in Chester and was one of the children who got to hear “live” the stories of the former sailor. 

Bonus fact 1: Segar regularly sent money to Fiegel as a thank you for the inspiration.

Bonus fact 2: The reference to spinach as a fortifying food, came from the publication of a study, which due to an error in printing the decimal point, attributed to spinach an amount of iron 10 times higher than its true nutritional value.