Frank Fiegel was actually a real-life person from E. C. Segar’s hometown of Chester, Illinois who like J. William Schuchert and also Dora Paskel inspired a Thimble Theatre character. In this case, it’s ‘Popeye The Sailorman’.
Frank Fiegel, nicknamed ‘Rocky’ was a well-known Chester individual. Something of a local legend, he supposedly had an inordinate strength and often participated in fights. Like Popeye, he smoked a pipe and was toothless. He is said to have been kind to children as well. Since the year of 1996, his gravestone bears an engraving of Popeye’s face.
Frank Fiegel was a one-eyed, pipe-smoking brawler who never turned down a fight. Frank Fiegel was more likely to down a few bourbons instead of a can of spinach to get his super fighting prowess, but the rest of his caricature fit the character ‘Popeye The Sailorman’. He had the same jutting chin, built frame, and trademark pipe as his cartoon.
Kids were rather scared of Olive Oyl’s real-world inspiration. Wimpy’s rotund figure was based on Popeye creator E.C. Segar’s old boss at the local theater. When Segar wasn’t lighting lamps, he was sent out to pick up burgers for the owner. Popeye’s real-life inspiration is sometimes attributed to a photo of an old sailor who really does resemble Popeye the Sailor Man, but this is just internet folklore. This is so amazing to know for many people worldwide.
Frank Fiegel was actually a bartender and not any kind of sailor, but he did love the kids around Chester, and they used to love to play pranks on the old barfly. Fiegel would impress them with his feats of strength as well as his telltale corncob pipe, something young Segar would never forget. ‘Popeye’ was an homage to an unforgettable man who lived to know his image was soon in 500 newspapers nationwide, the symbol of sticking up for the little guy.