The "Peanuts" comic strip appeared in 26,000 newspapers, was read by 855 million people, in 75 countries and was translated into 21 languages. The strip was first printed in the Saturday Evening Post in 1948. It made its official debut in eight dailies on October 2, 1950 and in the Sunday newspapers on January 6, 1952. Charles Schulz started with only four characters Charlie Brown, Shermy, Patty and Snoopy. However, in time, the cast of characters expanded to include: Violet and Schroeder (1951), Lucy and Linus (1952), Pig Pen (1954) Sally (1959), Frieda (1961), Peppermint Patty (1966), Woodstock (1967, named in 1970), Franklin (1968), Marcie (1971), and Rerun (1973).
Over the years, Charles Schulz raised certain social issues including World War I (flying ace Snoopy hunts the Red Baron), racism (Franklin is Black), the Vietnam War, the "new math", space (Snoopy launched the first human into space), and Christianity (The Charlie Brown Christmas includes Linus reading from the King James version of the Bible about Christ's birth). Raised as a Lutheran, the cartoonist said that "Linus represented his spiritual side".
Despite competition from several other comic strips including "Garfield" in the 1980's and "Calvin and Hobbes" in the 1990's, "Peanuts" remained the most popular comic strip of all time. In total, the comic had 17,897 different strips. Charles Schulz signed off of the dailies on January 3, 2000 and last appeared in the Sunday newspapers on February 13, 2000, the day after his death.
Peanuts' first Sunday strip courtesy http://2.bp.blogspot.com.