Gray reported in 1952 that Annie's origin lay in a chance meeting he had with a ragamuffin while wandering the streets of Chicago looking for cartooning ideas. "I talked to this little kid and liked her right away," Gray said, "She had common sense, knew how to take care of herself. She had to. Her name was Annie. At the time some 40 strips were using boys as the main characters; only three were using girls. I chose Annie for mine, and made her an orphan, so she'd have no family, no tangling alliances, but freedom to go where she pleased. " By changing the gender of his lead character, Gray differentiated himself in the field of comics (and likely increased his readership by appealing to female readers). In designing the strip, Gray was influenced by his midwestern farm boyhood, Victorian poetry and novels such as Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, Sidney Smith's wildly popular comic strip The Gumps, and the histrionics of the silent films and melodramas of the period. Initially, there was no continuity between the dailies and the Sunday strips, but by the early 1930s the two had become one. The strip (whose title was borrowed from James Whitcomb Riley's 1885 poem "Little Orphant Annie") was "conservative and topical", according to the editors of The Great Depression in America: A Cultural Encyclopedia, and "represents the personal vision" of Gray and Riley's "homespun philosophy of hard work, respect for elders, and a cheerful outlook on life". A Fortune popularity poll in 1937 indicated Little Orphan Annie ranked number one and ahead of Popeye, Dick Tracy, Bringing Up Father, The Gumps, Blondie, Moon Mullins, Joe Palooka, Li'l Abner and Tillie the Toiler.