Ink-Slinger Profiles: Harry J. Tuthill

Harry Joseph Tuthill was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 10, 1885, according to his World War I draft card at The World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska) published, on March 7, 1926, a profile of him; Tuthill said:

I was born in Chicago, Illinois and sold newspapers until I was old enough to answer advertisements for ‘strong boy, not afraid of work,’ and in this capacity experimented with employers for several years, at the rate of one job a week. One per week is a generalization, because too frequently some boss with a particularly low voltage nervous system was willing to call one day long enough.

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, the Tuthill family of six lived in Chicago at 731 West Ohio Street. His mother, a widow, was a laundress. He was a newsboy and the oldest of five children. In the World Herald, Tuthill said:

Drug stores were my main hold. The opportunity to learn a business while eating ice cream sodas was very alluring in spite of junior drug clerks who apparently devoted their spare time and knowledge of chemistry towards jokes calculated to annoy small boys….

Then a man with more faith than vision sent me out of town to sell enlarged pictures. After that I sold soap, knobs for tea-kettles, baking powder, calendars, solicited patients for an itinerant malpractitioner who specialized in bunions, and, for a part of a season traveled with a medicine show which tried to pass a business depression that was running on the same track.

The September 26, 1935 Niagara Falls Gazette (New York) elaborated on his medicine show days:

He got his start as a humorist when he was playing the banjo for an itinerant medicine man in the middle west. The medicine man specialized in corns, and he and Harry traveled in a covered wagon with beautiful signs, picturing the miseries of the human foot, on the outside.

The corn doctor and his able assistant covered most of the towns between the Adirondacks and the Rockies, and Harry picked up, besides his weekly pay, a wealth of impressions and mental notes.

Another version of the story was published in Modern Mechanix, October 1936. The World Encyclopedia of Comics (1976) said he arrived in St. Louis, Missouri when he was 19 years old, around 1904. In the 1910 census, he, wife Ethyl and son Harold lived in St. Louis at 2808 Dayton Street. He worked at a dairy. In the World Herald, Tuthill said:

…I worked for several years in a dairy, studied steam engineering and got a license to practice it.

During all of this I liked to draw and finally made enough progress to justify a preliminary skirmish with a managing editor. After my wounded vanity was able to be up and around I took a course in drawing and returned to the editor many times. Youth against age. I wore him down to the point where he hired me to get rid of me.

I spent eight years as topical cartoonist and then joined a syndicate as a comic artist.
St. Louis Star editorial cartoon 1916

He signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. He resided in St. Louis at 4537 Tower Grove Place. His occupation was cartoonist at the St. Louis Star. His description was tall, slender brown eyes and hair. The Editor & Publisher reported, on October 16, 1919, Tuthill’s move to a syndicate: “Harry J. Tuthill, late cartoonist of the St. Louis Star and the Post-Dispatch, will join the forces of the New York Evening Mail Syndicate, October 27th.” There he created the strip Home, Sweet Home, which changed it’s name to The Bungle Family around 1923.

He was counted twice in the 1920 census. He resided in Manhattan, New York City at 534 West 153 Street. He was a newspaper cartoonist. He lived in St. Louis at 4537 Tower Grove Place. The head of the household was his brother-in-law George Morrison, who was married to Tuthill’s sister Irene. The childless couple looked after Tuthill’s sons Harold and George. 

Tuthill was the head of the household in the 1930 census, and lived in Saint Ferdinand, Missouri at 102 Elizabeth Avenue. Harold, the eldest son, was a newspaper reporter. His sister Irene was a widow who had a son. The Niagara Falls Gazette said:
From possible undocumented cartoon series, 1916

…He has an old-fashioned home of many large rooms, set back among the trees. A separate building houses his studio and a workshop where he tinkers with automobile engines in his spare time. He is a widower, and has two sons in college. His sister presides over his home, and Harry’s friends know the place as one of the most hospitable in the hospitable city of St. Louis.

…Tuthill has always spurned the lures of Broadway. He is one of the few strip cartoonists who insist upon living in the middle west. He likes the outdoors and enjoys a motor trip through the Ozarks more than he enjoys a visit to New York night life. He visits the big city once or twice every year, and goes back to St. Louis more than ever contented with home life in Missouri.

Tuthill owned The Bungle Family strip and ended it on August 1, 1942. Time magazine said on June 11, 1945: “…The strip’s newspaper clients dropped to 70 in 1942. Cartoonist Tuthill, as bored as everyone else, killed the Bungles. Eight months later, he started them up again this time with three teen-aged children….” World Encyclopedia of Comics said, “…Weary even of that by the close of the war, Tuthill once more folded his strip in June 1945, and lived out the remainder of his quiet life quietly in Missouri…”

Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office published his April 5, 1946 application for “Shading Process for Photographs“.

1. The process of applying dots to a graphic composition which consists in providing a thin sheet of transparent flexible material having a multiplicity of perforations extending therethrough, laying such perforated sheet upon said graphic composition, applying to the exposed face of said sheet a liquid solvent therefor which flows through the perforations therein to the underside thereof and causes said sheet to removably adhere to said graphic composition, and then applying to said exposed surface of said sheet a viscous marking fluid which flows through said perforations and adheres to said graphic composition in the form of dots corresponding to the shape, size and spacing of said perforations.

Tuthill passed away on January 25, 1957, in St. Louis. His death was reported, on January 26, in the New York Times which said he died of heart disease at St. John’s Hospital. “The Bungles were just an accidental creation,” Mr. Tuthill once explained. “I didn’t have anybody in mind when I drew them. They just happened.”

Stripper’s Guide Bookshelf: Luks’ Illustration Work Reviewed

Life on the Press: The Popular Art and Illustrations of George Benjamin Luks
by Robert L. Gambone
University of Mississippi Press, 2009
Hardcover, 284 pages, indexed.
ISBN 978-1-60473-222-1

Gambone’s book, which seeks to recap George Luk’s life as an illustrator, was published so far under the radar that I didn’t stumble across it until just a few months ago, two years after it was published.

Of course I ordered it immediately, because the subject is right up my alley. Anything about the work of a cartoonist who was in the thick of the Sunday funnies phenomenon of the 1890s is like manna from heaven. Of course I do realize that the book would not have seen the light of day had Luks not been famous as a painter, but the blurb reassured me that this book is about his illustration and newspaper work, not his ‘fine’ art.

And so it is. Although Gambone certainly does discuss Luks’ fine art here and there, he does an admirable job of sticking to the task he claims to be tackling in the title of the book. So huzzahs on that account to Gambone. And huzzahs again for the thoroughness of coverage, because Gambone discusses many of Luks’ cartoons and illustrations in detail as to style, subject and background, and mentions seemingly practically every major piece he did for a newspaper. So regarding sticking to the subject and covering it thoroughly I give the book an unmitigated thumbs up.

Beyond that things unfortunately go downhill. My problem with the book is that I found myself mistrusting Gambone’s judgment about Luks’ artwork. In a book as sparsely illustrated as this (keep in mind this is no coffee table art book) it is quite disconcerting to find yourself wondering if the author is really able to judge and explain a piece of artwork realistically and accurately.

I first became concerned early on in the book when Gambone discussed a minor little multi-panel cartoon produced for Puck. This is a strip that is fairly well reproduced in the book. In it we see a dapper rich kid holding a balloon encountering a tough-looking street urchin. The urchin, who is smoking a cigarette, gives the kid a disdainful look and pops the balloon with his cigarette. Panel three finds the pair in a tumbling wrestling match, and in the final panel the foppish rich kid is stalking away with the tough kid’s cigarette perched victoriously on his lip while the urchin slinks away, bloody and cowed.

Gambone makes much of a perceived difference in the way the two kids are drawn. He feels that the rich kid is “merely an outline” whereas the urchin is “carefully rendered”. Looking at the strip, at least as it is reproduced in this book, it certainly looks to me like Luks put the same amount of effort and detail into both kids. Certainly there is more ink expended on the dirty urchin as opposed to the immaculately clean rich kid, but it takes more ink to show soiling than it does to indicate cleanliness.

Bringing this up would be hairsplitting, except that Gambone uses this perceived difference in the drawing to jump to an utterly ridiculous conclusion. He claims that the quality of the drawing on the urchin proves that it could only have been drawn from life and “this drawing demonstrates that at least three years prior to starting as a newspaper artist-reporter in 1894, Luks developed the habit of strolling about inner-city neighborhoods observing, sketching and devising compositions.” Even if there were a vast difference in the quality of the drawing of the two kids, a difference I certainly don’t see, drawing such a conclusion is like saying that Alex Raymond must have visited Mongo since he drew the creatures of that world so convincingly. While I certainly don’t discount the possibility that Luks might have been sketching street urchins, I can offer a much simpler explanation for a cartoon in which the two characters seem to have a stylistic difference. How about this — the cartoonist was swiping from different sources for the two characters and didn’t make the effort to adapt them to a single unifying style.

For the remainder of the book, now having established his credentials as a spotter of such things, Gambone tells us with assurance many instances when a drawing must have been sketched from life. Another instance when the author’s logic in this regard is highly questionable comes with an illustration from the New York Sunday World. The subject is bosses who take their secretaries to lunch, and Luks contributes a large illustration of a restaurant, filled with older men dining with attractive young women. According to Gambone, who notes that the dresses and varying body types seem fully realized, and that the furniture is of a specific design, concludes that the “degree of veracity indicates the World assigned Luks to dine at this establishment and record the scene or else had a photographer make a candid shot that served the artist as an exact model.” Oh come now. First of all, any newspaper artist worth his salt could produce such an illustration without moving an inch from his drawing board — artists were not employed by newspapers if they needed the crutch of live models in order to make a simple story illustration. Second, the illustration depicts a restaurant populated ONLY by twosomes, each consisting of a man and a gorgeous young lady. What are the chances of this ever happening in real life? What, not a single pair of guys or girls going out to lunch? No table just happens to have just a single person or three? The chances against such a congregation of businessmen and their secretaries is astronomical. Third, the women are dressed in such high style my guess is that they were copied out of a Godey’s Lady’s Book — it seems very doubtful that a secretary would wear such finery to go to work or could afford to, even if they were the boss’ ‘special favorite’. And finally, for all the vaunted realism of the scene, Luks has made a royal mess of the perspective. If he were sketching from life, surely he was a good enough artist to not make such a mash-up of the drawing.

These are only two examples, but they’re not the only ones. Look, I don’t much care whether Luks sketched a given scene from life or not. To me it’s not really an important distinction. However, I cannot help but wonder how often Gambone is leading me down the garden path about all sorts of details of Luks’ other drawings, the ones that aren’t reproduced in the book.Without an illustration which I can judge for myself (which is often since there are few illustrations reproduced), how much of Gambone’s description and interpretation should I believe?

Also, to be a bit nitpicky, the book would have benefited from the services of a good proofreader. I don’t blame Gambone for the many slip-ups I noted, because everyone has a few holes in their knowledgebase and fingers that sometimes type faster than the brain functions, but a proofreader certainly should have caught the instances of “grizzly” for “grisly”, “ground-braking” for “ground-breaking”, “sheers” instead of “shears”, “lodge” instead of “loge”, and so on.

I am impressed and enthused that people from the fine art world would see fit to look beyond Luks’ paintings and delve into his commercial art career. Cross-pollination like that is thrilling to me, because I myself rarely think of cartooning in terms of just the lines on the paper or the stories that are told. I am fascinated by the whole universe of thoughts, events and viewpoints that swirl around every piece of newspaper cartoon art. The world reflects the art, and the art reflects the world. To read the perspective of someone like Gambone whose specialty is in fine art is instructive, as so are the perspectives of other disciplines when they intersect with my own personal passion for the history of cartooning. We can all learn something from each other, and increase the sweep of our perspective accordingly. The fact that I think Gambone’s book fails on some counts is nothing compared with my delight that this kind of book is being published. More, please more!

Herriman Saturday

Thursday, February 27 1908 — Before government regulation did much to smooth the terribly bumpy road of the economy, financial panics were relatively common occurrences, happening on average about every seven years. One of the effects of these panics was often a localized shortage of government currency due to hoarding. When currency became scarce, banks and other institutions sometimes printed their own temporary currencies, commonly called scrip.

In the Panic of 1907, the Los Angeles Clearing House Association, one of those institutions, had to issue scrip. Today they burn all the cancelled scrip paper, satisfied that the panic is over and it won’t be needed again, at least for awhile. Herriman cartoons the scene when huge piles of scrip were fed into the furnace of the Llewelyn Iron Works.

Certain factions in the country today, mainly those with no knowledge of history, shout endlessly about the need for smaller and less intrusive government, and for allowing the free market to fly forward unheeded by government regulation. Financial panics at the rate of one or two per decade are one of the features of the ‘good old days’ before government interference. Is this what we’re supposed to be nostalgic for?

Ink-Slinger Profiles: Hal Forrest

Harry Paul “Hal” Forrest was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 22, 1892, according to his World War I draft card. The California Death Index at said his birth year was 1893, and a Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), August 30, 1935 profile, said the birth year was 1895.

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, he was the youngest of three children born to William and Annie. They lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 1912 Sterner Street. The census said he was born “July 1892”. His father was an insurance agent.

Ten years later, the Forrests were in Philadelphia at 3501 Water Street. It’s not clear what his occupation was. The Spokesman-Review said, “From 1911 to 1915 Forrest attended the Art Institute of Chicago. He became a member of the art staff of the Chicago Tribune and then joined troop A, First Illinois cavalry. During 1915 to 1917 he was a member of the headquarters troop, third New Jersey in infantry….” He signed his World War I draft card in April 1917. His home address was in Clementon, New Jersey. His occupation was student at Fort Myers Camp in Fort Myers, Virginia. He was described as tall, medium build, with brown eyes and dark hair.

He has not been found in the 1920 census. His father, a widower, lived in Clementon, New Jersey. The Nevada State Journal published Forrest’s United Press International obituary, on November 26, 1959, which said, “…[Forrest was] an editor of the Culver City, Calif., News in the early 20s….” In the late 1920s, he created Artie the Ace, the forerunner to Tailspin Tommy.

The 1930 census recorded Forrest in Los Angeles, California at 3135 Durango. According to the census, he married Charlotte around 1925, and their daughter, Elizabeth, was born in early 1927. He was a newspaper artist. An August 5, 1934 passenger list, At, recorded their address as 9018 Olive Street, Los Angeles.

The Aberdeen American News (South Dakota) said on November 25, 1959, “…in 1952…Tailspin Tommy…became the basis for a television series, a radio program and several books….”

Forrest passed away November 23, 1959, in Culver City, California, according to the Associated Press report in the Springfield Union (Massachusetts), November 25. However, the California Death Index has the date as November 21. Samples of his original art are at Heritage Auctions.

Obscurity of the Day: Willie

Over a decade before Hal Forrest found his claim to fame as the artist, and later sole creator, of Tailspin Tommy, he made an early foray into the world of newspaper cartooning at the Philadelphia Record. The strip was untitled but featured a precocious little boy named Willie, so Willie I hereby christen the strip. The strip only ran five times. The first four were daily style outings (though printed on Sundays), while the fifth was a larger Sunday-style half page strip (but still in black and white). The first four episodes appeared January 16 to February 13 1916, and then the half-pager ran on April 2 1916.

According to an otherwise pretty reliable sounding website about Tailspin Tommy and its creator, Forrest’s first pro work was at the Philadelphia Telegraph in 1911, a strip called Percy the Boy Scout. I haven’t indexed the 1911 Telegraph, but I’m a bit skeptical of that claim, especially since the author says next “he collaborated with Lee Pape, author of Little Benny’s Notebook, on a Sunday page of colored comics in the Philadelphia Record.” This was supposedly sometime in 1915-17, but that paper I have indexed and I say it didn’t happen. There is, however, Willie, which wasn’t mentioned.

Ink-Slinger Profiles: William Steinigans

William John Steinigans was born in Connecticut on February 15, 1878, according to Artists in California, 1786-1940 (2002); the source of that date is not stated. He has not been found in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census. He attended Meriden High School in Meriden, Connecticut. He was in the class of 1898 (see photo); an excerpt from the 1898 annual:

Our “Little Willie,” or rather William John Steinigans is the sport of the class. In one sense he is always well informed as to the occurrences in the athletic world; on the other hand his sportive wit and grotesque actions causes much mirth and (trouble.) Willie, “Let not thy mirth turn to mischief,” so goes the proverb. On one occasion Willie was asked why he did not recite. He replied “I hain’t got no book.” At other times he would often answer “Because.”

In the 1900 census, he was the youngest of two children born to John and Emily, both German emigrants. They lived in Meriden, Connecticut at 880 Broad Street. His father was a knife maker. Steinigans birth date was “Feb 1879” and his occupation was “Type Writer”. He was listed as a clerk in the Meriden, Connecticut, City Directory, 1901. The date of his move to New York City is not known. He was on the staff of the New York World which published his strip, The Dream That Made Bill a Better Boy, starting in August 1905. He and George McManus were instructors, in comic art, at the School of Practical Illustrating; an advertisement for its summer school appeared in International Studio, May 1907.

And he instructed at the National School of Art, 2228 Broadway, according to an advertisement in the New York Herald, January 12, 1908. He and Vet Anderson handled the evening comics and cartooning class.

In the 1910 census, he was recorded in Manhattan, New York City at 320 West 96 Street. He married Martha around June 1909 and was a newspaper artist. HIs strip Grimes’s Goat ran in the World beginning November 1911. Around 1913, he moved west. In the book, This Way to the Big Show: The Life of Dexter Fellows (1936), Fellows recalled carousing with his cartoonist friends:

…[George] McManus, who boasted that they kept him on the World, his first New York paper, because Joseph Pulitzer, who was then blind, could not see his drawings; Tom Powers, whose cartoons and barblike quips will be remembered by thousands; Bill Steinigans, who drew dog pictures for the World; and I were the four horsemen of Park Row. We rode, for the most part, in search of drink, food, and pleasure and invariably found them all. The little group was broken up in more ways than one when doctors presented Steinie with an ultimatum which gave him a year to live in New York or three years in the West. Steinie elected to go to Banning, in Southern California. Although he lived for five years, it seems to me that he would have been much happier with a shorter stay on this earth spent in New York. In Banning and later in Tucson, Arizona, he was among strangers, people who were not his kind, with nothing to see but cacti and desert.

Steinigans also spent time in Palm Springs, about twenty-two miles southeast of Banning. The Riverside Enterprise (California) named him and others in its February 8, 1920 article, “Palm Springs Has Lure for Tourists”.

…Lovely indeed is the Palm Springs of today—and yet this some pilgrim cannot but regret the passing of the picturesque, ramshackle little collection of huts and shacks beloved by the colony of former days, which included Edwin Salisbury Field; Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson, wife of the famous author; Robert V. Carr, another writer; “Jimmie” Swinnerton, well known Hearst cartoonist; George Herriman, creator of “Dinny Dingbat” and “Krazy Kat”; William Steinigans, New York World comic man; and others noted for their creative talents.

He was in Tucson in 1917. At, the U.S. IRS Tax Assessment List 1917 recorded his name for the 1916 tax year. He was in Tucson when he filed his 1040 form and owed twelve dollars. His wife put an ad in the Tucson Daily Citizen on March 27, 1917.

Lost—Mexican poodle dog. Color, yellow and white, spotted, long hair, weighs between 5 and 6 pounds. Answers to the name Japeno. Liberal reward if returned to Mrs. Wm. J. Steinigans, Santa Rita St. Box 114.

Steinigans passed away January 25, 1918, in Los Angeles. Cartoons Magazine, in its March 1918 issue, gave a brief account of his life.

William J. Steinigans, comic artist on the staff of the Sunday World, died at Los Angeles, Cal., Friday, January 25.

Mr. Steinigans was a member of the World staff for about sixteen years, most of that time on the Sunday comic supplement. He was the creator of “The Bad Dream That Made Bill a Better Boy,” “Splinters,” “Mr. Hubby” and other comic series. He was famous particularly for his funny pictures of dogs, which figured in every series that he drew.

About five years ago, Mr. Steinigans went to California for his health, and with the exception of some time spent in Arizona, he remained there until the end. He is survived by a widow.

The Fourth Estate, 2/2/1918

The Daily Citizen printed a series of legal notices, regarding Steinigans’ will.

Notice of Hearing Petition
In the superior court of Pima county, state of Arizona.
In the matter of the estate of William J. Steinigans, deceased.
Notice is hereby given that Southern Arizona Bank and Trust company, a corporation, has filed in this court a certain document purporting to be the last will and testament of William J. Steinigans together with his petition praying that said document be admitted to probate in this court as the last will and testament of said William J. Steingans who, said petitioner alleges, is deceased, and that letters testamentary issue thereon to said petitioner, and that same be heard on Tuesday the 26th day of March, A.D., 1918, at 9:30 o’clock in the forenoon of said day, at the court room of said court, in the court house, in the city of Tucson, county of Pima, state of Arizona, and all persons interested in said estate are notified then and there to appear and show cause, if any they have, why the prayer of said petitioner shoal not be granted.

S.A. Elrod
By M.S. Brown, Deputy Clerk.
Dated March 14, 1918.
First pub, Mar. 15, 1918.
Last pub, Mar. 27, 1918.

Legal Notices
Notice to Creditors
In the Superior Court Pima county, State of Arizona
In the matter of the estate of William J. Steinigans.
Notice is hereby given by the undersigned executor of the estate of William J. Steinigans deceased, to the creditors of and all persons having claims against the said deceased, to exhibit such claims, with the necessary vouchers, within them months after the first publication of this notice to the said executor, 36 North Stone Avenue, which said place the undersign selects as its place of business in all matters connected with said estate of William J. Steingians.

Southern Arizona Bank & Trust Company.
Executor of the Estate of William J. Steinigans.
April 4, 11, 18, 25

According to the Connecticut, Deaths and Burials Index at, Steinigans was born in 1879, and buried at the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Meriden, Connecticut. Steinigans was in Los Angeles when he died. The address of where he lived, at the time, is not known but there are two possibilities to consider. His wife was recorded in the Los Angeles City Directory, 1920 at “1321 N Serrano”, and in the 1920 census at 1404 Serrano Avenue.

Obscurity of the Day: Mister Hubby

William Steinigans was a workhorse in the bullpen of the New York World for over a decade (not the Herald as you’ll see reported on various websites). Although his name isn’t remembered except by diehard cartooning buffs, his style was very familiar to the average New Yorker in the the 1900s and 10s. He had an affinity for dog strips, but was adept at humans as well.

Mister Hubby was his last new strip creation for the World, and also the last to end. It started on September 1 1912 and ended December 17 1916. It is not a fitting coda for Steinigans, who obviously preferred penning his dog strips. In fact Mister Hubby is quite bland, to the point where the title couldn’t be much more generic. 

According to reports on the web, Steinigans died in 1918 at the age of forty, less than a year after Mister Hubby ended.

Obscurity of the Day: Curious Avenue

Tom Toles is one of the leading lights in editorial cartooning and has a Pulitzer to prove it. And that’s only about a half-dozen Pulitzers short of what he deserves, in my humble opinion. Back in the 1990s, when he was still with the Buffalo News but had already gained national fame he took the plunge and created a comic strip. This is no great surprise, as it seems most every editorial cartoonist of any note gives it a go at one time or another.

Tom Toles’ Curious Avenue, distributed by Universal Press Syndicate, debuted on April 19 1992 to a lukewarm reception. I’m betting that feature editors who liked Toles’ political cartoons grabbed the strip on reputation alone, while others wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. The strip, however, was completely apolitical. It featured a cast of rather goofy tykes who sport a host of neuroses. They generally act like kids, but they can express themselves like adults. So yeah, somewhat like Peanuts, but with an edgier and overtly darker sensibility. The strip tended to be a bit on the violent side, with physical encounters between the kids a pretty commonplace occurrence, and sarcasm was as rampant in the strip as in Toles’ editorial cartoons.

I found the strip intriguing and the drawing style attractive. I rather liked it, although I did feel it suffered for a lack of likeable characters . Apparently I was in the minority for liking the strip because it went belly-up in less than two years; the latest I’ve found it running is December 31 1994. I imagine Toles pulled the plug, seeing that it wasn’t going to be a major income-producer.

If the samples intrigue you, look for an Andrews-McMeel reprint collection of the strip issued in 1993; it’s on the scarce side, but not particularly expensive.