Let’s set the scene…
Indianapolis in the 1890s: Due to recent technological advances in printing, Indianapolis newspapers are suddenly able to efficiently print cartoons and illustrations on every page. These become popular features for entertainment and reporting, and subscribers are delighted. But, if the newspapers and magazines of the era are to… daily… fill their pages with engaging artwork to keep up with the readership’s demand, they need a legion of talented, trained artists.
1900 Advertisement in Scribner’s.
The Butler University yearbook of 1899 refers to the National Illustrating Company as “the oldest, largest and leading engraving house in the state.” A city directory of Indianapolis from about the same time lists the institution as a company of engravers, electrotypers, designers, and artists.
1901 Advertisement in Cosmopolitan:
The “Heeb System” was named for Emmett Jerome “E.J.” Heeb who was born on June 11, 1858, in Fayette County, Indiana. Heeb was an educator, publisher, and businessman affiliated with the Indianapolis College of Law and the National Correspondence Schools.
In the 1906 Indianapolis directory, Heeb is listed as the founder of the Indianapolis Business University — a school that offered instruction and training in every kind of business — including illustration and cartooning.
Indianapolis Star Ad, 1904
Another option for young men in the printing and industrial arts was Winona Technical Institute, “splendidly located on a property once occupied by a United States arsenal,” (now Arsenal Technical High School). The school operated from 1904-1910, offering courses in Pharmacy, Printing, Lithography, Building Trades, Electricity, Iron Moulding, library science and… the arts.
In that first decade of reliable artwork reproduction, Indy newspapers hired artists who would make their names known in the world of book design, illustration, cartooning, and other graphic arts. Among them were included…
Kin Hubbard (Abe Martin)
Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard (1868-1930) was the creator of the cartoon “Abe Martin of Brown County” which ran in US newspapers from 1904 until his death in 1930. He the originator of many political familiar quips that remain in use today:
- Don’t knock th’ weather. Nine-tenths o’ th’ people couldn’ start a conversation if it didn’ change once in a while.
- Flattery won’t hurt you if you don’t swallow it.
- Now and then an innocent man is sent to the legislature.
- When a fellow says, “It ain’t the money but the principle of the thing,” it’s the money.
- There is plenty of peace in any home where the family doesn’t make the mistake of trying to get together.
- The only way to entertain some folks is to listen to them.
- The fellow that owns his own home is always just coming out of a hardware store.
- Lots of folks confuse bad management with destiny.
- Nothing will dispel enthusiasm like a small admission fee.
- Boys will be boys, and so will a lot of middle-aged men.
John Barton Gruelle (Raggedy Ann)
Though “Johnny” Gruelle (1880-1938) is, today, best remembered as the creator of the Raggedy Ann character, his first illustrations and cartoons (appearing in the Indianapolis Star in 1905) show only hints of her whimsy. From 1906 to 1914 his work appeared in many newspapers (usually signed as Grue) including The Toledo News-Bee, The Pittsburgh Press, The Tacoma Times, The Spokane Press, and the New York Herald. In 1915, Raggedy Ann made her appearance in the US Patent Office (That’s right, she’s 100 years old!) and Gruelle’s career soared after that.
Sidney Smith (The Gumps)
Robert “Sidney” Smith (1877-1935) was the creator of the great American family epic, “The Gumps.” Smith was almost forty years old when the first panel of this strip was published, in 1917. He worked for newspapers in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, though his cartoons won worldwide recognition.
Who’s Your Favorite Artist… or better yet, “Hoosier Favorite Artist?”
Tell us in the comment box below.