Found in the Collection: E. Simms Campbell Letters

Elmer Simms Campbell was not only one of the first African American male cartoonists to be published in nationally syndicated magazines, but also created the popular Esquire magazine mascot, “Esky”, their cartoony moustachioed man of refinement. He maintained a steady high-standing among magazines like Esquire, Life, Judge and Playboy from 1933 all the way through his death in 1971, a rare thing for any cartoonist, and nearly unheard of in the 30s-50s for an African American. Campbell’s talent is undeniable and a clear indicator of his success, though taking a look at the themes of his most popular work is telling of why else this may have been possible.

Up until the Civil Rights Movement, Campbell’s work was entirely absent of African American characters. Instead, his cartooning style was largely dedicated to the salable trend of Good Girl Art, depictions of attractive and whimsical white women. Furthermore, he stuck to illustrating the lives of the white upper-class in general, completely concealing his own identity and economic standing.

Cuties was Campbell’s most popular feature, which we have a number of originals from at the Cartoon Library, many of which are gorgeous fully colored works like those seen below.

E. Simms Campbell original, from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

E. Simms Campbell original, from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

E. Simms Campbell original, from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

E. Simms Campbell original, from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

These originals, as well as a number of others at the Cartoon Library, are part of our International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection. However, it’s a number of items in the manuscript materials collection of cartoonist McGowan Miller (“Mac”) regarding E. Simms Campbell that delight us just as much. Miller and Campbell came to be great friends through their membership in the National Cartoonist Society (Campbell was one of very few African Americans in the NCS as well) and while working for the popular magazines at the time. In the late 1950s, Campbell and his wife went abroad to live in Switzerland for a stint, but the two friends kept up correspondence regularly.

Photo of Elmer Simms Campbell and McGowan Miller, which forms part of a scrapbook that Campbell sent McGowan in 1960. From the McGowan Miller Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Photo of Elmer Simms Campbell and McGowan Miller, which forms part of a scrapbook that Campbell sent McGowan in 1960. From the McGowan Miller Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

McGowan Miller kept these letters from his old friend–many of which are humorously illustrated in the margins–and they now reside here at the Cartoon Library. Below are a few excerpts from one of our favorites from E. Simms Campbell in 1958, capturing the heart of the lifestyle he and his wife Vivian were leading during this thriving age of magazine cartooning. He writes of exploits with Cab Calloway, Dizzy Gillespie and others, partying late into the night and more. Other letters reveal his concerns over his daughters marriage to American photographer Gordon Parks, who was twice her age. Generally, they are full of soul and spirit, and embody the loving friendship between two men of different races, bound by comics and cartoons. The pages can be clicked to enlarge for reading.

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Detail of letter from Elmer Simms Campbell to McGowan Miller, 1958. From the McGowan Miller Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Detail of letter from Elmer Simms Campbell to McGowan Miller, 1958. From the McGowan Miller Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Detail of letter from Elmer Simms Campbell to McGowan Miller, 1958. From the McGowan Miller Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Detail of letter from Elmer Simms Campbell to McGowan Miller, 1958. From the McGowan Miller Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Detail of letter from Elmer Simms Campbell to McGowan Miller, 1958. From the McGowan Miller Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Detail of letter from Elmer Simms Campbell to McGowan Miller, 1958. From the McGowan Miller Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Detail of letter from Elmer Simms Campbell to McGowan Miller, 1958. From the McGowan Miller Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Elmer Simms Campbell was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2002, and you can read more about his life in a piece by our founding curator Lucy Shelton Caswell here.

Found in the Collection: Jackie Ormes! (1911-1985)

In the week between Black History Month and Women’s History Month, what better time to highlight the great Jackie “Zelda” Ormes- our country’s first African American woman cartoonist. Getting her start all the way back in 1937 with her debut strip Torchy Brown in ‘Dixie to Harlem’, Ormes was a regular figure in the historic black press newspapers, including the successful Pittsburgh Courier and The Chicago Defender. This early installment of Torchy, which ran for a year from ’37-’38, was all about the exploits of a country girl relocating to the big city.

Jackie Ormes' "Torchy Brown in 'Dixie to Harlem'", from the Sam Milai Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Jackie Ormes’ “Torchy Brown in ‘Dixie to Harlem’”, from the Sam Milai Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Jackie Ormes' "Torchy Brown in 'Dixie to Harlem'", from the Sam Milai Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Jackie Ormes’ “Torchy Brown in ‘Dixie to Harlem’”, from the Sam Milai Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

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Jackie Ormes’ “Torchy Brown in ‘Dixie to Harlem’”, from the Sam Milai Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Ormes’ drawing style would mature rapidly throughout her early career. Her next feature Candy from 1945 was a one-panel gag full of witty declarations from the main character maidservant, which served as good practice for her later and more popular and refined gag feature Patty-Jo and Ginger (1945-1956) about two very different sisters and the clever banter between them.

Her Torchy character was far more developed by 1950, when readers could follow her love life and adventures on the newspaper pages in Torchy in Heartbeats which ran through 1954.

Jackie Ormes' Torchy in Heartbeats

Jackie Ormes’ “Torchy in Heartbeats”, from the Jackie Ormes biographical file, gift of Nancy Goldstein, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Jackie Ormes’ “Torchy in Heartbeats”, from the Jackie Ormes biographical file, gift of Nancy Goldstein, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

No matter the strip, Ormes was presenting African American women in a way that no other cartoonist in the papers had done previously. Her characters were demure and dynamic, involved in and commenting on current events, sporting the latest fashions. They were upper class women. Torchy in Heartbeats was often accompanied by Torchy Togs, paper dolls of the character with a variety of high-end outfits.

Jackie Ormes' Torchy Togs

Jackie Ormes’ “Torchy Togs”, from the Jackie Ormes biographical file, gift of Nancy Goldstein, The Ohio State University

Ormes artistic legacy, however, is not tied as strongly to her comics themselves as it is to the deal she struck in 1947 with the high-end Terri Lee Doll Company to create a deluxe doll in the likeness of her characters. This doll, Patty-Jo, was the first African American girl doll to come with an extensive, upscale wardrobe, in contrast to those sold previously that almost entirely projected the pickaninny or mammy archetype.  The Patty-Jo doll was meant to capture the spunky, smart, precocious and cute personality of Ormes’ comic character.

In life, Jackie Ormes was a firecracker. She was an outspoken journalist and progressive political activist, one whom the F.B.I. amassed a 287-page file on. If you are interested in learning more about Ormes’ life, Nancy Goldstein has written a biography on her entitled Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist. Many of the images above have been provided to us by Nancy in the research file for her book, which is kept in our Cartoonist Biographical Files for Jackie Ormes. These files, kept on over 5,000 cartoonists, are an excellent starting point for conducting research in our collection.

Artists’ Books and Comics Open House – February 20th

In collaboration with the Fine Arts Library, The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum is excited to invite you to the Artists’ Books and Comics Open House! Come join us to explore some of the incredible handmade items from our Dylan Williams Collection of small press and self-published works.

Untitled by Austin English, The Dylan Williams Collection, The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Untitled by Austin English, The Dylan Williams Collection, The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

The OSU Fine Arts Library had a great response from the Fall semester Artists’ Books Open House. And so, by popular demand, we’re bringing it back this semester! Come see work by Marina Abramovic and Ulay, John Baldessari, Johanna Drucker, Fluxus, General Idea, The Guerrilla Girls, Hans Haacke, Nancy Holt, Douglas Huebler, Barbara Kruger, Sol LeWitt, George Maciunas, Ed Ruscha, Carolee Schneemann, Richard Tuttle, Lawrence Weiner, Xu Bing, and many more. The Artists’ Books Open House will take place on Wednesday, the 20th of February, from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm in Thompson Library room 150.

This semester we’re also thrilled to include a selection from the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum’s Dylan Williams Collection of small press and self-published mini-comics, which showcase unique formats and binding techniques from underground cartoonists to contemporary self-publishers. If you are interested in homemade comics or the art of the book, this is a unique opportunity to examine these objects up close and to really understand how they’re made. The Cartoon Library curator Caitlin McGurk will also be available during the open house to discuss the materials and their construction.

We will provide gloves so that you can study the works. Because of the sensitive nature of the materials (such as their designs, paper qualities, and fragility), we will ask that no backpacks or portfolios, food, drink, or wet media be brought into the room with them. Pencils and paper are recommended for note-taking and sketching.

Free and open to the public!

Please let us know if you have any questions about this event: cartoons@osu.edu

Making Comics with Girl Scouts of the USA Troop 2687 (Photoset)

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On Thursday, February 7th, Girl Scouts of the USA Troop 2687 visited the Cartoon Library to learn all about DIY book binding, women in comics, and how to make their own 8-page comic out of one sheet of paper. We’re always thrilled to work with the Girls, and Troop 2687 cranked out the most mini-comics of any crew we’ve hosted yet!

To get a full run down on what kind of activities we do with the Girl Scouts for them to earn their Drawing Badge or Comic Artist Badge, hop over to our post from this Fall on our time with Troop 1320.

After a whirlwind introduction to the great women in comics history, the group went over a wide variety of exciting and eccentric ways to print and bind comics, much to their astonished delight. Fully inspired and raring to go, they then sat down to put it all out on paper.

Giggles rang throughout the Cartoon Library as we contemplated the various hilarious roles for a hamster to play as the main character in our individual comics, which served as a muse for many of them. At the end of our hour-and-a-half session, the Girls slapped their comic onto the copy machine, emerging as official self-published cartoonists with copies of their debut work ready for the world!

Congratulations to the great cartoonists of Troop 2687! Girls rule forever.

Special Announcement: Guide To Multicultural Resources has been launched!

Here at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, we’re thrilled to announce that with the help of our steadfast volunteer Joe Miller who compiled all of this information, we have just launched our Guide To Multicultural Resources!

Check ‘em out. This resource highlights work in comics and cartooning that has been done by African Americans, Latino Americans, and Asian Americans. Each guide is presented in two different organizational structures containing the same content, in order to facilitate varying researcher needs. The first section of each guide is organized by material type (biographical files, original art, archival collections, bound volumes, comic books, online resources, and more), and the second is organized alphabetically by creator.

The guides do not include international or foreign language materials in our collection, although we do have a lot of those materials as well.

Our intention is to emphasize the incredible work that has been done by minorities in the world of comics, and if any readers or researchers have suggested additions or comments on the guides’ organization, we encourage you to get in touch!

Found in the Collection: Early E.C. Segar work

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Mechanical reproduction of early work from Elzie Crisler Segar, for W.L. Evans cartooning correspondence course. From the Mark J. Cohen and Rose Marie McDaniel Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

In 1912 at the age of 18, the yet-to-be-known E.C. Segar signed up for a cartooning correspondence course under a man named W.L. Evans out of Cleveland, Ohio. He would later come to credit Evans as a true mentor, and the lessons he learned in this course as the key to his success in creating Popeye.

“The Jungle Song” pictured above is one of Segar’s assignments from way back then. When enlarged, you can see comments to Segar from Evans including “you have the humorous spirit all right

In June of 1935, Segar gives a nod to W.L. Evans in a Sappo strip in which the character has recently taken a correspondence course to become a cartoonist. Take a closer look at the first panel and you’ll see the initials “W.L.E.” on Sappo’s diploma.

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E.C. Segar’s “Sappo”, June 16th, 1935. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)