I remember as a very young child lying in the middle of the living room floor, carefully studying Courier-Journal editorial cartoonist Hugh Haynie’s drawings. No, I wasn’t politically precocious — I was playing an early version of Where’s Waldo? . . . or, more precisely, Where’s Lois? Mr. Haynie regularly hid his wife’s name somewhere in the lines of his cartoons, cleverly causing readers to spend more time on the editorial page.
It turns out that I had two cousins who made their living as cartoonists. One was known as the “James Whitcomb Riley of the Pencil,” which is interesting, considering that I recently told you about my writer cousin who toured with that author.
I’m referring to the cartoonist Gaar Campbell Williams. He was a descendant of my first cousin six times removed, Margaret Wilhoit, and her husband John Gaar. Both the Wilhoit/Wilhite and Gaar/Garr families immigrated from Germany and appear over and over again in my family tree.
Gaar Campbell Williams was born December 12, 1880, in Richmond, Indiana. He began studying art during summer vacations in high school, attending the Cincinnati Academy of Fine Arts, then as a young adult attended the Art Institute of Chicago. Gaar (also known as “Spin”) started out doing commercial illustrations, sheet music covers and advertising in Chicago, then began illustrating short stories for the Chicago Daily News.
Gaar became an editorial cartoonist for the Indianapolis News in 1909 and remained on staff there until 1921, when he moved to the Chicago Tribune. He began creating panels and a comic strip that drew on childhood memories of Wayne County, Indiana, and captured the manners and customs of the horse-and-buggy days and the gay nineties. His drawings were syndicated, used in the New York Daily News and other large newspapers over the country.
Gaar Williams died at the age of 54 when he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and collapsed at the wheel of his car in Brown County, Indiana. Posthumous anthologies of his work include Among the Folks in History (1947) and How to Keep from Growing Old (1948).
My fourth cousin twice removed was Carl Emil (“Bunny”) Schultze, born in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1866. Despite a promising start, he died in near obscurity. At the age of 18, Carl was sent to New York to study art; his initial desire was to become a portrait painter. He returned to Kentucky and worked in a Louisville lithographer’s shop, then moved to Chicago to work for the Daily News (as Gaar Williams later did). By 1900, Carl was back in New York, where he created the beloved comic strip character “Foxy Grandpa.” The old gentleman’s skill in outwitting his two small grandsons delighted millions of newspaper readers during the first two decades of the 20th century, first in the New York Herald and then in many other papers. Foxy Grandpa gained instant popularity, but during WW I just couldn’t keep up with “modern trends.” The comic strip was discontinued in 1918.
Once being a man of considerable means (“the owner of a Park Ave. home, saddle horses and a car”), Carl suffered financial reverses during the depression, eventually eking out a living by illustrating school books and drawing posters — a long way from his first goal of painting portraits or his successful run as a nationally known cartoonist. In January of 1939, at the age of 72, he was found dead of heart disease in his $4-a-week furnished room in Manhattan. The arrangements for his funeral were made by the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor (AICP) and he was buried at the AICP home at Red Hook, NY.