[1886–1912 Archive of Original Cartoon Art and Related Correspondence of Edgar Wentworth, Comic Illustrator for The Yellow Kid and Judge Magazines].
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1886–1912 Archive of original cartoon art by Edgar Wentworth, comic illustrator published in The Yellow Kid and Judge magazines. The archive includes approx. 295 pen and ink drawings and sketches, some hand-colored, comprising 170 loose drawings and an additional 125 illustrations within Wentworth’s personal album entitled “Original Pen & Pencil Sketches, A Book of the Etiquette of the Day by Ed. Wentworth, 1886.”
A resident of South Berwick, Maine, Wentworth’s humorous cartoons skewer both national and Maine politicians and include both editorial and observational cartoons, including some in series, and single-panel cartoons. Many are captioned; some are visual puns; some others are sketches or preliminary drawings. The humor of some of his observational or situational cartoons is racist and comprises about 23 drawings, not counting additional ones seen in the album. He caricatures and exaggerates the faces and language of African-Americans, Irish-Americans, Jews, and Native Americans.
Other themes among Wentworth’s 170 loose drawings include poking fun at farmers and other rural folk (14 drawings), portraits (18 drawings), drawings of criminals (4 drawings), prohibition of alcohol etc. (8 drawings), and U.S. presidents and other politicians (11 drawings). The latter includes drawings of Presidents Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt. The Cleveland cartoons concern the “Wilson-Gorman-Cleveland Tariff” of 1894 and even touch on Cleveland’s alleged fathering of a child out-of-wedlock. The latter shows Cleveland cradling a child in his lap, seated near an open bottle that reads “Antidote for the Blues;” a caricatured African American looks on.
A pair of cartoons depicts Theodore Roosevelt in “Uncle Sam’s Garden,” a weedy plot of political issues including “Obnoxious Trusts” and “Graft.” The pair illustrate Wentworth’s revising of the image, both in its composition and details as well as its pencil captioning.
Wentworth’s personal album—“Original Pen & Pencil Sketches, A Book of the Etiquette of the Day by Ed. Wentworth, 1886”—is a purpose-made collection of his humorous drawings, a mix of small drawings and full-page illustrations. The work appears to be a youthful creation and they are presented almost as they comprise a printed book. In this way—and echoed in the later, loose drawings, Wentworth’s style pre-sages the work of later magazine cartoon illustrators who also compiled books such as the early publications of H.T. Webster (1885–1952).
The cartoon illustrations in the album include the racist humor, caricatures, rural humor, prohibition, and political skewering etc. seen in his later, more mature work. Three of the cartoons in the album are autobiographical, depicting Wentworth’s friends camping on Mt. Agamenticus in Maine. Laid into the album at this point is a three-page handwritten account of the excursion.
Among the correspondence accompanying the illustration art are seven letters from humor magazine publisher’s discussing acceptance, rejection, and/or payment etc. for Wentworth’s cartoons. These comprise one letter from Howard, Ainslee & Co., publisher’s of The Yellow Kid and six letters from Arkell Publishing Co., publisher of Judge. Also seen in the archive are 22 envelopes without contents. Though empty, they possibly document Wentworth’s ongoing contact with two Boston newspapers, The Herald (13 envelopes, 1900–1901) and The Boston Globe (4 envelopes, 1901–1903). That the former group are postmarked almost monthly suggests he may have been regularly published therein. Wentworth’s political and prohibition cartoons and drawings—because of their national appeal—may have been well suited for newspaper publication as editorials.
We can find little biographical information about Edgar Wentworth. Two letters in the archive document his interest in formal art training. One letter from 1900 from The Correspondence School of Illustrating in New York City suggests he had had some past dealing with them: “It is some time since I have heard from you and I hope you have not definitely discontinued the study or are not merely putting it off until some time in the indefinite future.” An 1899 letter from the School of Art Criticism, also in New York, offers their service of critiquing his artwork and refers to a more formal course of instruction.
A collection of solid primary material documenting the career of a little-known yet highly-imaginative American humor and cartoon illustrator.
Description: [1886–1912 Archive of Original Cartoon Art and Related Correspondence of Edgar Wentworth, Comic Illustrator for The Yellow Kid and Judge Magazines].
[South Berwick, Maine, 1886–1912]. Approx. 190 items comprising: 170 pen and ink drawings (some hand colored); 12 items of correspondence, most including an envelope (including TLsS, partly printed form letters, circulars, and a postal card); 2 printed package return enclosures; 1 group of miscellaneous envelopes; 1 group of newspaper cartoon clippings; 1 calling card; 1 photograph; 1 single issue of The Yellow Kid magazine (June 3, 1897); and 1 cloth-bound album, 12 x 10 inches, with 22 leaves containing approx. an additional 125 original pen and ink and crayon illustrations mounted on rectos and versos, many hand-colored and some laid in. The album is disbound and worn; though some edges show wear, the leaves are good and the illustrations clean. While many of the loose drawings do show evidence of handling (some have some staining too), they are for the most part in good to very good condition.