Friday, July 09, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: Gretchen Gratz

Gretchen Gratz, a rather clunky name choice for a comic strip, was the offering of an early female cartoonist, Inez Townsend, who also worked under the name Tribit. Her only other strip that I know of was one we covered a long time ago, Snooks and Snicks. The strips, though produced a decade apart, are very similar. Kids wearing Dutch garb, bad poetry...

Gretchen Gratz ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer from January 31 1904 to January 8 1905.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan!


Inez Townsend was born in England on November 9, 1877, according to the book, Artists in California, 1786-1940. She arrived in the United States in 1891 as recorded in the 1900 and 1920 U.S. Federal Censuses.

The May 7, 1899 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the exhibitions and prizes at the local fine arts schools.

Another May exhibition is that of the night classes of the Spring Garden
Institute, which is announced for next week, beginning Monday. On
Thursday evening of last week these classes closed.

Prizes were awarded as follows:
Drawing from the Cast--First prize, John Eissler; second, Fred S. Burk;
honorable mention, Inez Townsend.

A Spring Garden College website provides a history of the now-closed institution.

In 1851, Spring Garden Institute was formed by a group of prominent
Philadelphians. The school’s first President, John M. Ogden, realized
that the Industrial Revolution had created the necessity for technically
competent individuals with practical training, in addition to the
theoretical knowledge of a classical education….

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census has a John and Clara Townsend and their three children residing in Philadelphia; they arrived in the U.S. in 1889. Living with them were a niece and nephew who had arrived in 1891. The niece's name was recorded as Trey who was born in November 1877, the same month and year as Inez. Trey may have been Inez's nickname. She worked as a clerk in a tea store.

Artists in California, 1786-1940 said Inez "began her art career in 1903 on the Philadelphia Tribune and the next year settled in Los Angeles where she did art work for the Times." Her comic strip, "Gretchen Gratz," was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer from January 1904 to January 1905.

According to the 1910 census Inez married William E. Tribit in 1905; he was 17 years her senior. The couple had a three-year-old daughter and they were living in Los Angeles. He was a newspaper reporter; her occupation was recorded as "none." Her second strip, "Snooks and Snicks," ran from February 1913 to July 1915 in the Philadelphia North American. Inez was involved in the newspaper industry. Who's Who Among the Women of California, published in 1922, reported the following:

The Los Angeles League of American Pen Women has the distinction
of being the first organized auxiliary having been given its Charter
No. 1 in 1915. Mrs. Florence Pierce Reed was the first president and
Mrs. Inez Townsend Tribit first secretary…

She was also a member of the Southern California Women's Press Club. (Women's Press Organizations, 1881-1999)

Under the name Inez Townsend Tribit, she wrote and illustrated "Indignant" (1916) and "The High Cost of Living" (1917) which were published in St. Nicholas, An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks. She and Hallie M. Swartz copyrighted, in 1917, their musical composition, "'Way Back Home."

In 1920 the Tribits were living at the same address and their occupations had not changed. In 1921 Inez wrote "What the Boy Said" which was set to music. The Los Angeles Times reported her husband's death on November 5, 1928; he had been ill for two years.

In the 1930 census, Inez was living with her daughter's family. She died in Los Angeles on October 10, 1960, according to Artists in California, 1786-1940.
Good work again, Alex! However, they were in error when they said Miss Townsend first worked on the Philadelphia Tribune. The Tribune was and is a Black paper, and I suppose we may reasonably gather that Inez was white. They must have had another Philly paper in mind.---Cole Johnson.
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