Earl Oscar Hurd was born in Atchison, Kansas on February 14, 1880, according to Artists in California, 1786-1940, Volume 1 (2002). His date of birth is confirmed by his World War I draft card and the California Death Index, which had his middle initial "O". (Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database said he was born in September; the source for that information was not stated.) In the 1880 United States Federal Census, the Hurd family lived in Atchison City, Kansas on Kansas Avenue. Hurd was the youngest of two sons born to Oscar and Georgia. His father was a grocer.
Twenty years later, the 1900 census recorded the family in Kansas City, Missouri at 119 Olive. Hurd was recorded as Oscar and was the second of three sons; his occupation was artist. His father was a building contractor. Artists in California said, "Hurd began his career as a cartoonist on the Kansas City Post." According to the Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002 at Ancestry.com, Hurd married Edith Vivian Carswell on January 12, 1909 in Kansas City, Missouri.
In 1910 Hurd, his wife and five-month-old son Earl Jr. lived in Kansas City, Missouri at 2319 East 30th. He was a cartoonist for a newspaper. The date Hurd moved to New York City is not known; the New York Evening Telegram published his strips, Trials of Editor Mouse and Pudge Perkins Pets, in 1911. In chapter five, The Henry Ford of Animation: John Randolph Bray, of the book, Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1898-1928 (1993), Donald Crafton wrote, "How Bray and Hurd met is unknown. Hurd had been cartooning in the Chicago Journal since 1904, and his work was reproduced occasionally in the New York Herald, where Bray might have seen it.…In December 1914, Bray Studios Incorporated was formed with $10,000 in capital and a floor of a 26th Street building [in Manhattan] was leased. Bray's immediate concern was to recruit and train artists. Earl Hurd was formally hired, and in 1915 he began his own series of "Bobby Bumps" cartoons…." As Bray patented his animation process, he failed to see the possibilities of using celluloid. Crafton said, "This damaging technical loophole had allowed Earl Hurd…to obtain the rights for the use of celluloid….Hurd's December 1914 patent application contains a wealth of information, but the key concept was that the illusion of movement was to be produced 'by drawing upon a series of transparent sheets'….[Soon] they formed the Bray-Hurd Process Company in 1914, a mutually advantageous alternative to a lengthy battle over rights. Although Hurd's patent eventually turned out to be more important than Bray's, the cartoonist was regarded strictly as an employee of the studio and Bray never publicly acknowledged his partner's fundamental role…."
His strip Bobby Bumps is discussed here and here. The Sun (New York, NY) wrote, on December 2, 1917, "…The real Bobby Bumps is the little son of Earl Hurd, the cartoonist, and the actual experience of this youngster and his dog afford the basis for the series of Bobby Bumps cartoons." Earl Jr. was seven years old at the time. In the late teens, Hurd moved to California. He signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. His address in Los Angeles was 833 South Grand; his occupation was animated fIlm cartoonist, and was self-employed at 1133 Merchant National Bank Building. He named his wife as his nearest relative; she lived at 710 East 25th Street, Kansas City, Missouri. His description was tall, slender with blue eyes and brown hair with a gray streak.
Hurd has not been found in the 1920 census. Apparently he returned to the New York City metropolitan area in the 1920s. His late 1920s strip Susie Sunshine is discussed here. The 1930 census recorded Hurd in West New York, New Jersey at 101 Twentieth Street. He was an artist at an art school. Apparently, he had remarried to Svea, and they had two daughters, the oldest was 10. If these were his biological children then he divorced his first wife Edith around 1919; she and Earl Jr. resided in Queens, New York. In the late 1930s Hurd returned to California where he found work at the Walt Disney studio; his Disney credits include the short, Pluto's Quin-puplets, and the feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Hurd passed away on September 28, 1940 in Los Angeles. His death was reported two days later in the Los Angeles Times, "Funeral of Film Cartoonist to Be Tomorrow in Burbank; Earl Hurd, Disney Studio Artist, Innovator in Animated Drawing Method, Was Ex-Newspaperman." (ProQuest subscribers, please help us with the details.)
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