Charles Augustus Mager Jr. was born in Newark, New Jersey on October 21, 1878, according to his World War I and II draft cards. In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, his name was recorded as August and he was the oldest of two children born to August and Lina, both New Jersey natives. They lived in Newark at 17-1/2 Longworth. His father was a jeweler. Mager's paternal and maternal grandparents were born in Germany.
In The World Encyclopedia of Comics (1976), the late Bill Blackbeard wrote, "…Mager went through the old-world comic humor magazines sent to his parents by relatives in Germany as he attended grammar and high school in his home town, basing much of his emerging cartoonist style on the work of Wilhelm Busch and others. Getting his first newspaper job with the Hearst papers in New York at 20 [1898 or 1899]…" World Biography: Part 2 (1948) said he was "educated at Newark, N. J. public and high schools".
In the 1900 census the family remained in Newark and had moved to 19 Longworth. (The family name was misspelled as "Marger".) According to the census, Mager's occupation, like his father, was jewelry stone-setter. One of the Hearst strips he created was Knocko the Monk, which was followed, over the years, by other Monk characters. In December 1904, his strip Louie and Franz was published by Hearst. World Biography said he married Matilda Stunzl in 1907.
In 1910, he was counted twice in the census. His parents included him in their household, even though he was married and lived elsewhere. Mager, his wife Matilda (a German native), son Robert and a servant lived in Newark at 2 White Terrace. His occupation was newspaper artist. During this year he created Sherlocko the Monk. A photo of Mager with other Evening Journal cartoonists is here. For the New York World he created Hawkshaw the Detective, which began on February 23, 1913. In the same month and year, his paintings Tulips and Blue Flags and Flowers were exhibited at the Armory Show in New York. Works by cartoonists Rudolph Dirks, Denys Wortman and Marjorie Organ were exhibited there, too.
The Smithsonian Institute has a photo of Mager with Pop Hart and Walt Kuhn here. Mager's fine art training was covered in American Magazine of Art in May 1916. AskArt.com has a Mager self-portrait, in full color, here. On September 4, 1918, he signed his World War I draft card. His occupation was newspaper cartoonist for the New York World. His description was medium height and build with gray eyes and light brown hair.
He remained at the same address in 1920 and continued as a newspaper cartoonist. In 1926 his strip Oliver's Adventures was published. The 1930 census recorded the Mager family in South Orange, New Jersey at 204 Prospect Street. He was a newspaper syndicate cartoonist.
In the book Artist in Manhattan (1940), Jerome Myers wrote:
Among the names of American artists that pervade our local art histories and our catalogues, some are but too well known. If history is sometimes a lying jade, then the jade of art too may often have a twinkle in her eye over reputations that ultimately go into time's wastebasket.
One thinks of quiet lives spent in unostentatious devotion to an art ideal with our fanfare, with humility and patience that seek no high reward—a spirit that shines forth in the art of Gus Mager.
He signed his World War II draft card on April 26, 1942; it had the same 1930 census address. Three employers were listed on his card: R. Dirks/United Feature Syndicate, Popular Science, and Outdoor Life. His description was "5' 6", 175 [lbs.]" with blue eyes and gray hair. Blackbeard said, "Living continually in Newark, Mager built a sizable home there and now took up his lifetime hobby of serious painting in earnest, selling paintings to the permanent collections of the Newark Museum and the Whitney Museum in New York, among others…."
Mager passed away on July 16, 1956. The New York Times reported his death on the 18th.
Charles Mager Dead
Artist Created 'Monks' and 'Hawkshaw' Comic Strips
Pittsburgh, July 17 (UP)—Charles A. (Gus) Mager, artist and creator of such comic strips as "The Monks" and "Hawkshaw, the Detective" in the "bulb nose sea," died yesterday at the home of his son, Robert, in Murrysville.
Mr. Mager was a native and lifelong resident of Newark.
His paintings are in the permanent collections of the Newark Museum and the Whitney Museum in New York. A naturalist, he also drew a feature page entitled "Games, Gimmicks" for Outdoor Life magazine for twenty years.
Other survivors include a sister, Lima [sic: Lina] of Newark, and two granddaughters.
A reminiscence of Mager is here.
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