by Susan Rohan
George Swanson, the cartoonist who does "The Flop Family" strip, is the only comic artist who was "kidded" into the profession.
In the years just before World War I, Mr. Swanson left Curtis High School in Chicago and worked as an office boy for the Pullman Car Company in suburban Chicago. The Pullman organization published a house organ monthly and a regular contributor to it was a man by the name of Ralph Swanson, no relation to George.
The youthful Swanson was regularly kidded by the 100-odd men in his department when they'd say, "Now there's a Swanson who's done something, he's got initiative. At least one Swanson around here will get somewhere some day."
Novice At Drawing
The jibes hit home with the young man and he went home and grabbed a sheet of paper and a pencil. In his 16 years, he never had so much as drawn a resemblance of a straight line. Drawing pictures had never entered his mooned before this episode. What he had in mind at the time was to ultimately become president of Pullman.
He sent his first two cartoons to the company paper and was startled a month later to see one of them in place of Ralph's cartoon.
From then on the paper had a new cartoonist named George Swanson and he was on his way to a new career.
Born in Chicago, the son of Nel's and Anna Swanson, George's mother wanted him to be a violinist. This failed to arouse any interest in the young man, and he tried being an electrician, a wish if his father. This didn't work out either, and then he went to Pullman.
Mr. Swanson attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago after starting his new career. He later went to the Carlson Studio doing movie animations.
His first syndicated strip was "Salesman Sam," which had a seven-year tenure. His next was "High Pressure Pete," also syndicated.
Mr. Swanson and his wife, the former Victorine Turgeon of Cleveland, met while both worked for the same syndicate in Cleveland. Mrs. Swanson was with the bookkeeping department of the syndicate. They have lived in Yonkers since 1940, now at 294 Bronxville Road.
Mr. Swanson works at his drawing board at his home and sends in each week's work to his syndicate. He must work 10 weeks ahead o his daily strip and six weeks ahead on the Sunday strip. He reports that there is no let-up even on vacation, because he must keep up and ahead of schedule.
Ideas From Life
In order to get new ideas for his strip, Mr. Swanson resorts to good, plain, deep concentration. He sometimes sits and thinks for a good long time before he gets the idea he wants to portray. He tries not to look at other cartoons and strips because it is possible to unwittingly use someone else's ideas for his own strip. He also gets other material from extensive reading and from real-life episodes.
Sometimes Mr. Swanson has an idea of what he wants but can't get to the point. When this happens, he draws or sketches the last picture first and then works from there in a backward sequence.
Another difficulty which arises is the fact that his cartoon strip is carried abroad. What may be very humorous here is not always so in foreign lands….
...Besides "The Flop Family" strip which keeps him very busy, Mr. Swanson rounds out his activities as a member of the National Cartoonist Society and the Banshees, an honorary, invitation-only organization.
Mr. Swanson names his wife as his severest critic. "If she says a joke is good, I think she's clever. If she doesn't think it is good, well, we just don't speak for a week." The Swansons are currently on speaking terms.
[George O. Swanson was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 16, 1897, according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census and the Social Security Death Index. He was the second of three children born to Nils and Hannah, both Swedish emigrants. They lived in Chicago, Illinois at 1342 North Artesian Avenue. His father was a carpenter. In 1910 the family of six lived in Chicago at 17 East 112 Place. He signed his World War I draft card on August 24, 1918. At the time he lived at 41 West 111 Place in Chicago. He worked for the Pullman Company. His description was medium height, slender build with gray eyes and light brown hair.
The 1920 census recorded Swanson, his mother and youngest sister in Chicago at 417 West 111 Place. His occupation was recorded as bookkeeper. The date of his move to Ohio is not known. In 1930 he lived in Lakewood, Ohio at 11727 Lake Avenue. He married Victorine, around 1923, and worked as an artist for a newspaper syndicate. His mother-in-law lived with them.
Swanson passed away in December 1981, in Bronxville, New York, according to the Social Security Death Index.]