Monday, May 07, 2012


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Charles Lederer

Charles Lederer was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on December 31, 1856, according to Who's Who in America 1910-1911 and The Book of Chicagoans 1911. In the 1860 U.S. Federal Census, he was the youngest of two children born to Jacob and Bettina; his father was a designer. The family lived in Lowell. In 1870 he and his parents resided in Brooklyn, New York; he was in school. The Book of Chicagoans said he was a "cartoonist and illustrator since 1875 for Frank Leslie's, Harper's, New York World, New York Herald…."

He has not been found in the 1880 census. The Chicago Herald organized an expedition "to search out the spot where Christopher Columbus first set foot upon the soil of the new world." The Herald's Washington correspondent Walter Wellman, artist Lederer, a photographer and mechanic sailed from New York City, June 4, 1891, as reported in the Herald. The New York Times, February 1, 1934, said, "The first feat that brought him [Wellman] to wide notice was a jaunt to the Bahamas. There he located the exact landing place of Christopher Columbus on Watling Island or San Salvador, and placed a permanent marker at the spot…." The Sunday Inter-Ocean (Chicago, Illinois), September 11, 1892, profiled Chicago newspaper artists. On Lederer it said:

…About the only one who had the necessary skill and could give the required lightning action was Charles Lederer, of the Herald, who has the honor of having introduced this brand of newspaper enterprise in Chicago. The son of an artist residing in Lowell, Mass., Mr. Lederer, was born thirty-six years ago, and has been making pictures for a living for the past twenty. He could furnish a barrel of interesting incidents of a variegated career, but won't. He possesses an extraordinary facility, originality, and a gracefulness in drawing. Its most prominent characteristic is its large popularity with the masses, which has done much to place the Herald where it is in popular esteem. He is short, but won't admit it, has the hair and complexion of a stage villain, and has thus far escaped matrimony. He is a great club man, but claims to travel in the goody-goody class. He admits having $4.75 in the bank and $1.69 due and outstanding, under the impression that Mr. Bradstreet would see this notice. He speaks English in a North Clark street dialect. When pressed to give an account of himself he stated that he had struck out at 16 and worked on nearly all the New York illustrated papers and after having been discharged from the same number came to Chicago in 1877. Then he did general designing, illustrating publications from the pinkest of sporty papers to Sunday school books, with great impartiality. In 1883 newspaper illustration was introduced, and he worked on the Mail, Times, Tribune, News and Herald, remaining with the latter since 1885. Besides the regular run of newspaper illustration, he has done "comics," caricatures, and special and humorous writing which achieved much popularity.
When Lederer quit the Chicago Times-Herald in March 1895, it was national news, including newspapers such as the Kansas City Times (Missouri) and San Francisco Call. The May 13, 1895 World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska) noted he had been living at his summer home in Atlantic, Iowa. The Aberdeen Daily News (South Dakota), December 9, 1895, reported Lederer "who as a cartoonist has no superior, has recently been sent to Europe by Mr. Kohlsaat, and some illustrated articles from his pen are now appearing…" The World Herald, (Omaha, Nebraska), January 26, 1896, said about Lederer:
…he is known all over the country as the great cartoonist of the old Chicago Herald, on which paper he made his reputation. He still contributes a story, for Lederer can write, with pictures to the Chicago Times-Herald on Sunday, but his principle work is now being done on the New York Mercury, the first page of which is daily illuminated with a cartoon from Lederer's pen. His illustrations of various phases of political life in the empire state are attracting considerable attention, and his pictures are already being copied, although he did not commence his work on the Mercury until the first of this month. Lederer's pen is a wicked one, and as a political cartoonist he is a terror to the opposition. Fortunately he is a democrat, from choice and principle, and therefore his thrusts are damaging to the enemy alone.
Evidently, Lederer tried his hand at publishing according to a World Herald item published June 4, 1898.

Buys Out the Messenger.
Atlantic, Ia., June 3.—Charles Lederer, formerly staff artist on the New York World, has purchased the Messenger printing plant of this city, and will run an independent newspaper, although personally he is a Democrat. Lederer takes possession Monday.
The 1900 census recorded Lederer in Chicago, Illinois at 514 North Avenue. His stepmother and a servant lived with him. His occupation was artist. The Book of Chicagoans said he was a "cartoonist and illustrator…for…[the] Chicago Herald and Record-Herald, [and] Chronicle…" For the Chronicle he contributed Red Squab and Maudie's Beau.

According to the Book of Chicagoans he married Bertha Adele Mitchell, of Chihuahua, Colorado, September 29, 1907. The couple spent time in Europe. According to a New York passenger list, they returned from Genoa, Italy to New York City on December 5, 1907. For a brief time, he and his wife performed together; a brochure for their performance, Fun with Chalk, can be viewed at the Iowa Digital Library.

In 1910 they lived in Chicago at 1115 East 61st Street; his wife was 26 years old. He was a newspaper artist of his "own account". Herringshaw's American Statesman and Public Official Year-Book (1914) had an address for Lederer at 106 North La Salle Street in Chicago, and said he was publisher of American Advance, and art manager for American Illustration and News Service. In 1914 he contributed Old Doc Quack to the Chicago Tribune Sunday comics page. Cartoons Magazine, October 1915, reported his recent endeavors.

Lederer Visits West
Charles Lederer, the veteran Chicago cartoonist, accompanied by Mrs. Lederer, has been visiting the Pacific coast. He attended the meetings of the National Educational Association in Los Angeles, and looked in at the Panama-Pacific Exposition. Since his retirement from the active newspaper field, which he entered in the days of chalk plates, Mr. Lederer has been writing and illustration a series of art books for school use.
The Rockford Republic (Illinois), October 25, 1918, said Lederer teamed up with actor David C. Bangs. "Lederer does chalk talk stuff while the audience waits, does them in colors and most beautifully, while Bangs recites the works that exemplifies and fully explains the pictures."

He has not been found in the 1920 census. The Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 1, Group 1, Books, March 1920 has an entry for him:

Lederer, Charles, 1856- 
The Lederer art course; a complete, simplified system of drawing, design, cartooning and color work, by Charles Lederer. New York, Independent corporation [1920] 34 pt. illus., plates. 23cm.© Mar. 31, 1920: 2c. and aff. Apr. 8, 1920; A 565500; Sam S. Gerstle, Chattanooga. (20-6655) 1476
The art course was advertised in periodicals such as Popular Science Monthly and Everybody's Magazine. In 1923 he produced Turn Me Over.

The Chicago Daily Tribune reported Lederer's passing on December 14, 1925; a snippet from the article: "Charles Lederer veteran newspaper cartoonist dies in county hospital at age of 70". Cole Johnson accessed the article and wrote, "Charles Lederer was attacked by Bright's Disease, and was initially hospitalized in Racine, Wis., from there he was moved to the Cook County Hospital in Chicago on Dec. 7. He died there on Dec. 13. 'So far as his friends know, he left no relatives'. A meeting of newspapermen was scheduled to raise funds for his funeral."

An earlier profile appeared in the Inland Printer, December 1893.


I just purchased an original watercolor signed by Charles Lederer on an online auction. It is of a court scene. I read that he was a cartoonist, illustrator. As I read more about him and about the Chicago Tribune sending him to find The location where Christopher Columbus landed, I believe this painting is of Columbus and Isabella. Maybe it was an illustration for a book or magazine? Does anyone know anything about it? I purchased it for $25.00! Please let me know. My email is Corinne Barnhill - Brandon, Mississippi.
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