Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Frank Owen

Frank Edward Owen was born in Clarksville, Texas on February 22, 1907. His birthplace was mentioned in the Dallas Morning News (Texas), April 1, 1931, and Parade magazine, September 9, 1956. The Social Security Death Index and Find a Grave have his date of birth. In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, he was the oldest of two sons born to Frank and Annie. (The family name was “Owens” in the census. transcribed the name as “Arms”.) They lived in Clarksville. 

According to the 1920 census, the family was in Clarksville at 714 Comanche. Owen was the oldest of three sons. His father was a hardware salesman. Texas Painters, Sculptors & Graphic Artists (2000) said he “attended Dallas University for two years, then worked in oilfields along the Mexican border. Without formal art training, he began drawing cartoons. These led to employment at a Dallas advertising agency followed by two years as a cartoonist for the Dallas Journal….” The Morning News, May 19, 1935, said “…Mr. Owen got his start as an artist in Dallas, working in that capacity for the first time for the Radcliffe-Dewey Advertising Agency. His interest in cartooning led him to newspaper work. In his two years with The Dallas Journal he passed from novitiate to clever craftsmanship….” Owen also contributed spot illustrations to the Morning News humor column, “Under Texas Skies”. He was one of at least three artists, the others were Smith and A. Streater. Unsigned illustrations began appearing on May 10, 1929. At some point they were allowed to signed their work.

Dallas Morning New 1/30/1931

Dallas Morning New 2/1/1931

Owen has not been found in the 1930 census. He was one of 24 participants in the first annual commercial art exhibition which was held at the Dallas Art Institute, as reported in the Morning News, December 16, 1930. Owen’s last illustration for “Under Texas Skies” was published February 1, 1931. The Morning News, April 1, 1931, said, “Regular readers of Skies may have wondered what became of Frank Owen, former ‘Navigator,’ formerly of Clarksville, so the Sky Pilot takes pleasure in informing then that Frank is now staff artist on the Newark (New Jersey) Ledger.” After his stint at the Ledger, Texas Painters, Sculptors & Graphic Artists said, “… afterward [he] worked freelance. His cartoons appeared in Saturday Evening Post, Life, Judge, and the New York American. Owen secured a lucrative arrangement sketching two cartoons a week for Collier’s magazine exclusively….” He sold the panel Little Philbert to Collier’s magazine. (Does anyone know when the panel began?) Collier’s, January 5, 1935, featured Philbert on its New Year’s coverLater that year, more than 60 Philbert cartoons were published in the Philbert book. In January 1936, Owen’s strip Ossie Tittle began. It ended in in March 1937, and just a few months later, Jasper, a Philbert-like character, began in June 1937. Look magazine, April 26, 1938, published a photo of Owen (top).

He has not been found in the 1940 census. During World War II, he enlisted in the navy on March 23, 1944, and was released December 8, 1945. He wrote and illustrated Morris the Midget Moose, which was published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in 1945. The character was featured in a 1950 Disney film, according to Animated Short Films: A Critical Index to Theatrical Cartoons (1998). The Morning News, December 19, 1946, noted the passing of his mother. At the time he lived in Haverstraw, New York. In 1947, his illustrations appeared in Ogden Nash’s Musical Zoo, published by Little Brown and Company.

He illustrated Ted Key’s So’m I, published in 1954. Comedian Jerry Lewis chose five Owen cartoons for Parade magazines’s September 9, 1956 issue. The cartoons were from Collier’s and the Saturday Evening Post. Parade said, “…Owen was born in Clarksville, Tex., attended Dallas University. A magazine illustrator, syndicated cartoonist and ardent fisherman, he now lives with his wife in Stockholm, N.J.”

Owen passed away February 24, 1971, in New Jersey, according to Find a Grave.


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