Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Fay King

Fay Barbara King was born in Seattle, Washington in March 1889. Her full name was published in The San Francisco Call, January 24, 1913. According to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, the King family was counted twice. The first enumeration was on June 1, 1900 and "Fay B.", born May 1889, was the only child of John and Ella. They lived in Portland, Oregon at 323 Alder Street. Her father was in the baths trade. His business partner, John Compton, was the head of the household. The second enumeration was on June 6, 1900 and "Effie B.", born March 1889, was the only child of John and Ella. They lived in Portland, Oregon at 590 Front Street. Her father was a Turkish bath employee. The Call, March 1, 1913, reported that Battling Nelson, King's husband, was planning to attend her March birthday. In Women and the Comics (1985), Trina Robbins wrote, "Fay King was born in Seattle to a trainer of athletes and grew up surrounded by sportsmen and pugilists…."

The earliest notice of King may have been in the The Oregonian, August 7, 1901, which reported the contests on Woodmen's Day. She won second prize, one dollar, in the 50 yard dash. Her artistic abilities were praised in the December 4, 1904, Oregonian:

Young Artist Cheers Miss Angus 
Miss Fay King Presents Her With Sketches of Columbia Players  

In Little Fay King, of 830 Raleigh street, Miss Edith Angus has an ardent friend and admirer, and one who does not forget her in her loneliness. When her benefit was given at the Columbia Theater, Miss King, who has marked artistic ability, thoughtfully made color sketches of the various people who participated in the program and sent them to Miss Angus. The note which accompanied it follows:

"I thought perhaps you would like to see how some of the people who helped to entertain looked and how they were dressed, and I hope you will like and accept my sketches."

Miss Angus was so much pleased with the little girl's thoughtfulness that she asked The Oregonian to reproduce some of the drawings. Besides those given here there were sketches of Mrs. Rose Bloch-Bauer, Mr. William Bernard, Dot Bernard, Mr. Baume and other, all of them being splendid likenesses.

Miss King is a winsome girl of 14, whose great ambition is to be "a good, all-around artist—like Mr. Murphy." She has [illegible] had but one month's instruction in drawing, but her ability to reproduce likenesses is great, and with proper [illegible] she will have a future in the art world.

"The first drawing I ever did was drawing pictures of paper dolls and [illegible] of nonsensical things when I was [illegible] bit of a girl. Hilda Garrett and I [illegible] to be great friends and play together [illegible] I was with her when I first [illegible] people. It just seemed to come [illegible] and I liked it so much that I have [illegible] wanted to do any other kind of [illegible] since then," is her modest explanation of her work. When asked what her [illegible] is she said:

"Oh, if I can just be like Mr. Murphy [illegible] will be entirely satisfied. I would [illegible] newspaper work, though. I'd rather [illegible] draw for people to admire my [illegible] vate. It's lots harder to [illegible] ing people than others, but I [illegible] want to be a cartoonist. If you [illegible] to put anything in the paper, [illegible] forget to say how much I think of Miss Angus—will you? I think she is [illegible] lovely, and everybody wishes she [illegible] get well."

The 1910 census recorded the Kings in Portland at 826 Raleigh Street. She was an artist and cartoonist. Her education continued at Seattle University (SU). The Oregonian, July 2, 1911, published an article and photo of King in her new car, a gift from her father: "The latest recruit to the ranks of Portland's feminine motorists is Miss Fay King, the clever cartoonist and dramatic writer of the Spectator's staff…." The Spectator was the newspaper of SU. Her plan to travel in a hot air balloon was cancelled by her parents, as reported in the August 12, 1911, Oregonian.

Fay King Not To Soar
Young Woman's Parents Forbid Her Proposed Balloon Trip.

Fay King, whose intention to make a balloon ascension with Tiny Broadwick was announced is not going to soar. Several important reasons have developed which make such a feat on the part of the young woman impossible.

In the first place the advance story spoiled it all. It called the attention of the young artist's parents to the feat contemplated by their daughter, and both father and mother emphatically set their parental feet down and announced that no such action would be permitted. Miss Fay is an only daughter.

The Oregonian 8/10/1911

In April 1912, she moved to Colorado to join The Denver Post newspaper, which had published, about six years earlier, illustrations by Denver-native Nell Brinkley. Her impending arrival was reported in The Post, April 18, 1912:

Fay King's Coming; Sends a Picture So Denver'll Know Her 

Fay King is coming to Denver.

Know her? Well, if you do not, you will mighty soon, for she is to join The Post staff on Saturday of this week.

Fay King is the greatest woman cartoonist, caricaturist and "kidder" in the world today, and she's just bubbling over with fun of the most contagious, infectious kind.

You'll laugh with her, for you just can't help yourself.

Fay King is young—very young, in fact—but the hats of veterans in the comic art world are off to her. She comes to Denver from the Pacific northwest, where she had made a tremendous hit.

She not only makes pictures, but she writes and writes well.

She's a writer, a critic and a cartoonist in one, and good in each and every line.

Here's the letter she sent to F.G. Bonfils of The Post, in response to his telegram inviting her to join The Post family:

"Portland, Ore., April 14, '12.

"Mr. F.G. Bonfils, The Post,
Denver Colo.

"Dr. Mr. Bonfils—Your telegram received. I bought my ticket today and will leave here Thursday (April 18) at 10 a.m., and will arrive in Denver Saturday (April 20) at 10 a.m.

"You are very kind to come to the depot and meet me. You don't know how much I will appreciate it. That you may know me I will be dressed like the inclosed sketch and will carry a Denver Post.


And the sketch that she inclosed—well, just look at it and see if you can keep from laughing.

"Here's Fay King, The Post's new girl writer and cartoonist, sketched
by herself for purposes of identification upon her arrival in Denver." 
Denver Post 4/18/1912

For an assignment in July, she interviewed boxing champion Oscar "Battling" Nelson; excerpts from her July 29, 1912 interview, "Battling Nelson, Capitalist, Author, Mayor of Hegewisch and Greatest of Ring Champions, Is Visiting in Denver": 

Denver Post 7/29/1912 

..."But—how about this latest rumor about your marriage to Miss Irma Kilgallen, the beautiful Chicago heiress? You admit you were sweet on her—won't you tell me all about it?" 

"Well, I think it was a case of love at first sight when Irma and I first met, seven years ago in Chicago, and it was mutual. Somehow we both looked forward to love in a cottage—but, then came her fateful trip to Europe, when she married that bum, 'Count No Account,' to please her mother….

..."Do you think you'll ever marry, Bat?" I asked, remembering it was leap year.

"Well, if I believed in dreams, I should say NOT—because the other night I dreamed (you see, this matrimonial publicity has been on my mind so), I was married, and presented my country with five young lightweights all at one time! I remember that I named them—Battling Jr., "T.R.," William Jennings Bryan, Julian Eltinge and Carter H. I was just opening congratulatory telegrams from all the dignitaries of the U.S.A., when I awoke. Do you wonder I hesitate to enter a (wedding) ring career after a jolt like that. Can you beat it."

"Battling Nelson and Fay King Attend the Ball Game"
Denver Post 7/30/1912

"Battling Nelson Becomes 'Kid' for a Day and Goes to Circus"
Denver Post 8/3/1912

"…Oh, it all intoxicated us! We were in a whirl of pure joy every minute. When it was over—and Bat and I tired, tramped hand in hand, from the lot, we slowly came back from "kid land" to reality; but it was some trip, Steve, and it takes a circus to cast that spell."

The Call covered, on August 5, 1912, their attempted marriage. 

Nelson Sidesteps Undertaker As His Life's Matchmaker
Pikes Peak Summit, Colo., Aug 4. Battling Nelson and Fay King, a Denver newspaper artist, were balked here this afternoon in an attempt to get married.

The former champion and Miss King took the trip of 14,147 feet up Pikes Peak for the start of their honeymoon. To their surprise and consternation they found out that the minister had grown tired waiting for them and had left. Only a telegraph operator and an undertaker were on hand. The undertaker was willing to be substituted, but Nelson decided to postpone the ceremony.

Nelson and Miss King returned to Denver and Bat will there make arrangements for the wedding. After a trip to Chicago and Hegeswich he plans a honeymoon to Australia.

The Call published a follow-up article September 29, 1912.

'Ware the Women, Says Battling Dane
St. Joseph. Mo., Sept. 28.—For the first time in his life Battling Nelson has declined to be interviewed. This time the subject of the proposed interview was matrimonial, not pugilism. "Is it true that your rumored engagement with Miss Fay King of Denver is all off?" Nelson was asked.

"The only match I know about is the one my Chicago representative is trying to clinch with Packey McFarland," replied Nelson, "and he is pretty slow about it, too."

Miss King says she loves you like a brother, but that she has not considered you for a husband," Nelson was informed.

"If McFarland thinks he can lick me, now is his chance," replied Bat.

"Didn't you and Miss King go up on Pikes peak and engage a minister to marry you? And didn't the minister fail to show up?" were the next questions.

"I'm not going to talk about marriage," said Bat. "I am leaving the matter up to her. What she says is right, no matter if she's wrong." Then Nelson got serious. 

"There's no use in my talking marriage," he said. "Any man who says he's going to marry a woman is crazy, unless he has her right at the altar—and even then he's liable to be fooled. She may not like the color of his necktie and call off the match. Miss King is a fine cartoonist, and she'd make a fine wife for anybody. If I'm the lucky fellow at the finish I'll be tickled to death, that's all. But I'm not saying a word one way or the other on the time, the place or the girl." 

The Denver Post, January 22, 1913, may have been the first paper to report their upcoming marriage.

Miss Fay King, Cartoonist, to Be Battling Nelson's Bride
Fay King, the clever cartoonist and artist, who has been a member of The Post staff of artists for several months, and Battling Nelson, former lightweight pugilist champion, are to be married at Nelson's home in Hegewisch, Ill., tomorrow. They left Denver last night, informing only a few close friends of their departure. They will return to Denver the first of next week and may reside here.

Personal friends of the couple have known for some time that Fay King and Battling Nelson were in love with each other. But there was no intimation on the part of either that an early marriage was contemplated.

Miss King had not anticipated any such quick move on the part of her fiance, but after his arrival she decided with him that there wasn't any use in delaying the marriage, so she obtained a leave of absence and joined in with his plans.

Nelson's winning of the clever artist, though it had its inception long ago, was really a matter of a four-days' campaign, conducted with whirlwind speed. The former champion arrived in the city on Monday, determined that when he left he would take Miss King along with him. He was not prepared for any long stay, and he wasted no time in completing his conquest, for on Tuesday evening the young artist had yielded to his forceful wooing and agreed to accompany him back to Illinois. They are on their way now and by Thursday night will have been married and have held their wedding reception in Hegewisch.

The Call, January 24, 1913, published an account of wedding. 

Nelson Succumbs to God of Love 
Brass Band Plays as Minister Unites Bat and Miss Fay King

Chicago, Jan. 23.—Oscar Matthew Nelson, once famed as the lightweight champion pugilist, and Miss Fay Barbara King, a Denver cartoonist, were married today at the fighter's home in Hegewisch. The ceremony was brief, but as the final words fell from the minister's lips the bride, overcome by the nervous strain, swayed and toppled over into her husband's arms, sobbing violently. "Bat" soothed his bride, and pretty soon she smiled and said, "I feel much better after my cry."

Rev. W.E. Pearson, a Lutheran clergyman of Moline, performed the ceremony. "Jack" Robinson, manager of the fighter, was best man, and Miss Ida Nelson, sister of the groom, was maid of honor.

Outside a brass band burst forth into "Moonlight Bay." A report said there was to be a double wedding. Miss Ida Nelson, it was said, was to have been married to a young man of the town immediately after her brother's marriage. The story run that at the last minute the young man, fearing bad luck if he married on the twenty-third, insisted upon a postponement. Miss Nelson denied the story.

"I'm the happiest guy in the world." Bat said. Asked about his wife's future, the groom said: 

"She'll probably devote her time to illustrating my map. But I'll stay in the ring. I've got to, as that's the only way I have of making a living."

The couple came to Chicago after the ceremony and a wedding breakfast was served at the Wellington hotel.

The trip downtown to "Bat's" home was a gala affair. A special car on the Illinois Central was chartered and a band hired.

On the train Miss King drew a cartoon of the pugilist. The moving picture men were clamoring for some pictures and set up their machines before, the happy pair. The band played and "Bat" leaned over and (kissed his bride to be twice, and the picture machines got it all.

A big crowd turned out at Hegewisch to greet "Bat" and his fiancee. There were vigorous cheers as the party stepped from the train. The band played as the long line of friends, townsmen. newspaper men, moving picture operators and photographers started for the Nelson home behind the bridal party in a big automobile.

Tonight the couple entertained friends at a theater. 

The Day Book (Chicago) 1/25/1913

Their marriage was turbulent and on February 28, 1913, The Call detailed the problem:

Nelson's Wife Says Pugilist Kidnapped Her
Former Lightweight Champion Will Be Met at Denver by Summons in Divorce Suit

Denver, Feb. 28.—Battling Nelson, financier of Hegewiseh and erstwhile champion lightweight prize fighter, will be met with a summons in a suit for divorce when he arrives in Denver March 5.

This announcement was made tonight by friends of Mrs. Nelson, better known in Denver as Fay King, a cartoonist on the Post.

That she was kidnaped by Battling Nelson on the night of January 20 for her marriage three days later at the fighter's home will be the charge which the suit will be based.

Fay King remained three days as Nelson's wife. She left for Denver on the Sunday night following the marriage and then went on to Portland. Ore., to visit her parents before resuming her work on the Post.

"Nelson heard of my reported engagement to a Denver man and ho stopped his fighting engagements to come here for me." said Miss King tonight. "He took me by storm after I was weak and a nervous wreck from resisting him and his proposals he forced me into a taxicab and rushed me off to the station.

"I realized that I had made a mistake the day of the wedding and the first opportunity I got I hurried back to Denver. I will go right on working on the Post as though the affair had never happened.

"The marriage must not and will not stand." 

In The Call, May 6, 1913, the couple was back together.

Fay Has the Say and Battler Will Retire 
Chicago, May 5.—Battling Nelson, hero of many ring battles, the receiver of many a lacing, ''…and former lightweight champion of the world, today announced the date of his retirement from the ring. Bat is going to quit. There's no idle boast connected with the announcement. It may not be the wish of the once durable Dane to put the gloves on the shelf, but it is the request Mrs. Battling Nelson, Fay King, and Fay has the say. Labor day will be the Dane's last fight—this because it will be the eighteenth anniversary of his fighting career. He would quit now but for that. There will be no fights between now and September, however. Nelson and his wife are now in Bedford, Va., resting up. Bat plans on settling in the far west. 

Years later Nelson sued King for divorce as reported in Cartoons Magazine, March 1916. A divorce was granted later that year.

The Colorado School of Mines Magazine, November 1914, published an account of King's visit. A 1917 issue of Motion Picture had two lines about King: "William S. Hart has recently been cleverly cartooned by Fay King, the famous Denver sketch-artist. She concluded a letter to him by averring: 'You get 'em—from the seminary to the cemetery!' " Cartoons Magazine, January 1918, noted her move to the art staff of the San Francisco Examiner. Later that year she moved to New York City.

Evening Telegram 11/20/1918

In the 1920 census, she lived in Manhattan, New York City at the Pennsylvania Hotel, 425 Seventh Avenue. She gave her age as 26 (1894 birth year) and was a newspaper feature writer. Editor & Publisher, January 29, 1921, noted her whereabouts: "Fay King, cartoonist and feature writer for the New York Evening Journal, just spent a week visiting "home folks" in Kansas City. Miss King was employed on the Kansas City Post and Denver Post before going to New York." Google News has a selection of her illustrated writings from the 1920s and 1930s; in the box "this exact phrase" enter "by Fay King", without quotes.

The New York Times 12/30/1923

King wrote about her strip Girls Will Be Girls in the publication, Circulation, February 1925. In the book, Nell Brinkley and the New Woman in the Early 20th Century (2001), Trina Robbins talks about King's work. She was one of several cartoonists featured in an advertisement for the Federal School of Illustrating, which was published in Popular Mechanics, December 1928.

The Courier (Brookfield, NY) 8/6/1930

In the 1930 census, her age was misrepresented as 35. She lived in Manhattan  at the Commodore Hotel, 109 East 42nd Street. Her occupation was journalist and cartoonist. In O.O. McIntyre's column, "New York Day by Day", in the Reno Evening Gazette, October 25, 1934, it said: "Fay King is, so far as I know, America's only lady newspaper cartoonist. And the most pronounced recluse among the limners. Vivacious and sparkling, she is sought wherever crowds gather but rarely responds. I have yet to see her at any of the whirligigs of literary folk. She resides at a sedate midtown hotel, is an indefatigable walker, devoted to a canary and a frequent loiterer in the galleries. But is—and that's unusual for a Manhattan celebrity—a strictly no-party girl." She was one of the celebrities named in the July 11, 1936 Joe Palooka comic strip (below).

Joe Palooka detail

She has not been found in the 1940 census. Battling Nelson passed away February 7, 1954. The Oregonian, February 9, 1954, reported that the funeral expenses were to be paid by King. The New York Times, June 27, 1967, wrote about dog owners and the accessories they buy: "…Dog coats of mink, chinchilla and Brazilian jaguar fur are featured in the Bow-Tique (as in bow wow) at Dogs of Distinction, Inc., 1449 First Avenue (near 75th Street) a posh avocado green salon opened this spring by Estyne del Rio, a former dancer, and Fay King, free-lance writer. 'Now here is a coat that is really versatile,' Miss King said recently, picking up a $250 mink dog coat and tossing it around her neck. 'It doubles as a dickey for a woman....' "

An obituary for King has not been found. An essay on King is here.


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