Thursday, March 21, 2013


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Don Dean

 Donald William Dean was born in Toledo, Ohio on February 10, 1913. His birth date was found at the Social Security Death Index, and his birthplace was determined from census records. According to his father’s World War I draft card, they lived in Toledo at 372 Hamilton. 

In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Dean was the oldest of two sons born to Ira and Bernice; his name was recorded as “Billy D.” His father was a machinist at an automobile factory. Their home in Toledo was at 2265 Kent Street. Dean attended Edward Drummond Libbey High School; the 1928 and 1929 yearbooks, The Edelian, listed his name as Billy Dean. One of his classmates was John Woggon, the third of four brothers (Elmer, Bill and Glenn), all newspaper cartoonists. 

According to the 1930 census, Dean, his father and brother resided at 1309 Harvard Boulevard, the home of his father’s brother-in-law. Dean was known as Bill in the 1930 and 1931 Edelian; in the 1930 yearbook he was a staff artist and his artwork was featured on the endpaper and humor section page. Also, he was a member of the school’s Utamara Art Society, which was named after the Japanese printmaker, Utamaro. Not long after graduating high school, he married Marjorie.

The 1940 census said Donald W. Dean had three children, ages eight, six and six months, and was a cartoonist. His father was a member of the household at 716 1/2 Oak Street in Toledo, the same address in 1935. The status and whereabouts of his mother are not known; an family tree said she passed away June 9, 1949. During the early 1940s, Dean drew Pokey Oakey, Senor Siesta and other characters for the publisher of Archie comics. His daily strip, Cranberry Boggs, debuted January 8, 1945; the first Sunday appeared January 14. The Toledo Blade, October 11, 2010, published Jim Seed’s obituary and said: “…He started illustrating comic strips while attending Woodward High School, working for Don Dean, creator of the comic Cranberry Boggs. ‘Don wrote the strip and Jim inked the rest of the strip,’ Mrs. Seed said. He graduated from Woodward in 1945 and attended the University of Toledo….”


In The Comics (1947), Coulton Waugh wrote:

For many a long, well financed year, the novels of Joseph Lincoln portrayed a romanticized seacoast which lifted millions of Americans out of their ordinary lives. “Cranberry Boggs” is simply a clever use of this appeal, with a few charming escaped murderesses thrown in. Cranberry himself is a seagoing Li’l Abner. He is all loose pants, knee patches, scrawny neck, and diffident stutter, “Y-yes indeed, g-gorsh.”...

...Don Dean, its creator, credits Charles V. McAdam, president of the McNaught Syndicate, with being the guiding light of the strip.

This well drawn strip is still too new for one to be sure of the final pattern. It will be interesting to watch its development...

In November 1936 Elmer Woggon created The Great Gusto which was later renamed Big Chief Wahoo. Dean was one of the ghosts on the strip but exact dates are not known. The Glyph!, Fall 2006, printed Ed Black’s Cartoon Flashback: “…Elmer created a short-lived aviation comic strip, Skylark. Then he created another strip, Big Chief Wahoo, in 1936 and sold it to Publishers’ Syndicate in Chicago. As time went on, Elmer asked Bill to help him out, so Bill came on and did the lettering and the backgrounds. Another cartoonist, Don Dean, came aboard in the small, cramped office in a downtown building that served as their studio. Dean was doing the strip Cranberry Bog [sic], and for Archie Comics also drew Senor Siesta….” The Cranberry Bogg daily ended July 30, 1949, and the Sunday, in the Chicago Sun-Times, on April 25, 1948. 

There is scant information on Dean in the following decades. The family tree said his father passed away in 1954. Twenty-five years later his wife died August 1, 1979, according to Ohio Deaths at Dean passed away October 27, 1984, at the St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo, as recorded at Ohio Deaths. An obituary has not been found.


Thank you for writing about our grandfather, Donald Dean. While your critic is very harsh given the fact that he was very young at the time he was doing Cranberry Boggs. His ambition and ability to obtain this level of job at such a young age was an attribute to his talent. He hadn't grown into his own style yet and obviously taking direction for others.

He went on to have a very successful career which Walt Disney sought him out and offered him a job. Unfortunately he turned it down to stay close to his family. We love and cherish his memory. Sincerely The Dean Family
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