Monday, June 30, 2014


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: B. W. Depew

Benjamin Walter Depew was born in Kansas on June 3, 1888, according to census records and the Social Security Death Index. His full name was found in The Descendants of William Kellie of Scotland (1994).His parents were John Walter Depew and Evaline Sylvia Cox.

In 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Depew was the youngest of four children. The family resided in Yates Center, Kansas on Rutledge Street. His father was the assistant postmaster. In the 1905 Kansas State Census, Depew was the fourth of five children.

According to the 1910 census, Depew, his parents and two siblings remained in Yates Center but on Washington Street. His father was a cashier at the National Bank. Depew was 21 years old and unemployed. Information regarding his education and art training has not been found.

Not long after the census, Depew was a cartoonist at the Wichita Eagle. One of his Eagle cartoons, “Who Cut the Price?”, was reprinted in The American Pressman, March 1911, and International Horseshoers’ Monthly Magazine, April 1911.

At some point, Depew moved to Topeka, Kansas, where he worked at the Capper Engraving Company. The Wichita Stamp Club Newsletter, January 2010, said he met Coy Avon Seward who was in the Capper art department. In 1913, Depew drew a cartoon of Seward which was reproduced on page 12 of the catalog, C.A. Seward: Artist and Draftsman. A passage from the catalog said:

…He [Seward] often traveled with his friends Ben Depew and Leo Courtney, as well as author William Stanley Campbell (pen name Stanley Vestal), to observe ceremonies of Plains Indian tribes in Western Kansas and Oklahoma. Depew depicted some of these adventures in cartoon drawings and photographs…
Depew’s photographs were published in Life Among the Cheyennes; some of them can be viewed at Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes. The book’s endpaper has a pasted, cut-out portrait that may be Depew. A photograph of Depew and Seward is here.

The Fourth Estate, August 19, 1916, noted that Depew had been at Capper “…and for several months staff photographer and artist of the Des Moines Tribune’s editorial department, has been placed in charge of the art department of both the Register and Tribune.”

Depew’s World War I draft card is not available but the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs Death File, at, said he enlisted May 25, 1917 and was released May 10, 1919. The Editor & Publisher, June 15, 1918, reported the Register-Tribune’s banquet honoring its employees, including Depew, who were in military service. The Hutchinson News (Kansas), February 19, 1919, mentioned a wounded “Sergeant Benjamin Walter Depew, Yates Center.”

Depew was counted twice in the 1920 census. He was in his parents’ household in Yates Center, at 307 Mary Street, and a Kansas City Star cartoonist. Over in Des Moines, Iowa, he was listed as “W.B. Depew”, a roomer at 1047 Seventh Street and cartoonist with the Register and Leader newspaper.

According to The Descendants of William Kellie of Scotland, Depew married Helen Westerfield on May 31, 1923.

The 1925 Iowa State Census recorded Depew, his wife and son, Walter, in Des Moines on Pleasant Street.

The Fourth Estate, September 4, 1926, announced Depew’s new assignment.

Robert E. Dickson, Assistant Sunday editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, has transcribed his experiences with a new son into a daily humorous narrative, The Diary of a New Father. The feature, illustrated by Walt DePew, will be released early in September by the Des Moines Register and Tribune Syndicate.
According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), Ned Brant was drawn by Depew, written by football coach, Bob Zuppke, and distributed by the Des Moines Register and Tribune Syndicate. The strip debuted October 21, 1929. The Sunday Ned Brant included two topper features, Off the Campus and Baseball by Ned Brant, and all debuted January 27. Off the Campus was replaced by They’re Still Talking. The Baseball by Ned Brant series gave way to explanations of other sports, like football, basketball, etc. 

Ted Ashby took over the writing of Ned Brant in 1942. The title changed to Dick Ember on November 3, 1948. The strip ended June 4, 1949. Ned Brant also appeared in comic books.

 Seattle Times 8/25/1935

Seattle Times 9/1/1935

The 1930 census said newspaper artist Depew remained in Des Moines at a different address, 1801 West 38th Street. A second son, Robert, was part of the family.

American Newspaper Comics said Depew drew Slim and Tubby (previously titled Flying to Fame) from June 3 to December 3, 1932.

Depew remained at the same address and profession in the 1940 census. He had four years of high school and did not attend college. In 1939 he worked 52 weeks and earned $3,300.

Depew passed away August 21, 1986, in Des Moines, according to the Social Security Death Index and his veteran’s death file. He was buried in Glendale Cemetery.

—Alex Jay


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