Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Lester


Charles Fitch Lester was born in Norwich, Connecticut, on October 15, 1868. His full name was published in a number of Yale University publications such as the Yale Banner, Volume 48, 1889. Lester’s birth date was based on information in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census and the New York Times, October 16, 1938.

In 1870 census, Lester was the only child of Giddings and Mary, who resided in Norwich. His father was railroad station clerk. The family continued to live in Norwich according to the 1880 census.

Lester was profiled in the March 1899 issue of Printer and Bookmaker which said:

A remarkable fact about Mr. Lester’s instruction in drawing, since his first step into the artistic world, is that he had rather less than usual, in comparison with the amount which other successful illustrators have received. Mr. Lester was born in Norwich, Conn., and, like most artists whose work is destined to be famous, had been at work with a pen to pencil almost since boyhood. He did not decide to devote his attention to art, however, until after his graduation from Yale in ’90. In the fall of that year he commenced to teach the classics in Canandaigua Academy, Canandaigua, N.Y. Here he discovered that nothing but pen, ink and paper would ever satisfy him, and forthwith began to study. He became a student in Chautauqua correspondence course under Ernest Knaufft, and it was the encouragement he received there which led him to come to New York, in the fall of ’91, for further study. He attended the Art Students’ League, in the “Prep” class, for a year and had a year, afternoons, in the Academy antique classes. He has since drawn from life in the Brooklyn Art School, but aside from that Mr. Lester has had little study….

The Democrat Chronicle (Rochester, New York), June 19, 1897, mentioned Lester as a contributor to Life magazine: “A five-column cartoon with verses drawn and written by Charles F. Lester, who draws for Life, it is entitled Columbia’s Greeting. Also different portraits of Queen Victoria showing how she looked as a child. These portraits have been pronounced striking.”

Lester was a Brooklyn resident in the 1892 New York state census. In the 1900 census, Lester roomed with his aunt Cornelia Knowles’s family in Brooklyn at 199 Rodney Street.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Lester produced The Dippy Dudes for the McClure Syndicate. The strip ran from April 2, 1905 to February 4, 1906.

Lester contributed art to Good Housekeeping magazine. It’s not known when his first illustration appeared. To date, the earliest piece, “An Advance Agent of Death”, was in the May 1908 issue; it was signed “CF Lester” in the lower left-hand corner.

From October 1908 to February 1909, Good Housekeeping had Lester illustrate the first four parts of Thornton Burgess’s Captain Toodles. Lester was replaced by T.S. Sullivant who did parts five and six. These Captain Toodles were published in newspapers in 1910 and 1911.

Lester moved around Brooklyn. The 1912 Directory of the Living Graduates of Yale University listed him at 145 Hewes Street. Two years later, the 1914 directory had Lester’s address as 208 Keap Street. In the 1915 New York state census, Lester roomed with his aunt Cornelia at 506 Bedford Avenue.

Lester contributed art to St. Nicholas magazine and illustrated Alice Hale Burnett’s book, A Day at the County Fair, which was published in 1916.

Lester has not yet been found in the 1920 and 1930 censuses. He was mentioned in the New York Evening Post, February 14, 1936: “He [Charles M. Kellogg] was sitting in the apartment of a friend, Charles F. Lester, an artist, at 20 West Eighth Street, last night, discussing a book which lay on the table beside them….Toward 10 P. M. a bat flew in through the transom....”

Lester passed away October 15, 1938, in New Providence, New Jersey. His death was reported the following day in the New York Times.

New Providence, N.J., Oct. 16.—Charles Fitch Lester, a commercial artist and magazine illustrator, died last night at his home here on his seventieth birthday. He was born in Norwich, Conn., and was graduated from Yale in 1890. His widow survives.
The next year, Lester’s Empire secretary was for sale as reported in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 12, 1939. 
The Antique Shoppe, 921 Fulton St., has a delightful collection of old English and Early American and Victorian furniture. An Empire secretary, for instance, in its original condition, is perfect for a man’s den. It was the property of Charles F. Lester, well-known cartoonist.

This secretary contains four small pigeonholes on each side of the upper compartment and larger pigeonholes at the center, with four small drawers underneath. Under the writing compartment there is a large drawing. It is made of solid mahogany and rosewood.

—Alex Jay 


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