Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Herbert Johnson


Herbert Hollingsworth Johnson was born in Sutton, Nebraska, on October 30, 1878, according to his World War II draft card. His full name was found on a family tree at Ancestry.com.

In he 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Johnson was the youngest of two sons born to Joseph, a broker, and Mary. The family resided in Sutton which was their home in the 1885 Nebraska state census. In the state census, Johnson was the second of four brothers. At some point, the Johnson family moved to Lincoln, Nebraska.

In the Evening Public Ledger (Pennsylvania), February 4, 1919, Johnson said he and Clare Briggs both studied at the Western Normal College in Lincoln, Nebraska. At the time, Johnson was fourteen and Briggs, seventeen.

The Omaha World-Herald, (Nebraska), October 18, 1936, said Johnson attended the University of Nebraska.

At the university he became cartoonist for all school publications. Professors at the university recall how Johnson attended a history examination, turned in a paper with several historical cartoons drawn on blank sheets of paper, received a perfect grade for his effort.
The University Missourian, (Columbia, Missouri), May 20, 1914, published Johnson’s account of how he became a cartoonist. Previously, he had been a clerk and stenographer.
“At seventeen,” Mr. Johnson says, “ I drifted into the office of the cartoonist of the Denver Republican, Mr. Wilmarth. He seemed to take it for granted that I was looking for a job, which I was not, at least not a job as an artist; it never occurred to me to show him some of my sketches, which I did.”

Mr. Johnson was hired and began his career as a cartoonist....
Johnson’s early career was recounted in the San Diego Union (California), August 8, 1926.
…Johnson’s first experience in cartooning began with the Denver Republican, and his first “sit” lasted two months. Then he trekked to Chi[ago] looking for a job and later went to Kansas City, where he hooked up with the Journal of that city. Later he returned to Lincoln, Neb., and entered the state university, taking his degree. Then he drifted out to California….

“In California I walked over the greater part of the state, working at all sorts of day labor jobs. I worked as a snow shoveler in the Yosemite valley, shoveled dirt, did teaming, wrangled horse, and one time rode 75 miles in one day and 50 the next, driving 21 herd of horses. I rambled through most of the state.

“In July I moved on to Lake Tahoe, stayed a short time and then wandered on looking for work. Finally I landed as circulation man on the Arizona Daily Citizen at Tucson. This didn’t last long…as the paper changed hands and I had an opportunity to go back to the Kansas City Journal that fall I decided to move again. I remained there a year as the head of the art and engraving department.

“Then I decided to try my fortune in New York, and arrived in that city Jan. 1, 1903. The first week I was there I made five drawings and submitted the batch to Life. When I went back the next morning the office girl told me that one of them had been accepted and that I would receive a check for $45 by mail within a few days. I thought I misunderstood the number of pictures accepted and asked her to repeat it. She replied that one had been accepted. I was dumbfounded. I had an idea that the best I might receive would be about $5. Well, the next week I had some more drawings to submit and sold one for $80. The next week I didn’t sell any, and the week following I sold some more and soon was drawing regularly for that publication.”
In 1905 he moved to Philadelphia, going with the North American and later to the Saturday Evening Post [in 1912]…

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Johnson produced the Sunday strip, Eph Jackson, for the North American from December 3, 1905 to February 11, 1906.

Johnson was counted twice in the 1900 census. The cartoonist was named in his parents’ household in Lincoln, Nebraska, at 1705 M Street. Johnson resided in Kansas, Missouri, at 920 Locust Street.

In the 1910 census, Johnson was a resident of Philadelphia and lived at 6333 Drexel Road. He married Helen two years ago and had an eight-month-old daughter. His mother-in-law was part of the household.

Johnson’s address was unchanged in the 1920 census. The cartoonist had two daughters, Herberta and Katherine.

In the 1930 and 1940 censuses, Johnson and family were residents of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, at 232 Second Street Pike. Johnson continued cartooning at the Saturday Evening Post.

On April 27, 1942, Johnson signed his World War II draft card. He and his wife resided on Morningside Farm in Huntingdon Valley. The card did not name an employer; Johnson was probably retired.

According to the family tree, Johnson passed away December 6, 1946 in Abington, Pennsylvania.

Herbert Johnson

Further Reading
Sutton Nebraska Museum
Herbert Johnson—Sutton’s Political Cartoonist

University of Missouri Bulletin

Volume 15, Number 20, July 1914
Journalism Week, 1914
The Power of the Cartoon

New York Tribune
February 6, 1916
The Cartoonist’s Art

The Toronto World
March 31, 1918
The Women’s Art Association

Cartoons by Herbert Johnson

—Alex Jay


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