Thursday, September 15, 2016


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Tom Swaja

Tom Swaja's debut on Iowa Oddities, 6/20/1943

Thomas Michael “Tom” Swaja was born in Minnesota on December 29, 1907. His birth date is from the Social Security Death Index and birthplace from census records.

The 1910 U.S. Federal Census said Swaja was the third of four children born to Peter, a laborer, and Tillie, both Autrain emigrants. The family resided in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at 1224 Broadway Street.

Two more children were added to Swaja household in the 1920 census. The family lived at 2529 3rd Street in Minneapolis. The 1925 Minneapolis city directory listed Swaja at 1928 N E 5th Street. He was a messenger with the W.B. Foshay Company. The next available directory, from 1928, said Swaja was an artist with the Journal Printing Company.

Swaja has not yet been found in the 1930 census. A listing in the Des Moines, Iowa city directory, said Swaja’s address was 675 18th Street. He was an artist with the Register & Tribune newspaper. He moved at least five times before the next census.

The Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), September 1, 1935, published a notice in the “Marriage Licenses” column: “Thomas Swaja and Ruth Turner, both of Des Moines, Ia.”

The 1940 census recorded Swaja in Des Moines at 1734 Second Cedar. He was married and had two sons, David and Stephen. His highest level of education was the eighth grade. Swaja was still with the Register & Tribune.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Swaja was the last of five artists to draw Iowa Oddities for the Register & Tribune. He was preceded by Bud Sauers, Ken Eaton, Gene Cannoy and Henry Landgren. Swaja drew Iowa Oddities from June 20, 1943 to September 26, 1943, and, after a hiatus, from December 3, 1943 to January 2, 1944. The panel series continued after that date, but became more text-heavy with a spot illustration only and was rarely signed.

Swaja’s address was 2508 47th Street in the 1947 Des Moines city directory. Later that year or in 1948, Swaja moved.

A November 1948 issue of Editor & Publisher reported staff changes at the Portland Journal in Oregon.

…Harland Clark has resigned from the from the promotion department of the Portland (Ore.) Journal, to enter freelance advertising business with Carl Erickson, formerly promotion artist on that paper. Tom Swaja, formerly editorial staff artist at the Journal, succeeds Erickson.
The 1953 Portland, Oregon city directory said Swaja resided at 1235 SW Carson and was an artist with the newspaper, The Oregonian.

The Oregonian, October 5, 1985, reported Swaja’s golden anniversary.

Tom and Ruth Swaja celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a reception and buffet, which included a three-tiered wedding cake and champagne.

The Swajas were married Sept. 2, 1935, in Springfield, Ill. Tom Swaja worked as a staff artist for The Oregonian in the 1950s and retired from the Boeing Co. as a commercial artist in 1969. Their children are Rita Gruhlke of Tacoma; Mary Jo Conley of Sandpoint, Idaho; Steve of Universal City, Calif.; Dave and Sheila of Banks; and Kathy Fisher of Hillsboro. The couple has 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Swaja passed away May 7, 1991, in Washington state, according to the Oregon death index.

—Alex Jay


Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]