Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Thomas Worth

Munsey’s Magazine 2/1894

Thomas B. Worth was born in New York City on February 12, 1834. The birthplace is based on census records and the birth date in on Worth’s gravestone. It should be noted that the 1900 U.S. Federal Census recorded Worth’s birth date as August 1835. According to Harry T. Peters’s book, Currier and Ives: Printmakers to the American People (1942), Worth was born in Greenwich Village. 

Worth has not yet been found in the 1840 and 1850 censuses. The 1860 census recorded Worth as a bank teller who resided in Brooklyn, New York. He was married to Louise Stellenwerf and had a one-month-old daughter. Also in the household were a servant and nurse. Worth worked for several years as a bank teller. The New York Sun, November 21, 1886, recounted the story of how Worth’s sketch of a customer (below) helped solve a crime that took place in July 1867 at the City Bank. 
It’s not known when Worth quit his bank job.

A selection of Worth’s 1867 sketches, abroad a yacht, can be viewed here or here (pages 76 and 77).

Smoked Glass

Worth was contributing to the printmakers, Currier and Ives, as well as illustrating books including Plutarch Restored (1862), Smoked Glass (1868), The First and Fourth Books of the Aeneid of Virgil (1870), The Old Curiosity Shop (1872), A Bald Headed History of America (1876), and Deacon Boggles’ Struggle with a Liver Pad (1881) and A Devil of a Trip or The Log of the Yacht Champlain (1888).

Deacon Boggles and His Liver Pad

The 1870 census said Worth was an artist with four children, Evelyn, Marion, Percy and Dudley. The 1870 Brooklyn city directory listed Worth’s address as 71 Oak.

Worth’s occupation was figure artist in the 1880 census. His family, which included another son, Irving, lived in Hempstead, Queens County, New York.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (New York), January 29, 1881, reported the Water Color Society exhibition where Worth sold his work.

The New York Sun, October 11, 1882, reported the stabbing of Worth’s wife who was one of six women attacked by Ernest Doubourgne. The paper said her address was 666 Lexington Avenue. An 1883 Manhattan directory had the same address for Worth.

Worth contributed illustrations to A. Minor Griswold’s travels around the world lecture, George G. Small’s magazine Wild Oats, the New York Daily Graphic, JudgeSnap, and Scribner’s Monthly. The New York Times, October 15, 1894 said Worth was the chief artist of Texas Siftings magazine.

At some point Worth moved to Staten Island. The 1886 and 1890 city directories said his home was on Franklin Avenue. Queens County Sentinel (Hempstead, New York), July 24, 1890, published this item.

Isaac Snedeker, of Hempstead, has bought the yacht Dream of Thomas Worth, manager of the art department of the Texas Siftings and brother-in law of W. R. Stellenwerf, proprietor of the Be Car House of Hempstead. The Dream in model, interior decorations and appointments is said to be the handsomest yacht that skims the waters of the Great South Bay. Mr. Snedeker to receiving the congratulations of numerous yachtsman and friends over his recent purchase. Mr. Worth will invest in a larger craft.—World.
Worth’s artwork was mentioned in the Daily Standard-Union (Brooklyn, New York), June 3, 1892.
There are only a few of the old-fashioned country inns left on Long Island, but one of these is the Lake House at Islip, where Amos K. Stellenwerf has been the proprietor for many years. Stepping into the office of the hotel one day recently, my attention was attracted to a number of very striking pictures hanging upon the walls. One of them was a mirth-provoking illustration of the capture of Major Andre. There were a number of pictures of hunting and fishing scenes, and by a little closer observation it was seen that these pictures were from the pencil of Thomas Worth, who married a daughter of the proprietor of the Lake House. Mr. Worth’s humorous conceptions have become familiar to a very circle of readers of newspapers and periodicals, and meeting with some of them in this unexpected way was very agreeable.
Munsey’s Magazine, February 1894, profiled several caricaturists and cartoonists including Worth.

According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), Worth produced Hawaii Club for the New York Journal from August 29, 1897 to August 14, 1898. For the New York World, Worth drew Darktown from March 12 to May 7, 1899, and The Gamp Family from June 11 to 18, 1899.

In the 1900 census Worth resided in Hamilton Park in Staten Island. 203 Franklin Avenue was the address recorded in the 1910 census and the 1915 New York state census for self-employed artist Worth and his family.

Worth passed away December 29, 1917, in Staten Island, according to the New York, New York death index at Ancestry.com. He was preceded in death by his wife who died May 1, 1917.

Further Reading and Viewing
A History of American Graphic Humor, Volume 1, 1747–1865 (1933): pages 185 and 212
A History of American Graphic Humor, 1747–1938 (1938): pages 27 and 105
Biographical Sketches of Cartoonists & Illustrators in the Swann Collection of the Library of Congress (2012)

Tom Worth (1887 Milwaukee Sentinel profile)
Wild Oats
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery

—Alex Jay


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