Thursday, January 19, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: W. Clyde Spencer

Walter Clyde Spencer was born in Peoria, Illinois, in December 1873. His birthplace was noted in the American Art Annual Volume 12 (1915) and American Art News, August 14, 1915. The birth date is from the 1900 U.S. Federal Census.

In the 1880 census, Spencer was the oldest of three children born to William, a fire insurance agent, and Zerilda. Their home was in Bushnell, Illinois. The Denver Post (Colorado), July 16, 1915, said Spencer’s father owned a weekly newspaper. Later, the family moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where Spencer furthered his education. The Omaha World-Herald, March 14, 1897, noted Spencer’s talent, “W. Clyde Spencer, a local sketch artist of some repute, has entered the Academy of Arts, New York, for a course of instruction.”

The Omaha Daily Bee, May 31, 1897, published an extended assessment of Spencer’s artistic growth. 

An Omaha boy who has started on the road to fame in New York City is W. Clyde Spencer, the only son of Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Spencer, who reside at 1813 Cass street in this city. The young man attended the Omaha schools until he reached the second grade in the High school. His taste seemed to run to sketching, and after working a year or so in a local retail establishment he started for New York in March of this year. He applied for admission to the National Academy of Design, one of the foremost institutes in the country, and was admitted after a test of modeling. After sixty days’ instruction at this school he entered the newspaper field, and a series of sketches from his pen was accepted by the New York Journal and appeared in the issue of May 15. Mr. Spencer’s only instruction in drawing while in Omaha was that received in the public schools and his success in the metropolis of this country is regarded as most flattering by his friends in this city. The young man is scarcely 21 years of age and his efforts up to this time have been entirely unaided.
The Denver Post said Spencer’s first job was on Hearst’s New York American. The World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska) , July 17, 1915, said Spencer, in 1897, worked on the staff of the World-Herald as a cartoonist, and later employed in a local engraving company. In 1899, Spencer illustrated Waldo Pondray Warren’s Higher Christmas.

The 1900 census recorded the Spencer family in Omaha at 122 South 25th Street. Cartoonist Spencer was the oldest of four siblings. The Denver Post said Spencer moved to Denver in 1900 and found a job on the newspaper the Denver Republican. After eight years, Spencer moved to the Denver Post. He was a charter member of the Denver Press club and a member of the club’s first board of directors. The 1967 Denver Westerners Brand Book said “Edward Keating, then managing editor of the Denver Times, was named president of the newly reorganized Denver Press Club. ‘Col.’ Raymond Austin Eaton of the Post was elected vice president; Harry J. Robinson of the Rocky Mountain News, secretary; and W. Clyde Spencer, Republican cartoonist, treasurer.”

Denver city directories listed Spencer at several addresses: 1650 Tremont (1902); 318 14th (1903 and 1904); 1844 Sherman Avenue (1905); and 315 14th (1907 and 1908). 

In 1904, Spencer was one of the contributors to Representative Men of the West in Caricature.

The Rocky Mountain News (Denver, Colorado), February 21, 1904, reported Spencer’s marriage, “W. Clyde Spencer, who is well known to Denver people as a cartoonist, surprised his friends yesterday by becoming a benedict, at noon, when he married Miss Beatrice McGuire of Omaha….” 

A few years later, Spencer went to the Kansas City Post. In the 1910 census, newspaper cartoonist Spencer and Beatrice were Kansas City, Missouri residents at 1120 Paseo. Spencer contributed to Uncle Remus’s Home Magazine, August 1910.

Around 1911, Spencer accepted an offer from a New York newspaper. According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), Spencer produced two strips for the New York Evening TelegramA Trip to Mars and There’s a Difference, both in 1911.

The Denver Post said Spencer did not like New York City and returned to the Denver Republican until it ceased publication in 1913. In 1912, Spencer lived at 1301 Ogden, and in 1913 at 1221 Sherman.

Spencer returned to New York City where he created the 1914 strips Safety First! for Press Publishing and What Would You Do If You Walked in Your Sleep for the New York Herald. Spencer also worked as an illustrator and actor for the film company Gaumont.

The 1915 New York state census listed Spencer and his wife in New York City at 580 St. Nicholas Avenue. Six weeks later, Spencer passed away July 15 at his home in New York City. His death was reported in the Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News on July 16. Both papers said word of Spencer’s death came in a telegram from Francis Gallup, a former Denver artist residing in New York City, in the evening of July 15. Some newspapers, magazines and books said Spencer died on the 17th.

—Alex Jay


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