Thursday, March 02, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Jim Lavery

James H. “Jim” Lavery was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on November 23, 1888, according to his World War II draft card and The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the World War, 1917–18 (1926). A family tree at said his parents were George Lavery (1864–1926) and Elizabeth O’Malley (1867–1906).

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Lavery was the oldest of eight children whose parents were Scottish emigrants. They resided in Cleveland, Ohio at 21 Indiana Street. Lavery’s father was a machinist.

Information regarding Lavery’s whereabouts in 1910 and art training has not been found. A profile in Editor & Publisher, November 10, 1917, explained what Lavery was doing, how he ended up in Cleveland and became a cartoonist.

…Jim is a typical Press find. Two or three years ago he had never drawn a picture that saw the light of day in the printed page. As hinted before, he was painting signs, and thereby met the high cost of living with considerable ease. His activities in that branch of brush and ink work might read like a travelogue, for he painted signs in every big city in the country, from Maine to California, with the exception of Cleveland. When he hit Cleveland he went to work on a sign, and as variety interspersed some pictures with the wording. These pictures James admitted were funny. Whether any one else thought so or not, they were sufficient to attract the attention of Ollie May, Leader cartoonist. May and Lavery got acquainted. Lavery wished he could draw for a newspaper, too. Just then the editor of the Press made it known he could use a first-class cartoonist, and Lavery was ushered into the sanctum sanctorum. “Go to work,” said the E. And James did, and has been doing that little thing ever since. He has invented Some quaint characters which give the Press distinction. He invented the Wampus Cat, which blats about sport topics in rhyme; George Davis’s short shavings have finer wit because of the Lavery sketches that go with them; leading lights of Cleveland cannot escape his quaint strokes.
The Cleveland Press (Ohio), November 4, 1959, said Lavery “drew political and sports cartoons for The Press from 1915 to 1940. A popular feature was his sports cartoon, the Saturday Bath.”

Green Book Magazine 10/1916

In 1917 Lavery married Myrtle Lillie on March 22, according to the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Records and Indexes at Lavery signed his World War I draft card June 5, 1917. He was described as medium height and build with blue eyes and light-colored hair. The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the World War, 1917–18 had this listing for Lavery: “Co D 309 Engineers to Discharge Private, first class 20 Sept 1918. American Expeditionary Forces 9 Sept 1918 to 30 May 1919. Honorable discharge 24 June 1919.” The 1917 Cleveland city directory said Lavery resided at 11308 St. Clair Avenue NE and was a Cleveland Press cartoonist. Moving Picture World, December 1, 1917, said Universal Current Events, filmed 39 cartoonists including Lavery. 

Lavery’s prowess as a bowler was noted in The Fourth Estate, October 20, 1917: “ ‘Jimmy’ Lavery, cartoonist on the Cleveland Press, is also a bowler of more than ordinary skill. In a recent match he set the Cleveland record for the season with a total of 671 pins in three games.”

The 1920 census recorded Lavery in Cleveland at 628 East 130th Street. Lavery was in his father-in-law’s household. American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Lavery drew the Salesman Sam topper, Jo-Jo the Jester, from October 10, 1926 to October 2, 1927.

Lavery was recorded twice in the 1930 census. One sheet had the 1920 address while the other one had the house number as 626. Lavery, his wife and daughter Jean were the sole residents at both addresses.

Lavery’s address was 626 East 130th Street in the 1940 census. Lavery was a self-employed cartoonist. On April 26, 1942, Lavery signed his World War II draft card which had the address 14749 Elderwood Avenue.

A November or December 1959 issue Editor & Publisher said Lavery “worked for the National Bowlers Journal and Turf and Sport Digest.”

Lavery passed away November 3, 1959, in New York City.

—Alex Jay


George Lavery (1894–1926) ?
I think it should be: George Lavery (1864–1926) ?
Yes, you're right. Date corrected.
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