Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Hy Mayer
Who’s Who in America (1908) said Mayer was educated “in England and Germany” where he graduated from the Gymnasium, Worms, in 1886. He “entered business life in England” and came to the U.S., through Mexico and Texas, in 1886. However, Who’s Who in New York City and State (1907) said Mayer “went to Mexico in 1885”. The Jewish Encyclopedia said “In 1885 he went to Mexico, and subsequently to Texas. There he discovered his ability to draw, and developed his talent without the aid of a teacher. Mayer next went to Cincinnati and thence to Chicago, where he began his career as caricaturist and illustrator.” Information at Ancestry.com said Mayer arrived in New York on August 31, 1885. He was aboard the Cunard steamship Servia from Liverpool, England.
…Mr. Mayer graduated from the Gymnasium at Worms at the age of sixteen. he went from there to England and held a clerkship in a broker’s office. Finding little suited to his taste, he came over seas to Cincinnati and drew for a comic paper there, called Sam the Scaramouch, which went the way of most comic papers, good and bad, into the sardine-packed limbo of “discontinued” publications. Thence Mr. Mayer went to Mexico and soon to Texas, where he became a clerk again, this time in a general store, where, as he catalogues it, he “sold coal-oil, beer, ‘pants,’ molasses, rails, and other household furnishing.”
Chicago next called him, by way of Cincinnati, and he drew for another ephemerid Light, and for various newspapers…
Mayer’s first passport was issued September 1, 1890. On the application, Chicago resident Mayer said he was an artist and journalist. Mayer picked up his passport in New York City. Mayer lived in Chicago when he received his a passport on August 14, 1893. Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in New York City and State said Mayer resided in New York City beginning in 1893.
Mayer’s home in New York City was 53 Wast 59th Street when the illustrator obtained a passport on February 26, 1896.
The Columbian (Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania), January 14, 1897, reported the upcoming debut of “The Sunday Press Jester” by the Philadelphia Press newspaper. Mayer produced a color cartoon for the front page.
The New York Evening Telegram, April 7, 1897, reviewed Mayer’s gallery show.
Mr. Henry Mayer is also, in a way, a student of Americanism. His drawings now on exhibition at Keppel’s gallery, in East Sixteenth street, seldom fail, whether consciously or unconsciously, to preserve the traces of at least one parent race in his most characteristically American skits.The exhibition was also reviewed in the New York Sun.
But Mr. Mayer is a humorist, a caricaturist sometimes, with a wonderful facility of ludicrous invention, and at times a feeling for character and a skill in its delineation that almost suggests Forain’s acrid ironies. At other times his humor has a Rabelaisian touch.
The present exhibition of Mr. Mayer’s work covers a number of years and is made up chiefly of designs that have first made their appearance in the various comic weeklies. Several of them have been seen in the Evening Telegram. In the greater number of instances they seem to have lost nothing by reduction, but even one who has followed Mr. Mayer’s work through the humorous publications of the day can gain an increased regard for his attainments in his particular field by the massing of his work in a single gallery.
A month later, Mayer received a passport. The Manhattanite’s address was 55 West 59th Street.
The Chicago Tribune, June 14, 1899, reported that Mayer, artist Albert B. Wenzell and another American were attacked the previous evening in Paris by a group of Nationalists. The trio refused to shout “Vive l’Armee” as demand by the Nationalists. Mayer was knocked to the ground by a walking stick. The Americans and a Nationalist were arrested. The Americans were released when they threatened to demand help from Ambassador Porter.
Who’s Who in America said Mayer contributed illustrations to Fliegende Blaetter (Munich), Figaro Illustre, Le Rire (Paris), Black and White, Pick-Me-Up, Pall-Mall, Punch (London), Life, Judge and Truth, Harper’s, Century, Collier’s, Leslie’s, the New York Times, and New York Herald.
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Mayer produced several comic series in the early 1900s. For the New York World, Mayer drew The Plunk Family, Brother and I and Sandman, and one Charley Hist the Detective. World Color Printing distributed Mayer’s Professor Presto, Master of Magic, Bobbie Binks, and Main Street. Mayer contributed two short series to the New York Herald: Zoological Kindergarten and Will O’ Dreams and the Sandman. The McClure Syndicate handled Mayer’s Adventures of a Japanese Doll.
Mayer’s books include The Autobiography of a Monkey (1897), In Laughland (1899), Fantasies in Ha! Ha! (1900), A Trip to Toyland (1900), Adventures of a Japanese Doll (1901), and Alphabet of Little People (1901).
Mayer’s work was examined in Brush and Pencil, June 1901, and The New Era, February 1904.
The 1904 American Jewish Year Book listed Mayer’s address as 30 West 24th, New York.
Mayer was in the American Art Annual, Volume 6 (1908): “Mayer, Henry (‘Hy Mayer’), 55 West 33d St., New York, NY (I.[llustrator]) Born Worms-on-Rhine, Germany, July 18, 1868. Specialty, cartoons.”
In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, self-employed illustrator Mayer resided in Manhattan at 55 West 33rd Street.
In 1913 Mayer played vaudeville and was on the first bill at the Palace Theatre.
According to Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons (2006), Mayer went into animation in 1913. His assistant was Otto Messmer. However, in Biographical Sketches of Cartoonists & Illustrators in the Swann Collection of the Library of Congress, Sara Duke wrote “Credit goes to Mayer as the innovator of the ‘hand in motion’ drawing technique, by which cartoons are drafted under the eye of a camera. An active practitioner in the field of animation, he produced over fifty Travelaughs and drew Animated Weekly shorts (1909–16).”
Mayer’s appreciation of Phil May appeared Munsey’s Magazine, January 1914.
During World War I, Mayer sold Liberty Bonds. One of his animated cartoons was sent to overseas allies.
A profile and photograph of Mayer was printed in the Great Falls Daily Tribune (Montana), August 29, 1920.
Exhibitors Trade Review, February 25, 1922, reported the transfer of distribution rights to Mayer’s Travelaughs.
World Biography, Volume 2 (1948) said Mayer married Alice McKenna in January 1924. On May 30, 1924, Mayer and his wife Alice returned from a trip to Europe. Mayer’s address on the passenger list was The Lambs, 130 West 44th Street, New York, New York. According to the 1930 census, Mayer was 55 years old when he married Alice. The following year Mayer, his wife and stepson John visited Europe. They departed Bremen, Germany and arrived in New York November 20, 1925. The same address was recorded for this trip and another in 1927.
A 1928 passenger list said Mayer lived in South Norwalk, Connecticut at 300 Flax Hill Road which was the same address in the 1930 census. Passenger lists and the census listed Mayer’s stepson with the Mayer surname.
The 1940 census recorded retired illustrator Mayer and his 45-year-old wife at the same location in South Norwalk. Mayer’s stepson was recorded as Jack McKenna, a laundry truck driver, who was married with one child and resided in Norwalk at a different address.
Mayer passed away September 27, 1954, at his home in South Norwalk. His death was reported the following day in The New York Times.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles