Monday, October 02, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Ben F. Hammond

Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Hammond was born in Clinton, Missouri, on May 31, 1883, according to his World War II draft card which also had his full name.

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, “Frank Hammond” was oldest of three children born to “J[ohn]. B.” and Ada. Hammond was a potter and his father a carpenter. The family resided in Clinton at 719 Lincoln.

Hammond’s art training was mentioned in a profile in the Wichita Eagle Sunday Magazine, August 24, 1969.

Hammond came to The Eagle in 1912, doing cartoons and other artwork. Born in Clinton, Mo., in 1883, he took some classes at the Kansas City Art School in newspaper art and cartooning. He began his cartoon career on The Kansas City Journal in 1909.
Editor & Publisher, March 29, 1919, had this account of Hammond’s art instruction and early work in newspapers.
After he had spent some time and some money in the Art Institute in Kansas City, the Kansas City Journal decided it could use some of his work. Later he went to the Denver Times. At this point, Victor Murdock, who was then in Congress, decided he wanted to get out of politics. Some wise bird advised him that quickest and surest was would be to employ a cartoonist on his paper—the Wichita Eagle. Murdock secured Hammond and the plan for getting out of politics surely and swiftly proved a grand success, but by this time Hammond’s cartoons had become a feature of the Eagle, so he stuck to it.
Like many aspiring cartoonists, Hammond contributed to his school yearbook. The July 1915 issue of Cartoons Magazine had this report of Hammond’s first newspaper job.
It was Judas Iscariot who denied his Master, but it remained for Frank Hammond, now cartoonist of the Wichita Eagle, to deny the pride of his heart. This was in the shape of a little high-school annual published in his home town, Clinton. Mr. Hammond had illustrated it, and the more he looked upon his work the better he liked it. It would be, he thought, the open sesame to a position as cartoonist on a metropolitan daily.

Accordingly he took the book, together with a portfolio of sketches, and presently stood before “Doc” Norberg, grand mogul of the Kansas City Journal’s art department. “My heart sank,” says Hammond, “when he began to turn the pages of the annual. His expression was so utterly disapproving that I denied the authorship of each picture in turn. Finally we came to the last page, and in desperation I was forced to claim for my own the very worst of all the bad drawings in the book.

“Norberg laughed, and told me that he could see from my anxiety that I was endeavoring to cover up my crime. The pictures, he said, were not so bad as they might have been, and he gave me a chance on the strength of them.”
In Cartoons Magazine, May 1915, Hammond spoke about his path to becoming a cartoonist.
I was born in Clinton, Mo., May 31, 1883. My birthplace unfortunately has been razed, and a lumber yard now marks the spot. At the age of 19 I left home and tried everything that came along, from selling installment goods and soliciting portrait enlarging, to traveling with street fairs and barnstorming theatrical companies. I turned my spare moments to the study of drawing, and a hot municipal campaign in my home town gave me my first chance as a cartoonist.
The Missouri marriage records, at, said Hammond married Elsie Blanche Shaw on September 23, 1907 in St. Charles, Missouri.

The 1910 census recorded magazine cartoonist Hammond, his wife and fourteen-month-old daughter Geraldine in Kansas City, Missouri. They boarded with the Nutt family of ten.

At some point Hammond moved to Wichita, Kansas. The 1912 Wichita city directory listed cartoonist “Benjamin F Hammond” at 183 North Market.

The 1915 Kansas state census said Wichita-resident Hammond had a two-year-old son, John B.

Cartoons Magazine, November 1918, reprinted one of Hammond’s cartoons.

Wichita Eagle cartoonist Hammond signed his World War I draft card September 12, 1918. He was described as medium height and build with gray eyes and “nut brown” hair. His home was at 1602 North Holyoke in Wichita and remained unchanged into the 1940s and possibly longer.

The Wichita Eagle magazine said Hammond “became famous in Wichita for his reading of the Eagle’s comic strips each Sunday morning on KFH Radio. For more than 25 years, ‘Uncle Ben,’ as he was known on the radio show, brought the comic strip characters to life for generation of Eagle readers.”

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Hammond syndicated Hoots and Quacks from 1941 to 1942.

Hammond illustrated the books Hippocrates Jones (1916), Horse and Buggy Days (1927), The Cry of the Newsboy (1928),  and When You and I Were Boys (1931).

According to the Wichita Eagle, Hammond retired November 1, 1965 and donated his artwork to the Wichita Historical Museum in 1969.

Hammond passed away April 25, 1970, in Wichita. An obituary was published the same day in the Wichita Eagle.

Further Reading and Viewing
Iowa Digital Library
Wichita Photo Archives (scroll to the bottom)
Wichita State University, University Libraries Special Collections & University Archives

—Alex Jay


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