Wednesday, February 07, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Lank Leonard

Lank Leonard was born Francis Edward Leonard in Port Chester, New York, on January 2, 1896. Leonard’s birth name and birth date were on his World War I draft card, and the birthplace was from his New York military service card. In the 1925 New York state census and later federal censuses, Leonard’s first name was Frank; earlier censuses had Francis.

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Leonard was the only child of James and Annie. Leonard’s father handled railroad baggage. Also in the household was Leonard’s maternal grandfather, Patrick Smith. They resided in Rye, New York, at 425 Orchard Street.

The 1905 state census recorded the Leonards’ family address as Ridgeview Place in Rye. Leonard’s father was a railroad conductor.

The Leonard family was at 7 Exchange Place, Rye, in the 1910 census. Five years later, in the state census, the address was 3 Ridgeview Place.

Leonard signed his World War I draft card June 5, 1917. He lived at 7 Ridgeview Place, Port Chester, and was a bookkeeper with the RBMB&N Company. His description was tall and slender with blue eyes and brown hair. He claimed an unnamed disability.

Leonard’s New York military record said his service began in Greenwich, Connecticut: 12 Company CAC Connecticut NG (& Long Island Sound NY) to October 24, 1918; Battery B, 30 Artillery CAC to discharge; Corp July 18, 1917; Sergeant, March 14, 1918; 1st Sergeant October 22, 1918; December 14, 1918, honorable discharge. Leonard did not go overseas.

According to the 1920 census, Leonard lived with his parents at 7 Ridgeview Place. Leonard was an assistant manager with a national baseball company.

The Schenectady Gazette (New York), April 14, 1934, published a profile of Leonard.

“Lank” Leonard, sports cartoonist and feature writer, will contribute a daily cartoon and story for the Gazette, beginning on Monday morning. Leonard is known to many Schenectadians, having lived here for more than a year, being employed at the Wilson Western baseball factory. He also tried out for the Schenectady team of the New York State Basketball League and played a few games with the Cohoes and Utica quintets in the same league.

“Lank” (christened Frank) was born in Port Chester. N. Y., in 1896. He grew up in the town where he was born and as one of his friends once coyly remarked: “Grew up—and how!” Six feet, 2 inches tall when he entered high school, and built along the lines of Bob Fitzsimmons, freckles included—it is rather easy to understand how his “Frank” was changed to “Lank.”

It was in high school that Lank’s talent for drawing first became apparent. The faculty, however, did not particularly enthuse over his brand of humor, or the likenesses he made of them on his textbooks. Consequently he received so little encouragement that he finally decided to abandon the thought of becoming a Rembrandt or a Michelangelo—for the time being at least.

Came the war! “Lank” enlisted. When he had reached the rank of first sergeant the armistice interfered with his climb.

Active in athletics from a boy, “Lank” decided to concentrate on sport cartooning as a profession and was taken on by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Realizing that only study would attain the goal he sought, Leonard resigned that first job and entered the Art Student’s League in New York. Money being none too plentiful, study had to be interrupted by work. No newspaper connection was available and he accepted an offer by a sporting goods concern to travel as a salesman. For five years he traveled from coast to coast, always on the side securing data on sports, practicing drawing.

The Art Student’s League course was resumed where it had been left off. A course at the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago followed. In 1924 “Lank” decided he was good enough to convert his knowledge into cash and has been on the George Matthew Adams Service staff since 1925. Today his sports cartoons and sports stories appear in an impressive list of representative newspapers throughout the United States and Canada.
The New York Times, August 4, 1970, added a few more details about Leonard and said he “graduated from the Eastman Gaines Business College in New York”; was “an $11‐a‐week inker at the Bray Studios, a New York producer of animated cartoons”; and later “sold sports drawings to Ring magazine”.

The Knickerbocker News (Albany, New York), March 5, 1951, provided more details:

[Leonard] took a job as a bookkeeper in one of his home town’s factories and drew cartoons for the plant’s house paper….

…On one of his sales trips he chanced to meet the late Clare Briggs, the famous cartoonist. Briggs liked his samples and offered him many helpful suggestions….

…By chance Lank heard that Charles V. McAdam, president McNaught Syndicate, was interested in a strip. He brought some sketches to Mr. McAdam and together they planned “Mickey Finn” with the broadest possible human appeal—a delightful combination of the excitement of police work plus the life of a wholesome Irish-American family.
The Tarrytown Daily News (New York), July 23, 1953, noted that Leonard “began his newspaper career with the Port Chester Daily Item as a sportswriter and cartoonist.”

Two Leonard cartoons were found in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 27 (below) and 29, 1922.

Schenectady Gazette 11/5/1926

The 1925 state census listed the Leonards in Rye at 50 Park Avenue. Leonard was a salesman.

The Schenectady Gazette, January 24, 1930, reported the death of Leonard’s father.

The 1930 census said sportswriter and cartoonist Leonard and his widow mother were at the same address.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Leonard produced the strip, Mickey Finn, for the McNaught Syndicate. Leonard drew it from April 6, 1936 to November 29, 1970. Leonard had several assistants who were Ray McGill, Morris Weiss, Johnny Vita, Allie Vita, Larry Tullipano, Tony DiPreta and Martin Bailey. When Leonard died, Weiss continued the strip from November 30, 1970 to September 10, 1977. The Sunday strip had four different toppers: Know Your Merchant Marine, Know Your NavyKnow Your Sports, and Nipple—He’s Often Wrong.

The 1940 census said newspaper cartoonist Leonard, his wife, Florence, and mother, lived at 333 Putnam Avenue in Rye. Leonard’s 1939 income was five-thousand dollars and his house valued at fifteen-thousand dollars.

The New York Sun, November 3, 1943, reported the death of Leonard’s mother.

Leonard passed away August 1, 1970, in Miami, Florida. He was laid to rest at the family plot in St. John Cemetery. Leonard’s wife passed away July 12, 2002. 

—Alex Jay


Thanks for sharing this quality of work Ali Qureshi
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