Tuesday, August 28, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Albertine Randall Wheelan

Albertine Randall Wheelan was born Albertine Randall in San Francisco, California, on May 27, 1863, according to a California State Library biographical index card filled out by Wheelan, and a family tree at Ancestry.com. Wheelan’s parents were Albert Gallatin Randall and Anne Augusta Frost Soule. An 1862 San Francisco directory said her father was a notary public and involved in real estate. The family tree said he passed away January 12, 1869, in San Francisco.

In the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Wheelan was the youngest of four siblings. Her mother was a housewife and her brother was a store clerk. The 1871 San Francisco Directory listed her mother with the address 911 Howard. Directories for 1873 to 1875 said the family resided at 6 Harriet.

The 1880 census recorded 430 Oak in San Francisco as the address for Wheelan, her mother and siblings.

According to volume 27 of the American Art Annual (1928), Wheelan was a pupil of Virgil Williams at the San Francisco School of Design. In Artists in California, 1786–1940: L–Z (2002), Edan Milton Hughes said Wheelan studied privately with William Keith. Wheelan exhibited at the Mechanics’ Institute in 1879; the San Francisco Art Association from 1887 to 1905; San Francisco Guild of Arts & Crafts, 1904; the San Francisco Sketch Club from the 1890s to 1906; and the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

The San Francisco Call, May 23, 1887, reported Wheelan’s marriage. (The announcement was transcribed at San Francisco Genealogy and had the year wrong, 1886. Wheelan’s biographical index card had the date May 18, 1887. In the text below, the wedding was on Wednesday which corresponds with the 1887 calendar. In 1886, that day was a Tuesday.) A marriage notice appeared in the Daily Alta California, May 20, 1887.

On Wednesday afternoon [May 18], at the residence of the bride’s mother on Bush street, Miss Albertine Randall of this city, and Mr. Fairfax Wheelan of San Jose, were married according to the impressive rite of the Episcopal church, the Rev. Bishop Kip reading the marriage service. The home was beautifully and artistically ornamented for the happy occasion, and after the solemnization of the ceremony a wedding breakfast was served, during which many congratulations and good wishes for a happy future were offered to Mr. and Mrs. Wheelan. In the afternoon the bride and groom left on a wedding tour to the Yosemite valley.
So far, Wheelan’s earliest published work, “The Japanese Dolls”, in St. Nicholas was found in the July 1887 issue. A partial list of Wheelan’s illustrations for St. Nicholas is here.

According to the 1900 census, Wheelan and her merchant husband had two sons, Edgar and Fairfax. Also in the household were Wheelan’s mother and sister-in-law. They lived in San Francisco at 1915 Baker Street.

Wheelan’s move to New York City, in 1906, was explained in The Argonaut, November 5, 1921. 

…But the earthquake and fire came, and the local atmosphere was not favorable to art. Thus did Albertine Randall Wheelan go, as do so many of our gifted ones, to New York, and there for a number of years she has devoted the major part of her time to designing costumes and sets for the David Belasco, Henry Savage, and other theatrical productions.
The Book-plate Booklet, May 1908, profiled Wheelan and said: …Mrs. Wheelan has spent the past year and a half in New York City, giving her time chiefly to the designing of costumes for David Belasco’s productions. She has designed a book-plate for Mr. Belasco…

The American Magazine of Art, April 1921, explained how Wheelan met Belasco.

…[Wheelan] came East to do some special work for St. Nicholas Magazine. Mr. Belasco, at that time was bringing out the “Rose of the Rancho,” portraying Spanish California in the early forties. He sent his Art Director to the Century Company to ask if they knew of anyone familiar enough with California history to make costume plates, and he was referred at once to Mrs. Wheelan.
Wheelan’s New York theater credits are here.

The 1910 census said magazine illustrator Wheelan, her sons and sister Frances were in New York City at 9 Fort Washington Avenue.

Wheelan illustrated works by Anice Terhune including Colonial Carols, Dutch Ditties, A Chinese Child’s Day and Barnyard Ballads. Wheelan illustrated The Secrets of the Elves by Helen Kimberley McElhone, and Nell K. McElhone’s The Surprise Book.

In 1914 Wheelan crossed the Atlantic Ocean. On the return she sailed from Dover, England, June 20 and landed in New York July 1.

Wheelan’s husband passed away March 26, 1915 in San Francisco. He was remembered in The Pacific Unitarian, April 1915, and the Harvard College Class of 1880, 40th Anniversary Report 1920, which has two photographs of him between pages 196 and 197. An obituary was published in the San Francisco Examiner on March 27.

Wheelan and her son Edgar lived in Manhattan at 19 West 31st Street. Both were artists who had studios. They were at the same address in the 1925 New York state census which included Wheelan’s sister, Frances, a teacher.

Evening Star 1/7/1924

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Wheelan produced Dumbunnies for the George Mathew Adams Service. The strip, also know as In Rabbitboro, ran from May 1922 to October 1, 1927. The Fourth Estate, May 27, 1922, noted Wheelan’s entry into comics. The Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, October 25, 1927, published the following entry. 

Ser. No. 254,653. Albertine Randall Wheelan, New York, N. Y. Filed Sept. 12, 1927.

Particular description of goods.—Comic Strips. Claims use since June 21, 1926.
The American Art Annual said Wheelan’s studio was at 337 Fourth Avenue and her home at Life Chambers, 19 West 31st Street. She was a member of the American Association of Cartoonists and Caricaturists. At the 1926 International Exhibition of Book Plates, in Los Angeles, her design was awarded an honorable mention.

Wheelan has not been found in the 1930 census. A passenger list recorded her departure from Kobe, Japan on December, 24, 1930. She arrived in Seattle, Washington on January 7, 1931. Wheelan may have been out of the country during the 1930 census enumeration which began in April.

The New York Evening Post, March 8, 1932, noted Wheelan’s new location: “H. B. Hillyer & Co. rented apartments to Mrs. A. R. Wheelan at 21 Fifth Avenue….”

Wheelan and her sister, Frances, an art teacher, shared an apartment at 51 Morton Street in Manhattan according to the 1940 census which said Wheelan was a housewife who had four years of college. At the same address was Wheelan’s son Edgar.

Wheelan sent her portrait to Edwina Dumm in May 1943. 

Courtesy Heritage Auctions

Wheelan passed away January 9, 1954, in Litchfield, Connecticut. The Evening Star (Washington, DC), published the Associated Press report the same day. Wheelan died in her home in Litchfield where she had lived for a 
year-and-a-half. She was survived by sons, Edgar and Fairfax, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

—Alex Jay


One known visit to England. The idea that Dick Dumbunnie is meant to be a concert party Pierrot is still faintly possible.
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