Tuesday, November 20, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Leon A. Beroth

Leon Allen Beroth was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on February 21, 1895, according to his World War I and II draft cards, and The Beroth Roots (1987) which also said “Beroth and son, William, decided to capitalize the letter “R” in the name BeRoth.”.

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census recorded Beroth as the only child of James, a railroad machinist, and Ida. The family had a servant and lived in Noble, Indiana, at 159 East Hill Street.

The Grand Rapids Press (Michigan), December 30, 1905, announced an upcoming production.
The junior division of St. Paul’s Dramatic club will present the beautiful cantina, “Christmas at Grandpa’s,” New Year’s evening in the parish house under direction of Mr. Arthur E. Drodge. The following children are in the cast: …Leon Beroth
In the 1910 census, Beroth’s home was in Grand Rapids, Michigan at 10 Eleventh Street. City directories, from 1912 to 1918, listed Beroth at 308 Eleventh Street. In 1912 he was an assembler at the Barrett Adding Machine Company. Beroth was a student in the 1915 directory. The 1916 directory said Beroth produced advertising illustrations.

The Seattle Times (Washington), March 13, 1980, said “BeRoth studied color illustration and figure painting at the Art Institute of Chicago for four years.”

One of Beroth’s earliest published work was in Charlotte Wait Calkins’ book, A Course in House Planning and Furnishing (1915). The Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 1, Books, Group 1, New Series, Volume 13, Number 54, June 1915, named the other illustrators: Harry W. Jacobs, Raymond Everett, H.M. Kurtzworth and Paul Eugene Olson.

On June 4, 1917, Beroth signed his World War I draft card. The self-employed artist was described as tall, medium build with dark blue eye and dark brown hair. The Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File said Beroth served in the army from July 2, 1918 to January 28, 1919.

At Ancestry.com the Cook County, Illinois, Marriages Index recorded Beroth’s marriage to Ethel I. E. Harker in Chicago on April 26, 1919.

Advertising artist Beroth and his wife were in his father-in-law’s household as recorded in the 1920 census. They resided in Chicago at 4826 St. Anthony Court.

When the 1930 census was enumerated, artist and homeowner Beroth had a daughter, Yvonne, and son, William. The family of four lived in Elmhurst, Addison Township, DuPage County, Illinois, at 332 Myrtle. The address was the same in the 1940 census. Beroth was a self-employed artist working in publishing. Future Don Winslow of the Navy artist and researcher, Carl E. Hammond, was a resident of Elmhurst, too.

Beroth signed his World War II draft card on April 27, 1942. The artist was at the same home address and had an office at 400 West Madison Street in Chicago. His description was five feet eleven-and-a-half inches and 170 pounds with blue eyes and gray hair.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Beroth’s first comic strip was Adventures of Tom, Dick and Harry that ran from December 5, 1932 to April 24, 1933, and was distributed by the Bonnet-Brown Syndicate. Next, Beroth was the artist on Don Winslow of the Navy, which was created by Frank V. Martinek and ran from March 5, 1934 to July 30, 1955. Beroth’s last strip appeared February 28, 1953. John Jordan replaced Beroth. In Coulton Waugh’s The Comics (1947) was an explanation on how the creative team came together and worked.

“One day two artists came into my office,” he [Martinek] writes. “Leon A. Beroth and Carl E. Hammond. Why they came, I cannot explain, but it seemed that Providence was getting us together. I asked them if they would be interested and they said ‘Yes.’ We organized. I became the creator and producer, Leon Beroth the art director, and Carl Hammond the layout and research man.”

Colonel Frank Knox, who was shortly to become Secretary of the Navy, became interested and helped sell the idea to the Bell Syndicate….

“Three years ago,” Commander Martinek wrote in 1945, “Carl Hammond, our layout and research man, went into war work, being single and within draft age. Leon Beroth and I have carried on ever since….

“Every Saturday I write the week’s daily strips and Sunday page, and each week I send the typewritten continuity to Mr. Beroth [in Thompson Falls, Montana], and he interprets it pictorially and returns the art work for approval. It works very satisfactorily—somewhat by remote control.”
A similar description was in The Quill, January 1938. 
Martinek has set up a highly departmentalized organization to handle the widespread interests of Don Winslow. First he writes the plot for the strip, then turns it over to Carl Hammond, in charge of research. When the episodes are checked for authenticity, Hammond confers with Martinek on the finished continuity and dialog, then the material is turned over to Leon Beroth, the art director.
The World Encyclopedia of Comics (1976) referred to Beroth as “Lieutenant Leon A. Beroth, USN”. In the first World War, Beroth served in the army. “Comics Are a Serious Business” by Allen Saunders appeared in Coronet, August 1945, and included a paragraph on Don Winslow.
Even more involved are the preparations for the adventures of “Don Winslow of the Navy.” The creator, Lieutenant Commander Frank V. Martinek, dreams up characters and continuity. He turns his ideas over to a research director, who lays out the copy and hands it over to a preliminary artist. The finished drawing is done by Leon Beroth, an old Navy man, whose signature appears on the published strip.
Sara Duke said in the Biographical Sketches of Cartoonists & Illustrators in the Swann Collection (2014) that Ken Ernst assisted Beroth and Hammond beginning in 1940.

Beroth returned to comics with Kitten Kaye. American Newspaper Comics said the strip ran from May 6, 1957 to 1961 and was self-syndicated.

The Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, Montana), February 7, 1957, profiled Beroth who was in the process of selling Kitten Kaye through his Beroth Features Service. The Montana artist planned to feature the Montana forest, such as the Forest Service lookout on Clark Peak, and wildlife locale. In September 1944, Beroth and his wife moved to Thompson Falls where he continued to draw Don Wnislow at home. For the past four years Beroth freelanced, painted watercolor landscapes and exhibited his work.

Beroth filed a trademark registration according to the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office
SN 31,457. Leon A. Beroth, d. b. a. L. A. Beroth Features Service, Thompson Falls, Mont. Filed June 6, 1957.


For Comic Strip Published in Newspapers From Time to Time. First use in or about January 1957.
Beroth was a contributor to the Ford Times, July 1961. 

The University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center has a collection of Beroth’s papers. The Guide to Entertainment Industry Resources said “BeRoth was also a watercolor and oil landscape painter. He was commissioned by Ford Times magazine to paint western historic and scenic watercolor landscapes to accompany magazine articles, including some written by BeRoth.”

Beroth passed away March 8, 1980, in Edmonds according to the Washington Death Index. He was laid to rest at Floral Hills Cemetery. An obituary appeared in the Seattle Times on March 13 and said in part:

Mr. BeRoth moved to Edmonds in 1962 from Thompson Falls, Mont., where he had painted landscapes for 15 years. He was a member of the West Coast Water Color Society and was an honorary member of Gallery North in Edmonds. He recently taught art classes at the Edmonds Recreation Center.

Mr. BeRoth was a Mason and a Shriner.

—Alex Jay


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