Monday, June 13, 2011


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Johnny Gruelle

John Barton Gruelle was born in Arcola, Illinois on December 24, 1880, according to Patricia Hall, author of the biography, Johnny Gruelle, Creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy (Pelican Publishing Company, 1993). Her website, Raggedy Land, has a bio of Gruelle. Another bio of Gruelle can be found in Ray Banta's book, Indiana's Laughmakers (PennUltimate Press, 1990).

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census he was the oldest of three children born to Richard and Alice. The family lived in Indianapolis, Indiana at 517 Tacoma Avenue. Like his father, Gruelle's occupation was artist. The Indiana Marriage Collection, 1800-1941 recorded the date of his marriage to Myrtle J. Swann as March 24, 1901. In 1908 he did the strip Handy Andy.

In 1910 Gruelle and family lived in Rockport, Ohio at 1501 Mars Avenue. His occupation was artist drawing cartoons. His daughter, Marcella, would be the catalyst for the creation of Raggedy Ann books and dolls. Dorothy Cryder's Copley News Service article about Raggedy Ann's origin was published in many newspapers.

...One day Johnny drew, for his own pleasure, a funny rag doll and called her Raggedy Ann. The comic strip proved so popular it immediately caught the fancy of the reading public….

…One day in 1914, his little daughter, Marcella, then 12 years old, was playing in the attic of their home. She found an old rag doll tucked away in the a storage barrel.

Disappointed that its face had worn away with time and hard play by a former owner, she hurriedly went down the stairs, carrying the doll to her father, begging him to give it a new face.

Though busy with his work, Johnny always was glad to oblige his young daughter. She was a frail child, and he loved her dearly. He gave the doll's face a smile, shoe-button eyes and a funny nose….

...In 1916, at the age of 14, Marcella died. Her father was grief stricken, but he kept the memory of his daughter alive by keeping the Raggedy Ann doll on his desk.

From this doll's inspiration, Johnny Gruelle wrote Raggedy Ann books of which Marcella was the mistress of all the dolls in each story. And each doll had a smiling face and shoe-button eyes, just like the one that sat on Johnny Gruelle's desk…

In 1915 Gruelle did the strip The Troubles of the Titmouse Twins. He signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. He lived at 2 Union Park in Norwalk, Connecticut. He was described as medium height and build with brown eyes and hair. In 1920 the Gruelles and two sons lived in Norwalk, Connecticut at 152 East Avenue.

They remained in Norwalk in 1930; the family included a daughter-in-law. Gruelle moved his family to Dade County, Florida, at 4455 North Meridian Avenue, as recorded in the 1935 Florida State Census. He passed away on January 9, 1938 in Miami Springs, Florida. The New York Times covered his death on January 10, 1938.

John Gruelle Dead; Cartoonist, Writer

Creator of Comic Strip 'Brutus' Was on The Herald Tribune -Wrote Children's Books

Miami Springs, Pla., Jan. 9 (AP).—John Gruelle, cartoonist and writer, died at his home here today of a heart attack. His age was 57. Survivors include the widow and two sons, Worth and Richard. Mr. Gruelle came here from Norwalk, Conn.

Mr. Gruelle, who had been associated with The New York Herald Tribune since 1928, created the comic strip "Brutus," which he drew for The New York Herald from 1910 to 1921 (sic; they mean Mr. Twee Deedle, 1911-18-Allan), after it won a $2,000 prize offered by The Herald.

He was the author of many books, including "Raggedy Ann," which had an enormous sale; "Raggedy Andy," "Raggedy Ann and the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees," "Raggedy Ann's Wishing Pebble," "Eddie Elephant," "Little Orphan Annie Stories," [sic: "Orphant Annie Story Book,"] and "The Johnny Mouse Stories." He sponsored several dolls named after his characters.

Mr. Gruelle wrote many juvenile stories for The Woman's World. From 1912 to 1923 he contributed to Judge the weekly page, "Yapps Crossing," and at other times he had provided for Life a page called "Yahoo Center," and for College Humor, another, "Niles Junction." He was born in Arcola, Ill., and began newspaper work in Indianapolis.


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