Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Ted Shearer

Thaddeous E. "Ted" Shearer was born in May Pen, Jamaica on November 1, 1919. His full name was obtained at Ancestry.com in the U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records; USGenWeb Archives has a transcription of the New York County, New York Archives, Military Records which has his full name. His date of birth is from the Social Security Death Index.

He and his mother, Sophia were found on a New York passenger list. Aboard the S.S. Turrialba they departed Kingston, Jamaica on October 25, 1921, and landed in New York City on October 27. According to a New York Times obituary, published December 30, 1992, he grew up in Harlem. Almost seven years later, Shearer returned from another trip to Jamaica. On the passenger list, his mother's name was recorded as "Moodie, Sophie R."; she had remarried to "P.D. Moodie" who resided at "2 St. Nichols Place, N.Y." Joining them was his older brother, Raphael D., and step-brother, Hugh B. Moodie. They sailed aboard the S.S. Yoro from Port Antonio, Jamaica on September 21, 1928, and arrived in New York City on September 28.

According to the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, Shearer's step-father was Percy, a railroad waiter. The family of five lived in Manhattan at 408 West 150th Street. The Herald Statesman (Yonkers, NY), in its April 8, 1980 issue, said he "began his career at 16 with a two-column panel, 'Around Harlem,' in the Amsterdam News…" From the Piqua Daily Call (Ohio), July 10, 1970, is an excerpt about his education and art training.

Ted sold his first free-lance cartoon at the age of 16, while still a student at New York's DeWitt Clinton High School. And his teachers regularly bought Ted's etchings. He won five medals and two scholarships at that school and attended both the Art Students League and Pratt Institute on scholarships.

The U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records indicate Shearer enlisted on October 27, 1942 in New York City. He had three years of high school education; a commercial artist; single, with dependents; height, 68 inches, and weight, 148 pounds. The Arkansas State Press published, on January 15, 1943, an article about him in the army.

Cartoonist Swaps Brushes for Rifle

Fort McClellan, Ala.—A prominent newspaper and magazine cartoonist is now a member of the 92nd Infantry Division. He is Pvt. Ted Shearer, whose cartoon has appeared in 35 different newspapers. Now his cartoons will become a weekly feature of the new 92nd Division newspaper. Pvt. Shearer's idea for his cartoons will originate from his life and work with the 92nd. Only 23 years old, he has won two scholarships, many medals, and has had his work displayed at the World's Fair and the New York Public Library. His cartoons also have appeared in "Click," "Swank," and "Collier's" magazines, and two water color paintings were shown at Macy's New York City.

One of his features "Next Door" is a weekly feature of this paper.

The Troy Record (New York) carried this story on January 2, 1944:

Newspaper an Aid in Army Training

Fort Huachuca, Ariz. (AP)—The 92nd Division's weekly newspaper is an instrument of training and has won the praise of high Army authorities for its effectiveness.

Each week a great deal of space in The Buffalo is devoted to pictures, drawings and cartoons showing the troops in action and illustrating the purpose of that week's training. Sometimes a story accompanies the pictures, but the staff has found art more effective….

…Two magazine and newspaper cartoonists, Sergts. Ray Henry and Ted Shearer, both of New York, contribute….

After the war, the Times said, "He later freelanced, selling drawings to The Ladies' Home Journal, The Saturday Evening Post and other publications. Mr. Shearer was an art director for 15 years at the advertising agency BBDO." The Herald Statesman, in its October 6, 1971 issue, said, "he worked on major accounts as Betty Crocker, Schaefer Beer, and New York Telephone." He also appeared in ads, for Lucky Strike cigarettes, published in newspapers including The Afro American (November 7, 1953) and Baltimore Afro-American (October 8, 1955).

Quincy original art courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

The Herald Statesman published an interview with Shearer on April 17, 1976 and he explained how Quincy came to be.

…Shearer…landed a job as TV art director for the advertising firm of Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborne. The story of how he left his job, which he held for 15 years, for his present career could be fare for somebody else's fanciful comic strip.

As Shearer tells it, the turning point in his career came about when he was commuting from Westchester [New York] to his office in New York City in 1970.

"I'm always drawing," he says, "and back then I carried a sketch pad with me on the train. One day, the man sitting next to me said he liked my work. It turned out he worked for King Features and on another day, I showed him one of the free lance strips I had been doing all along for the Amsterdam News. He showed my work to his colleagues at King Features, and that's how 'Quincy' was born…."

The Herald Statesman, on October 6, 1971, said, "And who was the artist who 'discovered' Shearer on the Penn Central? It was William Gilmartin of Elmsford [New York]—at the time a King Features staff artist…" The Herald Statesman TV schedule for January 17, 1975 listed the WCBS afternoon program, The People, which was titled, "Quincy and His Man," a filmed interview with Shearer.

According to the Times Shearer passed away on December 26, 1992 at Northern Westchester Hospital Center in Mount Kisco, New York. He lived in Pound Ridge, New York. His son, John, said he died of cardiac arrest. The father and son had collaborated on the Billy Jo Jive book series. It formed the basis of an animated feature for the PBS series Sesame Street. He was survived by his wife, Phyllis, daughter, Kathleen Shepherd, and three grandchildren.

African Americans in the Visual Arts (2003) profiled Shearer; it can be viewed here. A lengthy profile of Shearer can be viewed at The Cartoonists website.


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