Sunday, March 04, 2012


Ink-Slinger Profiles: C.D. Russell

Clarence Davis Russell was born in Buffalo, New York on August 19, 1896, according to his World War I and II draft cards. The same birthdate was recorded in U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca.1775-2006 at His birth has been stated simply as 1895 in books and websites. In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, he was the first of two children born to Hamilton and Elizabeth. They lived in Buffalo at 43 East Balcom Street. His father was a bookkeeper.

In the next census, they remained in Buffalo, but at 143 North Pearl. His father was a claims agent. According to his New York Times, October 25, 1963 obituary, he studied at the Chicago Art Institute. In the World Encyclopedia of Comics (1976), Maurice Horn wrote, "…after freelancing cartoons to magazines around the country, he came to New York City in 1915. When WWI rolled around he enlisted in the Marines, became sports editor of The Leatherneck, the Corps' publication, and was sent overseas with the American Expeditionary Force." Russell signed his World War I draft card on June 5, 1918. He resided at 136 East 16th Street, Manhattan, New York City. He worked for the Western Electric Company. His description was medium height, slender build with blue eyes and light brown hair. History of Buffalo and Erie County, 1914-1919 (1920) had this entry, "Russell, Clarence D.—1st-class Pvt., Co. F, 11th USM."

The Western Electric News published one of his cartoons (below) in its August 1918 issue.

The American Review of Reviews, November 1918, reprinted one of his Leatherneck cartoons.

Russell has not been found in the 1920 census. According to Famous Artists & Writers (1949), "…in the early Twenties [he] worked for the old New York Evening Post and Evening Mail....Russell's professional interest in tramps began around 1927...'I began drawing tramps for Judge, the old humorous magazine...and pretty soon Pete [the Tramp] began to evolve..." (The entire profile is here.) He produced ads titled Electrified History for Western Electric.

He has not been found in the 1930 census. Famous Artist & Writers said, "
He signed a contract with King Features in 1930." According to E. Simms Campbell's January 29, 1971 obituary in the New York Times, "...C.D. Russell, creator of 'Pete the Tramp,' encouraged and advised him..." His strip Pete the Tramp, began on January 10, 1932. Snorky was one of three toppers he used on Pete the Tramp. A 1937 issue of the Judge printed instructions for his word game.

Before the paper and pencils are put back in the desk drawer, a neat game for groups of two, three or four is "Letter-Go," an invention of cartoonist C.D. Russell, who is also the inventor of Pete the Tramp. Each player rules off, free-hand, a box containing twenty- five squares. This is done by making six horizontal lines about a half inch apart and crossing them with six more half inch apart vertical lines. The players then take turns in calling out letters. Each letter, as it is called, must be placed by each player in any one of his twenty-five squares, and no erasing either. The object is to make words horizontally and vertically. When all the squares have been filled in, papers are exchanged and scores totaled. A five-letter word counts 10, a four-letter word 5 and a three-letter word 2. Two-letter words don't count at all. Neither do proper names nor foreign words. Also, adding an "s" on the end of a singular word to make it into a plural is just a waste of time. Your opponents will only allow you the singular. A perfect score is 100 — five five-letter words each way. But in stiff competition you should be able to pick up the marbles with anything in the neighborhood of 70.

Russell signed his World War II draft card on April 27, 1942. He lived in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was a cartoonist for King Features. His description was 5 feet 8 inches and 165 pounds, with blue eyes and gray hair. He was involved in the founding of the National Cartoonist Society in 1946.

Russell passed away on October 23, 1963, according to U.S. Veterans Gravesites. However, the New York Times October 25 obituary said he, "…died of cancer Tuesday [October 22] in Kingsbridge Veterans Hospital, the Bronx. He was 67 years old and lived in Fort Lee, N.J." That Tuesday date was used in the World Encyclopedia of Comics. He was buried at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York. Pete the Tramp ended December 22, 1963. A list of his comic book credits is at the Grand Comics Database.


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