Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Ink-Slinger profiles by Alex Jay: Gaar Williams

Gaar Campbell Williams was born in Richmond, Indiana, on December 12, 1880, according to the Illinois Death Index at Ancestry.com. Marriage records revealed his parents’ full names, George Rich Williams and Sarah Elizabeth Campbell. In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, which was enumerated June 15, the couple resided in Richmond, Indiana at 34 Eighth Street. Williams’s father was a court clerk. Richmond city directories of 1885 and 1890 listed the Williams address as 410 North Fifteenth Street.

The same address was recorded in the 1900 census. Williams had a younger sister, Inez, and his father was a bookkeeper. The Richmond High School yearbook, The Pierian 1909, said Williams, class of 1900, was a “Student in Art School, Chicago; cartoonist for the Chicago ‘Record Herald;’ now with the Indianapolis News.”

The Chicago Tribune, June 16, 1935, said Williams, while in high school, studied at the Cincinnati Academy of Fine Arts during vacation breaks. After graduating high school, Williams continued his studies at the Chicago Art Institute. Williams initially pursued commercial art but switched to the newspaper field where he drew political cartoons for the Chicago Daily News. According to the a brief profile in the collection of the Indiana State Library’s Rare Books and Manuscripts, Williams was a staff artist on the Chicago Daily News from 1904 to 1909. A 1905 Chicago city directory had this listing: “Williams Gaar C artist 1702, 77 Jackson bowl H2667”. The listing in the American Art Annual (1905) had this address: “Williams, Gaar C, 1712 Great Northern Bldg.. Chicago, Ill. (P.)”.

Williams produced a number of bookplates which were printed in Brush and Pencil, August 1905, and Indiana Bookplates (1910).

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Williams produced a series for the Chicago Daily News. Buttons and the Butler ran from December 18, 1906 to January 11, 1907. Williams was one of several artists to draw the Chicago Daily News’ Tiny Tinkles. Williams’ run went from January 11 to January 29, 1907.

In 1909 Williams joined the Indianapolis News and stayed for twelve years. The 1910 census said newspaper cartoonist Williams was an Indianapolis resident at 947 Pennsylvania Street North. On April 22, 1911, Williams married Magdalena Englebert. The couple lived at 140 East 44th Street according to Williams’ World War I draft card which was signed on September 12, 1918. The description of Williams was tall and slender with blue eyes and brown hair.

Williams illustrated a number of books including Keeping Up with William (1918), Days Gone Dry (1919), The War in Cartoons (1919), and The Young Immigrunts (1920).

Williams’ address was unchanged in the 1920 census. In 1921 Williams joined the Chicago Tribune. According to American Newspaper Comics, Williams produced a Chicago Tribune cartoon panel from 1922 to mid-1935. The panel was known by a number titles: A Strain on the Family Tie; Among the Folks in History; How to Keep from Growing Old; Just Plain Folks; Our Secret Ambition; Something Ought to Be Done About This; Static; When Words Fail Yuh; Wotta Life! Wotta Life!; and Zipper. The strip Mort Green and Wife, and its topper, Zipper, debuted October 4, 1931 from the Chicago Tribune.

Williams and his wife vacationed in Europe. They departed Cherbourg, France, on May 27, 1928 and arrived in New York City June 4. Their address on the passenger list was 90 Lakewood Road, Glencoe, Illinois. The same address was recorded in the 1930 census.

Williams passed away June 15, 1935, in Chicago. His death was reported the following day in the Chicago Tribune. Williams was laid to rest in Earlham Cemetery.

Further Reading

Gaar Williams, 1880-1935: A Checklist of the Blanche Stillson Collection in the Irwin Library of Butler University (1981)

Biographical Sketches of Cartoonists & Illustrators in the Swann Collection of the Library of Congress (2012) 

—Alex Jay


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