Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Irma Harms

Irma Harms was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 20, 1882, according to a 1900 passport application and a 1924 passenger list at The 1880 U.S. Federal Census recorded Harms’ family in Euclid, Ohio. Her father, Louis, was born in Germany, and mother, Hulda, in Russia. The couple’s first child was named Hulda who was followed by Irma. Louis’ first wife, Judith, had four children and died in 1870. Additional information about Louis can be found in the Memorial Record of the County of Cuyahoga and City of Cleveland, Ohio (1894).

Harms was raised in Euclid which was named in her mother’s 1896 passport application. Some time later they moved to Cleveland.

Harms and her mother traveled to Europe in early April 1900, about two months before the enumeration of the 1900 census. The passport application said Cleveland was their permanent residence. The application had Harms’ first name as “Emma”. They returned to the U.S. in early 1901. A passenger list said they sailed on the S.S. Graf Waldersee from Hamburg, Germany, on January 13, 1901. The ship made stops in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Plymouth and New York.

The Cleveland Leader, February 18, 1902, reported the Eastern Cuyahoga branch of the Ohio state Board of Agriculture’s annual farmers’ institute in Euclid. The evening entertainment included Harms who played a piano solo and a violin duet.

In the 1910 census, Harms and her mother lived in Euclid, Ohio on Euclid Road. Harms was unemployed. They were recorded as a separate household while residing in the same place as Harms’ oldest step-brother, farmer Charles, and his family.

The Sandusky Star-Journal (Ohio), March 10, 1928, said Harms was student at the Cleveland School of Art and later studied with cartoonist C.N. Landon. She was listed as an illustrator in a Landon School advertisement. During World War I she did pen-and-ink illustrations for the Cleveland Press.

According to the 1920 census, unemployed Harms lived with her older half-sister and widow, Julia, and her family in Sandusky at 502 West Market Street. Harms’ occupation was artist in the 1921 city directory.

In February 1924, Harms visited Cuba.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Harms drew Gabby Gertie from September 1927 to 1935. A trademark application was recorded in the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, February 5, 1929. 

Ser. No. 270,420. Irma Harms, Sandusky, Ohio. Filed Aug. 1, 1928.
Gabby Gertie
For One-Column Daily Illustrated Epigram Series. Claims use since Aug. 22, 1927.
Newspaper artist Harms continued to be part of Julia’s household in the 1930 census. The 1930 city directory said she was a cartoonist. In the mid-1930s, Harms moved. A 1937 directory listed the artist at 1835 Willowhurst Road in apartment 101.

The Editor & Publisher said Harms produced a daily strip, The Patsy, for the Thompson Service in 1933. It’s unclear if the strip was published.

The 1940 census recorded Harms’ address as 1875 Willowhurst Road. The cartoonist did not work and had no income in 1939. 

Harms passed away October 13, 1952, in Cleveland, according to the blog Sandusky History

—Alex Jay


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