Friday, May 21, 2021


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: J.W. McGurk

Joseph William McGurk was born on March 26, 1886, in  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, according to a passport application, World War I draft card and death certificate at

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census McGurk was the youngest of four children born to William McGurk, an Irish emigrant and cigar manufacturer, and Frances Mallon. McGurk’s three sisters were Katherine, Anna and Frances. The family lived in Philadelphia at 1442 North Second Street and would be McGurk’s permanent address. 

McGurk was listed in the February 1904 Roll of Honor for his submission to St. Nicholas magazine. The June 1904 issue used his artwork for a heading. 

The New York Times, January 10, 1939, said McGurk graduated from Catholic High School and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He joined the staff of The Philadelphia Record in 1906 as sports cartoonist. 

According to the 1910 census McGurk  was a newspaper cartoonist. His widow mother was head of the household and a retail tobacco and cigar merchant. 

On April 5 1912, McGurk obtained a passport. He vacationed in Europe and England. McGurk was mentioned up in a handful of pages in John Cournos’  Autobiography (1982). On July 28, 1912, he returned to Philadelphia from Liverpool, England. 

McGurk signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. He was an artist with the Philadelphia Record. His description was slender build, short height with blue eyes and sandy hair. The Pennsylvania World War I Veterans Service and Compensation File, at, said McGurk was inducted on October 18, 1918. He was a private whose first assignment was the Motor Transport Corps, Company F; then Motorcycle Company A, Camp Joseph E. Johnston, Florida to January 3, 1919; and Motor Transport Company 809. He did not serve overseas. McGurk was honorably discharged on February 18, 1919. 

The 1920 census said McGurk was s Record newspaper cartoonist. He lived with his mother and oldest sister, Katherine. 

Editor & Publisher, March 5, 1921, said 
Joseph W. McGurk, who has been sports cartoonist on the Philadelphia Record for a number of years and who has also done special illustrations for the Sunday Magazine Section, joined the sports staff of the New York American March 1. ...
McGurk’s sports cartoons ran in the Washington Times. I believe the October 24, 1921 edition was the first time he introduced Kayo Tortoni and Charlotte RusseThomasina Crib, was introduced on December 3, 1921. In the cartoons the women appeared individually, in pairs and occasionally in trios. Kayo Tortoni became the principal character on January 21, 1922. What’s in the New York Evening Journal: America’s Greatest Evening Newspaper (1928) said 
“Kayo Tortoni” is acknowledged the most famous woman character in sports cartoons. She enters every branch of athletics and leads the vogue in sports togs. Joe McGurk’s fascinating portrayals of Kayo’s sporting proclivities put the “Oh!” into Evening Journal sports pages. …
Washington Times 1/21/1922

The character, Kayo Tortoni, appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1923. The music and lyrics for “Kayo Tortoni” were by Gene Buck and Dave Stamper

A female dancer changed her name to Kayo Tortoni and pursued an acting career. She may have been better known for her nose job

McGurk contributed a drawing, on page 39, to Right Off the Chest (1923). 

McGurk also contributed to the Hearst publication Cosmopolitan. He illustrated stories of Irvin S. Cobb and H. C. Witwer. (Photographs of Cobb and Witwer are on pages 52 and 216 of My Story That I Like Best (1925).) The New York Times said
Gladys Murgatroyd and “One Round,” figures in Mr. Witwer’s “Leather Pushers” series, which later were made into movies, were among the most popular characters created by Mr. McGurk’s pen. He and Mr. Witwer, during their period of collaboration, never met but worked together by long distance telephone.
McGurk was one of several artists who appeared in the 1924 film, The Great White Way

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said McGurk drew “Forty-Second Cousins” from 1922 to 1928. Russell Patterson pitched in from August 30 to September 13, 1925.

McGurk was the head of the household in the 1930 census. Living with him were his sister, Katherine, and niece, Frances McDonnell. The New York Times said he retired from the Hearst organization in the mid-1930s.

McGurk passed away on January 8, 1939, in Philadelphia. The death certificate said the principal cause of death was bronchial pneumonia and the secondary was heart failure. He was laid to rest at the New Cathedral Cemetery in Philadelphia. News of his estate was covered in the Philadelphia Inquirer, January 26, 1940, and February 17, 1940

Selected cartoons featuring Kayo Tortoni, Charlotte Russe and Thomasina Crib
October 24, 1921: Kayo Tortoni, Charlotte Russe
October 25, 1921: Kayo Tortoni, Charlotte Russe
October 27, 1921: Charlotte Russe
October 29, 1921: Kayo Tortoni
November 7, 1921: Charlotte Russe
November 12, 1921: Kayo Tortoni
November 21, 1921: Kayo Tortoni
November 28, 1921: Charlotte Russe, Kayo Tortoni
November 29, 1921: Charlotte Russe, Kayo Tortoni
December 1, 1921: Charlotte Russe, Kayo Tortoni
December 3, 1921: Charlotte Russe, Kayo Tortoni, Thomasina Crib
December 7, 1921: Charlotte Russe, Kayo Tortoni
December 9, 1921: Thomasina Crib
December 10, 1921: Charlotte Russe
December 12, 1921: Kayo Tortoni
December 24, 1921: Charlotte Russe, Kayo Tortoni, Thomasina Crib
January 4, 1922: Thomasina Crib
January 8, 1922: Kayo Tortoni
January 10, 1922: Kayo Tortoni
January 11, 1922: Charlotte Russe
January 12, 1922: Kayo Tortoni
January 14, 1922: Kayo Tortoni
January 16, 1922: Charlotte Russe, Kayo Tortoni
January 18, 1922: Charlotte Russe
January 19, 1922: Kayo Tortoni


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