100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Cartoonist McCay Draws The War

Zeanus Winsor McCay was born in 1869, or 1871 in Spring Lake, Michigan. His father sent him to Cleary Business College in Ypsilanti, Michigan but McCay would go to Detroit and utilize his drawing skills as a street artist at the Wonderland and Eden Musee dime museum where he drew portraits there for 25¢ apiece. McCay’s talents allowed him to draw quickly with great accuracy and crowds watched when he painted advertisements in public. John Goodison, a professor at Michigan state Normal School, offered to teach art to McCay privately, and McCay accepted. Goodison, a former glass stainer, influenced McCay’s use of color. In 1891, McCay moved to Cincinnati where he did more dime museum work while living in a boarding house near his workplace. He did this for nearly a decade before working for the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune. In 1898, he accepted a full-time position there.

Little Nemo - 1906

Little Nemo – 1906

In 1903 McCay started doing comic strips and in 1904 his ground-breaking DREAMS OF A RARE-BIT FIEND appeared : a comic with no reoccurring characters in a bizarre, nightmare hallucinatory landscape that ended in a bad dream. In 1905 LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND premiered with it’s proportionally distorted dreamland which became extremely popular. In 1906 he was offered $500 per week to draw 25 sketches in fifteen minutes before live audiences. He drew two faces and progressively aged them. His first performance was in June 1906 in a show that also featured W. C. Fields.

McCay made a LITTLE NEMO animated cartoon in April 1911. His main aim was to make a film to be used as part of his vaudeville act. McCay used the stage to great effect. GERTIE THE DINOSAUR debuted just a year ago. The 1914 animated cartoon shows a dinosaur that the live McCay would talk to onstage and control – “the only dinosaur in captivity”.

Gertie The Dinosaur – 1914 a film from McCay’s stage act.

On February 7, 1915 Winsor McCay published this cartoon in THE NEW YORK AMERICAN – “We Can Be Free Only By Conquering Fear” showing the fate of the World in the face of the current global conflict.

 "We Can Be Free Only By Conquering Fear" by Winsor McCay - New York American February 7, 1915

“We Can Be Free Only By Conquering Fear” by Winsor McCay – New York American February 7, 1915


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