Arthur Burdett Frost
was born in Philadelphia in 1851, as the son of John Frost, a historian, biographer and professor of literature. Frost became an apprentice of an engraver when he was fifteen years old, but was discouraged to continue because his teacher said he “had no talent for drawing”. A friend asked him to illustrate an anthology of amusing stories however, and in 1874 A. B. Frost made his artistic debut with the publication of ‘Out of the Hurly Burly’, written by Max Adeler. Frost joined the art department of Harper & Brothers in 1876 and went to London, England a year later to study drawing. There he met Lewis Carroll, who asked him to illustrate the funny poetry anthology ‘Rhyme? and Reason?’, which was eventually published in 1883. They also collaborated on ‘A Tangled Tale’. After his return from England in 1878, A. B. Frost started studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He got acquainted with the photographic experiments of Eadweard Muybridge, which inspired him to publish his first sequential stories. The first story in this genre which became a great hit with the public was ‘Our Cat Eats Rat Poison’ (‘Fatal Mistake’ in a later version), which describes with remarkable wit and in a dashing graphic style the lugubrious consequences of a cat’s final meal. Arthur Frost’s work was published in three albums: ‘Stuff and Nonsense’ (1884), ‘The Bull Calf and Other Tales’ (1892) and ‘Carlo’ (1913). Because of his skills in depicting motion and sequence, Frost was a great influence on the early American newspaper comic artists, such as Richard Outcault, Rudolph Dirks, Jimmy Swinnerton and Fred Opper. His work never appeared in the newspapers, only in magazines such as Harper’s Weekly and Punch, and since he was also a famous painter and illustrator, Frost’s role in the history of early comics has been underestimated for a long time.