Clare Briggs

was born 5 August, 1875, in Reedsburg, Wisconsin. His briggsfamily later moved to Dixon, Illinois, and finally to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he studied drawing at the normal school. He attended the University of Nebraska for two years, but dropped out to pursue drawing. His first sketches were published in the Western Penman. His newspaper career began in 1896 as a sketch artist for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. In 1898 he was hired by the St. Louis Chronicle as a political cartoonist. As his work was limited to drawing war-related cartoons, he lost his job when the Spanish-American War ended in 1899. That same year he relocated to New York where he studied art at Pratt Institute and contributed cartoons to both the New York World and the New York Journal. In 1900, William Randolph Hearst hired Briggs and sent him to Chicago as a cartoonist for the Chicago American and Chicago Examiner. Briggs rise to fame as a cartoonist began with a comic strip called “A. Piker, Clerk,” which ran in both of these papers. Beginning in 1904, “A. Piker, Clerk” is considered to be among the first daily comic strips. Unfortunately, it was canceled by Hearst just as its popularity was beginning. In 1907, Briggs secured a position with the Chicago Tribune, where he developed “Oh Skinnay, In the Days of Real Sport” loosely based on his own boyhood adventures. He transferred his affiliation yet again in 1914, becoming a cartoonist for the New York Herald-Tribune, where he remained until his death. During his 17 years in Chicago and the remaining 13 with the New York Tribune, Briggs created several strips and dozens of single-panel series. Briggs used everyday topics such as tracking mud, setting off fireworks, being seen with a girl, and having to dress up to recall the good old days. For the New York Herald-Tribune he broadened his repertoire to include depictions of the urban lower-middle class. While Biggs’ draftsmanship was excellent, it was always subordinate to his ideas. He had a highly developed sense of the ridiculous and an ability to write captions that exactly matched his panels. In addition, his drawings of small town and city life are so accurate that they provide a historical record of the era. By 1920 Briggs was listed as one of the country’s highest paid cartoonists in the Literary Digest. He was a member of the Illustrators’ Society and the Lambs Club in New York. However, his financial success and personal acclaim were cut short by illness. Briggs suffered from lung congestion coupled with a nervous disorder that caused the degeneration of his optic nerve and made drawing difficult in his last years. Briggs died in New York, 3 January, 1930.

(Sources: Garraty, John A., and Mark C. Carnes, eds. American National Biography. Vol. 3. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Goulart, Ron, ed. The Encyclopedia of American Comics. New York: Facts On File, 1990. The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Vol. 23. New York: James T. White & Company, 1933.)

 

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