A description of Artemus Ward for the caricaturist

January 6, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism, writers, writing.

If ever there was a description that demanded a caricature, it is this one of Charles Farrar Brown, aka Artemus Ward. His fellow editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, George Hoyt, wrote:

His desk was a rickety table which had been whittled and gashed until it looked as if it had been the victim of lightning.  His chair was a fit companion thereto,—a wabbling, unsteady affair, sometimes with four and sometimes with three legs.  But Browne saw neither the table, nor the chair, nor any person who might be near, nothing, in fact, but the funny pictures which were tumbling out of his brain.  When writing, his gaunt form looked ridiculous enough.  One leg hung over the arm of his chairlike a great hook, while he would write away, sometimes laughing to himself, and then slapping the table in the excess of his mirth.” Source: The Complete Works of Artemus Ward

Ward is often described as America’s first stand-up comic.

Born in Main in 1834, he learned the printer’s trade and contributed occasional humorous pieces to newspapers. He developed his talent in Cleveland, where he first used the pen name of Artemus Ward, and then moved east to edit — unsuccessfully — a humor magazine. His humor and language were homespun, and his writing became highly popular.

One of his fans was President Abraham Lincoln, who read one of War’s pieces to his cabinet to break the tension before he told them that he would issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

Ward realized that he had a stage presence that could draw large audiences. He also knew how to publicize himself, and his national tour, which included California and meeting Mark Twain in Virginia City, Nevada, was a great success. He traveled to England after the war in 1866 and contributed to the British humor magazine Punch. But he also became ill there and died of tuberculosis in 1867 shortly before his 33rd birthday.

Based on Hoyt’s description, I came up with this caricature:


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