Drayton, a Children’s Illustrator Who also Painted Young Women--a Biographical
©W. E. McGrath,
Grace Gebbie Drayton, remembered as the creator of the popular
Campbell Kids of Campbell Soup fame, should also be remembered as an artist who
drew or painted young women. Some
creations were strait-laced as in her cartoons; some were alluring as in her
paintings. They were every bit as
captivating as the Kids but are less known—with good reason. They are either scarce, were not widely
published, or were not her primary
Grace Drayton, the name by which she is primarily remembered, was
born October 14, 1877, christened Viola Grace Gebbie. As a child, she drew her image from a mirror, saying that she
thought she was funny looking and that her playmates loved them. She capitalized on her caricatures, turning
them into highly profitable cherubs in unlikely situations for postcards and
cartoon strips and paper dolls, which became wildly profitable. Their
popularity grew and, as collector items, especially postcards—the “chubby
legged kids, with no necks, large widely separated eyes and small H-shaped mouths” (Collins, p. 47), her “funny babies,” as she called them—show no
sign of abating after 100 years (Gammage).
biography is yet to be written. There is little
published material about her. The Internet, where her postcards1 and other
items are offered for sale, provides
few details of her life. And what
little biographical material exists is largely repetitive. The vast majority of Internet hits are about
the origin of the Campbell Kids, her postcards,
1. Her contribution to the history of postcards is told by Miller
and Miller (1976).
strips and paper dolls. These were her
livelihood. This sketch will describe
some of her
other work, mostly young women, and how this work differed from the
“googly-eyed” Kids that were so popular.
But first it is necessary to provide some family background.
George Gebbie, Father of Grace and all the Sisters and one Devious
Viola Grace Gebbie was the
third daughter of George Gebbie, a
lithographer, who was Philadelphia’s first art printer (Fig. 1). Family legend says that his first wife and
Fig. 1. George Gebbie (d. 1892) art printer and father of six girls and
of Janet Hays Austin).
children were drowned in a
shipwreck, according to Janet Hays Austin (23 January 2003), a
emigrated from Scotland in 1862 after
landing in Quebec and working in upstate New York for a short time, he arrived
in Philadelphia, listing his occupation as a bookseller in his immigration
papers (Austin, 21 January 2003) and was naturalized in 1869. Gebbie was a Scots Presbyterian; his second
wife, Mary Jane Fitzgerald, was a strict Catholic (Austin, 16 January 2003), a
potential source of matrimonial discord.
There is little evidence of that discord, however, although Catholic Mary Jane apparently
provided the moral discipline for the family.
All the girls attended Catholic schools while Gebbie tended to his
In 1867, having gained a taste for
entrepreneurship in subscription publishing, and with the Scottish reputation
for business acumen, he went into the art printing business. Gebbie “retired” in 1880 and went to Europe
intending to live there [to get away from Mary Jane
and the family?] but he soon returned [with a guilty conscience?] and
went back into business (Tebbel, p.
Gebbie and Mary
Jane had six daughters, Mary Elizabeth Gebbie Vernou, Margaret “Peg” Gebbie
Hays, Viola Grace, Janet Gebbie Edwards,
Mary Frances Gebbie and Susan Gebbie Leonard—most of whom had some artistic talent—and one
son, George, who lacked talent for art.
most notable printed works were The Illustrated Catalogue of the
Masterpieces of the International Exhibition [the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876], The Illustrated History of
Rome, The Art Gallery of the Exhibition [by 15 painters]
(Tebbel, vol. 2, p. 424) and many photogravure prints of great
works of art under the imprint of Gebbie and Husson from 1889 to 1893.
Gebbie must have been well educated or, at
least, well read. In his library were
many belles-lettres and Greek and Roman books, many illustrated (Gebbie,1894). In this
cultured environment of art publishing, it is easy to see what its influence on
the family might have been. Viola would
have been about fifteen years old when
her father died in 1892, old enough to have garnered appreciation for his work
and to have enriched her life.
When Gebbie died unexpectedly in 1892, Mary
Elizabeth ran the business until she died in childbirth at the age of 24 in
1893. George the son, who did not
lack talent for shady practices, then inherited the business. George, long in the shadow of his talented
sisters, knew enough about corrupt
practices to eventually bankrupt the company.
When it was discovered that he had been laundering money for organized
crime in 1907, the company filed for bankruptcy, losing the residence at
Fig. 2. The
Gebbie residence at Spruce and 7th Streets (author photo). The residence is unoccupied. It exists as a façade only.
714 Spruce Street (Fig. 2)
and scandalizing the family.
The company had discounted
$1,500,000 in notes which were then divided up among various accomplices. It was a
scandal of the worst kind, shaking the
book publishing industry (Tebbel, vol. 2, p. 424). George, the father, who no doubt had the highest standards of
honesty in business would have turned over in his grave, thinking “that’s no
way to run a business.” A niece of the
son George, Marjorie Patterson Edwards, was “embarrassed to run into him
according to her 17-year-old’s diary” (Austin, 23 January, 2003).
remembers well the giant Gebbie prints at her grandfather’s [Jonathan Patterson
Edwards] homestead on Montgomery Avenue in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. The
prints were enlarged, framed, and then displayed in parts of the house. One was “The Horse Fair,” a painting by
Rosa Bonheur. It “was relegated to the
2nd floor of the carriage house….
It was gigantic! That room while
scary fascinated me. You had to go thru
the hay-loft which had a menacing thing down which … they pitched hay to the
stalls below. There was one big box
stall and 3 loose stalls. The stair
going up to the loft and stable-hands room reminded me somehow of the Princess
and Curdie [children’s book by George MacDonald]. Over the fireplace in the hall by the dining room was the bloody
‘Scotland Forever.’ The horses in that
seemed about to gallop out of the frame.
I was surprised to
find out it was by a woman—I think, Elizabeth Butler.… At the foot of the stair
was another mammoth print in a huge ornate frame, called ‘Friend or Foe’ with
two (to me) sappy looking girls in wonderful old fashioned clothes, looking
terrified by—I can’t remember which, either a doe or a fawn” (Austin, 24
By this time, Grace had
been on her own for some twenty-six years, and would have had similar memories
of the prints though she would long have put them behind her. The University of Texas at Austin and the
Library of Congress have Gebbie print collections.
Grace and her
Grace’s sisters and niece,
Mary A. Hays Huber, who authored a comic strip of her own [“Kate and Karl,”
1917], all had drawing talent (Robbins, p. 19-22), though none were superior to
that of Grace. Probably the sisters
learned from each other. Janet Austin’s mother [Marjorie Patterson Edwards]
drew children with clothing in Grace’s style though she probably did not have
art training. Drawing skills were
handed down from generation to generation.
Janet Austin, herself a painter, thought her grandmother
[Janet Gebbie Edwards] had a magic pencil. ”She would draw anything I
asked her to.… she sure did a lot of painting” (Austin, 19 Mar 2003).
Grace’s early education was in private and church
schools including the Convent of Notre Dame, Philadelphia and the Convent of
Eden Hall, Torresdale, Pennsylvania. (National
Cyclopaedia of American Biography, p. 402). (She may have been a classmate of Ethel Barrymore (b. 1879), the
actress, who was also educated at the
Convent of Notre Dame). Despite her
father’s Presbyterianism, her mother’s Catholicism prevailed when she was
placed in the Convent, no doubt to protect
her from the temptations of life, but if the Catholic values were not lost on
Grace, she had enough free spirit to
work eventually in New York City “where twentieth century painters go” (Burt,
p. 338) and where she was exposed to the attractions of the big city.
Mary Jane (Fitzgerald) Gebbie, George
Gebbie’s second wife “was a bossy
matriarch and quite ugly” who declared
“to my grandmother, Janet, that her marriage to Jonathan Edwards, ‘has
not my blessing’ ” (Austin, 10 March 2003).
Her strict Catholic upbringing may have influenced Grace and may
account—at least, in part—for the moralistic approach to her comic strips
(O’Sullivan, p. 160) and why her family considered her divorces so scandalous.
“In those days, the entire family would have been disgraced—especially in a
pretty much Catholic society” (Austin, 16 January 2003). One reads little of this in the limited
biographical material that is available.
Petteys (Dictionary of Women Artists) noted that Grace
received her art training from the Philadelphia School of Design for Women
(PSDW) in 1895 where Robert Henri (founder of the Ashcan School) taught
briefly. She enrolled as Grace V.
Gebbie (not Viola Grace Gebbie) in
Henri’s Antiques class, 1892-1893. The class was described in the College
Catalogue as “Drawing from the antique, artistic anatomy, composition, Crayon
portraits,” and “The admirable and extensive collection of statues and busts, cast from the best
specimens of Greek, Roman and Renaissance Sculpture, offers great advantages
for the study of the antique under the charge of Mr. Robert Henri…. Mr. Henri
also gives instruction in artistic anatomy and gives practical lessons in
Composition with criticism upon original sketches by the pupils….” (PSDW, 1892-1893). The class was by one of
the most influential teachers of the time, designed for talented students; presumably the sketches Grace submitted for
the class were not her funny babies.
Though the PSDW was
founded to prepare women for a successful career in industrial design (Walls),
there is no evidence that the School provided major preparation for Gebbie, who
was already talented enough in her focus to make a career of it. She is listed in the class of 1893 but is
not listed among the graduates of her class nor in 1894 nor any class
thereafter. There is no record of her ever graduating. One illustrious classmate (who could have influenced Grace) was Harriet Sartain,
niece of Emily Sartain, Principal of the School. Emily was noted for her long fight for women’s education.
Harriet succeeded Emily as Dean
of the School in 1920, serving until 1946 (Walls).
Janet Austin was born
(1926) long after George’s death (1892), but it was easy to see the influence
of art on generations of children growing up in the family homestead. Yet Austin’s grandfather, Jonathan Patterson
Edwards, “refused to allow me to go to art school, saying ‘No nice girl should go to art school’
(Austin, 24 January 2003).” This was the very attitude that Emily Sartain fought to change—art
as the domain of males only. Emily was
a powerful voice for women and art in late 19th Century Philadelphia
(Walls). “I imagine Grace may have
earned more money than he [Edwards] did, despite her peccadilloes (Austin, 24
Petteys (Dictionary of
Women Artists) also listed Grace as having studied in the 1890s under
Clifford P. Grayson. Grayson taught oil painting at Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry. He was the Director of the School of
Drawing, Painting and Modeling which included, among other subjects, drawing from geometric solids, cast drawing
from simple ornament, free-hand and linear perspective, drawing from still life
and interiors, free-hand sketching from objects and drawing from casts of hands
and feet. A Drexel University
Archivist, could find no record in the
Drexel archives of Grace’s enrollment (Martin). It is probable, according to Martin, that she was not enrolled
as a full-time student in a diploma or certificate-granting program, nor did
student record books show her as having won any awards. Alternatively, she might have audited the
classes. Grace, if she didn’t already
have the skills taught by Henri and Grayson, could have learned from them
privately. If she did not learn from
them, all the more credit to her: she
must have been self-taught.
Walls in her meticulous
history of PSDW makes no mention of
Grace, although other illustrious alumnae, including Alice Barber,
Elizabeth Shippen Greene, Jesse Wilcox Smith, Violet Oakley, the Sartains and
Walls’ grandmother Marguerite di Angeli, the inspiration for Wall’s history,
are all mentioned.
Burt (1963) in his The
Perennial Philadelphians, a sort of “Who Was Who” of prominent
Philadelphians, ignored the Gebbies, even though he devoted a section in his
book to prominent illustrators which he called, appropriately, “Illustrators”
and a whole chapter to printers and publishers.
Fig. 3. Grace Gebbie
Wiederseim. (From Bookman, 1907)
Fig. 3 is apparently the
first published photo of Grace—or, at least, the first published photo of Grace
found by the author. It shows her in
profile, not her most flattering pose,
but it displays her penchant for fashion.
An older sister with whom
Grace was particularly close, Margaret “Peg” Gebbie Hays (Fig. 4), collaborated with Grace in writing and drawing (Women’s
Who’s Who in
Fig. 4. Margaret Gebbie Hays, Grace’s beloved
sister, circa 1893-1903
(courtesy of Janet Hays Austin).
had some success writing material for Grace’s comic strips and
authoring a strip of her own. She
illustrated a successful cookbook for
children, The Mary Francis
Cookbook, or Adventures Among the Kitchen People. No trace of her going to PSDW could be found and no mention of
her schooling in biographical dictionaries was made. One can only conclude that
the Gebbie talent was inherent, in no need of formal enhancement.
Grace was divorced
twice. She married Theodore E.
Wiederseim, Jr., an employee of Ketterlinus Lithographic Manufacturing Company,
in Philadelphia in 1904. She claimed to owe her “funny babies” to
Wiederseim, who recognized her potential, but she divorced him in 1911. Divorce in the Catholic Church was
forbidden; hers disgraced the whole family.
Who initiated the first divorce,
Grace or Theodore, is not known, but it
was probably Grace since in the same year she
married W. Heyward Drayton III,
a broker, who had also been previously divorced (Fig. 5). The second divorce (in 1923) was a
Fig. 5. Viola Grace Gebbie (left) in transition from
Wiederseim to Drayton and Janet Gebbie
Edwards, Grace’s sister, 1911 (courtesy of Janet Hays Austin).
The account in the New York Times is lurid. Viola G. Drayton received a final decree of divorce from W. Heyward Drayton. A witness
said that he saw Mr. Drayton
accompanied by a young woman with whom he occupied a stateroom on a night boat
bound for Albany and again at a hotel in Saratoga Springs, where they spent
three or four days, and still again at Long Beach where they occupied a cottage. In New York at that time, the only grounds for divorce was
adultery. The decree stated that
Grace was allowed to resume her maiden name of Viola Grace Gebbie, though she
never dropped the Drayton name, preferring to be known simply as Grace Drayton
or to her close associates as “Gigi” from her initials G and G. She received alimony of $333.33 a month and
a counsel fee of $2,500 (New York Times, 23 November 1923).
dictionary lists her as Episcopalian, probably through her second husband W.
Heywood Drayton (Women’s Who’s Who in America). Austin says, “She would probably have been
excommunicated” [in the Catholic church].
Austin said that her mother went to the Episcopal Church in rebellion
for the way that Gracie had been treated (Austin, 18 February 20003).
The Draytons were listed in the New York Social Blue Book (1930)
as “Drayton, Mr. & Mrs. W. H. Drayton 3rd, 375
Park Av., also Sands Point, L.I.,” but she was divorced by then. (Mrs. W. H.
Drayton might have been a new Mrs. Drayton.)
In the nineteen twenties, Grace was involved in a whirlwind of social
activities and benefits: On April 16, 1922 she gave a showing of her paintings
and drawings at the Kingore Galleries (New York Times, 16 April 1922). Two drawings were humorous
exaggerations. One, of “The Duchess of
Devonshire” a late eighteenth century painting of the glamorous and
notorious Georgiana Spencer by Thomas Gainsborough and the other of Gainsborough’s “The Blue
Boy.” She had also done spoofs of
George Washington, Napoleon and Mark Twain (Anthony, p. 328). Trina Robbins
argued that women do have a sense of humor after quoting an infamous statement
that women had none (Robbins, 1983).
By this time, Grace was sufficiently famous to make even her canaries
newsworthy. In 1923, she boarded three
canaries at “a hotel of their own” for people in the social register (New
York Times, 12 August 1923). She
was involved as a judge in a veteran’s art contest (New York Times, 21
May 1925), at a country dance (New
York Times, 6 March 1926), at
another auction for charity in which she contributed drawings (New York
Times, 18 March 1928), at a charity for
disabled servicemen and at an actor’s fund charity in which she drew
characteristic portraits, and in a cat
show charity in which she made sketches for an auction (New York Times, 6 November
belonged to a number of art organizations, but there is no evidence that
she held any office or contributed
anything to any of them other than her artwork. She held a fellowship in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
and she belonged to the Art Alliance of America, the Society of Illustrators,
the Artists Guild of the Author’s League of America, the Art Alliance of
Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Painters Club, Illustration House, National
Association of Women Artists and American Illustrators Gallery (Petteys, Mantle
Fielding). Apparently, she belonged to
these organizations because of what they could do for her; not what she could do for them.
Grace (as Wiederseim) was
a founder of the Philadelphia Plastic
Club, which has endured as the Plastic Club to this day. It is the oldest art club for women in
America (1897) and was limited to “women engaged in the pursuit of art in any of
its branches.” Among the noted past
members were Elizabeth Shippen Greene, Jesse Wilcox Smith, and Violet Oakley
(“The Red Rose Girls”), Alice Barber Stephens, and Cecilia Beaux. “Plastic Club” was chosen as a name “since
an unfinished work of art is in a plastic state (Crumb, 1972?).” Another
account of the Plastic Club reported that the club was formed “ to promote a
wider knowledge of art and to advance its interest by means of exhibitions and
social intercourse among artists” (MacIlvaine). Although the Club was originally formed for women only, it later
opened its membership to men.
Drayton—the Fashion Plate
as her nieces and grandniece Janet Austin affectionately knew her—she had no
children of her own—was good to them. “ Grace was wonderful to the girls” often
treating Marjorie and Teedie to clothes shopping sprees in New York and
Atlantic City (Austin, 16 January 2003).
They were definitely Grace’s pets.
“They certainly were clothes-horses.
Many outfits were gifts from V.G.G. [Viola Grace Gebbie]. Mother [Austin’s] often told of her
mother “turning old evening dresses into new ones. They were interested in fashion to the nth degree. Of course, clothing of the Edwardian period
was exquisite” (Austin 16 January 2003).
Fig. 6. Grace Drayton (Courtesy,
Campbell Soup. Co.).
Figure 6 is a “smashing”
(Janet Austin’s bon mot) photo of Grace Drayton, resplendent in her Edwardian
best. This photo, more than any other
found by the author, shows her preference for the most fashionable costume.
Grace was devoted to her
nieces though there is no hint of that devotion in the wooden faces of their
photographs. They often visited
photographic studios to have their pictures taken in the latest fashions (Figs.
7-9). Figure 7 is with nieces Marjorie
Patterson Edwards then about thirteen, and Mary Anthony “Teedie” Hays
Huber about eighteen, on one of their
trips to Atlantic City in 1909. A
later photo (Fig. 8) shows Marjorie P.
Edwards about eighteen, VGG, and Teedie
in her early
twenties, a little fuller in the
face, posing in Atlantic City in their fine furs.
Fig. 7. Marjorie Patterson Edwards (left), Grace’s
niece about Age 13,
Grace Gebbie Wiederseim (middle),
and Grace’s niece Mary Anthony
Teedie” Hays Huber (right), about 18,
circa 1909 (courtesy of Janet Hays Austin).
Fig. 8. Marjorie
P. Edwards (left), Grace’s niece about 18, Grace Drayton (middle) and Mary
Anthony “Teedie” Hays, Grace’s niece
early 20s, Atlantic City, circa 1912 (courtesy of Janet Hays Austin).
These photos of Grace and her nieces in their finery probably
provided some of the inspiration for her paintings, or at least the intent.
In Figure 9,
Grace, dressed in ruffles, jacket, furs and probably a muff, stares
Fig. 9. Grace Wiederseim Drayton, the “Clothes
Atlantic City, circa 1913
(courtesy of Janet Hays Austin).
as if studying the camera man for
her next painting.
In what might have been a lark, Grace and Marjorie Patterson
Edwards are dressed in a traditional
Russian or other eastern costume with a
“kokoshnik” headdress (Fig. 10).
The costume might have been theatrical, but it is unlikely, judging from
their expressions, that they would have had roles in productions.
Fig. 10. Grace
Drayton (right) and sister Marjorie Patterson Edwards (left)
or other Slavic costume, wearing a kokoshnik or folk headdress, circa.
1914-1918 (courtesy of Janet Hays
What this costume was a model for is anybody’s guess. It could have been a “dress-up” or merely a
studio photo on another one of their NewYork or Atlantic City outings.
1927, Grace had matured into an attractive, graceful woman. She became more photogenic, still wearing
clothing in the proper fashion of the times (Fig. 11, circa 1927).
Fig. 11. Mature Grace Drayton, circa 1927
(courtesy of Janet Hays Austin).
All her photos show a doleful woman
devoid of humor, that nevertheless
a happier spirit in her paintings.
Fig. 12. Grace at her drawing table, (undated photo
courtesy of Janet Hays Austin).
Grace, in comfortable clothes, is shown
working at her fancy drawing table (Fig. 12)
where she spent so much time over
the years. The table would prove to be her undoing as she neared the end of her
A search of the Internet
under the name of Grace Drayton, or Grace
Wiederseim, her earlier married name, or Grace Gebbie, her maiden name, at the
time of this writing, yields over 2000 hits, mostly images of her Campbell Kids
postcards for sale—many repeated endlessly or at auction where prices escalate
rapidly. From 1904 until her death in
1936, the bulk of her work was in postcards, cartoon strips, comic pages,
illustrations for children’s story
books and paper doll cutouts (Jackson).
Less known and harder to
find are her original paintings of beautiful young women of the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries. The World
Encyclopedia of Comics said about her drawings, “As an artist, her work is overly cute and mannered, and her
creations designed only for younger children”
(Horn, p. 22. ). It would be
unfair and inappropriate to describe all her work as “overly cute and
mannered,” especially her adult models.
A fairer opinion was expressed by Marschall (1980), “Her storytelling abilities were
enhanced by her talent for creating
mood through a singular drawing style and arresting composition.” She could be quite realistic in her cartoon
strips. Her background objects—chairs,
tables, desks, stairs, benches, bathtubs—are drawn in proper perspective and in
all the correct proportions. Only her
Kids are disproportionate.
Whereas she worked very
rapidly (her kids were so stylized that they were almost by formula), she
painted her women more carefully. They
must have taken much longer to polish.
She painted young women for the Saturday Evening Post and
other magazines in the fashion of Charles Dana Gibson and Harrison Fisher, two
artists who drew elegant women, though her style was closer to Fisher and more
of an age than imitative. Reconciling
these adult portraits with the round-faced, cherubic children in most of her
drawings, those in demand by collectors, is not straightforward. One would not expect that they were by the same
The adult figures
in her postcards and comic strips are all drawn in perfectly normal or
proportions. Grace, as Wiederseim,
loved to draw pretty, straight-backed young mothers. In The Warrior (Fig. 13), for example, the lovely mother
rests serenely in an
Fig. 13. Elegant Mother, holding Child. (The Warrior
by Grace Wiederseim1911.)
easy chair while cuddling her
out-sized, round-faced baby son
(Wiederseim and Cammack, 1911). In the first panel of a Dotty Dimples cartoon strip, Dimples appears to be telling a tall story,
to the horror of her Nanny and the astonishment of a proper gentleman. In the last panel, her straight-backed,
fashionable Nanny hauls her away (Fig. 14).
Fig. 14. Adult lady hauls away Dimples telling a
tall story (from a Drayton comic strip,
In a 1917 Dimples cartoon strip
Dimple’s mother, standing straight, tall and quite stern, disciplines
Dimples (Fig. 15).
Fig.15. Mother, standing straight and tall and
wearing a broad-brimmed hat, in a 1917 Drayton cartoon strip, disciplines
Fig. 16. Fashionably slender teacher (Drayton print,
In a postcard print an attractive
and slender teacher instructs two exaggerated children (Fig. 16). And, in another Dimples comic strip, the
graceful mother puts the chubby round-faced
Dimples to bed, while a later panel shows the mother in formal evening
attire out for an evening with the father (Fig. 17).
Fig. 17. Mother, in formal evening attire, puts
Dimples to bed before going out for an evening with the father (undated,
The eyes of her women in
some paintings convey a haughtiness, as in the Saturday Evening Post
cover painting, “Woman with Pompadour” (Fig. 18). In this and
Fig. 18. Wiederseim painting “Woman with Pompadour”
Evening Post cover “Portrait
of a Young Girl” Grace was at the height of her powers (Fig. 19). The young models are graceful, fashionable and attractive. Though no one claims that Grace had the stature of a first class
painter, these two paintings were evidence that she could paint with the best
Fig. 19. Wiederseim painting
“Portrait of a Young Girl” (1909).
In “Mother Bathing Children” (Fig.20) she scolds the dog in a most
Fig. 20. Mother
admonishes dog thrashing pajamas while bathing children
(undated Drayton painting, courtesy of Janet Hays
“Mother Baking Pies with Two Children ,” the mother carefully instructs
the daughter while ignoring the mischief of the other child (Fig. 21). Both of these
Fig. 21. Mother with two children baking pies
(undated Drayton painting, courtesy of Janet Hays Austin).
convey the impression that the mother
is a taskmaster and would abide no nonsense from the children, an interesting
thought because Grace never had children.
In “Portrait of Miss
Adams,” (the earliest
Viola Grace Gebbie watercolor found—she was barely seventeen) one finds what
may be the first occurrence of the haughty expression (Fig. 22, circa
1893), when Grace was establishing her style. The sloe-eyed
Earliest Viola Grace Gebbie watercolor, “Portrait of Miss Adams” (circa 1893).
sleepy expression in these drawings conveys the
impression that the subject is looking down on the observer with
Grace occasionally painted
subjects that in the early twentieth-century were daring but would scarcely
raise an eyebrow in the twenty-first.
One such was a semi-nude red-haired beauty, seated with forearms raised,
hand partly covering her face, the strap of her slip dangling and her right
breast dimly exposed.
In the “Booklover’s Magazine” she
published a series of paintings including “The Out-of-door Girl” focusing on
liberated sports woman, “On the Links”
(Fig. 23) and
Fig. 23. On the
Links, from Wiederseim, Grace G.
1904. “The Out-of Door
Girl.” The Booklover’s Magazine.
“Ready for the Canter”
(Fig. 24) Wiederseim (1904). These
were bold paintings, for their time.
Fig. 24. Ready for the Canter, from (Wiederseim, Grace
G. 1904. “The Out-of Door Girl.” The
Booklover’s Magazine. 3(4):April.)
intended to portray young women in emancipated activities—long
before “Virginia Slims.” Another in the same series, “On the Village
Road,” (not shown), a fashionable young woman sits atop a wagon.
Clearly, Grace had the
capability of drawing figures other than the funny babies that she so dearly
loved. As clearly, they were not nearly
as popular and not nearly as profitable.
Grace Drayton had
uncommon talent as an illustrator. She
had an instinct for success as a cartoonist with the bulk of her work limited
in appeal to women and children. Even so,
she was unbelievably prolific, according to the obituary in the New York
Times (February 2, 1936), churning out dozens of drawings a day. She drew very quickly, saying that she
couldn’t wait to see the outcome.
Drayton flourished during the “Golden Age of Illustration,” (variously
given as 1880-1914, 1850-1925 and 1880-1930).
But Bogart (1990), in her study of art vs. illustration, does not
mention her, nor does Goodman (1987) in her critical review of six women illustrators (Alice Barber Stephens, Jesse
Wilcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Greene, Charlotte Harding, Violet Oakley and
Rose O’Neill). Bogart observed that
illustration’s detractors regarded it “as a minor episode in the history of
art” and “many consider it to be beneath
consideration as serious art,” and “…illustration was thought to be
commercial and fine art was not.” To
the extent that Grace made money, her work was surely commercial, but her other
work showed aspirations to a greater level.
While her Kids were
captivating and her grown-up women alluring, her voice was anything but. It can still be heard on tape (Drayton and
Sullivan). Her voice has no trace
of her father’s Scottish Rather, it
was quite flat . But this may have been due to restraints of the studio. Responding to Sullivan, she sounds stiff
and studied as if reading from a script.
Financially, she did well
in the decades preceding the depression, but all was soon to come to an end. If her voice was dull, her written word
was heart-rending. When her income
dried up, she wrote to her assistant Bernard Wagner who had written to her
asking for work, “I have no work and am almost down and out. … I feel so sad
when I look at our empty studio. To add
to my agony, I lost my only dearly beloved sister [Janet] a few weeks ago. So I am now all alone and poverty stricken
in heart as well as pocket (Robbins, p. 55-58).” Before long, she would be dead herself. Her beloved drawing table had done her
in. She died of heart disease on
January 31, 1936 after a brief illness.
She died intestate at an early age, so there’s no telling, without a
probate search, who owns the bulk of her estate. Undoubtedly, some undiscovered paintings exist. Austin says that Grace was an alcoholic
when she died (Austin, 31 January 2004), but the author has no confirmation of
that. None of her biographical sources
ever mentioned it. Was she drowning her
sorrows in drink? If true, she was just
another casualty of the Great Depression.
More likely, she was physically out-of shape (unlike her Golf
Girl). Her sedentary life from the
years working at her easel had weakened
-----e n d-----
Anthony, Edward, 1960. This is Where I Came In; the
Impromptu Confessions of Edward Anthony.
Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday & Company, 381p. [Anthony describes his
collaboration with Drayton in producing “Pussy Cat Princess.” Then he talks
about her death and the sudden collapse of their collaboration.]
Austin, Janet Hays. 2003. “Letter to W.E.McGrath,” 16 January.
------------------. 2003. “Re Your reply to my letter.” Private
e-mail to W.E.McGrath. 20 January.
-----------------. 2003. “Re Square Jaw.” Private e-mail to
W.E.McGrath. 21 January.
“Re Prints published By George Gebbie.” Private e-mail to W.E.
McGrath. 22 January.
“Re Horse Fair.” Private e-mail to W.E. McGrath. 23 January.
“Re Square Jaw.” Private e-mail to W.E. McGrath. 24 January.
-----------------. 2003. “Re schools attended.” Private e-mail
to W.E.McGrath. 24 January.
“Re George Gebbie’s arrival in Phila. & petition.” Private e-mail to
W.E.McGrath. 5 February.
-----------------. 2003. ”Episcopal Church.” Private e-mail to
W.E.McGrath. 18 February.
----------------. 2003. “Re Studios.” Private e-mail to W.E. McGrath. 2
----------------. “Re canvassing.” Private e-mail to W.E. McGrath.
10 March 2003.
----------------. Private e-mail to W.E. McGrath. 31 January 2004.
Bogart, Michele H.
1990. “Artistic Ideals and Commercial
Practices; the Problems of Status for American Illustrators.” Prospects 15: 225-281.
Burt, Nathaniel. 1963.
The Perennial Philadelphians; the Anatomy of American Democracy. Boston, Toronto, Little, Brown &
Collins, Douglas. 1994. America’s
Favorite Food; the Story of Campbell Soup Company. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers. 216 pp.
Crumb, Sara F. 1972? “The House that Jill Built.” Archives of the Plastic Club,
Philadelphia, Pa. (ms., 9 handwritten pp.)
Drayton, Grace. 1910.
Drayton, Grace and Pat
Sullivan. 1931. “Grace Drayton and Pat Sullivan talk about
the effect of comic strips on children.” Sound Recording. [On tape, it can be requested on CDROM from
Michigan State University Libraries.
Special Collections Division.
Reading Room Index to the Comic Art Collection.]
Gammage, Jeff. 2004. Campbell Kids Still Slurping after 100
Years. Philadelphia Enquirer. Sunday, Mar 7, 2004. (www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/829119.htm,
George. 1894. Catalogue of the Valuable Library of the Late George Gebbie,
Esq. Of Philadelphia Embracing the Most Sumptuous Art Works in Elaborate
Bindings Including the Greatest Galleries of Europe, and an Extraordinary
Collection of the Works of the English Standard Authors, Best Editions in
Special Bindings, also a
Magnificent Work of Art in Feather-Work
View of the Court of Hernando Cortez to be Sold … Philadelphia, Thos. Birch
Goodman, Helen. 1987.
“Women Illustrators of the Golden Age of American Illustration.” Woman’s
Art Journal. Spring-Summer. 8(1):13-20.
“Women illustrators of the
period are not only of interest
historically; several of them, most especially the artists under review
here—Alice Barber Stephens, Jesse Wilcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green,
Charlotte Harding Brown, Violet Oakley, and Rose O’Neill—were also
Horn, Maurice, ed. 1976.
“Drayton, Grace.” World Encyclopedia of Comics, Chelsea House, 785p.
Jackson, Denis. n.d. “Grace G. Drayton.” www.olypen.com/ticn/articles.htm.
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Personal letter to W.E.McGrath
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G.G." New York, James T.White & Company, Current Volume B, 402p.
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8, col. 2.
--------------------. 23 November 1923, p, 10.
--------------------. 12 August, 1923, p. xxii.
--------------------. 21 May 1925, p. 23.
--------------------. 6 March 1926, p. 19.
--------------------. 18 March, 1928, p. 28.
--------------------. 2 February, 1936, p. 149.
O’Sullivan, Judith. 1990. The Great American Comic Strip; One
Hundred Years of Cartoon Art. Little
Brown (Bulfinch), 200p.
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International Dictionary of Women Artists Born Before 1900. Boston, Mass., G.K. Hall, 851p.
The Philadelphia School of
Design for Women. 1892-1893. Announcement for the School Year 1892-1893.
Robbins, Trina. 1983.
“Women and the Comics.” Cartoonist
____________. 1993. A Century of Women Cartoonists.
Northampton, Mass., Kitchen Sink Press.180pp.
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& London, R.R. Bowker, vol. 2, The
Expansion of an Industry 1865-1919, 424p.
Walls, Nina de Angeli. 2001.
Art, Industry, and Women’s Education in Philadelphia. Westport, Conn. Bergin & Garvey, 182p.
Wiederseim, Grace G. 1904.
“The Out-of Door Girl.” The
Booklover’s Magazine. 3(4):April.
Wiederseim, Grace and Key
Cammack. 1911. “The Warrior.” Nash’s Magazine, Sept. 4(no.6), pp. 751-752.
Woman’s Who’s Who in
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and Canada, Annual, 1914-1915 . ed. by John William Leonard.
I wish to thank Janet Hays Austin for the many quotes and anecdotes in
her email exchanges from which I have drawn freely. I wish also to thank Cathleen Miller, archivist at Moore College
of Art in Philadelphia for her generous help, as well as Kevin Martin,
University Archivist at Drexel University, and all the librarians, especially
Sarah Regan, at the J.V. Fletcher Public Library, Westford, Massachusetts. And finally, thanks to my wife Shirley who
has the uncanny ability to spot the most obscure typographical errors. Grace Drayton, a Children’s Illustrator…doc 11-24-06 rev.