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Prefatory note:

In 2002 I bought an album of old photographs from an antique store. The album seemed to have a Philadelphia context. Tucked inside the album was a 3 x 3 portrait, signed by "V. G. Gebbie" in fine handwriting. The name meant nothing to me. I took it to an art shop and asked the proprietor if it were a print or an original painting. She identified it as a watercolor, showing it to me under a magnifying glass. The name meant nothing to her as well. Grace used the initials "V.G." in her early work, and later "G. G." which led to "Gigi." The watercolor turned out to be one of her earliest known, probably as early as 1893 when she was barely 16 or 17. On the verso of the watercolor were the words in pencil, "Send to Miss Adams," with a Philadelphia address. My guess was that Grace was a street portraitist, while still a teenager and long before her fame as the inventor of the Campbell Kids and her cartoonist work. Grace later became Grace Wiederseim and then Grace Drayton.

I thought that the photographs in the album, interesting in themselves, might have some relationship to the painting. One or two of the photos had the name of "Tessie Adams" on the verso. I was not able to identify Tessie Adams, nor other photos in the album but "Miss Adams" and "Tessie Adams" surely suggested a connection. Subsequent investigation of it and other photos in the album proved to be dead ends.

I did pursue Grace Gebbie Wiederseim Drayton, discovering that she had a life other than her Campbell Kids and cartoon work. Apparently her cartoons and post cards were for income, but she aspired to a higher calling with her portraits and other paintings. She deserves some acclaim for that work. That's why I wrote the paper.

Janet Austin, a grandniece of Grace's provided Grace's genealogy. She helped enormously.

Grace Drayton, a Children’s Illustrator Who also Painted Young Women--a Biographical Sketch

©W. E. McGrath, 2006

 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 focus. 

 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). 

 Her 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,

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1.   Her contribution to the history of postcards is told by Miller and Miller (1976).

cartoon 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 Son

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 their

Fig. 1.  George Gebbie (d. 1892) art printer and father of six girls and one son,

(courtesy of Janet Hays Austin).

children were drowned in a shipwreck, according to Janet Hays Austin (23 January 2003), a great-granddaughter.  Gebbie 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 business.   

   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. 424).

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. 

Among Gebbie’s 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[2]  (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).

 

Austin 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 January 2003).  

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 sisters

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 January 2003).”  

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).

 

America).  Margaret  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 different story.  

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).

One biographical 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  1927).   

She 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.

Grace Drayton—the Fashion Plate

“Grannie Gracie,” 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 Horse” in

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)

in Russian or other Slavic costume, wearing a kokoshnik or folk headdress, circa. 1914-1918  (courtesy of Janet Hays Austin).

 

 

 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.

By 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

masked 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 life.

 

Painter of young women

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 artist.

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,  Lambiek, www.lambiek.net).

 

 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 Dolly.

 

Fig. 16.  Fashionably slender teacher (Drayton print, circa 1911-1923).

 

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, probably 1917).

 

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” (1907).

another Saturday 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 of them.

Fig. 19. Wiederseim painting  “Portrait of a Young Girl” (1909).           

 In “Mother Bathing Children” (Fig.20) she scolds the dog in a most disapproving

 

 

Fig. 20. Mother admonishes dog thrashing pajamas while bathing children

(undated Drayton painting, courtesy of Janet Hays Austin).

fashion.  In  “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).

 

paintings, 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

 

Fig. 22. 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 disapproval. 

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. 3(4):April.

 

“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 her heart. 

-----e n d-----

 

References

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.

-----------------.  2003.  “Re Prints published By George Gebbie.” Private e-mail to W.E. McGrath.  22 January.

-----------------.  2003.  “Re Horse Fair.” Private e-mail to W.E. McGrath.  23 January.

-----------------.  2003.  “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.

-----------------.   2003.  “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  March.

----------------.   “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 & Co.   625pp.

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.  “Dolly Dimples.”  (http://www.lambiek.net/drayton_g.htm.)

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, 2p.)

Gebbie, 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 Sons. 84p

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 exceptionally talented.”

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.

MacIlvaine, Barbara. n.d.  “A History of the Plastic Club.” http://plasticc.libertynet.org/history.html.

Marschall, R.  1980.  “Comic Masters; Rediscovering Forgotten Geniuses.”  Horizon.  23(7):42-51.

Martin, Kevin.  n.d.  Personal letter to W.E.McGrath

Miller, George and Dorothy Miller. 1976.  Picture postcards in the United States, 1893-1918.  New York, Clarkson N. Potter.

Miss Grace G. Wiederseim, 1907.  “The Illustrator  of Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose.”  Bookman, 26(3):226. 

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography.  1927. "Drayton, G.G." New York, James T.White & Company, Current Volume B,  402p.

New York Times.   6 April 1922, Sect VI,  p. 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.

Petteys, Chris. 1985.  Dictionary of Women Artists; an 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 Profiles.60:40-45.

____________.  1993. A Century of Women Cartoonists. Northampton, Mass., Kitchen Sink Press.180pp.

Tebbel, John.   1975.  A History of Book Publishing in the United States, 4 volumes, NY & 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 America; a Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women in the United States and Canada, Annual, 1914-1915 . ed. by John William Leonard. 

 

Acknowledgments

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.

                                                                                                               



[2] The façade of 712-714 Spruce Street was preserved by the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings as part of the Historic American Buildings project in the 1970s.

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