Sunday, June 14, 2009

Frank Godwin (1889-1959)

Frank Godwin, illustrator and cartoonist, was a native of Washington D.C. He began his career as a sports writer for the Washington Star, where his father was an editor, then did the “Connie” strip for the Philadelphia Inquirer in the twenties, followed by “Rusty Riley” for King Features. His brother Harold Godwin wrote the continuity for “Connie.” Godwin provided illustrations for “Vignettes of Life” in 1927 before the strip was passed on to J. Norman Lynd. Godwin was well known as an illustrator for magazines and children’s books. He illustrated Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and painted murals, including one in King’s County Hospital in New York.

“I am a frustrated engineer,” said Godwin in 1952. He was six foot two and his nickname was “Mr. Meticulous.” Godwin kept a wood and metal shop on the ground floor of his studio in Buck’s county, Pennsylvania, where he built a four foot long live-steam working model locomotive. He built a six inch telescope with an electrical device which allowed him to follow stars across the heavens. He planned on building another steam-locomotive, this time fourteen feet long.

In the early days he made “terrible blunders” in drawing horses in his comic strips. Godwin began travelling to Kentucky sketching thoroughbred horses for use in his adventure strips. Back home he would make up a clay model of the horse from his preliminary drawings before drawing the horse into his comics. He kept ten dogs and two cats. He began his days early, drawing about two strips a day. Rusty Riley’s Sunday strip followed a different story than the daily, and the Sunday took about two days to complete. With difficult subjects he relied on photography.

He was a member of the National Press Club, vice-president of the Society of Illustrators, and a member of the Dutch Treat and Salmagundi clubs in New York City. He died August 1959 aged 70.

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