Friday, September 4, 2009

Eugene 'Zim' Zimmerman (1862-1935)

“I have been a baker, a wine bottler, a fish peddler, a silk weaver, a cotton spinner, a farmer, a news-butcher, an oyster opener, an assistant bartender and a sign painter -- and I haven’t gotten over the latter habit yet.” --Zim, 1904 Syracuse Telegram interview.

Eugene Zimmerman, the caricaturist, who signed his eccentric and comical drawings Zim, made his first pictures in frosting on the cakes made for his father’s Paterson bakery. He was most renowned for his magazine cartoons but had contributed caption cartoons to newspapers as early as 1900.

In 1882 Zim settled in Elmira, New York, where he worked in a shop with Brassington, a sign painter.

“Brassington brought to the (Syracuse) Telegram office some deucedly clever crayon cartoons and asked if we could not use them. When asked who drew them Brassington said they were the work of a “kid” that he had working for him; but added: “He’s a wonder and ought to be given the chance to get ahead.” The Telegram men agreed with Brassington.”

“In those days however, all newspaper cuts were made on wood -- a very expensive and slow process. The Telegram could not afford the luxury of cartoons in its babyhood. It had half a dozen made from the drawings that Brassington left. These at once attracted the attention of Puck as being the handiwork of a promising cartoonist.”

After a period of supplying cartoons to Puck, Zim accepted the post of assistant art director at Judge. In 1911 the Syracuse Herald published his Sunday comic strips “Lena Undt Loui” and “Raphael Rembrant” which led off a crew of Sunday pages that included “Sambo and his Funny Noises,” by Billy Marriner; “Mr. O. U. Absentmind” by pioneer animator J. R. Bray; “Cwaking Cwacks with Cwack” by ‘Quack;’ and “Bub -- He’s Always to Blame” by Everett E. Lowry. Zim also drew a series of panels of drawing lessons for the readers. Zim was author of Zim’s Characters in Pen and Ink and Caricature for Students of Comic Art. Zim was the director of Zim’s Correspondence School of Cartooning, Comic Art, and Caricature.

Zim was born May 25, 1862 and died March 26, 1935.

Syracuse Herald, New York, August 20, 1911 >
America's Greatest Cartoonist, Zim, Will Draw for The Sunday Herald

America's foremost living: cartoonist, Eugene Zimmerman, known the world over as Zim, has for the first time entered the newspaper field with his clever drawings, and The Syracuse Sunday Herald has secured the rights to a series of sketches which are to appear in the colored comic section beginning Sunday, September 2d.

At the time or his introduction to the American public through the pages of Puck, Zim was only 22 years of age and he had been the hero of many trying experiences. Born in the Swiss city of Bagel in 1862, at the death of his mother, which occurred when he was 2 years of age, he was sent to Alsace to be cared for by an aunt, and as a boy was a close observer of the thrilling events in that province, during the Franco-Prussian war. At that time he was sent to America to join his father, who had opened a bakery In Paterson. N. J., and had made up his mind to remain permanently in this country.

Zlmmerman began his American career by becoming a pupil in the public school and by delivering the product of his father's ovens nights and mornings. The life did not appeal to him and he proceeded to vary it with a succession of occupations which embraced a brief trial of the real estate and insurance business, a trying experience as a silk weaver, and a subsequent experience with a cotton loom, an unsuccessful try-out as a fish peddler, and an unsatisfactory experience as a farm hand. 

Then Zim became a sign painter, was graduated speedily into an advertising pictorial sign artist and stencil cutter and for the first time in his life began to take on interest in work. Then his inborn talent for caricature asserted itself and some of his signs of that period are veritable works of humorous art.

His development into a full-fledged cartoonist he ascribes to accident. His business as a sign painter grew slack In Western New York and on a borrowed capital of $10 he made his way to New York city, where he failed to make good at once at his trade and in sheer desperation went to Joseph Keppler, the influential man at the office of Puck, with a bundle of his water color sketches. Keppler recognized the merit in these drawings and offered the young man a position on the paper.

Three years later, then known as Zim throughout the country, the cartoonist joined the staff of the recently established Judge. Its instant success was due in great part to his genius for political caricature and his apparently inexhaustible store of graphic humor. For more than a quarter of a century Zimmerman has maintained his connection with Judge and has become so identified with the journal that the signature of Zim has long been its most successful feature.

And now for the first time in his long career as a caricaturist Mr. Zimmerman has consented to lend this product of his rare and always refined art to newspaper publication. As a friend has written of him, "There are many cartoonists and comic artists — many good men with their heart in their work, men who are real creators, artists who have established the serial drawings which appear In the Sunday editions of the metropolitan papers, but who among the vast number can in any measure equal Zim? Who besides Zim can draw a real hand, a real foot or a smile upon the face and still make it funny? There is none. Zim is in a world by himself."

Watch for Zim on the front page of The Sunday Herald's comic section. In his first sketches he will show how easy it is to be a cartoonist.

Original Zim drawing courtesy Don Kurtz

*Thanks to Leonardo De Sá for obituary clippings.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting and informative article. Well done ! Tom Brace