Wednesday, November 11, 2009

John Proctor (1836-1914)

by John Adcock

“I can run a hundred yards with any man of my own age, and give a good account of myself; and though I have been drawing, first on steel, then on wood, and now in pen-and-ink (having seen steel resign in favour of wood, and wood in favour of pen-and-ink), I am quite ready to welcome any new development in the art world.” - A Chat with John Proctor, the Temple Magazine Vol 3, 1898-1899.

John Proctor was born in Edinburgh 26 May 1836. John's father was Adam Proctor, a master plumber, and his mother Eliza Roger (Proctor). The couple had nine children, three died young. John Proctor’s surviving siblings were Mary Roger Proctor, James Hutchison Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, Thomas Proctor and William Proctor. James Hutchison Proctor immigrated to Canada in the early 1880's, homesteaded at Two Creeks, Manitoba for a time, then practiced as a Surgeon Dentist in Virden.

John Proctor married Harriet Joanna McCallum in 1861 in Scotland and moved to London the same year where he listed his occupation as an “artist in wood” on the census. John Proctor’s children were John James Proctor, Adam Edwin Proctor, William Sawyer Proctor (named after John Proctor’s editor at “Funny Folks,” William Sawyer,) George Smith Proctor, Annette Violet Proctor, Crowell V. Proctor, Robert Carlisle Proctor, and Mayland Proctor. In addition John Proctor had an illegitimate daughter by one of his maid servants.

His son Adam Edwin Proctor (1864-1913) was a noted genre and landscape painter in the eighties and nineties and another son, John James Proctor, drew political cartoons around the time of the Boer War. John James’s style and subject were very similar to that of his father. He apparently contributed to sporting newspapers as well.

John Proctor began his career in London with the “Illustrated London News,” then became resident artist for the firm of Cassell, Petter and Galpin which became Cassell and Co. His illustrations appeared in George Stiff’s “London Journal” and “The Seven Days Journal” which was incorporated into the “London Reader” in 1862. Frank Jay wrote in “Peeps into the Past” that “Most of the illustrations in the earlier volumes were the work of John Proctor.” I found no illustrations signed ‘Proctor’ in the “London Reader” but the most prolific artist on the main serials was ‘T. H. Wilson,’ which I believe may have been a pen-name used by the artist.

More illustrations were done for Charles Stevens periodical “The Boys’ Book of Romance” in 1867. Proctor contributed a few full-page illustrations to George Emmett’s boys periodical “Sons of Britannia,” in 1870, signing them “P.O.P.”

From 1867 to 1868 he drew the two page centerfold cartoons in “Judy; or, the London Serio-comic Journal,” and they were continued by the equally talented William Boucher when Proctor moved on to the centre pages of “Moonshine,” where he remained nine years. Proctor’s most impressive work was done for James Henderson’s penny weekly “Young Folks,” illustrating the works of Roland Quiz (pen-name of Richard Quittenton,) and Walter Villiers (pen-name of penny dreadful author Walter Viles,) in the seventies. Those workd he signed “Puck.” He contributed color cover cartoons to Henderson’s “Funny Folks,” considered to be the first British “comic,” and also to “Fun,” “Cassell’s Saturday Journal,” “Illustrated Bits,” “Sketch,” and “Will O’ the Wisp.”

The artist was a member of the Savage Club, and was pictured in a painting by W. G. Bartlett along with Henry Irving, Toole, Pinero, G A Henty, Harry Furniss, Luke Fildes, and E.J. Gregory. The singer is Franklin Clive. John Proctor is pictured seated at the table to the left and reaching for the wine bottle. John Proctor died 10 August 1914 at Heathend, Little London, Albury, Surrey.

*Many thanks to Allan Proctor Gray, Canadian descendant of John Proctor’s brother James Hutchison Proctor, for sharing family information and scans. I have also found another descendant's website useful, and more photos can be found HERE.


  1. This is most useful research - thank you. I am Adam Edwin Proctor's grandson (my mother was Evelyn Maria McCallum Holtom nee Proctor) The family history was a little hazy before Adam although I was aware of Puck and the cartoons in outline. Chris Holtom (

  2. I am Angela Wallis nee Thompson. My grandmother was Annette Proctor. I also wish to thank Allan Proctor Gray for updating me regularly with his findings.
    Last month my cousins David and Sheila Bateman were delighted to find this website while searching with me. We remember Evelyn Holtom and her two sisters during visits to Farley Green in our childhood.

    Angela Wallis (

  3. I am Colin Bateman and Annette Proctor was also my grandmother but she died a month after I was born. I am especially interested in Adam Edwin Proctor and would like to collect his paintings one of which I have through my mother's estate.
    It was interesting to read that James Hutchinson Proctor migrated to Canada in the 1880's because my great grandfather John Bateman migrated from Cork at the same time.

  4. This is a great site. I have been looking for information about John Proctor for years. I am currently editing Lewis Carroll's Diaries for a second edition. Proctor is mentioned as an artist approached to illustrate "Through the Looking-Glass" after Tenniel's initial refusal (he finally relented). There is a letter from Proctor to Dodgson (Carroll) turning down the offer (in the Dodgson Family archives). Edward Wakeling.

  5. I have just found a collection of cartons from 1869

    1. Dear Sioux Hod, can you get Allan Proctor Gray to publish them here? Best wishes Chris Holtom

  6. My name is Denise Dufferin nee Proctor and my Great great grandfather is John Proctor through my paternal lines. My father is Joe Adam Proctor, his father William Sawyer Proctor and his father was John. I too am an artist, pen and ink, wood carving and various painting mediums and I have often wondered where the artistic flair originated from as my close relatives contain no artists. I was told by an old aunt that she thought there were artists in my ancestry through my father's line and I have been researching my family history for some time. To find this site is fabulous - thank you :)