Gaar Williams, the “Hoosier Cartoonist,” was born in Richmond Indiana on 12 Dec 1880. Williams graduated from Earlham College and studied art in Chicago and Cincinnati. His first newspaper job was at the Chicago Daily News in 1904. He worked for the Indianapolis News for 12 years then moved on to 14 years labor on the art department of the Chicago Tribune.
His widely syndicated single panel slice-of-life cartoons, celebrating the days of his youth, appeared under the captions “How to Keep From Growing Old,” “Wotta Life, Wotta Life,” “Static,” “Our Secret Ambition,” “A Strain on the Family Tie,” and “Among the Folks in History.” Another panel featured a small dog called “Nipper.”
“I never knew what they were for,” wrote the cartoonist, “or who thought up the idea, but if you ever had to wear an asafetida bag you’ll never forget it. It was tied around your neck with a piece of string and there she stayed -- right under your chin and nose. After a time you sort of got used to it and you’d forget to be bothered. Going in swimming didn’t seem to hurt it -- maybe it stunk a little louder while it was wet -- I don’t remember. In a close room with three or four boys all wearing a bag of asafetida a non-member of the union might have noticed it. I don’t know, I was always a member it seems to me.”
Williams spent his winters in Florida and was an avid fisherman. The Fort Myers chamber of commerce awarded him the Thomas A. Edison medal for landing a 112 pound tarpon. On Saturday 15 June 1935 Williams, who had been in ill health several years, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while sitting with his wife and a friend in an automobile on Chicago’s “Loop.” He died several hours later at a Chicago hospital. O. O. McIntyre wrote in his column New York Day by Day: “Zim gone. Billy Ireland gone. Gaar Williams gone. Will Rogers gone. When the world is so desperately in need of laughs!”
“Zipper” and “Among the Folks in History” were carried on for a time by Bill Holman who went on to draw the screwball comedy “Smoky Stover.”