Saturday, June 7, 2008

Thomas Aloysius “TAD” Dorgan (1877 -1929)

Thomas Aloysius “TAD” Dorgan, (1877 -1929) sports cartoonist, comic strip artist, and coiner of slang, died in his sleep in Great Neck, Long Island on May 2, 1929 age 57. A heart ailment had kept him confined to his home for eight years. His wife Isole Dorgan, a writer before marrying TAD, cleared up his estate and started a successful doll furniture factory. She was vice-president of the National Doll and Toy Collectors Club. Together they had raised two Chinese children to adulthood.

Tad was born in San Francisco and his father ran a cigar store. When a boy his hero was scientific boxer Gentleman Jim Corbett. When not spending his time on following fighters around Tad spent his time drawing boxing pictures on the walls of neighbourhood warehouses and stables.

According to one chronicler he was left with just the thumb and first knuckle on his right hand, the result of an accident when he was ten. Other accounts differ saying he lost the fingers on his left hand. Tad’s brothers Dick and Joe drew as well. Dick Dorgan drew two comic strips, Kid Dugan and Mr. Gilfeather (later to be drawn by none other than Al Capp). Tad, along with fellow student Rube Goldberg, attended Polytechnic High School under art teacher Rosey Murdoch.

At fourteen Tad joined the art staff at the San Francisco Bulletin. The New York Journal hired him in 1902 as their sports cartoonist and reporter. Along with Rube Goldberg, Hype Igoe, and Robert Ripley he became a celebrity in the sports world. In 1910 Tad was covering the Jeffries vs. Johnson heavyweight prize-fight. Negro boxer Jack Johnson laughed all the way through his fight with Jim Jeffries. TAD asked him “Why do you laugh?” “You would laugh too if you had such a picnic as I am having.”

Tad was generally given credit for inventing the term hot dog. He did popularise the words ‘hot dog’ worldwide through his cartoons. Every Christmas Harry Stevens, who claimed to have “discovered” the hot dog, used to send a box of cigars to Tad in appreciation.

The star single-panel cartoonists of the 1920's were Clare Briggs of the New York Tribune, T. A. (Tad) Dorgan of the American and Journal, and HT Webster of the World and Herald Tribune. Tad’s most famous comic creations were Indoor Sports and Silk Hat Harry’s Divorce Suit. Tad was famous just for being Tad. Goldberg, Fisher, and Dorgan let their mugs be used for Tuxedo pipe and cigarette tobacco advertising; “tuxedo can’t be equalled in soothing refreshing qualities.” Billed as the greatest cartoonists in the country “they all smoke and endorse TUXEDO.” Tad joined a vaudeville ticket giving chalk talks with Winsor McCay, Rube Goldberg and Bud Fisher.

Tad Dorgan was so well known for his linguistic inventions that, on his death in 1929, W. L. Werner wrote an article for American Speech with the anguished title Tad Dorgan is Dead.

*Note: The compiler makes no claims to great accuracy in the anecdotes above. Tad was the kind of newspaper personality who inspired dozens of stories all of them different.

*For more on Tad see Jack Johnson Remembers HERE


  1. I really enjoy this guy and I have a collection of hundreds of his drawings from when he was in San Francisco. Nice article!!!

  2. You should post a few to your blog >

  3. I've nee told he's my great great great grandad... i'm to verify it. Sounds like a legend!

  4. Is the book "The Book of BOW-WOWS", by Elizabeth Gordon, published by M.A. Donohue & Co, copyright 1913, illustrated by Tad Dorgan? The title page of the book says only "drawings by Tad".
    Thanks for a reply.

  5. I couldn't say for sure but Tad Dorgan was so well-known in America that most readers would immediately identify him, and only him, from the nick-name "Tad."

  6. Thanks for your reply. I can send you some pictures of the book, maybe you will recognize the style being drawings by Tad Dorgan. taksellen

  7. Sure... sounds interesting. Send a few scans to the email address on my profile at right. Thanks.

  8. Has there ever been comfirmed that TAD is Thomas Aloysius Dorgan?

  9. Yes, the name appears on census record.