Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tom Worth (1838-)

Thomas Worth was a frequent contributor of covers for Frank Tousey and Street &Smith publications. He contributed color covers to The James Boys Weekly and both color and b&w illustrations for Tousey’s Comic Library, Tousey’s Comic Almanac and Snaps.

Thomas Worth

Twenty years ago the world laughed over the cartoons of this clever artist, and it laughs still. Mr. worth was born in the old Ninth ward, formerly Greenwich village, New York city, February 12 1838. When seventeen or eighteen years of age he went into the banking business in new York with his father and brother and remained there five or six years.

During that time he drew for his own amusement, his first published effort being a cartoon representing a gentleman driving a trotting horse on the road outside of the city, A length or two ahead of the gentlemanly sport were two boys seated in an ash wagon, to which was hitched an old trotter. The nag was still good for a few minutes as a racer, so the boys managed to pass and lead the other team. At that time the Woodruff brothers were the most celebrated turf men, so one of the boys turns around and yells, “We’re one of the Woodruffs.”

This cartoon was drawn on a sheet of blotting paper. Mr. Worth spread it out on the floor of his father’s business office and a fellow clerk seeing it, asked permission to submit it to Currier & Ives. It was accepted and lithographed. The picture was an instantaneous and financial success, but Mr. Worth laughingly remarked that he received only $5 and thanks for it. To this day Worth sells pictures and cartoons of horse, jockeys, etc., his remarkable success in that line being undoubtedly due to the fact that he has always been fond of fast horses and all kinds of outdoor sports.

In 1864 or 1865 Currier & Ives issued a book entitled “Plutarch Restored,” a satire on Plutarch’s “Lives of Celebrated Men.” It was written by George Ward Nichols and illustrated by Mr. Worth. For a period of thirty years he drew pictures and cartoons for Currier & Ives*, Graphic, Frank Leslie, Harper’s and Wild Oats, selling his work wherever he could do the best. On May 1, 1886 he accepted his first salaried position on Texas Siftings, where he is in charge of the art department.

Although in his fiftieth year Worth bears his age well. He has an auburn mustache and a goatee, and is slightly gray. Personally he is a pleasant man to talk to, being very courteous and hearty in manner. Having no horse of his own now, he often goes uptown and gets one of the boys to take him out seated behind a fast stepper. Mr. Worth is married and resides in New Briton, Staten Island. – Caricaturists, Milwaukee Sentinel, 11 Dec 1887.

*Worth contributed a long-running series of inexpensive prints titled Darktown Comics for Currier & Ives in the 1880’s. They sold in the tens of thousands.

*Thanks to Joe Rainone

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