Cartoon Characters & Humorous Story Art

Kids by illustrator Rose O'Neill, 1906


In the Golden Age of Illustration (1880-1920), artists sometimes drew particular cartoon characters so often the public recognized and looked forward to seeing them.

Popular creations of the early twentieth century include Rose O'Neill's “Kewpies,” and the “Brownies,” created by Palmer Cox. (See examples below.)

At the same time, Golden Age illustrators included women and men who specialized in storybook art intended for children. They often invented and relied on cartoon people that appealed to young readers.

Their creations appeared in periodicals as well as books, including St. Nicholas Magazine, published from 1873 to 1941 by Scribners and Sons and designed to entertain children from five to eighteen. The popular magazine carried works by the best known children's authors and illustrators of the era.


The Yellow Kid cartoon, 1896

In 1895 a cartoon kid appeared in Joseph Pulitzer's New York World that soon changed the way cartoons were presented in newspapers. The change was color.

A spot of yellow ink was printed over a black line drawing of a street urchin who became known as “The Yellow Kid.” The artist who created the “Kid,” Richard Outcault, was hired away from the World to William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal.

Hearst expanded the concept of single cartoons printed in color to an eight-page comic section, the Sunday Comics that became a regular feature of American Newspapers.

Fierce competition between Pulitzer's and Hearst's newpapers for the most sensational stories and their fight over ownership of "The Yellow Kid" led to the term "yellow journalism" to describe their tactics.

After experimenting with animation in the early 1900s, illustrators in the 1920s took advantage of new motion picture technology and produced animated film short features. These depended heavily on reoccurring cartoon characters that gained favor with audiences. Walt Disney and others expanded the new technology into the an art form that exists today.

Below are some examples of cartoon characters and children's book illustration from the Golden Age of Illustration: (More to come!)



Be sure to see more examples from the Golden Age of Illustration on these pages: (under construction)

Comic Art: sight gags, puns and comic strips.

Caricatures: famous people and stereotypes.

Editorial Cartoons: political and social commentary.

And see the Image Galleries for more examples of cartoon characters.


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