Saturday, February 21, 2015

Moses L. Tucker (1868-1926)

In 1888, Edward Elder Cooper (1859-1908), originally of Jacksonville, Florida, began publishing the Indianapolis Freeman, a successor to the Indianapolis Colored World and soon to be billed as "America's First Illustrated Colored Weekly." Although it did not start as an illustrated paper, The Freeman switched to that format in September 1888. Late that year or early the next, Cooper recruited Henry Jackson Lewis (ca. 1837-1891) of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to work for him as a cartoonist and illustrator. According to Marvin D. Jeter, Lewis' earliest surviving cartoon in The Freeman is from February 2, 1889. (1) The cartoon is political in nature, making it perhaps the first of its kind by a black artist in an American newspaper. As a pioneer working for a pioneering newspaper, Lewis blazed a trail for other black cartoonists and illustrators, including Garfield Thomas Haywood (1880-1931) and Hale Aspacio Woodruff (1900-1980). Both men worked for The Freeman before it came to a close in 1926.

Probably the first to follow in Lewis' footsteps was Moses Lenore Tucker. Little is known of Tucker's life, but according to James E. Brunson III, Edward E. Cooper hired the Georgia native in 1889 after Henry Jackson Lewis had contracted what would prove to be a fatal case of pneumonia. (2) Edward H. Lee of Chicago joined Lewis and Tucker at The Freeman at about the same time. "Having added a new force to our staff of artists," Cooper announced, "we are now prepared to give a larger quantity and a better quality of illustrations." (3) Together, Lewis, Tucker, and Lee drew the newspaper's masthead, column headings, political cartoons, portrait drawings, and other graphics. As Lewis' illness worsened, more work fell upon Tucker and Lee, and though Tucker was reputed to be a lightning-fast artist--he could draw rapidly with either hand--both men became dissatisfied with their treatment by their editor. That dissatisfaction arose from Cooper's practice of paying flat rates, retaining all rights to his artists' work, and selling that work to other newspapers, presumably without compensating them. (Today we would call that kind of arrangement work-for-hire.) Tucker and Lee finally left The Freeman for another black newspaper called The Appeal. (4) Henry Jackson Lewis' last drawing for The Freeman in his lifetime was published on March 28, 1891. He died less than two weeks later, on April 9, 1891.

Moses Tucker's career in Indianapolis didn't end when he left The Freeman, but there is scant information on his life after his break with the paper. There is only a little more information about him before he arrived in Indianapolis. His story hinges, in part, on the identity of a man named Moses Tucker who was enumerated in the U.S. census as an inmate in Indianapolis in 1900 and 1910. That man had been born in Georgia in 1868. But was he Moses Lenore Tucker, the artist previously with The Freeman? In his article on Edward E. Cooper, James E. Brunson provides evidence that Moses L. Tucker was indeed institutionalized later in life:
Tucker's wild lifestyle, coupled with addictions to cigarettes and opium, [Cooper] wrote, caused a mental breakdown, forcing the artist to enter an insane asylum. There is truth to this claim: in the 1920s, the artist resided in a local asylum, while continuing his creative output. (5)
Mr. Brunson's point is that Cooper often "scolded his critics" and "publicly chastised those who crossed him" (6). By leaving Cooper's employ, Tucker must have brought down Cooper's wrath upon himself. But the quote above also serves to connect the census records with the artist, Moses Tucker. Combined with what we previously knew of him, the knowledge that Tucker was institutionalized helps us draw a fuller portrait of him, although there is still plenty of room for conjecture.

Moses Lenore Tucker was born in 1868 in Georgia less than four years after the Civil War had ended and almost certainly to former slaves. In the 1880 census, Tucker was in Atlanta. When Edward Elder Cooper found him almost a decade later, Tucker was working at the Atlanta Engraving Company and drawing portraits, cartoons, and caricatures for a periodical called The Georgia CrackerTucker is also supposed to have contributed to Life and Judge, both of which had been in print since the early 1880s. Tucker would have been about twenty-one when he made the move to The Freeman

Moses L. Tucker presumably arrived in Indianapolis in 1889. In the city directory of 1890, he was listed as an engraver at The Freeman, with an address of 518 North West Street. In his article, Mr. Brunson suggests that Tucker left The Freeman not long after that (perhaps in 1890 or 1891) for a job at The Appeal. He may very well have left with Edward H. Lee for Chicago, Lee's home city, where The Appeal had regional offices and published a local edition. In any case, Tucker was in Indianapolis by 1900 when he was enumerated in the census as an inmate. He was again enumerated as an inmate in 1910. According to James E. Brunson III, Tucker remained in "a local asylum" into the 1920s, where he continued to create works of art. As it turns out, that place was the Marion County Asylum for the Incurably Insane, located in Julietta, east-southeast of Indianapolis on the county line. The asylum was opened in 1899. It seems likely that Moses Tucker was at the Julietta asylum in 1900, 1910, and 1920. He died there in September 1926 of tuberculosis.

In this Black History Month, and the 126th anniversary month of what may have been the first political cartoon drawn by a black artist and printed in and American newspaper, we can celebrate Edward Elder Cooper and the artists of The Freeman, including Henry Jackson Lewis, Edward H. Lee, Garfield Thomas Haywood, Hale Aspacio Woodruff, and Moses Lenore Tucker.

(1) Jeter, Marvin D., ed. Edward Palmer's Arkansaw Mounds (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1990), p. 78.
(2) Brunson, James E., III. "Edward Elder Cooper: Entrepreneur, Journalist, Aesthete, and Baseball Enthusiast," Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, Fall 2010, p. 32.
(3) Quoted in Brunson, Traces, pp. 32-33.
(4) Originally The Western Appeal, the newspaper was first published in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1888, the publishers opened regional offices in Chicago and Louisville. The opening of other regional offices followed. The title of the newspaper was shortened from The Western Appeal to The Appeal in 1889. It is ironic that the editor of a newspaper called The Freeman would treat its artists--one of whom had been born into slavery and at least one other as the child of slaves--in the way that it did, but this is how the world treats artists in general.
(5) Brunson, Traces, p. 33.
(6) Ditto.

Further Reading
Brunson, James E., III. The Early Image of Black Baseball: Race and Representation in the Popular Press, 1871-1890 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2009). Tucker is mentioned in several places in this book.
Brunson, James E., III. "Edward Elder Cooper: Entrepreneur, Journalist, Aesthete, and Baseball Enthusiast," Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, Fall 2010, pp. 30-35.
Jeter, Marvin D., ed. Edward Palmer's Arkansaw Mounds (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1990), p. 78. The book includes a lengthy discussion of the life and work of Henry Jackson Lewis.
Sachsman, David B., et al., eds. Seeking a Voice: Images of Race and Gender in the 19th Century Press (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2009), p. 134.
Taylor, Garland Martin. "Out of Jest: The Art of Henry Jackson Lewis," Critical Inquiry, Comics and Media issue, Spring 2014 (Vol. 40, Issue 3), pp. 198-202.
And a source that I would very much like to see but which is unavailable to me:
Covo, Jacqueline. "Henry Jackson Lewis and Moses L. Tucker: 19th Century Cartoonists: The Indianapolis Freeman." A paper presented at the 61st Annual Meeting of the Study of Afro-American Life and History, Chicago, Illinois, Oct. 27-31, 1976.

An editorial cartoon by Moses Lenore Tucker from the Indianapolis Freeman, March 21, 1890. From the blog Songs Without Words, "a digital exhibit made possible by a Faculty Development Grant from the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury."

An unsigned cartoon from The Freeman from January 18, 1890. The blog Songs Without Words says that it is probably Tucker's work. Note the reference to Tucker's former home state.

Another cartoon by Tucker, from The Freeman, September 27, 1890. 

The asylum at Julietta, along Brookville Road in far eastern Marion County, Indiana. Moses L. Tucker was institutionalized here as of 1903, probably before and certainly after. At the time, the institution was called the Asylum for the Incurably Insane. It went by other names and served other purposes over the course of its history, from its founding in 1899 to its closing in the 1990s.

Central State Hospital, the Old Main Building and the place where male patients were kept. If Moses L. Tucker was ever institutionalized here, he may very well have lived in this building. Update (Mar. 8, 2017): Based on updated information, it seems unlikely now that Tucker ever lived at Central State.

Updated March 8, 2017. Thanks to Terry S. for further information on Moses Tucker.
Text and captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jerry Stewart (1923-1995)

Gerald W. "Jerry" Stewart was born on May 18, 1923, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, onetime home of Henry Jackson Lewis, who is considered the first black political cartoonist in American history. As a high school student, Stewart attended Fort Wayne Art Institute. During World War II he was staff artist on the Dalhart Bomber, camp newspaper of Dalhart Army Air Field in Dalhart, Texas. On March 25, 1946, Stewart started work as a copyboy for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. He was the newspaper's first black employee. Three months later he was promoted to staff artist. Stewart spent the next forty years with the News-Sentinel working alongside editorial cartoonists Eugene Craig and William Sandeson.

Jerry Stewart was the author of a number of syndicated comic strips and cartoons, most of which ran in black newspapers. Chickie and L'il Brother, both from 1947, were his first. Those features ran in the Washington Afro-American and possibly other papers. Scoopie, syndicated by the Pittsburgh Courier, was in syndication from June 19, 1949, to August 12, 1950. The title character, as his nickname suggests, is a newspaper reporter. Stewart's longest-running feature was Little Moments, also called Life's Little Moments. A single-panel cartoon, it ran from 1963 to 1972. Beginning in 1977, Stewart also wrote and illustrated a weekly column called "Cooking with Jerry" for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.

Stewart retired from the News-Sentinel on May 30, 1986. That same year he won the Indiana Journalism Award from Ball State University, calling it "a nice way to cap off my career." Since 1977, Stewart had been teaching art at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Fort Wayne. He continued that work after retirement. On October 29, 1995, Jerry Stewart died in Fort Wayne. He was buried in the Catholic Cemetery of Fort Wayne.

Jerry Stewart illustrated Lines and Angles, a collection of newspaper columns by Cliff Milnor published in 1980. That's the artist in the upper right looking upon the world from his own little corner as artists often do.
And here is a larger self-portrait from the same book. Jerry Stewart made a place for himself in the history of comics by having his work syndicated in the nation's black newspapers. Unfortunately, that's a chapter missing from the story of American journalism, and especially American newspaper cartooning. We very desperately need a history of black comics. If one is to be written, we must begin by gathering sources. Does anyone have information about the newspapers, the publishers and editors, the syndicates, the comics, and the cartoonists?

Text and captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley