Harold Lincoln Gray (January 20, 1894 – May 9, 1968) was an
American cartoonist, best known as the creator of the newspaper comic
strip Little Orphan Annie. He is considered to be the first American
cartoonist to use a comic strip to express a political
1 Early life
2 Comic strips
4.1 Works cited
5 External links
Harold Gray was born in
Kankakee, Illinois on January 20, 1894, to
Estella Mary (née Rosencrans) and Ira Lincoln Gray, a farmer.
Both parents died before he finished high school in 1912 in West
Lafayette, Indiana, where the family had moved. In 1913, he got his
first newspaper job at a Lafayette daily. He could
trace his American ancestry back to 17th-century settlers. He grew up
on farms in Illinois and Indiana, and worked in construction to pay
his college tuition at Purdue University. He graduated with a degree
in engineering by 1917.
Gray approached cartoonist
John T. McCutcheon
John T. McCutcheon for advice on breaking
into the cartooning field. He couldn't immediately get cartooning
work, but McCutcheon's influence got him work as a reporter for the
Chicago Tribune before he enlisted in the military for World War I,
where he was a bayonet instructor for six months. Discharged from
the military, he returned to the
Chicago Tribune and stayed until 1919
when he left to freelance in commercial art. In 1923, while residing
in Lombard, Illinois, he became a Freemason.
From 1921 to 1924, he did the lettering for Sidney Smith's The Gumps.
After he came up with a strip idea in 1924 for Little Orphan Otto, the
title was altered by
Chicago Tribune editor
Joseph Medill Patterson
Joseph Medill Patterson to
Little Orphan Annie, launched August 5, 1924.
Gray's first wife, Doris C. Platt, died in late 1925. He married
Winifred Frost in 1929, and the couple moved to Greens Farms,
Connecticut, spending winters in La Jolla, California.
By the 1930s,
Little Orphan Annie
Little Orphan Annie had evolved from a crudely drawn
melodrama to a crisply rendered atmospheric story with novelistic plot
threads. The dialogue consisted mainly of meditations on Gray's own
deeply conservative political philosophy. Gray made no secret of his
dislike for the
New Deal ways of President
Franklin Roosevelt and
would often decry unions and other things he saw as impediments to the
hard-working American way of life. Critic Jeet Heer, who did his
thesis on Gray and wrote introductions to IDW's Little Orphan Annie
Gray wasn't really a conservative in the 1920s: he was more of a
general populist, hostile to loan sharks and speculators while
celebrating hard working ordinary people whether they're successful
("Daddy" Warbucks) or not (the poor struggling farmers, the Silos). In
the 1920s, Gray even defended labor unions, having
Annie launch a
successful one-girl strike against a boss who mistreats her. Gray's
political opinions would take on a more partisan salience in the 1930s
when the presidency of
Franklin Roosevelt polarized American politics
into those who saw the
New Deal as the salvation for the working class
and those who saw it as the end of American liberty. Gray fell into
the anti-FDR camp and
Annie became much more explicitly right-wing...
There might be aspects of Gray's life that didn't make it into his
strip. There are rumors that he was a skirt-chaser, and that's
something that doesn't show up much in Annie, although you can catch
hints of it here and there... Newspaper cartooning is like keeping a
daily diary: even if you're writing only about the weather and
shopping, bits of your personality will seep into the work. In Gray's
case, the strip reflected his flinty world view, his love of hard
work, his populist spirit, and also his fear of those he thought were
undermining society by their laziness and meanness. You get a very
strong sense of the man in his work, which is one reason it's one of
the major comic strips... Sidney Smith (creator of The Gumps) was a
giant of his day whose place in history has largely been forgotten.
Throughout the 1920s and later,
The Gumps was one of the top strips in
America, loved by millions. What set
The Gumps apart from earlier
strips was that, although it had a comic element, Smith also often
embraced wholehearted melodrama. It was the first real soap opera
strip, with the fate of characters unfolding in month-long
narratives... It's an interesting question why Gray's work continues
to be remembered and indeed loved while Smith has been forgotten. I
suspect the answer to the question has something to do with Gray's
skill at characterization. Like Charles Dickens, Gray had a natural
gift for creating characters that are vivid and lifelike.
Warbucks are the best example of this: both of them are so strong and
forceful and memorable. Once you read their adventures, it's hard to
forget them as people.
Gray sometimes ghosted Little Joe (1933–72), the strip by his
assistant (and cousin) Ed Leffingwell which was continued by Ed's
brother Robert. Maw Green, a spin-off of
Annie was published as a
topper to Little Orphan Annie. It mixed vaudeville timing with the
same deeply conservative attitudes as Annie.
Films, radio and merchandising made Gray a multi-millionaire. He
died of cancer at the Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla on May 9,
1968, at the age of 74.
Harold Gray's work is in the
Special Collections Department at the
Boston University Library. The Gray collection includes artwork,
printed material, correspondence, manuscripts and photographs. The
collection contains a scrapbook, a short story by Gray titled
“Annie", letters, postcards and telegrams from 1937 to 1967,
including correspondence with Collier’s, Purdue University, Al Capp
and Mort Walker. Gray’s appointment books with comic strip dialogue
and plots are dated 1929, 1931, 1933–1935, 1937, 1944, 1946, 1949,
1950–59 and 1961. Photographs show Gray drawing and Gray as a U.S.
^ a b c Reynolds 2003, p. 50.
^ Olson, Richard D. "Harold Gray"
^ Heer, Jeet. The Comics Reporter, December 23, 2008.
^ McLeod, Susanna. "Harold Gray, Original Creator of Little Orphan
Annie", May 30, 2010.
^ a b Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center:
Harold Gray Archived
2012-10-21 at the Wayback Machine.
Becker, Stephen H. Comic Art in America. Simon and Schuster, New York,
Couperie, Pierre and Maurice Horn. A History of the Comic Strip. Crown
Publishers. New York, 1968. Translation of a 1967 book published in
conjunction with an exhibit of comic strip art at the Musée des Arts
Décoratifs/Palais du Louvre.
Reynolds, Moira Davison (2003). "Harold Gray". Comic Strip Artists in
American Newspapers, 1945-1980. McFarland. pp. 50–52.
"Dear Orphan Annie" by Jeet Heer, Boston Globe (September 15, 2002)
Lambiek: Harold Gray
Susan Houston: Little Orphan Annie: The War Years
Harold Gray at Find a Grave
Lombard Lodge No. 1098 AF&AM
Little Orphan Annie
Little Orphan Annie
Little Orphan Annie (1932)
Little Orphan Annie
Little Orphan Annie (1938)
Annie: A Royal Adventure! (1995)
Annie Warbucks (1993)
"It's the Hard Knock Life"
"You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile"
"Little Orphant Annie"
Life After Tomorrow
ISNI: 0000 0001 0899 5346
BNF: cb150057616 (data)