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 Sam Eichinger Cobean  (1913 - 1951)

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Lived/Active: California/New York      Known for: cartoonist-New Yorker, advertising art

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Sam Eichinger Cobean
An example of work by Sam Eichinger Cobean
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted December 2004, is from the webmaster of the website of the artist.

Born on December 28, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Sam was the only child of Dr. George Cobean (born 1875), a dentist, and Catharine Eichinger (born 1886), a teacher and artist.

Catherine's health was poor. The family moved to Altoona, Pennsylvania so she could be treated by Dr. John Brubaker who married George's sister Edith.

Sam's mother died when he was 8 years old. George's sister Anna moved in to help take care of the house and Sam.

May 10, 1928, Sam's aunt Anna died following a stroke. She had been like a mother to Sam and her death was a shock to the 15 year-old boy. George also had twin sisters, Mattie and Fannie. Aunt Mattie moved in after Anna's death.

July 3, 1928, George suffered a stroke, which paralyzed him on his right side. He walked with a cane after that and was never able to practice dentistry again.

Sam enrolled in Gettysburg Academy, a preparatory school at Gettysburg College, after spending two years at Altoona High School.

Sam and his father moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Dr. Cobean's health. George's brother Samuel had lived there until his death in1926. They stayed with his widow and her four children while Sam attended Central High School in Tulsa until his graduation in May. Sam worked on the school newspaper while attending Central High School.

Dr. Cobean and Sam returned to Altoona. Sam entered Gettysburg College as freshman. He was forced to withdraw from school following an accident involving a head injury in the college pool.

Sam enrolled in the University of Oklahoma, planning to major in government and law. He completed the year OU, but his father's ill health made forced his return home to take care of his ailing father. Sam continued to care for his father at his home in Altoona.

December 17th, Dr. Cobean died. He was bedfast for his last several months and was often unconscious. Sam attended to his father until his death in December.

Sam enrolled at the University of Oklahoma for the spring semester. In a short time his interest in journalism and cartooning began to emerge. He became friends with John Runyan, a fellow student who was editor of "The Covered Wagon", a popular campus humor magazine. Sam was soon given the title of Art Editor.

Sam, John Runyan and another friend James Peters all roomed together. Cobean worked at several jobs while attending the University of Oklahoma. He worked with a National Youth Administration Project and waited tables at a sorority house. He eventually became managing editor of "The Covered Wagon". It was in 1936 that Sam began dating Anne McCool, a fellow student from Norman, Oklahoma. Anne McCool was later to become his wife after a seven-year courtship.

While editing "The Covered Wagon", Sam also drew many of the cartoons featured on it's cover. He also drew the covers for another area publication, "The Bandwagon", a literary magazine of the Southwest. Sam also contributed much of the artwork for the 1937 University of Oklahoma, Year Book. When Sam published an edition of the "Covered Wagon" featuring a drama coed in the nude, the issues were quickly recalled. Sam was called into the office of President William Bizzell, but not suspended for his lapse in judgement.

In a similar vein, Sam took telephoto shots of a famed "river bottom" party, which were then included in a promotional film about various "Campus Activities." His addition, once discovered, was edited out before the film's first showing.

While still a student at the University of Oklahoma, Sam entered a drawing contest sponsored by the Walt Disney Company. As a result of his entry, Sam was offered employment with Disney in Hollywood, California. He soon dropped out of college and moved to California, where he worked for a salary of only $16 a week.

It was during his time at Disney that Sam worked on its first, full-lenth, animated feature, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". As a beginning cartoonist, his job was that of an "in-betweener", i.e., drawing various sequential frames, based on original drawings by one of the senior cartoonists, to create the illusion of movement. It was painstaking, boring and repetitive work.

Still working as an "in-betweener", Sam participated in strike against Disney, staged by the Screen Cartoonists Guild. He and friend Reg Massie and Willis Pyle handled the publicity for the strike. After 9 weeks Disney agreed to sign a union contract and take everybody back to work. Shortly thereafter, Sam decided to leave Disney.

At the start of the war Sam had been declared 4F because of flat feet. Despite his classification, Sam decided to go to Washington D.C. to apply for Navy commission. While there he worked for a brief time at the Washington Post. When the Navy did not grant him a commission, Sam eventually returned to California. Following his return to California, Sam married Anne McCool on May 26th. He went to work as a cartoonist for the Screen Gems Writers in Hollywood.

Sam was drafted into the Army in January. After basic training, he was transferred to the Army Signal Corps training film unit in an old motion picture studio in Long Island City, N.Y. The office soon moved to a 32nd Street Office Building in New York City. It was during his time in the Signal Corps that Sam met and worked alongside cartoonist Charles Addams. Anne later joined him there and found a furnished apartment on 33rd Street. She took a job as secretary to the editor-in-chief of "McCall's Magazine" and remained there until Sam's discharge from the army in 1946.

Sam's first cartoon appeared in "The New Yorker" on April 8, 1944. Sam was still in the Army working with Charles Addams making training films. It was Addams who introduced Sam to James Geraghty, the art editor at "The New Yorker". When Harold Ross, editor at the magazine, saw samples of Cobean's work, he said, "Clean 'em up and we'll use them." Both cartoonists continued to moonlight for the "The New Yorker" while serving in the Army. They were given an office, which they shared, at the magazine.

Sam's first "Dream Cartoon" appeared in The New Yorker. He put a thought-bubble over the heads of his cartoon characters showing what they were really thinking, which often contrasted with what was depicted in the cartoon. His early cartoons often featured a woman "dressed to the nines" while the man in the cartoon visualized her fully undressed. For the next two years these "thought bubble" cartoons were his alone. Eventually, Cobean's innovation was copied by other cartoonists, both in the New Yorker and other national magazines.

After his discharge from the Army, while working full time for the New Yorker, Sam and Anne bought an old farmhouse in Watkins Glen, N.Y. from Don Brubaker. They begin spending their summers there and Sam became good friends with Cameron Argetsinger who was responsible for the inauguration of the Watkins Glen Grand Prix.

Cobean also created advertising artwork and illustrated a number magazine articles. He was the first major cartoonist to to regularly work with advertisers. Many cartoonists felt such work was beneath their dignity, but Sam devoted as much creativity and talent to his advertising work as he did to his cartoons. His example eventually led the way for other cartoonists to do the same. He created drawings for Ken-L-Ration, house ads in "The Chicago Tribune" and other publications.

Sam and Anne were visited by staff from "Life" magazine, who were in Watkins Glen to photograph the Grand Prix race and do a feature article on the Cobeans. They used the Cobean farm as their headquarters while covering the race. Sadly, the article on Cobean was never published.

Sam and Anne took an extended trip through Europe in 1949. Arriving by ship, they bought a car and took a self-guided tour of Europe. The car was then sold at the end of their vacation. While in Paris they spent time with Charles Addams and his wife, who were also vacationing in Europe at the time.

Published his first book of his cartoons, "Cobean's Naked Eye". His wife Anne suggested the title for the book. It was published by Harper Brothers, New York. "Naked Eye" was to be the only book published during Sam's lifetime. It has been reprinted in several languages, from French to Japanese. Copies are still traded by his fans.

On Monday, July 2, Sam drove his shiny red Jaguar into Watkins Glen to mail some cartoons to "The New Yorker" for the regular art meeting the following day. While there, he met a friend, Cameron Argetsinger, who was having car trouble. He offered him a ride home. On the return trip they were involved in an automobile accident. Cobean swerved to avoid hitting another car, lost control and hit a tree. Cobean was killed instantly. His friend survived the crash.

A collection of Sam's cartoons was published entitled "The Cartoons of Cobean". The book included cartoons from his earlier book, selections from "The New Yorker", and others from the collection found in his studio.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Gettysburg, PA on Dec. 28, 1913. Cobean studied at Gettysburg College and University of Oklahoma. Having won a drawing contest by the Disney Studios, he dropped out of college in 1937 and moved to Los Angeles. While at Disney, he drew frames for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In 1943 he moved to NYC and became a cartoonist for the New Yorker. His work appeared there until his fatal automobile accident on July 2, 1951.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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