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 Grace Gebbie Wiederseim Drayton  (1877 - 1936)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: Illustration-cartoons, portrait, sculpture

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Ad Code: 3
Grace Gebbie Wiederseim Drayton
from Auction House Records.
Young Couple on Path
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Grace Drayton (October 14, 1877 – 1936) .

Viola Grace Gebbie was born October 14, 1877, the third  daughter of George Gebbie, a lithographer,  who was  Philadelphia’s first art printer.   She married Theodore E. Wiederseim, Jr., an employee of Ketterlinus Lithographic Manufacturing Company, in Philadelphia  in 1904 and started signing her work "Grace Wiederseim or G G Wiederseim".  She claimed to owe her “funny babies” to Wiederseim, who recognized her potential, but she divorced him in 1911. Divorce in the Catholic Church was forbidden; hers disgraced the whole family ." In 1911, Grace divorced Wiedersheim and married W. Heyward Drayton III, and started signing her work Grace Drayton. She divorced Drayton in 1923 but continued to sign her work "Grace Drayton" or "G G Drayton."

Grace’s  early education was in private and church schools including the Convent of Notre Dame, Philadelphia and the Convent of Eden Hall, Torresdale, Pennsylvania.    Despite her father’s Presbyterianism, her mother’s Catholicism prevailed when she was placed  in the Convent, no doubt to protect her from the temptations of life, but if the Catholic values were not lost on Grace, she had enough free spirit  to work eventually in New York City “where twentieth century painters go” and where she was exposed to the attractions of the big city.

As a child, she drew her image from a mirror, saying that she thought she was funny looking and that her playmates loved them.  At the age of seventeen, she began her commercial art career, and within a year she sold her first magazine illustration.  In 1909, as Grace Wiederseim, she published 'The Terrible Tales of Captain Kiddo', in collaboration with her sister, Margaret G. Hays. And later, 'Toodles' (ca.1911) and 'Dottie Dimple' (1915) appeared in the newspapers. Drayton was known for Fido, Kitty Puss, and other children’s books. She also created "Pussy Pumpkins","Dolly Dingle" and “Pussycat Princess.” She capitalized on her caricatures, turning them into highly profitable cherubs in unlikely situations for postcards and cartoon strips and paper dolls, which became wildly profitable. Their popularity grew and, as collector items, especially postcards—the “chubby legged kids, with no necks, large widely separated eyes and small H-shaped  mouths”, her  “funny babies,” as she called them—show no sign of abating after 100 years.  

Petteys (Dictionary of Women Artists) also listed Grace as having studied in the 1890s under Clifford P. Grayson. Grayson taught oil painting  at Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry.  He was the Director of the School of Drawing, Painting and Modeling which included, among other subjects,  drawing from geometric solids, cast drawing from simple ornament, free-hand and linear perspective, drawing from still life and interiors, free-hand sketching from objects and drawing from casts of hands and feet.

On April 16, 1922 she gave a showing of her paintings and drawings at the Kingore Galleries (New York Times, 16 April 1922).  Two drawings were humorous exaggerations.  One, of “The Duchess of Devonshire”  a late eighteenth  century painting of the glamorous and notorious Georgiana Spencer by Thomas Gainsborough and  the other of Gainsborough’s “The Blue Boy.”  She had also done spoofs of George Washington, Napoleon and Mark Twain (Anthony,  p. 328).  Trina Robbins argued that women do have a sense of humor after quoting an infamous statement that women had none (Robbins, 1983).    By this time, Grace was sufficiently famous to make even her canaries newsworthy.  In 1923, she boarded three canaries at “a hotel of their own” for people in the social register (New York Times, 12 August 1923).   She was involved as a judge in a veteran’s art contest (New York Times, 21 May 1925), at a country dance  (New York Times, 6 March  1926), at another auction for charity in which she contributed drawings (New York Times, 18 March 1928), at a charity for  disabled servicemen and at an actor’s fund charity in which she drew characteristic portraits, and in  a cat show charity in which she made sketches for an auction  (New York Times,  6 November  1927). She and her sister, Margaret Gebbie Hays, created a series of newspaper features with Margaret's verses and Grace's illustrations.

Grace Drayton was the creator of the Campbell Kids used in the ads for Campbell's Soup. She was a member of The Plastic Club, Philadelphia from 1905-1909.

The Campbell Kids were born from a simple sales pitch. In 1904, Philadelphia street car advertising executive, Theodore Wiederseim, asked his artistic wife, Grace Gebbie Drayton, to draw some characters for a sales meeting with Joseph Campbell Company. After viewing the adorable figures, Campbell's quickly embraced the 'Kids', and started using the characters in street car advertising as one of the company's first marketing initiatives in 1905. Known for their rosy puffed cheeks, widely-spaced eyes and plump bodies, the general public adored the Campbell Kids as did their creator who often affectionately referred to them as her 'funny babies'.

Soon after their public introduction the 'Kids' became an integral part of all Campbell's marketing in the States. With this surge in popularity, Campbell Kids memorabilia became all the rage including dolls, souvenir postcards, cooking sets, story books, toy farm trucks, games and even pajamas. In the late 1920's to the mid forties, the 'Kids' were still part of the Campbell's marketing culture, but played a more minor role. It was in the early 1950's, that their characters became revitalized with a fiftieth birthday party and the staring role in Campbell's television advertising that carried through to the 1960's and beyond.

The chunky cherubs have slimmed down a little to match modern notions of health as they celebrate their 100th anniversary.

She is probably best known for her popular Dolly Dingle paper dolls in the women's magazine  Pictorial Review, from 1916-1922.  Wiederseim sometimes worked with her sister, children’s author Margaret Gebbie Hays, to illustrate and produce such books as “Kiddie Land.” She created and illustrated popular period comics Dolly Dimples and The Pussycat Princess.  She and her sister, Margaret Gebbie Hays, also created a series of newspaper features with Margaret's verses and Grace's illustrations.

Grace (as Wiederseim) was a founder of the Philadelphia  Plastic Club, which has endured as the Plastic Club to this day.  It is the oldest art club for women in America (1897) and was limited to “women engaged in the pursuit of art in any of its branches.”  Among the noted past members were Elizabeth Shippen Greene, Jesse Wilcox Smith, and Violet Oakley (“The Red Rose Girls”), Alice Barber Stephens, and Cecilia Beaux.  “Plastic Club” was chosen as a name “since an unfinished work of art is in a plastic state (Crumb, 1972?).” Another account of the Plastic Club reported that the club was formed “ to promote a wider knowledge of art and to advance its interest by means of exhibitions and social intercourse among artists” (MacIlvaine).  Although the Club was originally formed for women only, it later opened its membership to men.

She held a fellowship in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and she belonged to the Art Alliance of America, the Society of Illustrators, the Artists Guild of the Author’s League of America, the Art Alliance of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Painters Club, Illustration House, National Association of Women Artists and American Illustrators Gallery (Petteys, Mantle Fielding).

Compiled and submitted by Ralph Blunt
Some information included from: W. E. McGrath, 2006

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