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 Sidney (Robert Sidney) Smith  (1877 - 1935)

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Lived/Active: Illinois      Known for: comic-strip artist, newspaper cartoonist

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Ad Code: 4
Sidney G Smith
from Auction House Records.
Andy Gum and Family Speeding Past
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A famous comic-strip artist in the 1920s and 1930s, Sidney Smith was known as being one of the highest salaried in the business, and his employers, the executives of The Chicago Tribune, used his salary as a lure for hiring other employees.  In 1922, he signed a million dollar contract with that newspaper, which specified $100,000.00 a year for the next decade and included a Rolls-Royce.

Smith was a celebrity at a time when comic-strip artists were of much interest because the characters they created with story lines became a focus of many households.  He also was a pioneer in having a team do the work for which he was given signature credit, was a dedicated physical fitness person, doing long-distance running and amateur boxing, had quite a reputation for his extensive wardrobe a-la Beau Brummel and for his love of fast cars.   It was written that "No one ever yet has built an automobile fast enough for him." (339)  Smith lived near Chicago on a large estate and erected a six-foot bronze statue of Andy Gump, his main comic character, on his property.

Sidney Smith was born Robert Sidney Smith in Bloomington, Illinois where his father was a prominent dentist.  Smith never completed high school, as he was much more interested in sports than books.  By age 18, he was drawing cartoons for the local newspaper, and several years later became a "chalk-talk" itinerant artist, moving around the country on newspaper staffs including Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

He joined the Chicago Examiner in 1908 as a sports cartoonist.  From 1917 to 1935, working for the Chicago Tribune, he drew The Gumps, which became one of the most popular comic strips in America.  His drawing style was described as "scratchy, self-taught" looking as though he was a "fairly gifted high school boy."

Smith died October 20, 1935, having just signed the day before a three-year contract at the Tribune offices, raising his salary to $150,000.00 a year.  He and friends then celebrated, and driving back to his farm at 3:45 AM, he died in a head on collision.  He was 58 years old.


Source:
Ron Goulart, Editor, The Encyclopedia of American Comics From 1897 to the Present,  pp. 338-339

Biography from Butler Institute of American Art:
Robert Sidney Smith was the creator of the great American family cartoon epic 'The Gumps'.  Smith was already almost forty years old when the first panel of this strip was published, in 1917.  In 1908, he published his first comic, 'Buck Nix'.

When he got hired by the Chicago Tribune, the name changed to 'Old Doc Yak'.  In 1919, Smith was forced to abandon this strip due to the immense popularity of 'The Gumps', which had greatly boosted the Tribune's circulation.

The Gump family brought Smith fame and riches, which he spent on several houses and cars.  The Depression of the 1930s did not affect him, for he was able to sign a new contract with the Tribune that paid him a million dollars over the next three years, plus a brand new Rolls Royce as a bonus.

Driving home after having closed the deal, Sidney Smith collided with another car and was killed instantly.  After that 'The Gumps' were taken over by Gus Edson.

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