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Clare Briggs


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Born in Reedsburg, Wisconsin in 1875, Clare Briggs exemplified the larger journey of American society from small town innocence to urbane sophistication. The son of a farm machinery salesman, Briggs left his rural home as a young man to forge a career as an illustrator and cartoonist, earning success in such big city papers as the Chicago Examiner, the Chicago Tribune and the New York Tribune. Within a few years, he became one of the most popular and imitated cartoonists in America: Frank King, Milton Caniff, and the first generation of New Yorker cartoonists all emulated Briggs. Eschewing the roughneck humour of early comic strips, Briggs drew low keyed strips in two modes: nostalgic reveries focused on memories of small town boyhood and satirical strips about the squabbles inherent in married life. Norman Rockwell placed Briggs in the pantheon of “great illustrators.” A quick way of describing Briggs is to say that he was the original Rockwell, but much grittier and less sentimental than his famous follower. Briggs died of pneumonia in 1930, after struggling with a nervous disorder that was destroying his optic nerve and ability to draw. After his death, friends published a memorial seven volume edition of his best cartoons.

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