“We All Have To Start Somewhere” Department. Case in Point No. 15

Case in point No. 15 in this ongoing feature is Elmer Simms Campbell, who signed his cartoons E. Simms Campbell.

Campbell was born in St. Louis, MO in 1906 and died in White Plains, NY in 1971. He was the first openly known African-American cartoonist to draw for big-name national publications in the U.S. — and he accomplished this from the early 1930’s to the late 1960’s, when segregation, both subtle and flagrant, was a fact of American life.

Here’s what Esquire Magazine had to say about Campbell in 1957: “E. Simms Campbell has been Esquire’s most prolific creator of cartoons, and has never missed an issue [since Esquire’s debut in 1933]. He attended the University of Chicago and Chicago Art Institute, holds honorary degrees from two other universities, is a charter member of the National Cartoonists Society, has illustrated a dozen books and written numerous articles on jazz.” (Quoted from the Esquire Cartoon Album — 25th Anniversary Volume, published in 1957 by Esquire, Inc. and distributed by Doubleday & Co., NY).

In addition to appearing in all those issues of Esquire, Campbell’s cartoons could be seen in Playboy, Cosmopolitan, The Saturday Evening Post and Redbook, just to name a few other publications. He even did a New Yorker cover, dated February 3, 1936 — however, I can’t find any evidence that any of his cartoons ever appeared within The New Yorker.

Other Campbell accomplishments: he created Esky, the mustachioed, bulging-eyed mascot of Esquire Magazine; he drew a newspaper gag panel, “Cuties”, distributed to hundreds of papers by King Features; and last, but not least, his cartoons appeared in many national advertising campaigns.

But the point of this feature is that “we all have to start somewhere”. All of Campbell’s early cartoons posted below are taken from a source book I’ve mentioned before, “The Good Humor Book”, published in 1944 by Harvest House, NY. It’s a hard-cover compilation of cartoons and jokes, but my instincts tell me that the publishers were offering very little compensation and that most cartoonists were just “dumping” their old, unsellable rejections there.

The final cartoon is from the Esquire Cartoon Album I mentioned. The photo of E. Simms Campbell is also from the same book. campbell6.jpg campbell2.jpg campbell1.jpg campbell4.jpg campbell3.jpg campbell8.jpg campbell7.jpg campbell5.jpg campbellesquire.jpg campbellphoto.jpg E. Simms Campbell


  1. comment title
    I stand corrected on my statement that E. Simms Campbell didn’t contribute any cartoons to The New Yorker. I should have done more research.
    Michael Maslin, noted New Yorker cartoonist (and ex officio New Yorker historian) emailed me to say that according to The Complete New Yorker database, Mr. Campbell appeared 25 times in the magazine, from November 12, 1932 through January 17, 1942 — in addition to the cover I mentioned.
    Many thanks for keeping me honest, Michael — I really appreciate it!

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Welcome to the Eli Stein Cartoon archive. To begin, read my introduction and personal notes, and then please look at the cartoons, which are categorized by either decade, publication name or topic. I’ve included some personal comments, memories and photos below many of the cartoons. I’ll be adding cartoons, memories and photos ad infinitum. Remember, your comments are appreciated (just click on the “comment” link at the bottom of each post).