Monday, September 18, 2017

George W. Spayth (1892-1969)

Photographer, cartoonist, reporter, editor, and publisher George William Spayth was born on January 28, 1892, in New Fostoria or North Baltimore, Ohio. His parents were Frank M. and Hattie (Landon) Spayth. He had one brother, Franklin J. Spayth. George Spayth quit school to help support his family and had only an eighth-grade education. In 1900, the family was in Henry, Ohio, and in 1910 in Lima. By then Spayth's mother had remarried.

George Spayth got his first newspaper job in 1913 as a cub reporter in Janesville, Wisconsin. Over the years, he would work for the Milwaukee News, Washington TimesWashington Herald, Galveston News, Houston Chronicle, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Reading Times, and Camden Courier-Post. In 1917, he was in Washington, D.C., and working as an artist out of the Kenois Building. By 1920, he was in the area of Galveston and Houston, Texas. He started as an editorial cartoonist at the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Journal-Gazette in 1920. When he was a child, he had gone on a train ride with his mother and had passed through Fort Wayne. It was the first big city he had ever seen. Spayth spent the first half of the 1920s there, not far from his home in northwestern Ohio.

In addition to drawing cartoons for the Journal-Gazette, Spayth gave chalk talks in and around Fort Wayne and taught commercial art at the Knights of Columbus Evening School in his adopted city. By 1928, he was in Pennsylvania, where he worked for the Reading Times. His historical-educational comic strip Berks History in Pictures began appearing in the  Times on September 17, 1928. The initial plan was for the strip to cover Berks County history up to the present in 300 installments.

Spayth was still in Reading in 1930, but by 1932, he had moved further east, to Dunellen, New Jersey. He served as editor of The Chronicle of Dunellen before establishing his own newspaper business. From the 1930s until he sold his business in 1967, Spayth published what were called the Spayth Weeklies--The Weekly Call, The Piscataway Chronicle, The Middlesex Mirror, and The Store News--all under his company name of The County Press, Inc.

As he was nearing the end of his newspaper career, Spayth self-published a book, It Was Fun the Hard Way: The Autobiography of a Small Town Editor (1964). He was also an inventor whose brainchildren included a bookmark that automatically kept its place should the reader fall asleep while reading and a device for straightening parking meters. He was married twice, first to Annis L. (Salsbury) Spayth (1882-1957), also a journalist, second to Elizabeth (Crosswell) Spayth. His children by his first wife were Lillian June, Sue, and Joseph. You can find Sue Spayth Riley on the Internet.

George W. Spayth died August 21, 1969, at his home in Dunellen, New Jersey. He was seventy-seven years old.

An editorial cartoon by George W. Spayth from the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, December 4, 1923.

What I believe are the first five installments of Berks History in Pictures by George W. Spayth, from the Reading Times, September 26, 1928. In his obituary, Spayth was described as a syndicated cartoonist, but his name does not appear in Allan Holtz's comprehensive American Newspaper Comics (2012). It may be that Berks History in Pictures was syndicated locally, and that might account for the artist's credit as a syndicated cartoonist. It may be also that Spayth's editorial cartoons were syndicated. In any case, his five years or so in Fort Wayne qualify George W. Spayth as a Hoosier cartoonist. We can also add his name to the list of Hoosiers who drew historical, informational, or factual comic strips, panels, or features.

Backdated to September 18, 2017.
Text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

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