Arts and Entertainment


Who was E. Simms Campbell?

E(lmer) Simms Campbell (1906–1971) became, in 1933, the first black cartoonist to work for national publications. Born in St. Louis, he lived in Chicago while completing his high school education. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago for three years. After returning to St. Louis, he was discouraged from becoming a commercial artist because the field was not a viable one for blacks. After working with a local commercial art studio for one year, he moved to New York City where he hoped to become a freelance cartoonist. There he worked for a local advertising studio and sold some of his work to other artists. He enrolled in the Academy of Design and also studied at the Art Students League under printmaker George Grosz. After publishing his well-known “A Night-Club Map of Harlem,” which included such sites as the Lafayette Theater, Small’s Paradise, and the Cotton Club, Campbell began to receive a number of commissions.

Campbell contributed cartoons and other art work to Esquire (he was in nearly every issue from 1933 to 1958), Cosmopolitan, Redbook, New Yorker, Opportunity, and syndicated features in 145 newspapers. He created the character “Esky,” the pop-eyed mascot who appeared on the cover of Esquire. He worked tirelessly and became one of the highest paid commercial artists, often creating three hundred full-page drawings a year. In 1957 Campbell and his family moved to Switzerland. Fourteen years later, after his wife died, he returned to the United States and died a year later.


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