Many of you may not know the name Winsor McCay, or any of his comic strip & cartoon characters like Little Nemo or Gertie the Dinosaur. Little Nemo would be the most likely, thanks to an animated film from 1989...but I bring it up because Winsor was from Michigan and grew up in Spring Lake. The year of his birth hasn’t been verified, but it’s somewhere between 1857 and 1871...

As a kid in grade school, he loved drawing, making cartoons and artwork. He got in trouble in school for drawing instead of doing his assignments...something I can very well relate to. His father tried to coax him into going to business school, but Winsor held his ground and pursued a career in art and cartooning.

1898: Winsor starts drawing illustrations for magazines and newspapers
1903: Created “Little Sammy Sneeze” comic strip for The New York Herald
1905: “Little Nemo in Slumberland” comic strip begins
1911: Begins financing his own animated films
1914: Cartoon film, “Gertie the Dinosaur” debuts
1927: The final “Little Nemo in Slumberland” episode is printed

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Winsor was enjoying doing what he loved: animation films, comic strips, and vaudeville until the newspaper dictator known as William Randolph Hearst put an end to it. Winsor had been working for Hearst since 1911, and Hearst basically told him to drop everything else and just do illustrations for the newspaper’s editorials. Period.

Winsor McCay’s artwork was indeed unique, and inspired many then-current and future illustrators. Then, in the 1920s, along came the Fleischer Brothers, Max & Dave, whose animated films matched and even outshone Winsor’s. The Fleischers went on to film cartoons on such iconic characters as Koko the Clown, Betty Boop, and Popeye the Sailor. Then Walt Disney came along in the 20s and 30s with his animation team, and that was it. No more film making for Winsor McCay.

The little boy from Spring Lake, Michigan passed away in his 60s on July 26, 1934 in New York City.

Cartoonist Winsor McCay, from Spring Lake, Michigan


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