News of Yore: W. E. Hill Profiled

Average Joe, Jane Satirized by Hill
By Helen M. Staunton (E&P, 1949)

You’d expect to find the satirist of brides-to-be, girls on their first job, movies, office types, average people anywhere jarring elbows with the subway crowd and rushing around New York City with an eye on his neighbors.

Instead E&P took a day’s expedition into the wilds of Connecticut and found W. E. Hill in a lovely old house surrounded by dogs and playbills. And detective stories.

“PeopIe are the same in Danbury as In New York,” explained the cartoonist.

26-Year Veteran
For more than 26 years now, Hill has been drawing his satirical pen sketches for the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate. In a Sunday world of color pages he has turned out the only syndicated black and white page successful over a long period of years. “I’d love to do color,” Hill exclaimed as he blocked out the frames for his week’s page and started sketching a boss and secretary scene in the second panel.

Gum rubber tucked handily between fourth and fifth fingers, Hill sketched, erased, revised
for a while, talking freely about books, plays, people – anything but himself.

“There’s no story in me,” he said, and meant it. “An interviewer once came out here to get a story and was having a terrible time. When she heard I like dogs she brightened up. I was sorry to disillusion her, but all my dogs are mutts I’ve picked up somewhere.”

“You know this isn’t the way I usually work,” he noted after he had gotten the boss and secretary lined up to his satisfaction. Usually I plan a page pretty thoroughly in advance and do as many other things as possible first while theoretically planning that page, such as reading detective stories, he added, proving he could satirize himself, too. Eventually he gets down to work at night and frequently works most of it.

Ideas? Well, he’s stored up a good deal of background during a life that began in Binghampton, N. Y., and included quite a few years in New York City before he settled down in his family’s Connecticut home, but his fresh situations may come from anywhere, his observation of movie styles, suggestions by friends, or attendance at a town meeting.

“I notice people are wary of me. Even a cousin of mine has been taking a good deal of ribbing since they learned she was my cousin. But I always mix ’em up so nobody can be recognized.”
And with a cheerful grin he admitted that nobody could ever recognize himself or herself in one of the drawings – though occasionally persons believed they identified an aunt, sister or mother-in-law.

William Hill began his drawing at an early age in Binghampton with some railroad engines
and railroads – “You know, the trains wouldn’t meet the track. I always wanted to be an engi-
neer.”

Joined News in ’20
He chose art as a career, however, instead of following his family’s business “probably because I was so bad at mathematics,” studied at the Art Students League In New York and during the years he lived in the city frequently visited the classes for refresher work in the belief that he can always learn more about his profession.

For a time he freelanced and appeared frequently in the old Life, then he drew personality and situation cartoons in much the same satiric vein as now for the New York Tribune. Then in 1920, shortly after the New York Daily News was started, he became a fixture there.

The people haven’t changed, but the situations and hair-dos have, and the latter “drive me
wild,” the tall and grey cartoonist muttered as he used the pencil-gum rubber technique on
the attractive secretary. “Just when I think I’ve got them, they go ahead and change.”

A perfectionist, Hill looks through his horn-rims at his own products with critical eyes, and If it weren’t for deadlines would probably never finish a page. “Loads of times I’ll make mistakes and a page will come perfectly dreadful,” he Insisted, “but If you’re at deadline, you have to go ahead and do it.”

Here’s a 1927 example of Hill’s beautifully drawn Among Us Mortals. Usually the feature was run in magazine and roto sections, where the printing was occasionally of high enough quality to capture the incredible detail of Hill’s work. This image at screen resolution is a desecration of Hill’s artwork. Hill is one of the forgotten masters.

2 comments on “News of Yore: W. E. Hill Profiled

  1. Can someone tell me where this article was first printed?
    And does anyone know specifically where & when Hill’s work was published?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *