R.L. Polk’s 1915 Trow General Directory New York City listed McNamara on page 1216, “McNamara Thos artist h562 W191st.” In the 1917 edition, page 1316, the listing read, “McNamara Thos A cartoonist h423 W120th.”
McNamara signed his World War I draft card, on September 12, 1918, as Thomas Joseph McNamara. Did he change his middle name because of cartoonist Thomas Aloysius Dorgan, aka TAD? He lived with his wife, Bertha, at 423 West 120 Street, Apartment 37, in Manhattan, New York City. He was a cartoonist with the International Feature Service. He was described as medium height and build with blue eyes and brown hair.
In the 1920 census, McNamara was at the same address as above but his wife was not listed. A year later he moved to Hollywood. He lived alone in Los Angeles, California at 1737 North Whitley Avenue, as recorded in the 1930 census. His occupation was cartoonist for a newspaper. In the book, Artists in California
, it said, “The years 1921-54 were spent in Hollywood as a writer and director for the ‘Our Gang’ series and director of Mary Pickford in ‘Little Annie Rooney.’ ” Actually, McNamara returned to New York City in the mid-1930s. (A timeline of McNamara’s career can be viewed at the Lucky Corner website
McNamara signed his World War II draft card on April 25, 1942. He resided in New York City at the St. Paul Hotel, 44 West 60th Street. He gave his occupation as “free lance artist and writer.” He was described as “5 foot 7, 160 with blue eyes and gray hair.” During his time in New York City he wrote and drew stories for several comic book publishers. Many of his credits can be found at the Grand Comics Database
. A sample of his comic book work can be found at Lambiek Comiclopedia
The date of McNamara’s return to California is not known. In the book, The Funnies, Ron Goulart wrote, “More than twenty years later [mid-1950s] McNamara was down on his luck and living in a Tenderloin hotel in San Francisco. [Cartoonist Tack] Knight, comfortably retired, was also living in the city and he and McNamara became friends.” The book, Artists in California, 1786-1940, said, “Nearly blind, McNamara spent his last ten years in San Francisco at the Laguna Honda Hospital.” McNamara passed away on May 19, 1964, in San Francisco. The Independent (Long Beach, California) reported his death on May 20.
‘Our Gang’ Creator McNamara, 78, Dies
Tom McNamara, who made a fortune as a cartoonist, movie director, gold miner and all-around adventurer, died Tuesday at a public home for the elderly. He was 78.
McNamara, creator of the “Us Boys” and “Our Gang” comic strips, had been living on a small pension since 1955.
Once the bosom companion of Damon Runyon, Charlie Chaplin and Rube Goldberg, McNamara got his start cartooning on the San Francisco Chronicle before the 1906 earthquake.
He later joined a vaudeville team and toured Europe, playing at a command performance for England’s King Edward VII.
In 1911 he returned to New York City and created two strips that made him famous.
In 1921 he joined the Hal Roach movie studios where he directed Mary Pickford in “Little Annie Rooney.”
During the 1930s and ’40s McNamara free-lanced as a writer and cartoonist. He once admitted that his free-spending habits resulted in virtual bankruptcy but added that “it was worth it.”
Before his rise to fame he often prospected for gold in the mountains of California and Nevada.
He was born in San Francisco in 1886. He was a widower with no children and no close relatives.