Thomas Starling Sullivant was born in Columbus, Ohio on November 4, 1854, according to a passport application issued on July 7, 1873, and the book, 200 Years of American Illustration (1977). In the 1860 U.S. Federal Census he was the third of four children born to William and Caroline. They lived in Columbus, Ohio. Ten years later the family remained in Columbus. He was the third of seven children. His father was wealthy, owning real estate valued at $200,000 and a personal estate of $40,000. The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000 said Sullivant studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He has not been found in the 1880 census.
Godey’s Magazine, September 1897, published V. Robard’s profile, “The Caricatures of T.S. Sullivant”; it can be read here. Robard wrote,
…Mr. Sullivant left Columbus at the age of eighteen and lived for several years in Europe, returning finally to Philadelphia. Though he had always drawn more or less for his own amusement, he never took his art seriously until he reached the age of thirty-three, when, after a comparatively brief study at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts [sic] in 1887, he apprenticed himself to E.B. Bensell, an illustrator of the old school, who drew on the woodblock.
Life Magazine, 12/26/1901
In the following census the family of five lived in Plainfield, New Jersey at 978 Park Avenue. Sullivant was a newspaper cartoonist. Major Rupert Hughes wrote an article about people who overcame handicaps; it was published in the Montgomery Advertiser (Alabama) on October 8, 1918. He wrote this about Sullivant:
…The American cartoonist, T.S. Sullivant, who has drawn so much laughter from the readers of Life, lost the use of his right hand, too. He learned to draw with his left and his followers never knew the difference.
Sullivant, his wife and oldest daughter returned to Philadelphia, at 2117 Delaney Street, according to the 1920 census. He was a magazine artist. He passed away on August 7, 1926. The New York Times published the Associated Press story on August 9.
Thomas S. Sullivant.
Illustrator, Formerly on the Staff of Life, Dies at 71 Years
Jamestown, R.I., Aug. 8 (AP).—Thomas Starling Sullivant of Philadelphia, until his retirement one of the oldest illustrators on the staff of Life, died at Maplewood Sanatorium here last night, in his seventy-second [sic] year. He had been spending the Summer in Jamestown with his wife and became ill three weeks ago.
Mrs. Sullivant was with her husband at the end, and their son, A.V.R. Sullivant, arrived from New York today. The body will be taken to Philadelphia for burial.