James C. Henderson was born in Minnesota on May 25, 1883. His birth date was found on his World War I and II draft cards and a 1927 passenger list, all at Ancestry.com. The passenger list said he was born in Northfield but his World War II draft card had St. Paul as his birthplace. Northfield is about 43 miles / 69 kilometers south of St. Paul.
He has not been found in the 1900 and 1910 U.S. Federal Censuses. At this time, nothing is known of his education and art training. The Boston Herald, December 12, 1949, said he “began cartooning 40 years ago…”. In 1913 he produced two strips, And He Did and Noodle the Poodle.
On September 7, 1918 he signed his World War I draft card which said he was married and lived in Providence, Rhode Island at 76 Barnes Street. Based on his employer’s address, 764 Drexel Building, Philadelphia, he was a cartoonist for the Keystone Feature Syndicate. His description was medium height and build with blue eyes and black hair.
The newspaper cartoonist was at the same address in the 1920 census and his wife’s name was Virginia. The Herald said he “…had been employed by the Providence Journal since 1919…” On May 19, 1924, his radio strip, Today’s Hook-Up, debuted. The couple was found on a 1927 passenger list; they sailed aboard the S.S. Aurania from Liverpool, England on September 6 and arrived in New York on September 15. Their address was 173 Lloyd Avenue, Providence, Rhode Island. The same address was in the Providence Directory 1928; the listing said he was an artist and named his wife.
In the 1930 census he lived with his mother at 246 Waterman Street in Providence. The newspaper cartoonist was head of the household. The fate of his wife is not known.
According to the 1940 census, he had remarried to Sarah who was 38. They lived in Providence at 35 Linden Street, the same address in 1935. His education included two years of college and he continued as a newspaper cartoonist. Henderson passed away December 11, 1949. His death was reported the following day in the New York Times:
Providence, Dec. 11—James Henderson, an editorial page cartoonist for The Providence Journal, died at his home in Foster Center, R.I., today after suffering a heart attack. His age was 66.
Mr. Henderson had worked for the National Editorial Association, Keystone Features [sic] Syndicate and the old Life magazine, on the last-named as a comic cartoonist, before he came to Providence as a staff artist of The Journal in 1919. He was a sports cartoonist for a time.
Probably his most famous creation was a cartoon series entitled “The Motorization of Mr. Man,” which won a prize in the Safety Foundation contest of 1936.
President Truman requested and received the original of a Henderson cartoon drawn just after the 1948 election. Titled “You Made Me What I Am Today,” it showed the President seated at the piano, staring fondly at a picture of Thomas E. Dewey and singing the words to his own accompaniment. The work has been widely reproduced by other newspapers.
The Herald said he “…originated the first daily radio cartoon sequence. His weekly cartoon on motoring won a national safety award in 1936, his editorial cartoons appeared in a motion picture anthology in 1940…”