Ink-Slinger Profiles: Forest A. McGinn

Forest Ages McGinn was born in Clay City, Indiana, on August 19, 1893, according to his World War I draft card. In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census he was the second of four sons born to Joseph and Laura. His father, a Scottish emigrant, worked at a saloon. The family lived in Clay City Village, Indiana.

In 1910, the family of eight remained in Clay City, where the father was a laborer for the railroad. Little is known about his education and early art training. The Farm Bureau News, March 12, 1920, said: “…Forest McGinn did his first art work in Chicago and later became established in Texas…” At some point, McGinn moved to Dallas, Texas, where he was a cartoonist for the the Dallas Morning News. The October 1, 1935 edition of the Morning News, in an article written by editorial cartoonist John Knott, said: “…Forest McGinn was a member of The News art staff from 1914 to 1917.”

Dallas Morning News 10/7/1917

He signed his World War I draft card, June 5, 1917. His description was medium height, slender build with gray eyes and black hair. The Morning News, June 30, 1918, published his training camp drawing and said:

…He enlisted at the Dallas Marine Corps recruiting station April 18, 1918…he expects to be sent to France this week.

Mr. McGinn’s letter says, in part:

“We marines are a busy lot these days. If present ‘dope’ is true, my company will leave soon for overseas, so it seems that I chose the right branch to see quick service. We were at Paris Island only seven weeks and then were transferred to Quantico for bayonet, gas and bombing drill. My understanding is that we will get further training on the other side….I will try to send some sketches back from the other side, if permitted to do so.”

Casualty lists were published in many newspapers, including the Washington Times (DC), October 17, 1918, which listed Private Forest A. McGinn, of Clay City, Indiana. Another drawing, before he was wounded, appeared in the October 20, 1918, Morning News (below). 

Editor & Publisher, December 28, 1918, noted his service: “Forest McGinn, formerly assistant staff artist of the Dallas (Texas) Morning News, now with the Marine Corps in France, has been wounded.” The Farm Bureau News said: “…Mr. McGinn saw service in France with the 47th Company, 5th Regiment, United States Marines, and was wounded in the forehead and both arms. The same shell killed the two men who were with him….” His status was reported in the Recruiters’ Bulletin, May 1919: “Happiness has come at last to Forest McGinn, a wounded Marine convalescing in Brooklyn Naval Hospital. Before he joined the ‘Devil Dogs’, McGinn was an artist on the Dallas, Texas, News. After being wounded in action and being sent back to this country, McGinn’s interest in life waned until one day a nurse secured for him pencils, paper and other artist’s materials. Now he is able to do his work in a wheel chair and is recovering rapidly.”

He has not been found in the 1920 census but I believe he was in New York City for his art training. In the first quarter of that year, his comic strip, Joe Martin, appeared in numerous newspapers; it was distributed by Universal Service Syndicate. So far sixteen consecutively numbered strips have been found. In the following samples the circled number, in the fourth panel, can be seen best in the Iron County Record (Cedar City, Utah) and the Mt. Sterling Advocate (Kentucky) papers. Recently, Joe Martin strips were found in Filmen, a Swedish movie magazine.

After Joe Martin, McGinn pursued illustration. The San Diego Union (California), April 8, 1922, announced the winners of the international poster contest on the life of Christ for the Pilgrimage Play association of Los Angeles: “…Honorable mention was given Forest A. McGinn, disabled soldier, studying in the Society of Illustrators’ School for Disabled Soldiers in New York.” Some of the history of the school was published in the Evening Telegram (New York), February 25, 1923:

Splendid Artists Turned Out by School for Disabled Soldiers, Taught by Experts
They call it the school for disabled soldiers. But after seeing the second annual art exhibition of the school at the Art Centre, No. 63 East Fifty-sixth street, one wonders why it isn’t called simply the school for artists. That’s what it really is—a school for commercial artists, run by the government for its veterans and taught by illustrators and commercial artists of New York who know their business.

All the veterans in evidence at the exhibit look like artists, even if they do not sport long hair and shell-rimmed glasses. And not one of them looks particularly like a disabled soldier. If they are minus a leg or arm they conceal the fact pretty well and refuse to talk about either their disabilities or their war experiences.

…It was Charles B. Falls who started the idea of the Society of Illustrators’ School for Disabled Soldiers. he had worked with the soldiers in the hospitals during the war and he saw, when the war was over, that his work was not done. He interested the other members of the society to the extent that they were willing to give their services to teach the veterans who wanted to earn a living with pen or brush the practical side of the business.

…The school has been directed since its founding by William A. Rogers, with the aid of John Wolcott Adams, Leslie L. Benson, Dean Cornwell, Charles B. Falls, Ray Greenleaf, George Illian, Valentine B. King, Edward Penfield, Clarence H. Rowe, De Alton Valentine, john Alonzo Williams, Edwin A. Wilson, C.D. Williams, Charles Woodbury and John H. Whyte.

…Each veteran is allowed to choose his own field and study along those lines. If he wishes to go in for commercial advertising he studies under a man who knows that game thoroughly. If he wishes to do magazine illustrating or cover drawing he finds the man who knows that. If he wants to draw animals he can run up to the Zoo and draw them from life or keep them in a cage at the school—that is, if they are no larger than the mouse Forest McGinn kept on hand from which to make his sketches….

His talent was recognized again as reported by the New York Times, June 13, 1923:

…the cover design contest held annually by the American Legion Weekly for the United States Veterans’ Bureau men talking art courses in the Society of Illustrators’ School in New York….The second prize of $65 was awarded to Forest McGinn of the same school, whose course is nearly completed. McGinn has been taking many prizes recently, and simultaneously with his winning the Legion’s second, came the news that a prize of $25 in a contest for new ideas in art averting had been awarded to him.

According to the Wabash Valley, Indiana Obituaries, 1900-2010, his mother passed away in 1921 and his father four years later. The 1925 New York State Census recorded him and wife, Mary, in Long Beach, Nassau County at 414 National Boulevard. His occupation was artist. The range of his skills was described in his Advertising Arts and Crafts (1927) entry: “McGinn, Forest A., 500 5th Ave., Lor. 7994 New York City. Animals, Cartoons, Figure, Heads, Layout, Lettering, Poster, Black and White, Charcoal, Color, Crayon, Dry Brush, Line Drawings, Oil, Pen and Ink, Scratch Board.”

In 1930 the couple resided in Port Washington, New York at 26 Park Avenue, where McGinn continued as an artist. According to the census, he married when he was 26. His illustrations appeared in periodicals such as The Mentor, and Game Breeder and Sportsman.

Ten years later he and Mary were recorded in White Plains, New York, on South Broadway; both had eight years of education. He remained an artist. The 1950 and 1952 New Rochelle, New York, city directories had the same listing: “McGinn Forrest [sic] A (Mary) artist (Jamaica, LI) h 247 Drake av apt E52”.

McGinn passed away October 1962, according to the Social Security Death Index. His last known residence was New York. An obituary has not been found.

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