James Carver Pusey Jr. was born in Avondale, Pennsylvania, on February 18, 1901, as recorded on page 288 in The Ancestry and Posterity of John Lea, of Christian Malford, Wiltshire, England, and of Pennsylvania in America 1503-1906. The book, What’s the Name, Please? A Guide to the Correct Pronunciation of Current Prominent Names (1936), had an entry for Pusey on how to pronounce his name: “Pusey, J. Carver—cartoonist—Rimes with newsy, unless you pronounce that noozy; if so, call him pew’zy.”
In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Pusey was the oldest of three children born to James and Susan. The family lived in Norristown, Pennsylvania at 1428 Powell Street. Pusey’s father was an accountant.
In 1920, Pusey’s mother was a widow and head of the household. Pusey’s occupation was “helper” in the “structural engineer” industry. By the mid-1920s, Pusey was a cartoonist whose first strip was Cat Tales.
The Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985, at Ancestry.com, recorded Pusey’s marriage to Margaret Andre Roberts in Philadelphia on June 1, 1927.
According to American Newspaper Comics, Pusey’s second strip was the Chance Brothers in 1927. The following year, Pusey’s third strip, Benny, debuted December 17, 1928. The first topper for Benny was a revival of Cat Tales. It was replaced by Opportunity Knox.
In 1930 Pusey resided in New York City’s Greenwich Village at 72 Barrow Street. Pusey was a newspaper cartoonist. A 1971 issue of Views & Reviews explained how Pusey got into the movies with the Marx Brothers:
…Then there was Harpo. Not having a gag man clearly didn’t bother him, so Groucho took it upon himself to break his reading habits and take a look at the funnies, where he turned up a cartoonist named J. Carver Pusey, a mild-mannered newspaper man who did a strip called “Little Benny,” about a boy who couldn’t talk. Pusey got himself signed up with Paramount too….
Many reviews of the Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business mentioned Pusey as a contributor. The Long Island Daily Press (Jamaica, New York), November 18, 1931, said:
Two cartoonists and one mad wag are responsible for the hilarious story and “gags” of the third picture starring the Four Marx Brothers—“Monkey Business” which opens at Loew’s Valencia theatre Friday.
The mad wag is S. J. Perelman, gag-maker emeritus of Judge and other magazines. The cartoonists are Will B. Johnstone and J. Carver Pusey. Johnstone is the comic cartoonist of the World-Telegram, New York evening paper, and Pusey is the creator of “Benny,” a comic strip which appears in numerous papers throughout the country.
Pusey’s Hollywood career was brief. The New York Sun, July 15, 1931, said: “J. Carver Pusey, cartoonist, is on his way back to New York. While in Hollywood he was gagman for Harpo, the silent member of the Four Marx Brothers.”
The Literary Digest, January 27, 1934, published “They Stand Out From the Crowd”, which profiled six people including Emma Goldman and Pusey, who was singled out in “Comics—and Their Creators”:
J. Carver Pusey—Benny’s creator, Born Avondale, Pennsylvania, 1901.
Schooling—Kindergarten to Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art, Philadelphia, Pa.
Jobs—Water boy, office boy, silk hosiery salesman, hot dog vendor, newspaper advertising, Hollywood gag man, etc.
Hobbies—Animals, trees, horse races, roast turkey and fire engines.
Location— Farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Ambitions—To pay off mortgage.
Miscellaneous—Married, one daughter. Like “Old Black Joe” and “The Wreck of the Old 97.” Enjoy all sports, excel in none. Dislike suburbs and string beans.
Benny—Born from pencil wanderings rather than the brain. Benny’s philosophy of life is to follow the line of least resistance. His background is a little hazy, his age vague and his parentage questionable.
However, a big hearted little waif, he lives in a renovated railroad tool box on the other side of the tracks, does his own cleaning, cooking sewing, eats spinach, clean his teeth regularly and takes a bath religiously every Saturday night.
A 1935 issue of Writer’s Monthly said: “J. Carver Pusey, who also buys pantomime ideas, can be reached at United Features Syndicate, 220 East 42nd Street, New York City.”
On April 1, 1935, Time magazine published a couple of letters to the editor: one on Benny and the other on Pusey. The editor replied with background information on Pusey:
…Born 34 years ago in Avondale, Pa. Pusey decided to be a cartoonist because it seemed an easy way to make a living. Discovering his error, he ran a hot dog stand one summer, drove a truck, sold silk underwear and hosiery, sold Frigidaires, became interested in a patented ice cream dipper and astonished himself by selling one. Hoping to work his way to Europe he hitch-hiked to New York, slept on a Battery Park bench for a week, returned to Philadelphia, broke his nose in a Y.M.C.A. swimming pool, matriculated at the Pennsylvania School of Art because school appeared more enjoyable than what he had been doing. He studied one year, met the girl whom he later married, began drawing in earnest.
Pusey spent several months in Hollywood as gagman for Harpo Marx, liked it, but prefers his farm in Buck County, Pa., his horses and chickens. He has seven dogs which he says were an accident. Short, rugged, Cartoonist Pusey likes old-fashion cocktails, varicolored pousse-cafes. He works late at night because he never manages to get started until then.
In September 1935, Pusey and his wife vacationed in Bermuda. The passenger list said they resided in Wrightstown, Pennsylvania.
Pusey was recorded at the same town in the 1940 census. He had two daughters and continued as a newspaper cartoonist. His highest level of education was two years of college. In 1939, he worked 52 weeks and earned over five thousand dollars. His house was valued at twelve thousand dollars.
The Trenton Evening Times (New Jersey), April 27, 1941, reported the upcoming art exhibition, from May 3 to 25, at Phillips Mill in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Pusey was one of several illustrators whose work was chosen.
Comics authority Cole Johnson said Pusey died on July 16, 1953 at his apartment in Philadelphia. He left behind a widow, Doris, and two daughters from his first marriage, Polly and Susan.