Edward Franklin “Ed” Payne was born in Woodstock, Vermont, in May 1870. The birth date is from the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. Payne’s birthplace was mentioned, by the Associated Press, in the Boston Sunday Advertiser, January 9, 1955. However, Payne’s marriage certificate named Bridgewater as his birthplace. Bridgewater and Woodstock are neighboring towns. His parents were Frank Sylvester Payne and Isabella A. Richmond.
The 1880 census recorded Payne as the oldest of three brothers. Their father’s occupation was harness making. The family of five resided in Hartford, Vermont.
So far, the earliest mention of Payne’s artistic talent was in the Spirit of the Age (Woodstock, Vermont), October 1, 1884, which noted Payne’s participation in the Windsor County Fair: “…E.F. Payne, pencil drawings, 50….”
The Sunday Advertiser said Payne was self-taught and “left school at 15 and became a crayon portrait retoucher, working at night on his hobby—pen and ink humorous drawings. After art study in New York, he joined a Boston portrait firm and later worked for 25 years as an artist, writer and ‘idea man’ at Forbes Lithograph Co.”
The Boston Herald (Massachusetts), September 11, 1894, noted Payne’s marriage: “Payne-Chatwin—At Somerville, Sept. 8, by Rev. George W. Durell, Edward Franklin Payne and Mae Eugenie Chatwin.”
Payne’s latest achievement was reported in Spirit of the Age, April 20, 1895; “Two full-page drawings by Edward Payne, whose work is attracting much favorable attention in the art world, have recently appeared in the Boston Sunday Journal. The illustrations are very well executed and deserve the praise which the Journal bestows on his work.”
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Payne produced Billy the Boy Artist from November 5, 1899 to March 6, 1955. The Sunday Advertiser said Payne “created ‘Billy’ at the request of James Morgan, Sunday editor of the Boston Globe, when the newspaper started a Sunday comic supplement. The association continued for 56 years.” Payne created six more series for the Globe; a seventh series resembled Payne’s style but was signed Rube Franklin, possibly a pseudonym.
According to the 1900 census, Payne, his wife and son lived with his in-laws in Cambridge, Massachusetts at 98 Hampshire Street. Payne was an artist who painted. Also in the household was Payne’s younger brother, George F. Payne, a student, who later drew Polly the Cap’n’s Parrot.
Payne made his home in Belmont, Massachusetts, at 10 Myrtle Street, as recorded in the 1910 census. His household included his wife, two sons, brother George and a servant. Payne was an artist for a lithographer.
The Herald, June 16, 1911, said Payne exhibited originals of Billy the Boy Artist in the magazine and newspaper artists exhibition which included work by N.C. Wyeth and Frank E. Schoonover,. The exhibition was at the new gallery of the Jordan Marsh Company’s new building.
Payne’s address was unchanged in the 1920 census. His brother George was not in the household.
Payne and his wife were in his oldest son’s household in the 1930 census. Karl was married to Ann and they had a daughter and son. They resided in Arlington, Massachusetts, at 39A Hayes Street.
The Herald, May 15, 1931, reported the passing of Payne’s wife.
Funeral services for Mrs. Edward F. Payne, who had made her home at the Hotel Bellevue, were held at the home of her son, Karl C. Payne, 49, Lincoln street, Belmont, yesterday. The Rev. Elmer E. Owens officiated. Many attended from the Dickens Fellowship, of which her husband is president, and the Boston Globe, where Mr. Payne is a member of the art department. The body was taken to Woodstock, Vt., for burial.
In the 1940 census, Payne lived alone at 82 Chestnut Street, Boston.
The Boston American, January 8, 1955, said Payne “was an authority on Charles Dickens and for 30 years was president of the Boston branch of the Dickens Fellowship.”
Payne passed away January 7, 1955, at Copley Hospital, Back Bay, Boston, according to the Sunday Advertiser. He was survived by his brother, George F. of Worcester, and two sons, Karl of California and Edward Jr., of Galesburg, Ill. Payne was laid to rest at Riverside Cemetery.