George Forrest Payne was born in Woodstock, Vermont, on April 1, 1878, according to the Vermont Vital Records at Ancestry.com. However, Payne’s World War I draft card had the day as the 22nd. His parents were Frank Sylvester Payne and Isabella A. Richmond.
The 1880 U.S. Federal Census recorded Payne as the youngest 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), June 20, 1896. At the high school commencement, Payne, class of 1897, responded to the class of 1896: “…During his response to the address to undergraduates, in a humorous prophecy, Mr. Payne presented to each member of the class a pen sketch, executed by himself, of what he said they were to become.”
According to the 1900 census, Payne was a student. His older brother, cartoonist Ed Payne, was married and had a son. The quartet were in the household of William Chatwin, Ed’s father-in-law, in Cambridge, Massachusetts at 98 Hampshire Street.
Two months after the census enumeration, Spirit of the Age, August 18, 1900, reported the act by Payne and brother Harold.
George F. Payne, son of Mr. and Mrs. F. S. Payne, who was at home last week, with his brother Harold appeared at Keith’s Boston theatre Monday evening and according to the newspapers they made a decided hit with their “poster songs.” This is an amusing novelty originated by the brothers in which a number of large pictures, drawn by Edward F. Payne, another brother, are shown, illustrating popular songs of the day. While a verse of a song is sung by the brothers the picture illustrating it is shown behind a big frame. During the acts George also makes one or two large pictures, using an air brush, while Harold sings, and it closes with a medley during which the pictures are moved rapidly across the stage. The brothers were immediately engaged by the management at Keith’s on seeing a rehearsal of their piece and they will play at all the Keith houses. They then expect to do the entire vaudeville circuit, playing at several places in New York and then going west. Their friends here will be pleased to hear of their success.
The Boston Herald says:
“A real novelty was shown in the “poster songs” of the Payne brothers, a couple of very good singers, whose unique method of illustrating popular songs caught the fancy of the audience, and scored a solid success.
The Journal’s dramatic notes speaks of the “Payne brothers, whose ‘poster songs’ were really the most unique offering on the program, and is a welcome addition to variety.”
The Post says:
“Payne brothers offered a novelty in the form of ‘poster songs’ that was decidedly unique in its way, and scored solidly.”
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Payne drew Polly The Cap’n’s Parrot, from March 29 to May 24, 1908, for the North American Syndicate. In yesterday’s post, comics authority Cole Johnson noted that the Polly The Cap’n’s Parrot art resembled Ed Payne’s work. Since Payne was living with his brother Ed, it’s safe to say that Payne mimicked Ed’s style.
Payne made his home in Belmont, Massachusetts, at 10 Myrtle Street, as recorded in the 1910 census. He was in the household of his brother Ed. Payne was employed as a floor walker at a department store.
On September 12, 1918 Payne signed his World War I draft card. He was married to Marguerite and their address was 17 Sudbury Street, Worcester, Massachusetts. Payne was a buyer for Denholm & McKay Company in Worcester. The description of Payne was medium height and build with dark blue eyes and dark brown hair. Payne signed his full name with just one R in his middle name, Forest not Forrest.
Payne’s address and occupation were unchanged in the 1920 census. According to the 1930 census, Payne continued as a dry goods store buyer who resided in Worcester. His address was 64 Fruit Street. In the 1940 census, Payne and his wife lived at 5 Dayton Place, Worcester. The same address was on Payne’s World War II draft card and he still worked for Denholm & McKay.
Payne’s wife Marguerite passed away in 1947. Payne’s brother Ed passed away January 7, 1955 in Boston. The Boston Sunday Advertiser obituary said Ed was survived by his brother George, who resided in Worcester, and two sons.
The date of Payne’s passing is unclear. Find a Grave has a photograph of a grave marker with the years 1878 to 1955. However, the Social Security Death Index has a person named George Payne who was born April 22, 1878 (same date as the World War I draft card) and died in February 1984. An obituary has not been found.