Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Nelson Harding

Nelson Harding was born in Brooklyn, New York, on October 31, 1878, according to his Social Security application. Nelson and his family have not yet been found in the 1880 and 1900 U.S. Federal Censuses. According to the Brooklyn Eagle, January 2, 1945, Harding “received his early education at Greenwich Academy, Greenwich, Conn.”

Harding served in the Spanish-American War. He enlisted in the National Guard May 2, 1898 and was a private in the 71st Infantry Regiment, Company B.

The 1905 New York state census recorded Harding, his parents Charles and Flora, and younger sister Flora, in Manhattan, New York City at 180 West 74th Street. Harding’s occupation was artist and his father’s lithographer.

Harding was profiled in the Eagle, August 30, 1925, which said: 

Mr. Harding was a pupil at the Art Students League and the Chase School, and at the latter was instructed by Robert Henri, a master of his art and the tutor of a number of men and women who have achieved fame in their profession.

Before attaching himself to The Eagle, Harding worked as a lithographer, meanwhile selling his drawings wherever a market could be found. In his free lancing days he became well known for the quality of his work, and found his offerings in good demand.

…He served with Company B of the old Seventy-first Regiment in Cuba…

According to the Eagle, Harding joined the Eagle in 1908.

The 1910 census recorded the Harding family in Manhattan at 646 West End Avenue. Harding was an artist, his father a painter, and both worked in a studio. Who’s Who of Pulitzer Prize Winners (1999) said Harding married portrait artist Anna Seamon in 1911.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Harding produced a weekly comic strip under various titles: Dream of the Raw Recruit, Dreams Go by Contraries, It’s Always the Way and Not in a Thousand Years. They ran from May 8, 1910 to April 22, 1911. Ruthless Rhymes for Martial Militants was a panel that debuted March 26, 1913 and ended July 8, 1914. The panels were reprinted in a number of publications such as The American Review of Reviews, Cartoons Magazine and Current Opinion. In 1914, the Eagle published the panels in a book, Ruthless Rhymes of Martial Militants. Harding’s Looking Backward—Famous Men in Their Younger Days had a short run from April 5 to May 1913.

Harding signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918, and was an instructor of troops. His home was in Brooklyn, New York at 290 Brooklyn Avenue. The description of the cartoonist was medium height and build with blue-gray eyes and gray-black hair.

In the 1920 census, Harding continued living in Brooklyn but at a different address, 1152 Pacific Street. He had two daughters, Jean, age 7, and Margaret, age 4.

The Eagle, January 26, 1921, reported the guest speakers, including Harding, at the Municipal Club of Brooklyn.

Nelson Harding spoke in the humorist’s vein on “The Cartoonist’s Day” The cartoonist begins his day, according to Harding, by going through his mail for possible offers of better salaries from other papers. Then he looks around for his pipe or cigars. He continues it by calling up his home to find if the plumber has repaired the water pipes and then going through any other mail that might have arrived for possible offers of better jobs from other papers. Then he has his suit pressed and goes out to lunch. And in the afternoon he leaves the office to attend to errands for his wife, first glancing through the afternoon mail for possible offers of better positions by other papers. Finally, Mr. Harding made a “pathetic appeal,” since the hungry of Europe had been so repeatedly helped, to raise a fund for the relief of the thirsty of America.

Harding also produced text pieces for the Eagle such as Hylanwatha.

At some point, Harding moved to Yonkers, New York. A 1924 Yonkers city directory listed Harding, a journalist, at 103 Merriam Avenue. The 1925 New York state census had the address as 107 Merriam Avenue.

Harding’s editorial cartoon “Toppling the Idol”, published September 19, 1926 in the Eagle, won the Pulitzer Prize for best cartoon. The award was reported in the Eagle on May 3, 1927. Harding wrote about winning the award on May 8.

Harding was the first cartoonist to win the Pulitzer Prize for best cartoon two years in a row. His achievement was covered in the Eagle on May 8, 1928.

The Brooklyn Standard Union, January 21, 1929, published an advertisement announcing Harding joining the staff of the New York Journal.

The 1930 census said Harding was in Brooklyn at 40 Verandah Place. Two newspaper printers also roomed there. Harding has not yet been found in the 1940 census.

Harding passed away December 30, 1944, at the Veterans Administration Hospital in the Bronx, New York. His death was reported in the Eagle on January 2, 1945. Harding was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

—Alex Jay

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