William Sanders Fanning was born in Detroit, Michigan, on May 10, 1887, according to his World War I and II draft cards which had his full name.
In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Fanning was the second of three sons born to Charles, a telegraph operator, and Carrie, a Canadian emigrant. The family resided in Detroit at 1108 Trumbull Avenue.
In 1907 Fanning was enrolled in the college of engineering at the University of Michigan. He graduated in 1913.
Fanning continued to live with his parents, at the same address, as recorded in the 1910 census. His occupation was architect. 1913 and 1915 Detroit city directories said Fanning was a draftsman. Fanning’s occupation was artist in the 1916 directory.
Fanning signed his World War I draft card on June 5, 1917. His address continued to be 1108 Trumbull Avenue in Detroit. He was an artist with the Detroit News Association. As a conscientious objector Fanning claimed an exemption from the draft. He was described as medium build, short height with light brown eyes and black hair.
Newspaper artist Fanning lived with with his parents, at the same address, in the 1920 census.
In 1923 Fanning visited Europe. The passenger list said he returned August 1, from Le Havre, France to the port of New York. His home address was 5700 Trumbull Avenue in Detroit. Fanning’s second foreign trip was to Panama in 1926. Fanning returned to Europe in late 1927. He came back to the U.S. on January 29, 1928. According to the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, Fanning began his architecture studies in the U.S., and “completed them in Paris in the studio of Othon Friesz. He was a member of the Detroit Society of Independent Artists.”
The 1930 census said Fanning was an architect who resided at 5470 Trumbull Avenue in Detroit. His wife was Zina, a Polish emigrant. Fanning was 40 years old when he married her. The 1930 city directory identified Fanning’s employer as Albert Kahn Inc.
At some point, Fanning returned to newspaper work. The 1935 city directory listed Fanning as a Detroit Free Press artist who lived at 9102 Manor Avenue. Fanning’s occupation and address were unchanged in the 1940 census. and on his World War II draft card, which he signed on April 27, 1942.
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Fanning, Frank Williams and Max Rasmussen were the artists on Edward Geller’s The Story of an Ambitious Man Who Made Jobs for Thousands Through Free Enterprise which began December 7, 1947. The strip was published and syndicated by the Free Press.