Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Norman Anthony


Norman Hume Anthony was born on May 11, 1889, in Buffalo, New York, according to his World War I and II draft cards. Hume was Anthony’s mother’s maiden name.

In the 1892 New York State Census, Anthony was the youngest of three children born to Edward and “Lettie”. Anthony’s father was a grain merchant. They lived in Buffalo.

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census recorded the family of five and a servant in Buffalo at 111 Morris Avenue. Anthony’s mother’s name was Electa. The same address was in the 1905 state census which included Anthony’s maternal grandmother, Margret Hume.

Anthony attended Lafayette High School. The Buffalo Courier-Express, April 12, 1931, profiled Miss Elizabeth Weiffenbach, artist and head of the art department at Lafayette. Anthony was a cartoonist on the school paper, The Oracle. The Courier-Express, March 21, 1926, profiled Anthony who said, “I went to Lafayette high school, and had athletic ambitions there on the track….Guy Hoff, the artist, was in my class, and we studied art together under Urquhart Wilcox at the school of the Albright art gallery.”

According to the 1910 census, Anthony lived with his parents in Buffalo at 103 Highland Avenue. His father worked at a fire insurance company.

The Courier-Express, August 29, 1911, noted Anthony’s marriage.

In the presence of a few intimate friends, the wedding to Miss Maragret E. Hofheins, daughter of Mr. and Mrs Edward a Hofheins of Woodward avenue, and Norman H. Anthony was quietly solemnized on Friday afternoon in St. Paul’s church, the Rev. Charles Broughton officiating. Miss Elizabeth J. Meldrum was the maid of honor and Harold C. Coppins was the best man. Mr. Anthony is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward L. Anthony.

At some point the couple moved to New York City. The 1915 state census said cartoonist Anthony and his wife resided in Manhattan at 870 West 180th Street. The family tree said Anthony studied at the New York Art Students’ League.

On June 5, 1917, Anthony signed his World War I draft card and said his address was 317 West 95 Street in Manhattan. The self-employed artist claimed an exemption because of a “floating kidney” condition and his wife’s dependence. His description was medium height, slender build with blue eyes and blonde hair.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Anthony produced Private Dobb’s Diary from March 4 to December 6, 1918 and it appeared sporadically until early January 1919. The series was distributed by King Features Syndicate.

Anthony’s address was unchanged in the 1920 census which counted him, his wife and daughter Edith. Anthony was a self-employed artist.

Private Dobb’s Diary from March 4 to December 6, 1918 and it appeared sporadically until early January 1919. The series was distributed by King Features Syndicate.

Anthony’s address was unchanged in the 1920 census which counted him, his wife and daughter Edith. Anthony was a self-employed artist.

“The Gold Brick Twins” by Irvin S. Cobb in the Brooklyn Standard Union, 4/24/1921

In 1922, Anthony joined the staff of Judge magazine. The Courier-Express’s profile of Anthony said

Anthony became editor of the magazine [Judge] in 1923. He describes his task as the “grim job of being funny.” His duties consist in reading something like 300 or 400 jokes every day, and selecting from this vast mass of material the jokes that are both new and interesting. Every other week a special number is published, in which all the jokes relate to the special subject.

…He must cast around for a subject, think up funny cracks about it, and direct the efforts of his large staff of artists and jokesmiths in working up these ideas into printable form. He has arranged humor into a system. He passes out the subject for the coming special issue on one day. On another, the artists submit their ideas and sketches; on a third day, the jokers appear with their jokes, and Anthony selects the best ones for further treatment and eventual publication.

Anthony left Judge in 1928 to become editor of Life until 1930 when the Depression took its toll on the magazine.

Magazine editor Anthony, Margaret, Edith and eight-year-old son, Norman Jr., resided at 58 Highbrook Avenue in North Pelham, New York, as recorded in the 1930 census.

Another Anthony profile appeared in the June 26, 1932 edition of the Courier-Express. Anthony gave up writing fiction to become editor of another humor magazine.

Norman Anthony admits he doesn’t know how Ballyhoo came into existance [sic] but it was something like this: George T. Delacorte, Jr., publisher and owner of Film Fun, offered him $600 to prepare the first issue of a funny magazine, any funny magazine, if he could do it at an additional cost of another $500. A friend of his told us that at this point Norman Anthony promptly sat down and wrote and illustrated the entire first issue of Ballyhoo on a window-sill. He says he did do it all, but not on a window-sill. Very likely it was on the spur of the moment.

Anyway, the publisher was delighted, and made him a partner, though he did object at first to a magazine burlesquing ads. Objection over-ruled. One hundred and fifty thousand copies of that first issue were sold, and the circulation of Ballyhoo has since reached and exceeded 1,000,000 copies.

Ballyhoo was published from August 1931 to February 1939. The New York Times, January 22, 1968, said, in an obituary, Anthony went on to create Hellzapoppin’, Der Gag Bag and The Funny Bone.

Anthony wrote the book for Ballyhoo of 1932 and was one of four directors including Russell Patterson.

Anthony arrived in the port of New York on November 8, 1932. He visited Europe and departed Le Havre, France six days earlier.

Anthony’s The Drunk’s Blue Book was illustrated by Otto Soglow and published by the Frederick A. Stokes Company in 1933.

Anthony’s mother-in-law, Christine Hofheins was part of the household in the 1940 census. The apartment building was in Pelham, New York at 127 Fifth Avenue. Anthony continued as a magazine editor and his daughter was a magazine publicity clerk.

During World War II, Anthony resided in Manhattan at 18 Gramercy Park. His business was the Anthony Publishing Company, 11 West 42nd Street, New York, New York. When Anthony signed the card, on April 27, 1942, he was five feet ten inches, 140 pounds, with blue eyes and gray hair.

The book for Bright Lights of 1944 was by Anthony and Charles Sherman. The Broadway musical had four performances.

Duell, Sloan and Pearce published two books by Anthony. First, in 1946, was How to Grow Old Disgracefully followed by What to Do Till the Psychiatrist Comes in 1947.

Anthony visited the Bahamas in April 1947. He returned to New York on the 24th. His address on the passenger list was 17 Gramercy Park, New York City.

Anthony passed away January 12, 1968. The Times’ obituary said Anthony died at Hudson State Hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York. Death was attributed to emphysema with complications that led to a heart attack. Anthony was living with his son at Travis Corners Road, Garrison.

—Alex Jay

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