Nathan Leo “Nate” Collier was born in Orangeville, Illinois on November 14, 1883. His full name and birth date were recorded on his World War I and II draft cards. A 1923 marriage certificate identified his birthplace.
The 1900 U.S. Federal Census recorded Collier as the only child of James, a painter, and Laura (Bobb). They were residents of Pearl City, Loran Township, Stephenson County, Illinois.
The Illinois History: A Magazine for Young People, April 1975, published Perry Eden’s profile of Collier. Below is an excerpt about Collier’s early life.
Because of my vivid interest in cartooning and comic books, I learned that one of the best cartoonists was from my hometown of Pearl City. Nate Collier was born on November 14, 1883, in a log cabin one mile north of Orangeville. In 1888 he moved with his father, James Riley, and his mother, Laura, to Pearl City (then called Yellow Creek, and changed to Pearl City in 1893). His father then operated a photography gallery which was located in a tent.
Collier is remembered by his friends in Pearl City, not for his little doodlings which appeared literally everywhere, but for his ability as a pitcher on the Pearl City baseball team, the Invincible Browns.
Before freelance drawing took him to New York he attended art schools …
The Rockford Daily Register-Gazette (Illinois), April 16, 1904, noted Collier’s early art training, “Pearl City, Ill., April 9.— … Nate Collier went to Indianapolis to attend an art school.”
In Art & Life, November 1924, Collier detailed his path to becoming a cartoonist.
Two years and a half after I started my first correspondence course in drawing I sold my first comic to the American Boy for $6. That was in 1906. I had taken a correspondence course from the National School of Illustrating, Indianapolis, Ind., and spent a few months at their resident school in 1904, also studied with J. H. Smith, contributor to Judge from 1904 to 1907. Took correspondence course in cartooning from Acme School of Drawing, Kalamazoo, Mich., 1905. Attended their resident school a few months at the start of 1906. In May same year obtained my first position as cartoonist on the Kokomo, Ind. Dispatch. In 1907 I sold a dozen or so drawings to Judge’s amateur contest and also freelanced comics to The Chicago Daily News. In 1908 took Lockwood’s cartoon course and worked in a country print shop at $6 a week to get enough money to attend his resident school. Went to Kalamazoo in January 1909 and remained a couple of months, continued selling comics to Chicago News, and sold my first drawing for the regular pages of Judge.
Later in the same year went to Sandusky, Ohio, as cartoonist on the Star Journal of that place, remained there until November 1910.
Sold my first drawing to Life in 1910.
Caralee Aschenbrenner profiled Charles Sughroe and wrote
His [Sughroe’s] talent for drawing and painting culminated in going to Chicago to the Art Institute to school hoping to pursue an art career.
He had become acquainted with two other local artists-illustrators, Nate Collier, Pearl City and [J.] Howard Smith of Pleasant Valley, his dad’s home when young. They had all three graduated from the Art Institute so felt a kinship for that reason, too.
The other two both became noted in their field. Collier in cartooning and Smith for his excellence in portraiture, the western genre and outdoor life seen then in men’s sport magazine. …
Collier did not mention graduating from the Art Institute.
In Illinois History, Eden wrote “Collier married Alma Snetcher, a local Pearl City woman, on November 25, 1909. She died in Leonia, New Jersey, in 1922 …”
According to the 1910 census, newspaper cartoonist Collier and his wife, Alma, lived in Sandusky, Ohio at 730 Perry Street.
In Art & Life Collier elaborated further on his career.
From 1911 to March 1913 I conducted a humorous column, made sport cartoons, and illustrated the Sunday Magazine Section for the Duluth, Minn., News Tribune; also freelanced work to Hope, Coming Nation, News Times, and sold a few to Life and Judge.
In 1913, ’14, ’15 to May 1916, Cartoonist, Chicago Daily Journal and freelanced a lot of comics to The Motion Picture magazine.
From October 1916 to October 1917 animated ads for a Cleveland Ohio Film concern.
Came to New York in October 1917.
1917, 1918 and 1919 Animated Katzenjammer Kids, Happy Hooligan and Jerry on the Job. Had comic strip put out by International Syndicate of Baltimore, Md., called “Our Own Movies” and sold a number of drawings to Life. …
… From 1909 to 1919 I submitted over four hundred drawings to Life out of which I sold 14, and I have made enough comic strips, that never landed to keep a syndicate going a year or more.
The Sandusky Star-Journal (Ohio), November 8, 1919, promoted Collier’s new comic, Our Own Movies with this article.
OHO! Look who’s here!
Our old friend, Nate Collier, cartoonist.
Ten years ago, Nate was the Star-Journal’s special cartoonist, and many readers will remember his pictures which created a sensation at the time, and were decisive factors in political campaigns and in bringing about such needed projects as the elimination of grade crossings.
Well, Nate’s coming back to the Star-Journal.
Since he left Sandusky, he has specialized in comics and, with his frequent contribution to Life, Judge and other periodicals, his animated movie pictures, etc., has become famous. Now he is putting out a new feature, “Our Own Movies,” and the Star-Journal has secured it.
So Nate will make his initial bow as a “come back” in Monday’s Star-Journal, one of the new features of the Star-Journal’s big DAILY COMIC PAGE.
Nate’s drawings are funny. They caricature the movies in fine shape and every one will get a laugh.
What is more, Nate plans to give the pictures a Sandusky touch. He asks for suggestions from readers.
“If you know anything funny about yourself or your neighbors, send it in,” he writes. He’ll endeavor to use his “camera” on such incidents and turn out “movies” that will have the whole city screaming with laughter.
When he was in Sandusky ten years ago, Collier was decidedly modest and shy. He was finally persuaded to write his own life sketch and draw a picture of himself as an introduction to the public. He told how he cut corn, painted, played baseball and a few other things, and finally studied art in the hope that he might become as famous a Joe Cannon. He said his teeth were curly, his hair pink, etc., etc. He might have said that he was almost as thin as the little scarecrow which decorated all of his pictures.
Today, Nate is fleshier—looks more prosperous, and all that—but he has the same broad grin and happy smile. He simply can’t see the hole in the doughnut. He’s optimism and fun, bubbling over all the time, and he imparts this feeling to those who look at his pictures.
The Star-Journal is mighty glad to have Nate Collier back on the job and believes its thousands of readers will rejoice.
There’s a big feast of fun, a whole riot, coming.
On September 12, 1918, Collier, a Pearl City resident, signed his World War I draft card. His occupation was editor. He was described as medium height, slender build with gray hair and dark brown eyes.
The 1920 census reorder Collier, Alma, seven-year-old Theron and six-year-old Thurlo in Manhattan, New York City at 500 Isham Street.
In Art & Life, Collier said
1920, Made “Our Own Movies,” was cartoonist for The Associated Newspapers. Freelanced to Life, Judge, Harpers, Brownings Magazine, Cartoons magazine, etc.
1921. Freelanced to Judge and Fun Book and animated Mutt and Jeff.
1922. Freelanced to Judge and animated Aesop’s Fables, and with Hearst Syndicate a while.
Since April 1923 have had my studio at home and am at present doing work for Saturday Evening Post, Life, Judge, Harper’s, McNaught Syndicate, The World Color Printing Co., of St. Louis, and others. …
… Most students think that they are ready to hold a position long before they are. It takes years of study, persistence and a never-give-up attitude; and above all a love of the work for the work itself to overcome all obstacles and discouragements.
After Alma’s passing in 1922, Collier married Nettie Florence Crane in 1923. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 16, 1923, reported the upcoming wedding.
Proposal Scene Is Wedding Spot
Artists to Marry in Grove Above Chagrin River Nears Gates Mill.
Here’s a story of two artists and a romance of perfect artistic temperament.
Miss Florence Crane, 955 Lakeview road N.E., head of the department of English at Spencerian school, and Nathan L. Collier, professional artist, grew up in the same Illinois county 120 miles west of Chicago. The romance began when they were both children, whether they recognized it or not.
Both wanted careers: Mr. Collier, whose fingers itched for the crayon of a cartoonist, and Miss Crane, who wanted to teach. They grew up and into their careers almost identically. Mt. Collier got to Chicago and into newspaper work, Miss Crane went off to Carthage college and then to Radcliff college for special study. Months in and months out they corresponded happily about their “life work;” occasionally they met to talk over the world and its ways—yes, finally—
Last October Mr. Collier, who jumped from the cartoonist’s berth on the Chicago Journal to feature syndicate cartooning in New York—he contributes regularly to Life, Judge and other periodicals, and incidentally draws the funny pictures for Will Rogers’ Sunday letter to The Plain Dealer—came on to Cleveland, very serious. The intent of his mission, during which he called on his old friend Florence, became somewhat more vague as he began a systematic search of Cuyahoga county for beauty spots.
Mr. Collier visited them all; the ones in the city guide books, the ones he was told of by friends. One day he announced to Miss Crane that he had found it—the prettiest spot in northern Ohio. They drove to a grove on the west bak of the Chagrin river, not quite half way between Gates Mill and Chagrin Falls.
Chooses His Setting.
You may remember the spot—it has some fame for its beauty. Out of a thick wooded west bank has been hollowed a little clearing; across is the sheer cliff of the east bank, solid rock; the water is like a mirror, and one tree on the west bank dips out above the stream.
When they got there, Mr. Collier, still very serious, said, in effect, that he had ben waiting to propose marriage to her; that he didn’t want to risk a refusal; and that therefore he had hunted high and low for a spot whose beauty would be too alluring for her to refuse him.
And did she? Well, Miss Crane, after admitting yesterday that all this was true, added that the wedding Sept. 8 is going to take place in this same grove. In other words, she said, she couldn’t let any soul out-art her soul—and it is one superb spot for a wedding, she remarked. There’s a winding path form the groom and the best man; another, emerging from the sylvan grove, for the bride and her maids, while the minister stands by the tree that dips over the placid Chagrin.
Miss Crane for two years has been the chief advisor to a good many students at Spencerian, something in the capacity of a dean of the women students.
The Freeport Journal-Standard (Illinois), September 25, 1923, said the wedding guests included Mr. and Mrs. G.H. Lockwood of the Lockwood Art School.
In the 1925 New York state census, the Colliers were living in Queens, New York City, at 24 Acorn Street. Collier’s occupation was recorded as illustrator and artist.
On September 11, 1926, Collier and Florence returned from their European trip. Aboard the S.S. Berlin they departed Bremen, Germany on September 2. Their address on the passenger list was 24 Acorn Street, Elmhurst, Long Island, New York.
According to the 1930 census, the Colliers were Leonia, New Jersey residents at 140 Paulin Boulevard.
The Lebanon Daily News (Pennsylvania), May 3, 1935, published Charles B. Driscoll’s interview with Collier.
Today’s victim is Nate Collier, famous illustrator, cartoonist, artist. Let me show him to you. He is somewhere between 40 and 50, and that’s an age at which I hesitate to inquire bluntly, “How old are you?” However, he has very little gray in his ample head of hair. The hair is fine, brown, combed straight back, but somewhat unruly. Eyes blue, eyebrows rather heavy. He wears pince-nez with gold chain over right ear. He is five feet six in height, weighs 127 pounds and you’d say at once that his ancestry was Scotch, since he has the Scottish complexion, with a tendency to freckle.
Where do you live and why, Mr. Collier?
In Leonia, New Jersey, because I consider it the most beautiful town in the New York metropolitan area.
Well, isn’t there any other place in the world besides the New York metropolitan area?
Why, I suppose there must be, but I don’t want to live in them. As a matter of fact I lived in Duluth two years, and I didn’t like it a bit.
Where were you born, and how did you happen to leave there?
On a farm near Orangeville, Ill., but I moved to Pearl City, Ill., when I was four years old. My parents are both buried out there. I left there as a young man, to go to work on the Kokomo, Ind., Dispatch as cartoonist. I worked with chalk plate there, and later went to a cartooning job on the Sandusky Star-Journal. I was on the Chicago Journal four years, and then I came to New York.
What do you think of the present state of the country, and do you think we’ll come out of the depression?
I know we’ll come out of the depression but it’ll be in spite of Roosevelt and his schemes.
What, then, will bring us out?
The spirit and hardihood of the American people? Even Roosevelt can’t keep them down.
You’re a bit hard on Mr. Roosevelt, aren’t you?
Well, I think he is the greatest demagogue in history and has a lust for power that is dangerous in a democracy.
We’ll change the subject. What is the most beautiful spot in the world?
The River Avon, viewed by moonlight from an English garden.
Do you enjoy sports?
Yes, I go in for baseball, boondoggling, steam shovel watching and golf.
What do you consider the greatest good in life?
Absolute faith in your own inborn, indomitable spiritual power.
The Evansville Courier (Indiana), May 26, 1937, reported Collier’s visit.
Mr. and Mrs. Nate Collier of Leonia, New Jersey, are guests of Mr. and Mrs. Karl Kae Knecht, 31 Adams avenue. Mr. Collier is a well-known artist who draws cartoons, comics and illustration for such magazines as The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, New Yorker, and Judge, as well as for newspaper syndicates. They have been touring the southeast and now are enroute for a visit at their former homes in Illinois, and on farther west before returning to New Jersey.
Four days later the Courier said
Nate Collier of Leonia, N.J., well-known free-lance artist, visited here with Karl Kae Knecht, Courier cartoonist, during the week. They are boyhood friends, having gone to Freeport (Ill.) high school together, and having begun their cartooning together.
Cartoonist for the late Chicago Journal, Collier now does comics for the humorous publications here and in Europe, and prepares syndicated material, including a full-page color comic for Sunday. Through McNaught, he was the illustrator of the late Will Rogers’ Sunday articles.
With Mrs. Collier, he is on a motor trip through the country.
In 1940 freelance cartoonist Collier and Florence were empty-nesters in Leonia at 100 Knapp Terrace. The same address was on Collier’s World War II draft draft card which he signed on April 25, 1942.
Collier was profiled in the Freeport Journal-Standard, (Illinois), July 7, 1960.
Nate Collier, Nationally Know Cartoonist, Keeps Close Tab on Hometown of Pearl City
Pearl City — A nationally known cartoonist, humorist and poet who grew up in Pearl City has kept in constant touch with the Stephenson County community which he left over 40 years ago.
Nate Collier, whose cartoons have appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, the old Judge magazine, Colliers and the London Opinion, to name just a few, still writes an occasional article of reminiscence for the local weekly newspaper, the Pearl City News.
In fact the 76-year-old Collier is known as the “New York correspondent” of the paper.
Returned in 1918
The amiable cartoonist returned to Pearl City from New York for six months in 1918 to edit the local newspaper while its editor, O. Glenn Hooker, served in the Army during World War I.
The semi-retired Collier is now living in Riverdale, N.J., a small community in the northern part of the state. His home is “only a stone’s throw from George Washington Bridge” which spans the Hudson River, joining New York and New Jersey.
Collier has been a free lance cartoonist and writer of humorous articles and poetry for the past 37 years. He does all his work at home now, mailing material to newspapers and magazines throughout the country. He resigned from his last regular job in 1952 with the National Assn. of Manufacturers for whom he worked 16 years.
Worked With Will Rogers
Some of the accomplishments of which he is most proud include the illustrations he did for the late Will Rogers. Collier illustrated a number of Roger’s newspaper articles and his book “The Illiterate Digest.” Collier later presented a copy of the book to the Pearl City library.
The easy-going Collier also played a role in the election of William Hale Thompson as mayor of Chicago in 1915 with his political cartoons. At the time, Collier was employed as an editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Evening Journal. Mayor Thompson thought so highly of Collier’s cartoons that he had three of his originals framed on the wall of his office.
Nate Collier was connected with movie cartoons at one time. He drew the animated figures for the Katzenjammer Kids, Happy Hooligan, Krazy Kat, Silk Hat Harry and Mutt and Jeff movie cartoons for four years.
Born Near Orangeville
Although he is far removed from the Midwest today, Collier still reminisces about his boyhood days in the Pearl City area. Born in 1883 in a log cabin one mile north of Orangeville, Collier says of the event, “I heard that Abe Lincoln was born in a log cabin so I did my best to come as close to that as possible.”
He moved to Pearl City with his parents in 1888, although the community at that Lime was known as “Yellow Creek.” His father, James Riley Collier, operated a photographic gallery in a tent here and also worked as a cooper.
Collier says he “vividly remembers the time he and several other local residents found pearls in Yellow Creek in the early 1890s. In 1893 the village was incorporated and its name was changed to Pearl City because of the pearls discovered in the stream,”
The versatile Collier also has an avid interest in athletics. He pitched for the Pearl City “Browns” in the early 1900s and claims he could pitch with both his right and left hands. He said he will never forget one summer afternoon in which he was a “victim of circumstances.”
Collier pitched a one-hitter that day against the Stockton ball team but the opposing hurler, who had the unusual name of “Bunker” Hill, threw a no-hitter—beating the Pearl City club 1 to 0.
Then in 1904, at the age of 21, he began his artistic career, attending art schools in Indianapolis, Ind., and Kalamazoo, Mich. The following year, he had his first cartoon published, appearing in the old Freeport Standard. Collier joined the staff of the Kokomo, Ind., Dispatch as a cartoonist in 1906 and later ran an illustrated humorous column in the Duluth, Minn., News Tribune which he called “A Little Dope On The Side.”
Worked On Many Newspapers
He was then employed by a number of Midwestern and Eastern newspapers during a career which took him to Chicago, Cleveland and Sandusky, Ohio, New York City, and several other cities.
Artistic ability seems to run in his family as Collier’s two sons, Theron and Thurlo, have both followed in their father’s footsteps. They also live in New Jersey and work at an art studio in New York City. The younger Colliers draw animated figures for television commercials.
Collier’s main hobby now is golf, a sport he still plays with great enthusiasm. “My biggest thrill in the game came in 1954 when I carded a hole-in-one on a 205-yard hole on a New York golf course,” he said.
The Nate Collier of 1960, as witty a personality as ever, says “I want my friends back in Pearl City to know that I don’t feel any older today than I did at 50 and I’m still full of ‘wim,’ ‘Wigor’ and ‘witality.’ ”
Collier passed away February 16, 1961, in River Vale, New Jersey. The Freeport Journal Standard, February 27, 1961, published an obituary.
Nate Collier, Well-Known Cartoonist, Humorist, Dies
Pearl City—Word has been received here of the death of Nate Collier, River Vale, N.J., a nationally known cartoonist, humorist and poet.
Collier, a native of Orangeville, spent much of his youth in Pearl City. He left the Stephenson County community permanently 42 years ago but kept in close touch with his hometown in the ensuing years. He contributed humorous articles to the Pearl City News right up until his death.
He died Feb. 16, in New Jersey at the age of 77.
Collier’s cartoons have appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, Life, the old Judge magazine, Colliers and the London Opinion, to name just a few of the publications.
Drew Movie Cartoons
At one time he drew animated figures for several movie cartoons, including the Katzenjammer Kids, Happy Hooligan, Krazy Kat, Silk Hat Harry and Mutt and Jeff. However he termed the animating profession “tedious” and turned to other fields after four years in business.
Collier had his first cartoon published in the old Freeport Standard in 1905. His long and varied newspaper career then found him employed on such newspapers as the Duluth, Minn., News Tribune, the Chicago Journal, Kokomo, Ind., Dispatch, Sandusky, Ohio, Star Journal and he once drew several cartoons for Hearst newspapers.
Collier also worked with Will Rogers for a time. He illustrated Roger’s book, “Illiterate Digest,” and a number of Roger’s newspaper articles. Collier told friends he was especially proud of his illustrations for the American humorist.
For the past 38 years, Collier had been a free lance cartoonist and writer of humorous articles and poetry. He did most of his work at his home in New Jersey.
In recent years, he drew editorial cartoons exclusively. His formula for success as an editorial cartoonist was to “Draw one thing and call it something else.”
He was born Nov. 14, 1883, in a log cabin near Orangeville, the son of James Riley and Laura Bobb Collier. Of the event Collier later commented, “I heard that Abe Lincoln was born in a log cabin so i did my best to come as close to that as possible.”
He and his parents moved to Pearl City in 1888 where his father worked as a cooper and a photographer. He attended art schools in Indianapolis, Ind., and Kalamazoo, Mich., before launching his cartoonist’s career in 1905.
Collier married Elma Snetcher of Pearl City who died in 1922. He later married Florence Crane of Ohio. She also preceded him in death.
Surviving are two sons, Theron of Harrington Park, N.J., and Thurlo of River Vale, N.J. and one grandson.
Service and burial were held in New Jersey.
Further Reading and Viewing
Nate Collier on Cartooning Courses
Nate Collier on Cartooning
One To Make You Drool
Biographical Sketches of Cartoonists & Illustrators in the Swann Collection of the Library of Congress
Nate Collier’s Daily Panel