Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Will Nies

William John Nies was born on December 20, 1892, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, according to his World War II draft card which had his full name. He was baptized on January 15, 1893 at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church of South Hills, in Pittsburgh, as recorded at His name was entered as “Johannes Wilhelm Nies”. His parents were Johannes Nies and Marie Nobs.

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census said Nies was the youngest of two sons. The family of four resided in Mt. Oliver, Pennsylvania, on Penn Avenue. Nies’s German-born father was employed at a brickyard, and his Swiss mother was a housewife.

Seventeen-year-old Nies was unemployed in the 1910 census. He lived with his parents and brother at 148 Penn Avenue in Mt. Oliver.

Information about Nies’s art training has not been found.

The 1912 Pittsburgh city directory listed Nies as an illustrator at Wood and Oliver Avenue.

The Newspaper Feature Service produced a long-running series of romantic cartoons, by several artists, beginning in 1913. Nies began contributing to the series on July 20, 1915.

On May 29, 1917, Nies signed his World War I draft card. His address was 148 Penn Avenue in Mt. Oliver. Nies said he was a newspaper artist employed by the Newspaper Feature Service. He was described as medium height and weight with gray eyes and dark brown hair.

The Fourth Estate, February 16, 1918, said “Will Nies, cartoonist for the Newspaper Feature Service Company, visited some of his friends in Pittsburg [sic] last week. Mr. Nies was formerly connected with the Chronicle Telegraph.”

Nies’s war service record, at, said he was in the Department of Engineers, Second Army Corps. His service began April 3, 1918 at Camp Lee, Virginia. On May 26, 1918 he departed for France. He was discharged March 4, 1919.

The 1920 census counted Nies, his parents and brother at the same address. Nies was a commercial artist in the advertising field.

According to the Pittsburgh Press, May 22, 1921, Nies and his brother, Henry, were among many veterans honored at Mt. Oliver’s Memorial Decoration Day.

The Pittsburgh Press, July 6, 1928, reported the passing of Nies’s father.

In the 1930 census, Nies’s mother was the head of the household that included Nies, her son, Henry, daughter-in-law, Bessie and granddaughter, Marion. Their address was 148 Penn Avenue in Mt. Oliver. Nies was a laborer doing odd jobs.

Before the 1940 census, Nies’s mother passed away. The 1940 census said Nies was the head of the household which include his brother and family. The address was the same. Nies was an advertising commercial artist whose highest level of education was the second year of high school.

Nies signed his World War II draft card on April 27, 1942. The self-employed commercial artist’s address was unchanged. He was described as five feet four inches, 168 pounds with gray eyes and hair.

Nies passed away in March 1968. The Social Security Death Index said his last residence was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, at Ancestry,com, said the probate date was March 2, 1968.

—Alex Jay

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