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John Gruelle

the creator of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy

John Gruelle

John Barton Gruelle was born in Arcola, Illinois, in 1880, but grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. His father, Richard Buckner Gruelle, was a self-taught portrait and landscape painter, musician, and writer, so it was of little surprise that John would himself become an artist. In 1894, while on a train-hopping adventure to Cleveland, Ohio, Gruelle did a quick caricature of a beat cop. According to the story, the cop was so impressed with the drawing that he offered to stake the young man while he sought cartooning work at a local newspaper. Although Gruelle chose not to take the cop up on his offer, he had by now decided to pursue a career in cartoon art.

Gruelle's cartoon career began in 1901, when he got a job creating rough "chalk-plate" portraits for the Indianapolis tabloid paper People. He moved on to the more respectable Indianapolis Sun in 1902, while also doing work for the Detroit-based Peninsular Engraving Company. In 1903 he was hired as first assistant illustrator for the Indianapolis Star, at which he would spend the next three years. In 1905 he took a freelancing job with the World Color Printing Company of St. Louis to produce four-color Sunday comics. He continued with this job after relocating to Cleveland in 1906 and taking a job with the Cleveland Press and the Newspaper Press Association. By 1908 he was producing newspaper features for children. After winning a national comic drawing contest in 1911, Gruelle went to work for The New York World Herald, where he created the Sunday comic "Mr. Twee Deedle." His cartoons, illustrations, and illustrated stories soon began appearing regularly in such national publications as John Martin's Book, McCall's, and The Ladies' World. He received his first book commission in 1914, to do a set of illustrations for a volume of Grimm's Fairy Tales.

Raggedy Ann

According to the most commonly told story, the popular Raggedy Ann doll began as a gift from Gruelle to his daughter Marcella, who was suffering from the effects of the smallpox vaccine. The story says he found an old rag doll in the attic, had his mother (or grandmother) give her a new face and a quick repair job, named her Raggedy Ann, and told Marcella stories about Raggedy Ann's various adventures.

Marcella passed away in 1915, but Gruelle refused to let her passing end his own life. To keep his, and Marcella's, spirit alive he began putting the Raggedy Ann stories into drawn and written form. He then applied for a design patent for a slue-footed doll called Raggedy Ann, and subsequently secured a registered trademark for the name.

The first volume of Raggedy Ann Stories was published by Chicago-based P.F. Volland Company in 1918. Volland also sold Raggedy Ann dolls to the book's readers, and Raggedy Ann soon became a national sensation. Raggedy Andy premiered in 1920, and quickly gained his own followers. The comic strip "Adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy" began appearing in serial form in 1922; by 1934 the illustrated "Raggedy Ann" newspaper proverbs were in national syndication.

Despite the success of his Raggedy Ann and Andy series, Gruelle never gave up his other magazine and newspaper work. His full-color Sunday comic "Brutus" debuted in 1929, and was a mainstay of many national newspapers until Gruelle's death, in 1938.

an illustration from Gruelle's Raggedy Ann and Andy stories

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This page was last updated on 10/22/2017.