The Definitive Dwiggins no. 92—Dwig

W.A. Dwiggins is familiarly known today as WAD, but occasionally in the past he was referred to by colleagues as Dwig. This nickname can be confusing since it was the professional name of his first cousin Clare V. Dwiggins (1874–1958), an illustrator and cartoonist. [1]

A young Clare Victor Dwiggins (n.d.). Courtesy Special Collections, Boston Public Library.

A young Clare Victor Dwiggins (n.d.). Courtesy Special Collections, Boston Public Library.

"The cartoonist" Clare V. Dwiggins.

“The cartoonist.” From School Days by Clare Victor Dwiggins (New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1919).

Clarence Victor Dwiggins was born June 16, 1874 in Wilmington, Ohio to Charles B. and Mary [Shepherd] Dwiggins. [2] His father, an attorney, was the older brother of WAD’s father, Moses Dwiggins. He had two younger siblings, Claudia (b. 1877), and Vern (b. 1879). He married Elizabeth (Betsey) Lindsay in either 1899 or 1900. [3]

Dwig began his career as a cartoonist with the St. Louis Dispatch in 1893 before moving on to work for The Philadelphia Inquirer around the turn of the century. For the Inquirer he created a series of Sunday “gag panels.” During his short time in Philadelphia, he illustrated a number of books for Henry T. Coates & Co.—particularly Crankisms (1901) and Brevities (1903), two collections of aphorisms by Lisle de Vaux Matthewman—which garnered him national attention. [4] After the success of the “crankism” books, he was in demand as an illustrator, not only of books with a humorous bent but also of poetry collections, adventure stories and other narratives. Dwig also wrote or compiled a few books. [5] Among this slew of books, Only a Grain of Sand by Charles M. Taylor, The Toast Book, and Wants stand out, the latter two by Dwig himself. Only a Grain of Sand has lovely illustrations fitted around text blocks on every page; Wants is a series of clipped want ads accompanied by amusing cartoon interpretations; and The Toast Book is notable for being skull-shaped.

From Crankisms by Lisle de Vaux Matthewman with illustrations by Clare Victor Dwiggins (Philadelphia: H.T. Coates & Co., 1901).

Crankism No. 75. From Crankisms by Lisle de Vaux Matthewman; pictured by Clare Victor Dwiggins (Philadelphia: H.T. Coates & Co., 1901).

By 1905 Dwig had moved to New York. Over the course of the following decade, he contributed Sunday “gag panels” and strips—including “Ophelia’s Explanations,” “Schooldays,” and “Kidsburg”—to the The New York Evening Journal, the New York World, and the McClure Syndicate. “Schooldays,” full of wonderful Rube Goldberg-like contraptions worth, is worth checking out via [a membership is needed]. Dwig was also art editor for publisher M. Walter Dunne. A second Sunday strip called “School Days,” initially based on Mark Twain’s characters Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, chronicled growing up in the rural midwest in the 1870s and 1880s. Begun in 1918, the strip continued into the early 1930s. It was followed by one called “Golden Days.” [6]

Around 1912 Dwig moved to Plainfield, New Jersey where he lived through the 1920s. He also had a summer “camp” in the Adirondacks at Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. His address in the 1930 United States Census was nearby Johnstown. Dwig moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s and worked for the Disney studios as well as continuing to create comics for the newspapers. For The Los Angeles Times he wrote “Nipper” and “Bill’s Diary.” The latter was collected in book form as Bill’s Diary (Sauk City, Wisconsin: Stanton & Lee, 1945). Dwig died in North Hollywood October 26, 1958.

For decades Dwig was more famous than WAD. And in many quarters he still is.

1. Who’s Who in America vol. III 1951–1960. Clare and WAD, although first cousins, reputedly never met each other nor corresponded. “I feel sorry two first cousins should never know each when each have so much to give,” Willa E. Ballard told Burton Carnes. See undated letter from Willa E. Ballard to Burton [Carnes] in Folder 1, Box 25 (WAD 2001). The lack of contact between Dwig and WAD was most likely due to the fact that they both moved away from Clinton County while young: Dwig to Findlay, Ohio and WAD to Richmond, Indiana. See Bill’s Diary by Dwig [Clare V. Dwiggins] (Sauk City, Wisconsin: Stanton & Lee Publishers, 1945), pp. xiv.
2. Clarence V. Dwiggins’ birth is listed in the Ohio Births and Christenings, 1774–1973 database but without a corroborating document image. The Wilmington Journal 31 May 1939, p. 5 says he was born in Dover Springs. He may have been named after his aunt Clara, the wife of Robert J. Dwiggins.
3. There is no record of the marriage online. However, Alex Jay has provided me with some ancillary information that indicates it took place in either 1899 (Who’s Who in America, vol. 4 by John William Leonard and Albert Nelson Marquis [New York: A.N. Marquis, 1906], p. 520; and Guide to the Clare Victor Dwiggins Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries) or 1900 (United States Census for 1900). I suspect 1899 is the correct year. Betsey (Bessie in early records) was born in 1876 in Ironton, Missouri. They had three children:  Jack, who died of ptomaine poisoning in 1913; Phoebe (b. 1910, named after WAD’s grandmother); and Donald (b. 1913). The various dates and locations of birth for all but Jack can be found in the New York Passenger Lists 1820–1957 database for the arrival date of 27 January 1926 of the Leviathan.
4. Others included Molly and the Unwiseman by John Kendrick Bangs (Philadelphia: Henry T. Coates & Co., 1902); Whimlets by S. Scott Stinson (Philadelphia: Henry T. Coates & Co., 1902), a book of “rhymed conceits;” and In Happy Hollow by Max Adeler [Charles Heber Clark] (Philadelphia: Henry T. Coates & Co., 1903).
5. Some of the titles that Dwiggins contributed illustrations to between 1900 and 1910 are: Toasts by William Rhoads (Philadelphia: The Penn Publishing Company, 1904); Rubaiyat of the Egg by Clare Victor Dwiggins (Philadelpha: J.C. Winston, 1905); The Toast Book by Clare Victor Dwiggins (Philadelphia: J.C. Winston, 1905);  Only a Grain of Sand by Charles M. Taylor (Philadelpha: J.C. Winston, 1905); The Lost Expedition by W. Bert Foster (Philadelphia: The Penn Publishing Company, 1905);  Knick Knacks by Herbert Leonard Coggins (Philadelphia: The Penn Publishing Company, 1906); Wants by Clare V. Dwiggins (Philadelpha: J.C. Winston, 1909); and Widow’s Wisdom by Ninon Traver Fleckenstein (New York and Boston: H.M. Caldwell Co, 1909).
6. School Days (New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1919), an early collection of the strips gives a sense of what Clinton County, Ohio was like when Dwig was growing up. Unfortunately, it does not provide much insight into WAD’s childhood environment since he lived in cities rather than the countryside.
7. Dwig is listed in the Plainfield, New Jersey city directories from 1912 to 1925, but he is also listed at various locations in Fulton County (Green Lake, Johnstown and Caroga Lake) between 1917 and 1930. The camp was known as the “Dwig-wam.” Dwig is first listed as living in Los Angeles in 1936 voter registration records. By 1953 he was living in Pasadena according to city directories.

"Scrapbookin'." From School Days by Clare Victor Dwiggins (New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1919).

“Scrapbookin’.” From School Days by Clare Victor Dwiggins (New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1919).