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April 27, 2013

Sanford Tousey: Anderson artist whose heart was in the Wild West

He was a successful magazine and book illustrator who became one of America’s most prolific children’s authors. He lived in New York and his heart was in the Wild West, but he got his start here in Anderson.

Sanford Tousey was born in Clay County, Kansas in the days when Kansas was still the Wild West. Tousey’s father, Moses, had come from Kentucky and was interested in horses, so the family owned several thoroughbreds and young Sanford rode whenever he could.

His great-grandfather owned a general store in a town not far from the Potowatami Indian Reservation and he would frequently take young Sanford with him when he visited the reservation to deliver items. It was a thrilling life for a young boy.

The Tousey family relocated to Anderson (probably because his mother had family here) when he was 8. Tousey’s father took a job as a bookkeeper for American Steel and Wire. Sanford began drawing early in his life. Not only did he develop his talent, but he used it in a very entrepreneurial way. He entered a drawing contest sponsored by St. Nicholas magazine and won a cash prize for his drawing in 1902.

The drawing caught the attention of Howard Pyle, a noted American illustrator who had just opened his own school of illustration art, who suggested that Sanford should be trained as an artist.

Graduated AHS in 1902

Tousey also took a job with the Anderson Herald. While still a high school student, he began supplying the Herald with cartoons for $7.50 a week. Tousey would draw the cartoons between classes. After school he would go to the Herald office for the difficult process of preparing the drawing for the printing press. The cartoon was transferred to a chalk-plate, which was a flat piece of steel coated with French chalk and silicate, and then baked. After the cartoon was engraved on the plate, the plate was clamped between two pieces of iron and a casting was made. The casting was then mounted on a block of wood, checked for errors and then a proof was made. This painstaking process took three to four hours.

Tousey’s cartoons were humorous takes on local politics and part of the job was getting up early the next day to read the local papers looking for his next subject. On the whole Tousey found the process interesting and it gave him valuable experience in learning to work under pressure and to tailor his drawings to someone else’s ideas and subjects.

Tousey graduated from Anderson High School in 1902 and used his savings to study at the Art Institute of Chicago. He returned to Anderson in early 1906 when his father died, but left soon afterward for Chicago.

He studied in Chicago and then in New York and Delaware at Howard Pyle’s school. By 1910 he was living in Manhattan and was beginning to sell illustrations to national magazines. His style was cartoonish and he became a regular contributor to JUDGE, which was an American humor magazine somewhat like the British magazine PUNCH.

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