Near Reedsburg in Sauk County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
Clare A. Briggs – Cartoonist
At an early age Briggs became a sketch artist, and in 1896 he accepted a job as an illustrator with the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. After working for several newspapers, he gained national recognition as a cartoonist with the New York Herald Tribune.
Briggs is best remembered for such titles as “The Days of Real Sport,” “When a Feller Needs a Friend,” and “Ain’t it a Grand and Glorious Feelin’?” His most popular cartoons depicted his boyhood in Reedsburg and made the town’s “Old Swimming Hole” and his childhood friend “Skinny” famous.
He died January 3, 1930, and according to his request his ashes were scattered over New York Harbor.
The keen observation and gentle humor of Briggs are evident in his cartoons and make his work just as enjoyable today as when it first appeared.
Erected 1978 by the Wisconsin Historical Society. (Marker Number 245.)
Topics and series. This historical marker Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #40 Ronald Reagan, and the Wisconsin Historical Society series lists. A significant historical month for this entry is January 1735.
Location. 43° 31.997′ N, 89° 55.68′ W. Marker is near Reedsburg, Wisconsin, in Sauk County. Marker is on State Highway 33 0.1 miles east of Wakerly Lane, on the left when traveling east. Marker is at the Reedsburg Area Historical Park, 2 miles east of Reedsburg. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Reedsburg WI 53959, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 5 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Van Hise Rock (approx. 3.1 miles away); a different marker also named Van Hise Rock (approx. 3.1 miles away); Attempted Native American Deportation and Relocation (approx. 4 miles away); Veterans Memorial (approx. 4.1 miles away); Babb's Ford (approx. 4.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Reedsburg.
Regarding Clare A. Briggs – Cartoonist. From the Reedsburg, Wisconsin website: "Claire Briggs was one of the Sauk County natives who made a significant contribution to the development first of the modern newspaper and ultimately to contemporary mass communication.
Briggs was a featured cartoonist during the heyday of American Newspapering, 1900 - 1930. He was born in Reedsburg in 1875 and lived there until 1884 when his parents moved to Dixon, Illinois.
Images of a boy's life in a small town played a prominent role in his work and success, just as they did in life of another famous Dixonite, Ronald Reagan.
Brigg's family soon moved to Lincoln, Nebraska and young Claire attended the University of Nebraska, where one of his teachers was a young soldier named John J. Pershing. After failing Pershing's mathematics course, Briggs left school and made his way to Saint Louis, where he found a job as a pen and ink illustrator at the Hearst newspaper, the Globe Democrat.
Newspapers could not yet print photos with any great ease and illustrators were an important part of the editorial staff, making simple sketches that complemented the articles and broke up the monotony of page after page of uninterrupted text.
Not long after Briggs went to work, the technology of halftone printing made it easier and cheaper to print photos. Illustrators had to become more than mere copyists who converted facts to images. They had to become storytellers who could add meaning, sarcasm and with to their drawings. Briggs was one of the first and the best of his time.
Briggs invented characters with whom millions of people could identify, the All-American small town boy, who, with a floppy-eared pup and his best buddy at his side, couldn't wait for school to end so he could get into a snowball fight or go skinny-dipping at the local pond; the frivolous woman who cared only about clothes and parties, the befuddled middle class husband and father whose family continually interfered with his basic desire to spend his entire life on the golf course.
Brigg's cartoons were syndicated across the country and, by the 1920's was one of the most highly paid illustrators in the country.
In addition to Brigg's newspaper work, his books of cartoons—Skin-nay, The Days of Real Sport, Ain't It a Grand and Glorious Feeling, When a Feller Needs a Friend—also reached a large audience. He lived a seemingly charmed life with financial success, popularity and respect.
Briggs died at the age of 55 years in 1930. In many ways he portrayed the comfortable, front porch, "good old days" and they were dieing with him just as radio and movies were altering the classic newspapers where and his work were so successful. Yet his wistful images can still strike a popular chord in any grown-up girl or boy who once daydreamed through arithmetic class, had a friend with a nickname like "Skin-nay" or who once owned a floppy eared pup."
The cartoonist, who was born 54 years ago in Reedsburg, Wis., and lived there for nine years, died Friday in New York after a five-month illness.
It was as a caricaturist of the everyday things of life that Briggs was great, and once he found his line he stuck to it, though he always was ready to lend any of his devices to a cause which had his sympathy. In 1922 it was the American flag. Briggs showed the various misuses to which it might be put as a decoration and the series caused a considerable comment. Men who had been hanging the flag wrong side foremost for years, men who had been crumpling it up for decorative purposes, wrote to tell Briggs how wrong he was. The controversy grew to such proportions that army officers wrote to tell the artist that he was quite right in his drawings, and the following year the national flag conference took up the matter of hanging the flag properly and formulated a set of rules founded upon the idea in the Briggs cartoons of the year before.
Source: excerpt from obituary
Credits. This page was last revised on May 5, 2018. It was originally submitted on July 13, 2007, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 1,641 times since then and 22 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on July 13, 2007, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. 2. submitted on June 11, 2009, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page.