Today is the birthday of illustrator, cartoonist and animator Henry “Hy” Mayer (1868-1954). Originally from Germany, he began his career as an illustrator in Munich, then worked his way west to Paris, then London, then finally New York, moving to the U.S. in 1886. He illustrated several children’s books, became a political cartoonist for the New York Times in 1904, and chief cartoonist at Puck starting in 1914.
Starting in 1909 he began contributing animations for films to Universal Studios, where he turned out several popular series for over a decade. From 1920 through 1926 he created the “Such is Life” Series for Film Book Offices of America (later to be part of RKO).
Like many cartoonists, Mayer also played big time vaudeville and revues. He was on the very first bill at the Palace in 1913, and was also featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1913. His personal appearances seem limited however. Much more often, his popular films would be incorporated into vaudeville bills as attractions themselves.
Here he is at work!
For more on vaudeville history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.