BOOTH, George (1926- )
Perhapsbest known for his decades long collaboration with The New Yorker Magazine as a cartoonist-illustrator. In a doodler’s style, they feature everyman beset by modern complexity, goofballs perplexing their spouses, cats, and very often a fat dog.
ALS – Autograph Letter Signed, one page, 1997. A little background. In the 1980s my nickname was “maddog” (those were the wild days, long gone). I wanted to get a maddog tattoo but not just any ole ink design. I knew that Mr. Booth had drawn possessed, schizo cats and dogs for many years, one being his “Smarf” dog. I wrote to Mr. Booth explaining my idea of a maddog tattoo. Initially, he discouraged me, saying that many of his buddies in WWII had tattoos that they later regretted. While he was flattered, he really couldn’t approve of the idea of his art on my body.
Determined to move forward, I had a tattoo imprinted on my left shoulder (see image).
I sent a copy of the tattoo to Mr. Booth. Here is his amazing reply: Thank you for the photos. It looks good to me. If anyone came at me with a tatoo needle I would run, retreat or cower. A school teacher knocked on my door 20 years ago – a man. His little dog had died. She was black with longish hair. He had pictures. He asked if my dog had a name. I said ‘No.’ He offered his dog’s name and I accepted it: ‘Smarfie Sue’ Smarf when he’s a he. I am honored with what you have done. I won’t encourage anyone else. I hope you are pleased. My compliments to the tatoo artist. I think I can hear my mother enjoying this (my folks passed away in the early 1980s). All best, G. Booth.
This amazing-content letter comes with a photo-postcard image of “Smarf” from a New Yorker Magazine cover.
Born in Cainsville, Missouri, Booth was the son of schoolteachers; his mother, Irma, was also a musician and fine artist and cartoonist, and his father, William, became a school administrator in Fairfax, Missouri, where Booth grew up on a vegetable farm. Booth attended, but did not graduate from, the Corcoran College of Art and Design, the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, the School of Visual Arts, and Adelphi College.
Drafted into the United States Marine Corps in 1944, Booth was invited to re-enlist and join the Corps’ Leatherneck magazine as a staff cartoonist; when re-drafted for the Korean War, he was ordered back to Leatherneck.
As a civilian, Booth moved to New York City where he struggled as an artist, married, then worked as an art director in the magazine world. During this era he worked on the comic strip Spot in 1956.
Fed up, Booth quit and pursued cartooning full-time, beginning a successful phase in 1969, with his first New Yorker cartoon sale. One signature element of Booth’s cartoons is a ceiling light bulb on a cord pulled out of vertical by another cord attached to an electrical appliance such as a toaster. Most of the household features in his cartoons are taken from his own home, such as the rugs, chairs, ferns, and cats. One of his own cats, adopted later in his career, was described as being “more like my drawing than the drawings… when he lies down, his back feet go out in back — straight out.
Booth also created the comic strip Local Item in 1986.