Posts Tagged ‘Russ Westover’

Russ Westover: Creator of ‘Tillie the Toiler’

May 7, 2012


We knocked timidly on a door, bearing the legend “Russ Westover” — and waited.

“Come in,” the voice had a note of friendliness. So we went in and stood in the room adorned with four bare walls, save that on the wall directly before the cartoonist were two pictures; one in which he was shaking hands with Gloria Swanson, and the other, a picture of Marion Davies as “Tillie.” On a drawing board “Tillie the Toiler” was being shaped into a new escapade by Russ Westover. He is a medium-sized man, between thirty-five and forty, with a quiet amusing personality which impresses one immediately. And (for the special benefit of the “Tillie Sisterhood”) he’s quite handsome.

“Sit down,” said he.

“Mr. Westover,” we said, “we want to know all about you and Tillie.”

“Sounds like a scandal,” said he, a smile playing over his face, and then more seriously, “well, you’ll just have to ask questions —-.”

“Agreed,” we assented, for we like to ask questions. “Now, Mr. Westover, how long have you been cartooning?”

Mr. Westover reflected. Then answered: “For about twenty years, but most of that time I wasn’t really in earnest about it.”

“Not in earnest?” we asked. “What made you take it up earnestly?”

“You should have asked ‘who made you take it up earnestly?’ It was easy. I got married,” and he looked very pleased with himself.

“Oh,” we ejaculated softly, for the answer was a complete explanation to us.

“Well, now,” he said, warming up to the subject, “how did you happen to start cartooning? How long have you been doing ‘Tillie the Toiler’? Do you like your work? Where do you get your ideas? Where were you born? How much do you g—–?”


We stopped.

“All right,” said the humorist. “You win. I’ll talk.”

He settled back in his chair and began, “I came from a race of merchants. IT seems that our family had an especial gift for organized selling, and so my father put me in one of his stores as cash boy. Well, I used to wrap parcels and I’d draw pictures on them. The customers liked it, but father didn’t. In fact, he scorned it, so we talked it over, and came to a very suitable agreement — I went into the railroad business. I liked that job fine.”

Here Mr. Westover gazed into space with a blissful smile of reminiscence, “I was certainly getting on splendidly, and you’d be surprised how much easier it is to cartoon on the backs of railroad pay vouchers than on wrapping paper, but I guess my boss had somehow neglected to develop an aesthetic regard for superior merits of pay vouchers as art panels; and besides that he pointed out among other things (and not without emphasis) that drawing pay on vouchers for drawing cartoons on pay vouchers is not comme il faut — in the railroad business.

“So we compromised, and I took a job on the San Francisco Post, and there followed out my bent for art work. I had gone to the Hopkins Art Institute of California, but in all my work the comic element crept in. I began discouraged with art and broke directly into the cartooning. While still in California I ran a strip called ‘Daffy Dan’. It was a baseball cartoon and the public liked it.”

Mr. Westover proffered a cigarette, took one himself and went on.

“Well, I had become somewhat heartened by this time and so decided on a career in New York. There isn’t much more to tell. I always had ‘Tillie the Toiler’ in the back of my mind — by the way, peopled who know my wife say that I get the features for ‘Tillie’ from my wife. I always wanted to create a pretty girl of the modern type and put a touch of philosophical fun to such a creation. The other characters ‘Mc’ and ‘Mr. Simpkins’ are also taken from people I know. Well, to put a long story into a nutshell, ‘Tillie the Toiler’ has been running over six years, and I’m still very enthusiastic about her.”

He paused a moment, gazing over Columbus Circle, wit hits throngs of hurrying New Yorkers. Then suddenly he called my attention to a Miss in a dainty blue coat. “Now there’s a rather neat wrap,” said Mr. Westover., ‘you see I get my ideas for “Tillie’s” clothes from actual creations that I see here from my window.”

At this point we couldn’t help but tell Mr. Westover that we considered “Tillie” one of the fairest of the fair in the Kingdom of Fun and he seemed frankly, boyishly pleased.

“What about your hobbies, Mr Westover?” we questioned next.

“Hobbies!” cam the response, “Hobbies? I doubt if I have any. ‘Tillie’ (he repeated the name as if she were his own daughter) — ‘Tillie’ is one of my greatest hobbies. I lie to work. But I do not like to play the piano — for my own amusement and not  other people’s of course.”

“Then, too, I’ve tried horseback riding, but I always seem to be hunting for matches and such things — on the ground. Nope I’m not much of a rider. Golf? Well, at that sport I spend most of my time looking for the ball. What I really enjoy is driving. I like to go on long motoring trips, and I like to stop at small towns and talk with the people. A fellow can get a lot of good information from people like that, and I never tire of engaging them in conversation.”

“One more question,” we asked, and then we’ll go. What do you think is the best plan to ‘get over to the public’?”

The response came immediately, “I don’t know any best plan but in my case I concentrate a lot on my work and I enjoy it. But, of course, the greatest thing is that I’m lucky.”

So we thanked Mr. Westover and left him, firmly convinced that he is not “lucky” but that a vast application of real humor, artistic skill and energetic concentration make him what he is today — one of the ablest and most popular of all comic artists.

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) Sep 6, 1929

The Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) May 31, 1934

Design a fancy dress and win a trip to the 1938 Beaux-Arts Ball in New York City — Cool prize!

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) Nov 6, 1938

Wow! Fans could even make themselves a “Tillie” dress!

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) Nov 6, 1938

Kansas City Loves to Draw “Tillie the Toiler”

May 4, 2012

Doll and Dress by Mrs. Chas. Bailey, of Detroit Michigan. She is the oddball out; the only one not from Kansas City, MO in this collection of the “Tillie the Toiler” Fashion Parade.

Nebraska State Journal – Jan 15, 1939

Doll and Riding Habit by Dorothy Lawrence, of Kansas City, Missouri.

Montana Standard – Jul 30, 1939

Doll and Wardrobe by Miss Anna Alexsopoulos, of Kansas City, Missouri.

Nebraska State Journal – Oct 29, 1939

Another Doll and Wardrobe by Miss Anna Alexsopoulos, of Kansas City, Missouri. She was quite the designer.

San Antonio Light – Dec 17, 1939

Dresses, Hat and Doll designed by Carmen Torres, also of Kansas City, Missouri.

Nebraska State Journal – Dec 24, 1939

Women Everywhere Taking to Slacks

May 3, 2012

(With women, everywhere taking more and more to slacks, overalls, halter-alls and similar garb formerly associated only with males and publicity-minded feminine movie stars, a man offers some advice to the opposite sex about wearing pants. He happens to be so expert on women’s styles, whose famous comic strip character, “Tillie the Toiler,” was one of the original factors in popularizing slacks among working girls. This is the first of a series of articles written especially for The Light.)


Famous Cartoonist – Creator of
“Tillie the Toiler”

I find that among women the question no long is, “Shall I wear trousers?” but “What kind of trousers shall I wear and when?” Slacks for women have passed the fad stage; they are every day garb for hundreds of thousands of them and are actually mandatory in numerous industries from coast to coast. In the machine shops of the naval station at Alameda, Calif., at the Pan American Airways base at New York, the rule is: all women employes wear pants.

However, the utility of slacks, halter-alls and such as feminine garb in war work doesn’t mean that skirts are going to be, or should be, abandoned altogether. It isn’t necessary, and it is undesirable, both from the standpoint of expediency and feminine attractiveness. Slacks designed for all hours of the day are available now, but as a uniform to replace skirts in public, they are affected and in bad taste. Furthermore, to abandon all skirts and dresses in favor of mannish attire would be wasteful of materials urgently needed for the war effort.

It’s my opinion that the less women wear slacks or other forms of pants when their work doesn’t require it the better for their appearances. Slacks are really becoming to but few adult women. However, if a girl’s job must be done in slacks, she need not dress at home in skirts and change at the plant, unless her travels to and from work wearing slacks would make her unpleasantly conspicuous. On the other hand, work which requires halter-alls accompanies a mechanical career, and men at such jobs shirt to overalls at the plant.


Tomorrow: Helpful hints on slacks for office wear.

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) May 18, 1942


“Tillie the Toiler”

No woman thinks in terms of glamour, of course, in buying trousers or pants for factory wear. Glamour doesn’t mix with safety and safety must set the style for women workers. However, for the sake of uniformity in appearance, many concerns are requiring women office help, as well as feminine machine operators, to wear pants. The office worker can safely give more thought to good appearance.

Most women to whom slacks now occur as revolutionary garb for everyday wear, will probably have to go through the novice coyness about them, or they think they will. One group will get too mannish and look like fools; the other will go too far in the opposite direction.

The best advice is to get full cut garments, with correct waistline measure. Good fabric, good fit, good lines, the right color, determine the figure you cut in slacks. They should be more a tailoring job than a dressmaker’s creation. Don’t choose slacks that have too deep a crotch and wide, flapping legs.

As a man in public unless he is a slum vacationer at a resort seldom wears a shirt and pants without a jacket, the woman doomed to slacks will find her looks bolstered if she wears a coat when not on the job in the office or shop with her slacks. Her tailored suit jacket or tweed sports coat will be proper with them.

The strictly tailored blouse, the knit pullover, the bellhop jacket, are appropriate with slacks as the working garb at typewriter, desk or counter.

Stockings beneath slacks are uncomfortable; wearing socks to protect the feet from the shoe-lining is the sensible thing, besides saying wear and tear on more expensive hose.

Proper underwear is, of course, essential to the fit and comfort of slacks. Women need no advice from a man about the proper panties, girdles, etc., which every shop, from dime stores up, now stock. The combination one-piece streamlined shorts and slip-like middles, seems to be a good idea.

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) May 19, 1942


Famous Cartoonist-Creator of
“Tillie the Toiler.”

Any job, from making a bed to constructing an airplane, is easier done in slacks or overalls than skirts. Stooping not only wipes the floor with your skirt, but creates a real accident hazard. You stumble and trip over the spread skirt, if it’s full. If it’s tight you can’t stoop in it without appearing obscene. So it’s natural that more and more women should be taking to slacks for home tasks.

However, slacks should be considered primarily as working clothes and not as round-the-clock garb. A woman with any sense would never deliberately wear slacks to a home wedding or a funeral; or, unless at a nobody-cares resort, to a dining or lunching date in public. Even dinner pajamas are restricted by usage to your own home, or the home of a neighbor or close friend whose home you visit by automobile.

You may have seen photos of Paulette Goddard, the film star, wearing short slacks as evening garb at a resort some time ago. Well, as Paulette told me a few days ago,  she’s had a change of mind about slacks. She’s decided that they’re not becoming to a feminine figure. She’s adhering to the conventional evening gown now.

Paulette told me, by the way, that there was a howl of protest from the soldiers when a contingent of Hollywood feminine entertainers showed up at an army camp in slacks or uniforms. The soldiers made it plain they wanted the femmes who visit them to look feminine. So now the stars wear their prettiest frills and furbelows when they go to the camps to contribute their bit to morale.

For dress-up slacks, if you do choose to wear them, frilly blouses, sheer shirts, costume jewelry, etc., are part of the costume, the more feminine the better the effect. Low heels are always the correct item with slacks, unless the evening variety; replacing the teagown or dinner gown, are the slacks in question.

Tomorrow: Helpful hints on accessories for the slacks costume.

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) May 21, 1942


Famous Cartoonist – Creator of
“Tillie the Toiler”

The girls appear to be winning their battle for the right to wear slacks to school. In Pittsburgh, for example, the superintendent of schools approved, provided, however, the girls do not take to any outlandish fashions that will create a distraction and a disturbance. In New York, when Beverly Bernstein was forbidden to wear slacks to Abraham Lincoln High School, she and fellow students staged a strike for the emancipation of women from skirts. They got up a petition which school authorities couldn’t talk down:

“The undersigned want official permission for girls to wear slacks to school for the following reasons:

(a) the United States government advocates slacks for school, because they are better than skirts in the event of an air raid; (b) they conserve silk stockings; (c) they curb sexy clothes such as short skirts.

Note: Boys also wish the girls to wear slacks and are signing this petition.”

It isn’t exactly true the government is advocating slacks for school. In fact, it’s fearful that unnecessary adoption of the style will aggravate the shortage of wool. However, in scores of other cities, girls have donned pants for school hours, and they’re on their honor not to let the fashion get beyond conservative bounds.

The least captious girls hate their beaux to present a rumpled, unpressed appearance. Let them take this tip unto themselves and keep slacks in press. Washable slacks should be kept at least as fresh as a girl keeps her blouse, her handkerchief. If the tailor stitches down the crease of wool pants, pressing them neatly is then an easy home job, and the crease doesn’t get out of line between pressing.

There has been a great spurt of publicity to get hats onto heads above slacks. And the long-visored cap, the cocoanut straw hat and the felt fedora type have been advocated for the slacks ensemble. The scarf or handkerchief turban is very popular. Another suggestion is the worsted snood.

Tomorrow: Practical hints on getting the best fit in slacks.

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) May 22, 1942


Famous Cartoonist, Creator of “Tillie the Toiler.”

Even if you do not have an ideal figure like Film Stars Hedy LaMarr and Peggy Diggins, there are a number of things you can do to look your best in slacks.

First of all, choose slacks of a masculine cut — the straight-hanging style helps a lumpy figure a lot. You can add a jacket capable of concealing average figure faults. Slacks tailored of dark, substantial material flatter heavy figures.

Be sure, in fitting your slacks, to study the back view in a long mirror. Avoid slacks with too deep a crotch, and wide, flopping legs.

Prefer high-waisted lines; instep-length, tapering at the ankle; no pleats or bunchiness about the waist.

I find some good advice to women on this subject in Good Housekeeping magazine:

“Consider slacks as part of an ensemble — not just a pair of trousers. Complement them with the right accessories — low-heeled shoes, tailored shirts or blouses, right-length coats, informal hairdos, appropriate headgear. Follow masculine preference in fabrics and colors. Determine which becomes you most — fly-front or side-closing. Be sure slacks have well-pressed creases.”

Don’t be afraid to wear slacks. Any objectionable points will not be seen once the novelty wears off. Tillie the Toiler is no slacker when it comes to slacks. You shouldn’t be either, if by wearing them you can do your war-time job better.


(This is the last of a series in which a man who is an expert on women’s styles gives some advice to the opposite sex on wearing slacks.)

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) May 23, 1942

Below are two examples showing Tillie in slacks, the first one also has her mom wearing them:

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) Apr 11, 1942

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) May 8, 1942

Tillie the Toiler’s Men

May 2, 2012

Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico) Oct 23, 1932

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) Jun 18, 1929

Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico) Oct 7, 1934

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) Jan 6, 1933

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) Mar 26, 1933

Tillie the Toiler – Fashion Parade

May 1, 2012



Nebraska State Journal – Jan 15, 1939

A little background from Danger Trail – A Reader’s Guide to the Dell Four Color Comic Series:

It was the early 1920s and Russ began to put together a strip featuring the popular flapper character. Originally called Rose of the Office the title was changed to Tillie the Toiler and submitted to King Features which bought the strip. Tillie first appeared as a Sunday on January 3, 1921 with the daily beginning on October 10 1922.

The strip followed the social whirl and office activities of Tillie Jones, an attractive brunette and her co-workers and friends. Tillie was variously employed as a secretary, stenographer and part-time model in the fashion salon owned by J.P. Simpkins. Much of the story revolved around the relationship between Tillie and co-worker Clarence ‘Mac’ MacDougall. Mac was a diminutive, jealous and combative suitor. Drawn with a bulb nose and bad haircut Mac was frequently in Tillie’s company and often the object of her affection, nevertheless she was quite fickle and would drop him as soon as a handsome beau appeared on the scene. And they frequently did.

Read more at the link above.

This first “Tillie” paper doll comes with a gown, evening wrap ………. and beach hat.

Albuquerque Journal – Sep 25, 1932

Here, “Tillie” has the same outfits, but they are colored in.

Raleigh Register – Sep 25, 1932

Bathing suit (on the doll,) dress and hat, and a coat are included in this Fashion Parade.

Raleigh Register – Jan 22, 1932

By 1934, all outfits are designed by a single person, per newspaper entry, unlike the earlier ones we each piece designed by a different person.

These sexy ensembles were created by Doris Mae Birch, from Illinois.

Lincoln Star – May 27, 1934

June Miller, from California, designed a riding habit for day, and lovely dress for the evening.

San Antonio Light – Jan 20, 1935


Stay tuned for more “Tillie the Toiler” – later this week.