G. Harold Magin's accomplished career ended early

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Posted by Jesse's Dawg on February 19, 2010 at 17:49:07:

That History Column: Artist’s early death ends promising career


G. Harold Magin was a man heading up the ladder of success in 1940.

He was employed at the Kenosha Labor Paper and was a member of the local unit of the American Newspaper Guild. In his short career, he had worked as a radio performer, script writer, factory personnel manager, and newspaper entertainment columnist, but his real talent was in the arts.

He was a gifted cartoonist with two established strips that appeared in several newspapers across the country.

And he had an invitation to join the staff of Walt Disney Studios to work on animated films, on the cutting edge of the burgeoning craft.

But it was not to be.

Harold Magin died in Kenosha of heart failure at age 29.

If he hadn’t died, I think he would have been as well known as other famous Kenoshans of his age, including actor Dom Ameche and author Irving Wallace.

Learning about Dad
Magin’s son, Kenoshan Harold DeBruin, didn’t know a great deal about his father’s work until just a few years ago.

“A lot of this information is new to me,” DeBruin said. “I’m 77 years old and just getting to know my dad. That’s kind of absurd.

“He was in his 20s when he passed away and was a gifted artist. His style was perhaps unique for his age. It’s outrageous; some of this stuff is funny even to this day.”

DeBruin received a number of boxes of his father’s papers from his father’s widow, Evelyn Schabowsky Magin, who died in 2002. She had married Magin in 1937.

The boxes contained materials from his father’s professional and personal life: letters, photos, newspaper clippings and cartoons.

Obituaries from numerous newspapers help to tell his story.

Devoted to labor
In a tribute to Magin, the Kenosha Labor Paper called him “a warm and generous personality with a delightful sense of humor and a stout courage which long concealed a serious heart ailment.”

Magin had come to the Kenosha Labor Paper during its first month of existence in 1935, offering his services as a cartoonist.

He was deeply devoted to the labor movement, and it shows in his art. The last third of his life had been a struggle through the Great Depression.

He was born in Green Bay in 1911 and grew up in Chippewa Falls. He came to Kenosha in 1930 and worked on radio programs at WLIP, WRJN and in northern Lake County.

Local history buffs may recognize Magin’s work on the Kenosha News Centennial edition, published on June 15, 1935. The thick newspaper edition celebrated the 100th year of the founding of Kenosha, and a bound volume can be found at the Southwest Library in Kenosha.

These were the days when cartoons were drawn with pen and ink.

Syndicated work
His work was syndicated in labor papers throughout the country and Canada.

His first weekly strip, “Up from the Shadows,” was an adaptation of Michel Becker’s novelette about the pioneers of the Rochedale Co-operative Movement.

The Rochedale Principles, still used today by co-operative businesses, are a set of eight standards that launched the modern cooperative movement.

“Up from the Shadows” was published in newspapers in Superior, Madison, Kansas City, St. Paul and Freewater, Ore.

“The John Smiths” was the first labor comic strip to attain popular success.

Begun at the Kenosha Labor Paper, the strip was acquired by the Federated Press and syndicated, appearing in newspapers throughout the country, including Seattle’s The Timber Worker.

A third strip, “Visual Education,” had been launched several months before Magin’s death. It was published in the Townsend National Weekly, which was published in Los Angeles from 1935 to 1958.

Magin was as versatile as he was talented. He also wrote syndicated entertainment columns on movies and radio shows.

“He accomplished quite a bit for himself at that early age. Iit’s just a shame it ended the way it did,” DeBruin said.

Headed for a museum
DeBruin has been in contact with Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, the world’s largest cartoon and comic archive.

The museum will soon house Magin’s collection, alongside collections of other significant American cartoonists including Charles Schultz, creator of “Peanuts,” and Mort Walker, creator of “Beetle Bailey.”

Jenny Robb, associate curator at the museum, said her facility staff was delighted to receive Magin’s collection.

“The donation will help us in our efforts to develop a comprehensive research collection documenting American printed cartoon art,” Robb said in a recent e-mail.

“Mr. Magin’s artwork will join our collection of more than 450,000 original cartoons. We were also very pleased to learn that the collection includes scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings of his comic strips, which can be very useful to researchers.”

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