Charles Reamer Keller (1905-1994) During a highly prolific career in which he was able to produce up to 50 cartoons a week, Reamer Keller established himself as one of America’s most syndicated and hard-working cartoonists. For almost 60 years, Keller’s cartoons appeared weekly in the country’s favourite publications, from The New Yorker to Playboy. Charles Reamer Keller was born in Shenandoah, Virginia, on 11 January 1905, the son of Harvey F Keller, a mechanic with the Norfolk & Western Railway. Keller moved at an early age with his family to Portsmouth, Ohio, where he attended Portsmouth High School. Reamer Keller gained artistic experience in his first job at the Compton Engraving and Printing Company, before attending the University of Cincinnati and then Ohio State University to study architecture. As a student, he would draw cartoons for pleasure, but never considered a career as a cartoonist. On graduating from Ohio State, he sold his first cartoon to the sports editor of the Columbus Citizen.
Shortly after, the same newspaper offered him a job in the arts department. He also began to produce work for the Ohio State Journal. In 1930, Reamer Keller moved to New York City to pursue a career as a cartoonist. He worked for a year on the Financial World and the New York World-Telegram, whilst spending the rest of his time drawing and travelling around the city selling his work. He sold his first cartoons to Life magazine, and over the next number of years his cartoons appeared in numerous publications, including College Humor, Judge, Esquire, The New Yorker and Playboy. As his reputation grew, Reamer Keller became well known for his prolific output. He was able to produce approximately 50 cartoons during a two-day working week. It was estimated that over 22,000 of his cartoons were published between 1946 and 1966. Popular features included ‘Addle-essence’ in Family Weekly, ‘Pedro’ for Boy’s Life and ‘Kennesaw’, which ran in Collier’s between 1953 and 1955, whilst also being syndicated by the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate. Keller’s cartoons also regularly appeared in newspapers in England, France and as far afield as Sweden and India, through the King Features Syndicate. Reamer Keller’s most famous creation was the syndicated cartoon series ‘Medicare’, which first appeared on 3 January 1966. Created specifically to ride the wave of interest in medical issues spawned by the newly created federal health insurance for the elderly, it ran in some newspapers under the title ‘Oh, Doctor’. When the feature moved from the Adcox Associates syndicate to Field Enterprises in September 1974, some newspapers changed the title to ‘Say Ah!’, before it officially became ‘Doctor Dumphy’ in 1976, the year it ended. After leaving Ohio for New York City in 1930, Reamer Keller based himself in Staten Island, marrying in 1934. In 1950, he moved with his wife to Atlantic Heights, New Jersey. Though they would make regular visits to his family home in Portsmouth, Ohio, they would remain in New Jersey until the 1980s, when they moved to South Palm Beach, Florida. Officially retiring to Naples, Florida in the early 1990s, he died in Palm Beach on 17 January 1994 at the age of 88.