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Charles Addams (1912-1988)


Charles Samuel Addams (1912-1988)

The cartoonist, Charles Addams, became a master of American Gothic, as the result of his dry sense of humour and creation of a cast of delightfully macabre characters – including Morticia, Pugsley and Wednesday – who first appeared in The New Yorker, and later gained fame on television as The Addams Family.

Charles Addams was born in Westfield, New Jersey, on 7 January 1912, the son of Charles Huey Addams, an executive of the Aeolian (Organ) Company, and his wife, Grace M Spear. He attended Westfield High School and, encouraged by his father to draw, contributed cartoons to its literary magazine,
Weathervane. In 1929, he enrolled at Colgate University, Hamilton Village, NY, but transferred to the University of Pennsylvania after a year, and then, just a year later, left to study art at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City.

Addams began his career as an artist, in 1933, in the layout department of the magazine,
True Detective, where his tasks included the retouching of photographs of corpses. However, he contributed his first drawing to The New Yorker in 1932, and worked regularly, on a freelance basis, for that magazine from 1938, when it published the first cartoon containing examples of his immortal cast of characters, which would eventually be known as the Addams Family. He would also contribute to Collier’s, Town & Country and TV Guide, among other periodicals.

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