Charles Samuel "Chas" Addams (January 7, 1912 – September 29, 1988) was an American cartoonist known for his darkly humorous and macabre characters. Some of the recurring characters, who became known as theAddams Family, have been the basis for spin-offs in several other media.
Born in Westfield, New Jersey, the son of Grace M. and Charles Huy Addams, a piano-company executive who hadstudied to be an architect. He was known as "something of a rascal around the neighborhood" as childhood friends recalled. Addams was distantly related to U.S. presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, despite the different spellings of their last names, and was a first cousin twice removed to noted social reformer Jane Addams.
His father encouraged him to draw, and Addams did cartoons for the Westfield High School student literary magazine, Weathervane. He attended Colgate University in 1929 and 1930, and the University of Pennsylvania, where a fine-arts building on campus was to be named for him, in 1930 and 1931. In front of the building is a sculpture of the silhouettes of Addams Family characters. He then studied at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City in 1931 and 1932.
A house on Elm Street, and another on Dudley Avenue that police once caught him breaking into, are said to be the inspiration for the Addams Family mansion in his cartoons. College Hall, the oldest building on the current campus of the University of Pennsylvania, where Addams studied, was also an inspiration for the mansion. He was fond of visiting the Presbyterian Cemetery on Mountain Avenue. One friend said of him: "His sense of humor was a little different from everybody else's." He was also artistically inclined, "drawing with a happy vengeance", according to a biographer.
In 1933, Addams joined the layout department of True Detective magazine, where he had to retouch photos of corpses that appeared in the magazine's stories to remove the blood from them. Addams complained: "A lot of those corpses were more interesting the way they were." Addams' first drawing, a sketch of a window washer, ran in The New Yorker on February 6, 1932, and his cartoons ran regularly in the magazine from 1938, when he drew the first instance of what came to be called the Addams Family, until his death. He was a freelancer throughout that time. During World War II, Addams served at the Signal Corps Photographic Center in New York, where he made animated training films for the U.S. Army. The Addams Family television series began after David Levy, a television producer, approached Addams with an offer to create it with a little help from the humorist.
Addams died on September 29, 1988, at St. Clare's Hospital and Health Center in New York City, having suffered a heart attack while still in his car after parking it. As he had requested, a wake was held rather than a funeral; he had wished to be remembered as a "good cartoonist". Addams drew more than 1,300 cartoons over the course of his life. In 1961, Addams received, from theMystery Writers of America, a Special Edgar Award for his body of work. Filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock was a friend of Addams, and owned two pieces of original Addams art.
Addams' cartoons regularly appeared in The New Yorker, and he also created a syndicated comic strip, Out of This World, which ran in 1956. There are many collections of his work, including Drawn and Quartered (1942) and Monster Rally (1950), the latter with a foreword by John O'Hara.
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