Have You Ever Heard of Chicago Cartoonist R. Guerrieri?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Every now and then, we get involved with what we around here have taken to calling "Whatzit Day." Since Krause Publications in Iola, Wis., has a decades-long focus on collectibles, some of us occasionally sit at tables to which people with Weird Stuff can bring said Weird Stuff. And we try to identify it and (when we can) try to come up with some sort of valuation for it. It's not Antiques Roadshow. But we do our best. However, this year, we were challenged by something we thought we'd be able to identify right away. And we failed miserably. So here's a challenge - and my guess is that it will remain a challenge for months to come. What you see here is a portion of a cartoon pretty obviously done as a gift to the pictured gentleman. There are all sorts of inside jokes and identifying hints: A note reading, "Dear Harry Who [old?] is my son Geo. A. [?] Peck." Socks labeled "white socks." A drawing of him diving off a board and wearing a swimsuit label "IAC." [The Illinois Athletic Club was active in the teens of the 1900s and actually dominated competitive U.S. swimming then.] He's a Shriner. He's shown driving a new car "cheaper than having the old one fixed up" - of a model looking like vehicles from around 1915.

The signature seems to read "R Guerrieri" - and we can't find anything about him, though the drawing is excellent. And that's pretty much all we could tell.

Could he be U.S. Attorney George R. Peck from Chicago? We haven't been able to find a photo of him. And, when I say, "we," I include here "Mrs. D," who is the person who brought the art to us in the first place. It's large, it's framed, and among the details of the framing are a number of actual dollar bills, fanned in to cover the corner mountings. She is refurbishing a Victorian house, furnishing it appropriately, and she encountered the art in the course of her project. You'll find another shot of the art in her blog entry for Oct. 15, 2010 - with more background on its origin (though our car experts, as I've already noted, place the probable date as closer to 1915 than 1925).

Are there any detectives out there? Who's the artist? Who's the subject? What was the reason for the drawing? Any ideas?


Alex Jay December 4, 2010 at 1:56 PM  

Using the census and military information at Ancestry.com, there was a Raphael/Ralph Guerrieri who was a commercial artist in Chicago from the 1910s to the 1940s. Guerrieri was born in Brindisi Di Montagna, Italy on June 9, 1886 according to this World War I and II draft registration cards. On the WWI card, Guerrieri worked as a commercial artist for the Ernest Krentger Engraving Company. On the WWII card, he worked for the Tape & Label Company.

In the 1910 census Raphael Guerrieri was listed first of four children born to John and Magdelena. Guerrieri and his parents immigrated in 1891; his younger siblings were born in Illinois. Guerrieri's occupation was "Artist" at an "Engraving Company".

In the 1930 census Ralph Guerrieri's wife was named Mary, whom he married in 1928 or 1929. She immigrated from Italy in 1923. He worked as an "Artist" in an "Art Studio". They owned their home which was located at 745 North Trumbull Avenue; the same address was on the 1942 WWII draft card.

A death notice for Anthony Guerrieri was published in the Chicago Tribune on February 11, 1960. Anthony's two older brother's and parents were mentioned: "brother of the late Michael and Ralph; son of the late John and Madelena". Michael's name did not appear in the 1910 census so he immigrated separately from the family. Ralph died some time between 1942 and 1960.

Ralph Guerrieri was a commercial artist but not necessarily a cartoonist.

by Alex Jay

Maggie Thompson December 4, 2010 at 3:01 PM  

Alex, you are AMAZING! Many, many thanks! I'll pass the word on to all of us who puzzled so over his identity!

(Now, if we could just figure out who the SUBJECT of the illustration was ...)

Judy Cooke September 10, 2015 at 9:09 PM  

Ralph was a survivor of the Iroquois Theater fire in 1903, as was one of his brothers and a sister. Another sister, eleven year old Jennie Guerrieri, was not so lucky.

Seventeen year old Ralph was the eldest of the Guerrieri children at the fire and in his efforts to save his siblings was badly burned. He cited his crippled hands on his WWI draft registration. The disability did not prevent him from working as a commercial artist for at least 30 years after the fire. In the early 1900s he worked for the Ernest J. Kreutgen Engraving company at 626 Federal Street in Chicago.

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