Born in Newark, New Jersey, Walt McDougall got his interest in art through his father, who was a painter. In the 1870s, he got a job as an illustrator at the New York Graffic, America's first illustrated daily newspaper. Soon afterwards, he also sold cartoons to Harper's Weekly and Puck magazine. He was a pioneer in several fields.
On 21 May 1893, he had the first cartoon printed in color in an American newspaper. A year later, on 2 February, his collaboration with cartoonist Mark Fenderson, 'The Unfortunate Fate of a Well-Intended Dog', became the first color comic strip in an American newspaper. And in 1898, he drew probably the largest single-panel cartoon in an American newspaper, which spread over two pages. During this period, McDougall also drew fullpage cartoons in color for the New York World. He illustrated Bill Nye's weekly column for the American Press Association as well, which made him the first syndicated artist.
He also found his turn in comics, doing Sunday features for the Philadelphia North American. Among his features are 'Fatty Felix', 'Peck's Bad Boy', 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'Handsome Hautrey'. He also did 'Hank the Hermit and his Animal Friends' for the Western Newspaper Syndicate. Until the 1920s, he did such daily comics as 'Absent Minded Abner', 'Teddy in Africa', 'Gink and Boob' and 'The Radio Buggs'. He commited suicide in March 1938.