Ernest Paul (Ernie) Busmiller was born in the Bronx as the son of immigrant parents. At the age of fourteen, he started working as a copy-boy at the New York World newspaper. In the evenings, he studied at the Academy of Design. The first comic strip he worked on was 'Fritzi Ritz', starting in 1925. The 'Fritzi Ritz' feature was created by Larry Whittington in 1922, but the artist had moved on to another feature.
It was Bushmiller who gave the series fame and success, especially when he introduced Fritzi's niece 'Nancy' in 1933. Nancy became so prominent in the 'Fritzi Ritz' strip, that the feature was renamed to 'Nancy' in 1938. It was 'Nancy' that made Bushmiller a famous cartoonist, although the 'Fritzi Ritz' comics were funnier and better drawn. It is due to this strip that Harold Lloyd invited Bushmiller to invent gags and narratives for his films during the 1930s.
Between 1932 and 1938, Bushmiller also made a seperate strip about 'Phil Fumble', Fritzi's boyfriend. The 'Nancy' comics were also distributed by United Feature Syndicate to comic books by Tip Top Comics and Sparkler Comics, appearing under the title 'Nancy and Sluggo'. It eventually got its own comic book by Dell Publishing, with original stories by John Stanley.
Over the years, Bushmiller's team of assistants included artists like Al Plastino (Sundays) and Will Johnson (dailies). A founding member of the National Cartoonists Society, Bushmiller was honored by that organization with their coveted Reuben Award for "Cartoonist Of The Year" in 1976. Bushmiller died in 1982, at the age of 77. The 'Nancy' comic was briefly continued by Mark Lasky, and then by Jerry Scott and the brothers Guy and Brad Gilchrist.
A panel from 'Nancy and Sluggo' inspired Roy Lichtenstein's painting 'Reflections on 'Nancy' (1989).