'Big Sister' strip from 28 December 1934

Les Forgrave was an American illustrator and newspaper comic artist, best known as the creator of the family comic 'Big Sister' (1928-1953).

Early life and career
Leslie L. Forgrave was born in Leon, Iowa, in either 1881 or 1882. His father was a contractor and the city superintendant of buildings, and his mother was president of the City Federation of Women's Clubs and active in philanthropic work. As a young man, Les Forgrave gained local fame with his pen-and-ink portraits, which found their way to several Leon homes. In 1903 he was also a staff illustrator for The Social Whirl, a society magazine from St. Joseph, Missouri. He furthermore worked as a book illustrator, engraver, fashion designer and advertising art director before taking up cartooning at age 40.


Announcement for 'Big Sister' in the Absbury Park Press from 21 May 1928

Big Sister
After a brainstorm with fellow cartoonists Frank King and Carey Orr, Forgrave developed his newspaper comic 'Big Sister', which evolved around the Wood family. Father Martin is widowed and without a job, and has to take care of his young children Phoebe, Buddy and Donnie. Their "big sister" Beth is forced to take her responsibilities in keeping the household afloat. Forgrave's concept was immediately picked up by the Central Press Association, which distributed the first episodes to newspapers on 4 June 1928. A Sunday comic was dded on 25 November 1934. The syndicate was a subsidary of King Features Syndicate from 1930 on, and Forgrave's feature transferred to the parent syndicate in March 1937.

Forgrave continued the comic strip until his death in 1953, when his assistant Jimmy McMenamy took over the series. However, McMenamy passed away a year later, which led to Bob Naylor continuing 'Big Sister' until 26 February 1972.


Big Sister of 6 June 1928

Other work in the 1940s
In addition to 'Big Sister', Forgrave wrote the Sunday comic 'Aladdin Junior', which was illustrated for King Features by William Meade Prince from 4 January 1942 to 21 November 1943. Forgrave also wrote its topper comics 'Secrets of Magic' and 'Simple Tricks of Magic'. During the 1940s he also illustrated 'Symphony Stories', a series of booklets by McCall's to promote classical music and concert attendance among children. The books featured a series of comics about a boy flutist and a horn player. Forgrave's daughter Jane had once studied music too.

Death
Besides Leon and St. Joseph, Forgrave has spent parts of his life and career in Austin (Texas), Chicago (Illinois), New Orleans (Louisiana) and Toronto (Canada). Leslie Forgrave passed away in his home in Pipersville, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on 1 October 1953. He was 71 years old.

Big Sister by Les Forgrave
'Big Sister' (French-language version from Quebec paper La Patrie, 27 January 1935).

Series and books by Les Forgrave in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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