John Gee was an American illustrator who drew the long-running comics feature about the wooden 'Timbertoes' family (1951-1977) for Highlights for Children.

Early life and career
He was born in 1895 as John Gee Curley in Southbridge, Massachusetts. He served in World War I, reaching the rank of sergeant. After a long period of recuperating from spinal meningitis, he enrolled at the School of Industrial Art in Philadelphia, where he studied under painter J. Frank Copeland. Curley began his career as a teacher at the Art Institute of Chicago, until relocating to New England, where he began his professional career as an illustrator. He signed his work "John Gee". In 1932 he changed his name officially, despite some protests by some members of Boston's Chinese community with the same name. One of his most notable illustrated books was 'The Timbertoes' (Harter Publishing, 1932) by Edna Aldredge and Jessie Mckee, about a family of wooden puppets. It was reprinted by Beckley-Cardy in 1943. Another picture book by him was 'Bunnie Bear' (Saalfield, 1936).


The original 'Timbertoes' book, illustrated by John Gee.

Highlights for Children
By 1946 Garry Cleveland Myers Sr. and his wife Caroline established their own educational monthly Highlights for Children, which slowly but surely rose to become one of the best-selling magazines in the United States. Myers asked John Gee to serve as the magazine's art director. From the start of his collaboration on, Gee experimented with wooden characters coming to life. His short story 'Farmer Whittle's Cow' for instance, was about a farmer who made a cow out of wood. It took until 1951 before the artist revived 'The Timbertoes' and made it a regular feature in Highlight's pages, consisting of an illustrated monthly page with text captions underneath the sequential images. Along with Myers' own 'Goofus and Gallant', illustrated by Maurieta Wellman and then by Marion Hull Hammel, it is the longest-running comic strip in the magazine, 'The Timbertoes' stars a wooden family, originally consisting of a father, a mother and a boy called Tommy. Later, the cast was expanded with daughter Mabel and the animals Spot the dog, Splinter the cat, Butter the goat, and Troy the horse.

Legacy
John Gee wrote and drew 'The Timbertoes' for over 25 years, until his death in 1977. The series was taken over by Sidney A. Quinn (who was also handed 'Goofus and Gallant' in 1984). Quinn continued 'The Timbertoes' until his own death in 1994, after which it was taken over by writer Marileta Robinson and artist Judith Hunt until 2002, and then by Rich Wallace and Ron Zalme.

Series and books by John Gee in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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