Joe "Ham" Cunningham was a former combat photographer and artist for Yank magazine, who spent many years working as a cartoonist for the Associated Press. Between 1947 and 1961, the agency circulated his cartoon panel/comic strip 'Hit 'n' Run', AKA 'Slice of Ham', AKA 'Buckey'.

Early life
Born in 1919, the New Yorker Cunningham became interested in drawing through his grandmother. Whenever she babysat for him, she enouraged him to draw flowers and "everything else under the sun" in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, as the cartoonist remembered in the Emporia Gazette of 10 January 1947. He later enrolled at the Pratt Institute, where he was trained in advertising design, figure drawing and commercial art. In 1938, the artist got his first job, as a receptionist in the Manhattan office of a motion picture company.


Cartoons from 10 August 1949 and 27 March 1953.

World War II
In the summer of 1941, Cunningham presented his work at the Associated Press office in New York City. He was hired and stayed with the agency until he was called to World War II action on 17 May 1942. He spent three months digging ditches and handling a pneumatic drill for the army engineers, until he was signed up by Yank magazine in its London office. On 6 June 1944, after two years at an artist desk job, Cunningham participated during D-Day as a combat photographer at Omaha Beach, Normandy. He spent the next 54 days in trenches and hedgerows with the Ninth Infantry division, before being assigned to the Pacific.


The Ponca City News, 26 April 1953.

Buckley
Back home, Cunningham returned to the Associated Press. A broken leg after a football accident made him decide to turn to fulltime cartooning. It resulted in his daily cartoon panel 'Hit 'n' Run', which went into circulation on 6 January 1947. A Sunday comic was added on 26 January, and the daily switched to a two-column format on 8 August 1949. In the previously mentioned interview, Cunningham stated he created the feature to "spoof the human menagerie and most of the animals." 'Hit 'n' Run' had a whimsical, lightweight sense of humor, often inspired by the cartoonist's own life. The feature was retitled to 'Slice of Ham' on 2 October 1950, after the cartoonist's signature: "Ham". The title changed once again on 13 April 1953, this time to 'Buckley', after the feature's recurring character. 'Buckley' was in circulation until 1961. The Sunday comic had already disappeared in 1955.

Later life
Joe Cunningham remained a cartoonist for the Associated Press throughout at least the 1960s. Sometimes, he acted as a cartoonist-reporter, making a full newspaper page worth of funny drawings during his excursions. Examples are a cruise he took (20 May 1958) and a sightseeing trip in Manhattan (2 October 1959). Nothing is known about Cunningham's post-1960s life. He should not be confused with the Philadelphia cartoonist Joe Cunningham (1890-1943).


Page with cartoons following a trip to Manhattan (The Spokesman Review, 2 October 1959).

Buckley at the Stripper's Guide

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