PATTON, JACKSON INGERSOLL [JACK]

Mike Zambrano, Jr.
Jackson Ingersoll Patton (1900–1962).
Cartoonist Jack Patton had a long and distinguished career with the Dallas Journal and Dallas Morning News. Courtesy Mike Zambrano, Jr., and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

PATTON, JACKSON INGERSOLL [JACK] (1900–1962). Jackson “Jack” Ingersoll Patton was an editorial and comic strip cartoonist with the Dallas Journal, Dallas Dispatch, and Dallas Morning News. He is best-known for his illustration of the Texas History Movies, a comic strip dedicated to recounting the history of Texas. It was so popular that reprints were issued to Texas public school children for the next thirty years.

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on March 18, 1900, to Julia Edith (Dechard) Patton and John Thomason Patton, Jack and the family moved to Dallas, Texas, when he was about five years old. He attended public schools in Dallas. His interest in art began with a magazine advertisement that offered how to “Learn to Draw, Make Lots of Easy Money.” Through the mail, Patton took courses that sparked a career that would span more than four decades. In 1917 he enrolled in and attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. While a student, Patton’s style, distinguished by “an exaggerated realism,” took on a “Chicago look” of contemporaries like W. A. “Wally” Carlson and Jimmy Murphy. In 1918 he left school and took a position as an art assistant with the Dallas Journal. He began by creating layouts and advertisements and eventually went on to work alongside veteran cartoonist John Knott. Patton was described as having, “a sharp eye for accurate caricature, a briskness of line and striking shadowplay” as well as “a gift for applying metaphorical absurdities to Texas’ political concerns.” In the fall of that same year, he registered for the draft but was never called to active duty.

By 1920 his talent earned his editorial cartoons a spot on page one. Patton went on to produce hundreds of editorial cartoons with the Journal. His sharp wit often focused on political figures, such as Lyndon Johnson, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and issues such as oil and taxes. Within a few years, he began work on his first comic strip, The Restless Age (ca. 1922–28), which centered on the antics of a group of youngsters during the Jazz Age. Patton became “one of the first men in the business to put out both an editorial cartoon and a comic strip daily.”

Texas History Movies.
Texas History Movies, the popular cartoon strip drawn by Jack Patton, was originally published in book form in 1928. A paperback edition was distributed to Texas school children at no cost. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

In 1926 Patton was presented with a unique opportunity that would anchor his name in Texas history. Edward B. Doran, the editor of the news and telegraph section for the Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Journal, approached him about illustrating a daily comic strip depicting the history of Texas. He was teamed with veteran critic and journalist, John Rosenfield, Jr., and together they produced the Texas History Movies. The strip debuted on October 5, 1926. The strip’s four-panel prologue introduced Spain’s discovery and exploration of the New World. For the next eight months, it detailed the history of Texas as the Lone Star State passed from one nation to the next. Though the cartoon series was initially created to “entertain the reader, adult and juvenile,” Texas teachers quickly incorporated it into their classroom curriculum, and, at their request, the strip was placed on hiatus during the summer. On October 3, 1927, the strip resumed, recounting a more recent and familiar history including the fight for Texas Independence. On June 9, 1928, the final strip printed and contained a brief summary of Texas history that concluded at the 1880s. According to an adjoining article, “events subsequent to 1880 do not lend themselves readily to the cartoonist’s art” and were “not quite so picturesque.”

Over that two-year period, Patton and Rosenfield produced 428 individual strips. The strip became so popular that the P. L. Turner Company purchased its copyrights that same year and reprinted them in a hardback edition. In addition, the Magnolia Petroleum Company sponsored full and abridged editions that were distributed to thousands of Texas school children over the next three decades. The Texas History Movies became an institution.

Patton Self-Portrait.
Jack Patton's self-portrait, which appeared in The Literary Digest. Courtesy Mike Zambrano, Jr., and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

The next decade was a busy one for Patton. In 1928 The Restless Age was replaced by another Patton strip called Dolly Burns (ca. 1928–33). In November 1933, the strip’s name shifted to Spencer Easley, a character within the Dolly Burns strip. In 1935 Spencer Easley disappeared temporarily, returned, and disappeared altogether by October. Patton sought to get Spencer Easley into syndication. In April 1939 the Register and Tribune Syndicate picked up Spencer Easley, however its run lasted only a year. In 1933, paired with legendary columnist Lynn Wiley Landrum and working for Dallas Journal owner A. H. Belo Corporation, Patton illustrated a brochure titled Dallas and the Trinity. Its goal was to promote one of many Trinity River navigation projects that would create a canal from the Gulf of Mexico to Dallas.

In 1935 the Magnolia Petroleum Company, sponsor of the abridged editions of the Texas History Movies, commissioned Patton to develop an additional twenty-three new strips titled The Industrial Development of Texas. In July 1938 the Dallas Journal merged with the Dallas Dispatch. The owners, Karl Hoblitzelle and Alfred O. Andersson, were so impressed with Patton that they “insisted that he come with the package.” According to writer Al Harting in a D Magazine article published in August 1979, the Dispatch employed a “hard-working, hard-drinking, and poorly paid” staff. As office lore goes, Patton and a co-worker were in desperate need of a drink. Though they had knowledge of a fifth of bourbon locked away in a desk, they had no key. Their solution was to liberate the libation with a hatchet in order to quench their thirst.

In October 1941 Patton left the Dispatch and joined the Dallas Morning News. He continued illustrating editorial cartoons. Between 1950 and 1959, Patton and Ned Riddle, a cartoonist in the promotions department, alternated illustrating cartoons on the editorial page. Patton’s cartoon was called Out of this World. In the last decade of his life, Jack Patton’s health had begun to fail. On April 1, 1961, he left the Dallas Morning News on a disability retirement. He was a member of Dallas Athletic Club and the Calyx Club. Patton was a Methodist. On January 22, 1962, after more than forty years with the Dallas Journal and Dallas Morning News, Jack Patton died at Baylor University Medical Center and was buried at Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas. At the time, he was survived by his wife Phoebe “Peggy” Cooper Patton, whom he had married in 1927, and a son and daughter. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Dallas Morning News, October 5, 1926; October 7, 1927; June 9, 1928; January 23, 1962. Maury Forman and Robert A. Calvert, Cartooning Texas: One Hundred Years of Cartoon Art in the Lone Star State (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1993). Al Harting, “The Rowdy Days of the Dallas Dispatch,” D Magazine, August 1979. Texas History Movies (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1974, 1986). Robert Wilonsky, “Dallas and the Trinity,” D Magazine, May 2012 (https://www.dallasnews.com/news/dallas-city-hall/2012/05/08/dallas-and-the-trinity-for-whom-yesterday-looks-very-much-like-tomorrow), accessed February 6, 2018.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Mike Zambrano, Jr., "PATTON, JACKSON INGERSOLL [JACK] ," accessed December 17, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpatt.

Uploaded on May 20, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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