Frank Bellew

18 Apr 1828
29 Jun 1888
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Frank Henry Temple Bellew (April 18, 1828 – June 29, 1888), American artist, illustrator, and cartoonist, and the first person to portray the figure of Uncle Sam.

Bellew was born in Cawnpore, India, in 1828, the son Francis-John Bellew, a British officer, and Anne Smoult Temple, of Hylton Castle.

Father of Frank P.W. Bellew, who often signed his name “Chip,” as in “chip off the old block.”

Bellew worked at most of the notable publications of his time, including Frank Leslie’s Illustrated, Harper’s Bazaar, Harper’s Weekly, Puck, St. Nicholas, and Scribner’s.

Bellew was active in New Orleans, Louisiana circa 1855, but before and after that period spent his career in New York City.

His November 26, 1864, Harper’s Weekly caricature of Abraham Lincoln, “Long Abraham Lincoln a Little Longer,” exaggerating the height and thinness of the president to absurd extremes, was very popular.

Charles Dickens said of Bellew, “Frank Bellew’s pencil is extraordinary. He probably originated more, of a purely comic nature, than all the rest of the artistic brethren put together.”

While the name “Uncle Sam” had been used to refer to the United States since the 1810s, Bellew was the first artist to portray him in human form, in the March 13, 1852, issue of the New York Lantern. The cartoon showed John Bull actively involved in assisting his country’s shipping industry, while Uncle Sam, conversely, does nothing to help the American shipping industry

Bellew knew and socialized with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who visited Bellew at his studio on Broadway in New York City.

Thoreau and Bellew discussed philosophical matters, as Thoreau recorded in his Journals on October 19, 1855:

Talking with Bellew this evening about Fourierism and communities, I said that I suspected any enterprise in which two were engaged together. “But,” said he, “it is difficult to make a stick stand unless you slant two or more against it.” “Oh, no,” answered I, “you may split its lower end into three, or drive it single into the ground, which is the best way; but most men, when they start on a new enterprise, not only figuratively, but really, pull up stakes. When the sticks prop one another, none, or only one, stands erect.”
Bellew knew Thomas Nast from, at the very least, shared visits to Charles Pfaff’s beer cellar in lower Manhattan, and found him “amusing.”It’s also quite likely the two knew each other because they were two of the most prolific artists creating illustrations for Harper’s Weekly.

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