MANSFIELD – After selling his first cartoon to Judge magazine at 10 years old, Scott Brown knew he wanted to be a cartoonist.
Brown, born in Mechanicsburg in 1909, was a nationally known Mansfield cartoonist and local soda shop owner.
His father, Hugh Maurice Brown, ran a grain elevator in the Champaign County village, a very social environment which had an impact on Brown, according to Christopher Kuntz, Brown’s grandson and author of “Scott Brown: Cartoonist”.
“From the moment he (Brown) was born, he was sitting there next to his father in that environment,” he said. “It laid the groundwork for who he became later in life.”
When he was 9 years old, Brown’s family moved to Mansfield in 1918 and opened a soda shop at the corner of Fourth Street and Helen Avenue.
Brown sold his first cartoon to the magazine Judge, a weekly satirical magazine published from 1881 to 1947, which is when Kuntz said he decided he wanted to be an artist and cartoonist.
Four years later, in October of 1924, Brown fell off a cliff into a quarry while playing with his friends, shattering his right elbow.
“He (Brown) was right-handed,” Kuntz said. “You can imagine how that would shatter his life.”
Just four months after the accident, Brown was back to painting and making cartoons, Kuntz said.
“He (Brown) was the kind of person who believed it’s not what you’re given, it’s what you make of it,” he said. “He didn’t let that accident alter his vision.”
After graduating from high school, Brown attended the Chicago Institute of Art for two years before heading to New York in 1929 with high hopes and dreams, Kuntz said.
Brown comes back to Mansfield
The Great Depression, which began to cause economic shock in the fall of 1929, led Brown back home to Mansfield and the soda shop.
Within months, Brown began covering the shop walls with large cartoons, something he could no longer do in New York, Kuntz said.
“A lot of his early cartoons were Depression Era ones,” he said. “He sort of brought humor into what was going on, which was posted on the walls of the soda shop.”
Kuntz said that despite Brown’s short time spent in New York, the connections he made there opened the door to have work published at the national level.
From the 1930s to the 1970s, Brown’s work appeared in publications coast to coast including Colliers, The New Yorker and The Saturday Evening Post, as well as locally in the Mansfield News Journal.
Kuntz published “Scott Brown: Cartoonist” through Turas Publishing, who released the book for purchase on May 15.
The book shares the story of Brown’s life, including more than 130 renditions of his cartoons, early work, family pictures, artwork, and other memorabilia from museums, magazines, newspapers, and private collections.
Several images featured in the hardback, full cover book have never before been seen by the public.
A good portion of Brown’s work is archived at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at The Ohio State University.
The Richland County Historical Society has now digitized a special collection of Brown’s art and memorabilia dating back to his childhood, accessible for free online.
A digital museum is also featured on the Scott Brown Cartoonist website and features four digitized rooms for exploration including “Welcome to the Soda Shop, ” “The Corner Parade,” :Family Photo Album” and “Barbara Brown Koons.”
Kuntz inspired by book publishing process
Kuntz, who spent over three years conducting research for the book, shares childhood memories of Brown and the soda shop, which includes artifacts from his personal collection.
Born in Indianapolis, Kuntz said he traveled frequently to Ohio to visit his grandfather.
“I spent a lot of summer time here (Ohio),” he said. “He and I were pretty close.”
Kuntz said that the project was inspired by a June 2019 trip with his son, John, to see some of Brown’s collections in various museums around Ohio.
“That was the beginning of the book,” he said. “But, I didn’t know it.”
He said prior to the trip, he wasn’t aware of how much work his grandfather had done.
“This was all a voyage of discovery,” Kuntz said. “In the process, I got to know museum curators, historians, family members I had never met before, and I got to know where I was from.”
The original idea for the project was to be a special Christmas present for maybe a dozen people, he said.
“I was basically thinking along the lines of a really nice Christmas present that would be handed down because this was becoming more and more important to me,” he said.
Kuntz said the flip was switched during a conversation with Bob Carter, a local Richland County author and historian, who suggested the project become a book.
“Inspired by that, I started looking into the possibility,” he said. “He (Carter) connected me with Terry Flaherty of Turas Publishing.”
“One thing led to another and I began to realize that I tapped into something that was bigger than just a world class cartoonist,” Kuntz said.
Kuntz said he met virtually with Flaherty twice a week, for one to two hours, for an entire year, until they felt like the book was ready to publish.
“In the process I’ve met relatives, dozens of people who’ve become important to me, and new friends in my life,” he said. “It’s been an absolutely unexpected time in my life.
Kuntz said the project has revealed a desire to inspire others to look into who and where they come from.
“This has led me to appreciate the value of personal family stories,” he said. “I think, next to having my kids, it’s probably the most important thing I’ve done.”
Kuntz, a Seattle resident, is traveling to Ohio for two public presentations as a part of the book’s official launch.
Presentations will take place at the Richland County Historical Society on Aug. 16 at 7:30 p.m. and the Book Loft in Columbus on Aug. 17 at 7 p.m.
“Scott Brown: Cartoonist” can be purchased for $49.50 at TurasPublishing.com, as well as Amazon, Barnes and Noble and most other bookstores.
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