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John Collins fonds (P719)

1935-1977. - 4 cm of textual records and other documents.

Administrative History - Biographical Sketch:

John Collins was born in Washington, D.C., on October 7, 1917. His father was an auto mechanic and part-time taxi driver who moved to Montreal with his family in 1920. Collins discovered that he had the ability to "draw pictures and get a laugh." He studied drawing at Sir George Williams University (which in 1974 joined with Loyola College to become Concordia University) and at the Montreal School of Fine Arts.

In 1939, while still a student, Collins sold his first cartoon to The Gazette, and soon after became the newspaper's first editorial cartoonist, a position he held for the next four decades, until he retired in 1982. Collins earned a reputation for being competent, fast, uncomplaining and reliable. During his career at The Gazette, he drew more than 15,000 cartoons. Critics often remarked that one of the distinguishing traits of his drawings was an absence of malice, that he was able to make his point without offending his subject. The cartoons Collins drew during the Second World War were particularly popular, with several being reprinted in The New York Times. John Collins gave us "Uno Who," a figure wearing a barrel and a bowler hat too large for his head who personified the average taxpayer. Uno Who first appeared in 1940 and just kept on coming back, until Collins retired. He was, in effect, Collins's trademark.

The thousands of cartoons that Collins produced over the years while working at The Gazette earned him numerous honours. He won the National Newspaper Award for Political Cartooning twice, in 1954 and in 1973. (Founded in 1949, when it had nine categories, today the award has about 20. The category "Editorial Cartooning/Caricature" has existed since the beginning.)

Collins was also recognized as a reputable local artist. In parallel to his career as a cartoonist, he worked as a graphic artist, drawing for example the illustrations for Edgar Andrew Collard's history of Montreal. He also occasionally exhibited his watercolours featuring various locations in his adopted city. His sketches and watercolours of Montreal streetscapes are sought by collectors.

In 1945, Collins married Edna Fisher, who had come to Montreal from Pittsburgh. They had no children. They retired to St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1983 but returned three years later to become Canadian citizens and settled in Dorval. John Collins died in Lachine in september 2007. He was 89.

A book of his sketches, Montreal Memories of the Century, was published in 2000.

Scope and Content:

The John Collins fonds pertains to his career as a cartoonist, and deals mostly with the reactions and comments related to his daily cartoons. The fonds contains 5 cm of personal correspondence, mostly letters sent by personalities and politicians to Collins concerning his drawings (1949-1977). It also includes a copy of Cartoons, 1955-1959 by John Collins, the program "Montreal Alouettes vs Toronto Argonauts," which features drawings by Collins, and one school yearbook: "West Hill High School Annual, 1935." The fonds also contains 13 photographic portraits of John Collins (8"x10"), dating from 1938 to 1970, one watercolour portrait of John Collins's father showing him as a security officer in Montreal during the Second World War, and two World War II propaganda posters drawn by John Collins.

The fonds is divided into the following series:

  • P719/A: Correspondence
  • P719/B: Printed Material
  • P719/C: Iconographic Documents