Phil May and Leo Cheney Collection

Scope and Content

The collection consists of books, journals, cartoons and other pictures

Administrative / Biographical History

Born in Wortley, near Leeds, in 1864, Phil May was a social and political caricaturist. His most popular works deal with lower and middle-class London life in the late Victorian period, and his later cartoons include some excellent political portraits. May worked as a cartoonist on the St Stephen's Review, where his studies of the London guttersnipe and the coaster girl earned him fame. In 1892 he launched his own annual, and shortly after began contributing cartoons to Punch, becoming a member of staff in 1896. May greatly admired fellow Punch artist Charles Keene, whom he dubbed 'the daddy of the lot of us!', but even in his captionless drawings, May was intrinsically the funnier. In turn, he himself was sometimes called 'the grandfather of British illustration' and was very influential upon the next generation of caricaturists. May was elected to the membership of the New English Art Club, the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. He died of cirrhosis of the liver and tuberculosis on 5 August 1903, aged just thirty-nine.

Leo Cheney was born in Accrington in 1878, where he attended the local Grammar School before becoming a bank clerk. He was the first pupil to enroll on Percy Bradshaw's cartoon correspondence course, and went on to sell cartoons to publications such as Boy's Own Paper and Bystander. He later became staff cartoonist on the Manchester Evening News. He is perhaps best remembered as the creator of the most famous 'Striding Man' version of the Johnnie Walker character for John Walker and Sons Whisky. Cheney gradually modified the original rather rakish figure into a 'rounder and more sociable character', and these drawings appeared in advertisements in the Illustrated London News between 1915 and 1919. However, his other illustrations also appeared in popular satirical and humour magazines such as The Passing Show. Cheney spent the final years of this life in Sussex, where he died in 1928.

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Archivist's Note

Description created by Ian Johnston, December 2006