Raeburn Van Buren Biography

Raeburn Van Buren




Raeburn Van Buren was born January 12, 1891 in Pueblo, in Pueblo, Colorado, Van Buren, a distant relative of US President Martin Van Buren, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, where he learned cartooning from from comic strip artist Harry Wood. In 1913, Van Buren moved to New York, where he illustrated for Puck, Life and The Saturday Evening Post.

Van Buren served in the old Seventh Regiment (107th Infantry) of the 27th New York Empire Division in World War I. He was art editor of the Division's magazine, Gas Attack. An artistry and illustrative flair were evident in his cartoons, and The New York Times compared his artwork in the magazine with that of the famous British illustrator, Bruce Bairnsfather. After military service, he drew cartoons for The Saturday Evening Post, The New Yorker and Esquire. As a freelance illustrator, he contributed to numerous magazines, including Collier's, Redbook and McCall's. He was a founder of the National Society of Magazine Illustrators.

He began drawing the comic strip Abbie an' Slats in 1937. The strip followed the experiences of a rural spinster raising her young cousin, a streetwise urban child. It was the idea of his fellow cartoonist and friend, Al Capp, who intended to start a second strip to build upon the success of his popular Li'l Abner. Instead of drawing it himself, Capp recruited van Buren. Initially, Van Buren turned him down, but he was soon lured by the prospect of steady work. The strip was carried in 400 newspapers but did not equal the popularity of Li'l Abner. Capp abandoned the strip in 1945, turning the writing chores over to his brother, Elliot Caplin. Van Buren stayed on the strip, and it ended with his retirement in 1971.

With the Gold Key Award, he was honored in 1979 as a member of the National Cartoonists Society Hall of Fame. In 1958, he was named “Cartoonist of the Year” by the Quaker City Lodge of the B’nai B’rith in ceremonies at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Van Buren lived in Great Neck, Long Island.

Raeburn Van Buren died on December 29,1988 at North Shore Community Hospital in Manhasset, Long Island, NY after suffering an injury in a fall, he was 96 years old.