Today is the birthday of artist, animator and vaudevillian Winsor McCay, who, were he still alive, would be 139 -- or 144 years old… more on that later. Like many animation pioneers, McCay's work has been largely overshadowed by his better known successors, Walt Disney and the Fleischer Brothers. But if it weren't for McCay, who knows what they'd have done with their lives.
Zenas Winsor McKay was born September 26th -- either in 1871 in Spring Lake, Michigan (according to McCay), or in 1869 in Canada (according to his tombstone), or 1867 in Canada (according to the census). What is not disputed is that he was the son of Robert McKay (later changed to McCay) and Janet Murray McKay. Robert worked variously as a teamster, grocer and real estate agent. They sent him to Cleary's Business College in Ypsilanti, Michigan. At Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University), John Goodison (a former glass stainer) taught him the fundamentals of art. McCay moved to Chicago in 1889 with the intention of attending the Art Institute of Chicago. However, unable to afford tuition, he found a job at the National Printing and Engraving Company where he made circus and theatrical posters. In 1901, he moved to Cincinnati, where he worked as an artist for Kohl and Middleton's Vine Street Dime Museum and married Maude Leonore Dufour.