McCay sketching at his easel while a boy dressed as his character Little Nemo looks on.
Although cemeteries are not widely regarded as centers of laughter, buried at the Evergreens is one of the greatest of all cartoonists, Winsor McCay, who among other things created some of the very first animated cartoons and shorts. McCay developed a dynamic yet detailed style that in 1903 won him an offer to be a staff artist for a New York newspaper, turning out daily and Sunday comic strips at a rate of three or four at a time. One of the first, Little Sammy Sneeze, challenged McCay not only to write a funny illustrated story about a boy, but to produce a silly but convincing sneeze in the last panel. He pulled it off by exploiting his talent for showing vigorous action in a static drawing. His most famous strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland, was a fanciful take on children’s dreams.
One of McCay's political cartoons that criticizes the League of Nations
McCay’s first animated film, Little Nemo, appeared in 1911, with thousands of frames hand-drawn by McCay on rice paper. America’s first master cartoonist and film animator lived out his remaining days in the Hearst offices, in his winter apartment in the Hotel St. George in Brooklyn Heights, and in his summer home in Sheepshead Bay – always working. In the moment that he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1934, as his arm became numb McCay exclaimed that his life was now ruined because he would never be able to draw again. He died a few days later, and after rites at his Masonic lodge, was interred at the Evergreens on the beautiful hilltop called The Lawn, with its sweeping prospect over the cemetery’s southern area. His personal logo was replicated on his headstone.
Here’s a video of McCay’s 1918 work “The Sinking of the Lusitania” for your viewing pleasure, courtesy of Archive.org.
Information taken from the book Green Oasis in Brooklyn: The Evergreens Cemetery by John Rousmaniere. Learn more here.