Lew Hymers

Seen About Town was Lew Hymers' (1892-1953) popular feature in the Nevada State Journal through the 1930s and 40s. The artist's specialty was swiftly rendered caricatures of Reno's movers and shakers. For many years Hymers maintained a studio in downtown Reno where he met the majority of the city's commercial art needs.

Born in Reno in 1892, Hymers was the grandson of one of the city's founders, Thomas Hymers, who served for many years on the Washoe County Commission. This was the backdrop that provided the young Hymers with valuable insights into Reno's early political and social life.

Hymers attended public schools in Reno. The young man's prodigious artistic talent was obvious, and it was sufficient to land him a job in 1912, at age twenty, in the art department of the San Francisco Chronicle. He worked alongside Robert Ripley, later of Believe It or Not fame, and John Terry, who went on to produce the motion picture cartoon series Terrytoons.

After he returned to Reno, Hymers' drawings of campus high jinks and popular students became a mainstay in the University of Nevada yearbook, Artemisia. He roamed the halls of the Nevada legislature in Carson City, and, in 1917 and 1935, self-published two volumes of his biting caricatures of Silver State lawmakers.

Over his lifetime, Hymers ventured out of Nevada several times, finding job opportunities in Los Angeles, where he worked for the Walt Disney Company, and in the nation's capital during World War I, on the staff of the Washington Post.

It was Hymers' caricatures, deftly rendered in pen and ink, that secured his reputation throughout Northern Nevada. Each caricature, with a huge head and diminutive body, was accompanied by a graphic attribute that clarified his subject's title or occupation. It might be an oversized needle if he was depicting a doctor, or a fishing pole in the hand of a prominent sportsman.

To say that Hymers was the preeminent commercial artist in Reno in his time is not an exaggeration. From his one-man studio poured a constant flow of logos, cartoons, signs, advertisements, greeting cards, and caricatures, numbering in the thousands. In 1944, Hymers self-published Seen About Town, a compilation of hundreds of caricatures that had appeared in his Nevada State Journal feature since 1938.

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