Vincent Trout Hamlin
Vincent Trout Hamlin was born on May 10, 1900 in Perry, Iowa to parents Erma and Dr. Frederick Clarence Hamlin, a dentist. He began drawing at an early age and published his first cartoons in 1916. Lying about his age, he enlisted in the army at 17 to fight in WWI and was shipped to France as part of the Sixth Army's Motor Transport Group. When the war ended, he returned to the United States determined to become a syndicated comic artist, having met a newspaper man in the army who convinced him of his abilities. He spent a number of years in all sorts of employment, trying to get his start. 1933 was his big break, when the Newspaper Enterprise Association purchased Alley Oop for syndication. Hamlin continued work on the strip until his retirement in 1973, when Dave Graue, formerly Hamlin's assistant, took over full responsibility. Graue retired in 2001 and the strip was passed on to Jack and Carole Bender, who drew and wrote the strip until 2018.
University of Missouri
In 1920, Hamlin attended the University of Missouri, as a student interested in the journalism program. He quickly discovered traditional college education was not what he wanted. While he only stayed one semester, Columbia and the University made a lasting impression on him. MU may be the origin of the name "Moo," the land from which Alley Oop hails.
After Hamlin left MU, he returned to Iowa, enrolling briefly at Drake University. This did not last either, though, as he preferred his newspaper work to that of a student. In late 1921, he saw an advertisement for a correspondence course in newspaper art in Cartoons Magazine, and decided to enroll. This drawing is probably an assignment Hamlin did for this course, as he notes on the back. The correspondence school recommended him for a job with a Fort Worth oil publication, The Texas Grubstaker.
The Life of an Artist
Hamlin held many different jobs during his first three decades. He worked mostly in journalism, as a photographer and illustrator, but also worked as a sign painter, an animator, window dresser, card writer, movie projectionist, and semi-professional boxer, among others. As his account book shows, the 1920s were pretty lean times for Hamlin. His entire income for 1922 was $910.
Hamlin married Dorothy, his high school sweetheart, on December 24th, 1926. Ooola, Alley's lady friend, was modeled after her. Like Ooola and Alley, Dorothy and V.T. travelled together, and she played a crucial role in many of the big events in his life.
The Hamlin Children
One of Hamlin's motivations for seeking work as a syndicated cartoonist was a regular income to support a growing family. His daughter Teddy was born in 1927, and his son Jon in 1936.
Hamlin was introduced to film and photography in his early teens, which helped him find work later on in a number of newspaper art departments. In 1928 he was hired as a photographer for the Houston Press. Hamlin took this photograph while covering the Democratic National Convention in Houston, where he met Herbert Walker, the future general manager of the NEA syndicate.
V.T. Hamlin was a restless spirit who enjoyed travel, and spent many of the earlier decades of his life moving around the United States. This address book kept by his wife Dorothy contains a list of their addresses from the day of their wedding in 1926 through 1967, including residences in Florida, Texas, Iowa, Oregon, California, and Arizona. Working as a syndicated cartoonist allowed Hamlin the financial and geographical freedom to roam the country.
Hamlin loved the outdoors, and spent as much time outside as he could, fishing, boating, or even just drawing. This photo of him working at his drawing board surrounded by cacti is from his residence in Tucson, Arizona in 1937.