Wilson McCoy

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Robert Wilson McCoy
Biographical information
Born: April 6, 1902
Died: July 20, 1961
Nationality: Mini usa.gif American
Occupation: Artist

Wilson McCoy did not work on "Mandrake the Magician", but is included here for historical reasons.

Life and career

Family background

Edward Ferdinand McCoy (1865-1913) and Theodocia Elizabeth Turnbull (1867-1937) married[1] May 23, 1886, in Batchtown. Calhoun County, Illinois. Edward worked as a (traveling) dealer in musical instruments. He and Theodocia had 7 children together, Verlie Edna (1887–1957), Lavoyd Fernand (1890–1943), Otie Lorraine (1891–1946), Dorothy Jane (1897–1986), Edward Hamilton Newton (1899–1942), Robert Wilson (1902–1961) and Horace Turnbull (1905–1969).

About the time Robert Wilson was born the family was living in Troy, before the family settled in St. Louis. They first lived in 1724 Glasgow Avenue, then in 1918 Coleman Street and next in 4713 Cottage Avenue. After the death of Edward the family moved to 5130 Cates Avenue and next to 5598 Etzel avenue.

Early career and personal life

To help out the family Wilson took[2] a job working in a drug store when he was 12 years old. After two years in hight school he became an errand boy for the D'Arcy Advertising Agency[footnotes 1], and by 1920 he worked[3] as an artist for the same agency. According[4] to a short biography, McCoy was associated with D'Arcy for four years, and then worked for General Outdoor Adverticing Co. in St. Louis and Chicago the next five years.

McCoy is mentioned as one of the student at the School of Fine Arts, Washington University, in the year 1923-24[5]. So, in the beginning his work for General Outdoor Adverticing were likely after school.

Dorothy 1922

At the Washington University he met Dorothy May Rainwater[footnotes 2]. Interesting, both awarded[6] 5$ each in a Tangled Comic competition in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in January 1925. They announced[7][footnotes 3] their engagement in June 1925 and they married[8] on September 12 1925, telling they would reside in Chicago. Wilson McCoy study one more year[9] (1925-26) at the Washington University, also serving as the president of The Art School Association. Even though Dorothy was a student[10] at at the School of Fine Arts she is only mentioned one time[11] in the Hatchet yearbooks 1923-1926, as assistant at the annual Art School Bazaar, in 1926: Hell's Kitchen.

Expectant Fathers

Autumn 1926 Wilson attended[2] the American Academy of Art[footnotes 4]. Ulf Granberg[12] wrote that Wilson went to Chicago with seven dollars in his pocket, and that he immediately got a job[footnotes 5]. It is unknow if Dorothy went with him to Chicago. She was pregnant and gave birth to their son, Robert Wilson, in St. Louis on February 3, 1927.

Wilson most likely graduated in 1927 and start working full time in St. Louis. There exist an ad for an YNCA cource[footnotes 6] in Drawing and Illustrating. This ad has a short biography[footnotes 7],[footnotes 8] presenting R. Wilson McCoy as the instructor.

In 1929 Wilson was[13] referred to as a well-known St. Louis artist when he was presented as one of three judges in a newspaper competition. About the same time he illustrated "Expectant Fathers Their Care and Treatment" written by Douglas Vass Martin jr. The small book from 1930 has a humorous looks at becoming a father, from a man's point of view.

Studio work and personal life

Looking at St. Louis city directories from the 30's, we find that McCoy is associated with several studios:

  • 1930: McCoy & Quest (2313 Washington Avenue), with Charles Francis Quest
  • 1933: Windsor Studio (2670 Washington Blvd), with William E Heede, Martin C Kaiser, Robert McRoy, Everett Hayden Parks, Elise B Parks, Lester Harry "Tex" Willman and Co Windsor
  • 1936: Associated Artists of St Louis (2670 Washington Blvd), with William H Cramer, Ralph Wesley Guze, William E Heede, Martin C Kaiser, Marjorie M Lippman, Everett Hayden Parks, Elise B Parks, Lester Harry "Tex" Willman, John Hamilton Stevens and Fred Adolph Toerper
  • 1937: Advertiser’s Artists Co. (2670 Washington Blvd), with Kenneth Cowhey, Ralph Wesley Guze, Martin C Kaiser, Lester Harry "Tex" Willman, John Hamilton Stevens and Benjamin Stalker Read

In 1930 the McCoy family lived at 7603 Forsythe before moving to 100 N Bemiston av. When their daughter, Carol, was born on 17 November 1933 they lived at 6748 Crest Avenue. By 1940 they had moved to 7035 Ethel Avenue.

In 1941 he was commissioned[14] to do a full color poster for Accident & Health Insurance Week. The press release from the A. & H. Week committee stated:

He is famous for his national magazine covers, Shell Oil calendars and Dr. Pepper posters. He will select his conception of “the ideal girl model’ to pose for a natural color poster to be done in his original airbrush technique. The use of a nationally known artist and model to create a striking A. & H Week poster is part of an elaborate program to be announced later. 

The Accident and Health Insurance Week, which took place from March 23 to 28 in 1942, was[15] a national judging competition centered around the theme "Who was the typical American nurse?" The A. & H. Week committee initiated a nationwide quest to find the girl who would preside over the 1942 Accident and Health Week. This endeavor saw active participation from insurance companies, regional groups, and major airlines, all collaborating with the committee to promote the search for the archetypal American nurse. Additionally, individual A. & H. groups extended invitations to local hospital organizations to submit photographs of their nurses for the competition.

The fortunate young woman chosen to be the queen of A. & H. Week would receive a $250 United States Defense Bond as a fitting reward. Elaborate programs were being devised by cooperative associations and groups across the nation to commemorate the occasion.

The model McCoy used for this 1942 A & H poster was the 21 years old Margie Everden, the daughter of a Michigan fruit farmer. She had natural blonde hair and blue eyes, was 5 feet 4 1/2 inches tall and weighed 110 pounds.

Illustrating The Phantom

Both Ray Moore and Wilson McCoy went to the Washington University, but not at the same time. They met when they had neighboring offices at 2313 Washington avenue in the years 1930[16]-1931[17].

Ray Moore became the artist on Lee Falk's new adventure strip, The Phantom, starting in 1936. Due to the increased workload, when the Sunday strip version was was launched mid 1939, Moore needed some help. It is said that Tex Willman did assist with some of the background inking. Moore and Willman were classmates from the Washington University, both members[18] in Delta Pi Omega in 1928. Starting in the early 30's Willman worked at the same studios as Wilson McCoy.

In 1942, Ray Moore became army instructor at South Plains Army Air field (Texas). Wilson McCoy started as an instructor at the School of Fine Arts (Washington University), and in addition he agreed illustrating The Phantom until Ray Moore was discharged from the army. Returning in 1945 Ray Moore took up his work on The Phantom, but soon he had to realize that he was unable to continue drawing the daily strip. McCoy agreed to draw the daily strip while Ray Moore continued drawing the Sunday strip (with some help from McCoy, now and then).

At this time, McCoy's drawing style was close to Moore's. But there are some details that set them apart. McCoy drew characteristic eyebrows, many short upward lines in contrast to Moore's more horizontal lines. Diana is also drawn differently and with a slightly different hairstyle.

After the war Ray Moore took up his work on the Phantom, first with the daily story "Princess Valerie" (18 February 1946 to 13 July 1946). But during his WW II duty something happened to Ray Moore[footnotes 9], which made him unable to keep on drawing the Phantom full time. McCoy continued drawing the daily strip while Moore did the Sunday stories "The Scarlet Sorceress" (11 August 1946 to 22 December 1946), "The 12 Tasks" (29 December to 29 June 1947), "The Marshall Sisters" (23 November 1947 to 16 May 1948) and the beginning of "The Haunted Castle" (12 September to 13 February 1948). Then Wilson McCoy continued both the dailies and Sundays.

Wilson McCoy often used reference photos in making his art on the strips. His daughter Carol told[19] that an art student named Nancy modeled for Diana a lot when she (Carol) was in grade school, but later Carol became his subject. She also told that her father took photos of school friends of her - action scenes like climbing over something - for his reference archive. His son Robert also posed for Wilson McCoy's reference material. Other named persons mentioned are, Billy Meohlenbrock[footnotes 10], Ed Short[footnotes 11] and Dorothy McCoy.

In 1948 WIlson McCoy purchased and moved[20] to the Roland Miller residence on East County Line road in Barrington (A northwest suburb of Chicago). About the same time, an agreement was made with KFS so that McCoy now became the official artist for the Phantom. His name appears first time in the daily strip from February 21 1949 and on the Sundays from March 13, 1949. A curiosity is that the logo on the Sunday page has the text "by Lee Falk and Ray Moore" until April 20 for the tabloid variant and until April 27 for the half and third page variants.

Most sources mention that McCoy's wife, Dorothy, lettered the Phantom strips. In 2001 Carol McCoy Dharamsey said that her mother "did all the lettering in the last few years, by the time I was in high shool. But I think he had someone else when we were young." In 1958 Kathryn Loring wrote[21] that ".. She takes over the tedious task of lettering cartoon balloons for her husband as well as secretarial duties. .."

Looking at the letters on the dailies and Sundays from 1948 to 1959 then you can't quite clearly see that it is Dorothy who did the lettering. If you look at the letters S and C, these are clearly written by Wilson McCoy - as you can see these in his signature. McCoy has a characteristic downward stroke in the upper part of the letter S. This downward stroke is also seen in the letter C, especially if it is used inside a word. An explanation for this could be that Dorothy inked over her husband's pencil text.


  1. located at: 4th fl Missouiri Life Bldg, 1501 Locust
  2. (Nov 19, 1905-Feb 16, 1991) daugther of Bertram Aaron Rainwater and May Belle Petree
  3. In the text it is said that Wilson McCoy was the President of the The Art School Association (year 1924-25), but according to the Hatchet yearbook it was Harry Spear!
  4. Started in 1923 and located at the Kimball Building, 306 s Wabash Ave, Chicago
  5. at General Outdoor Adverticing Co. in Chicago?
  6. located at Sixteenth and Locust Streets, St. Louis
  7. In the text it is said that Wilson McCoy was the President of the The Art School Association year of 1924, but according to the Hatchet yearbook it was Arthur Krause!
  8. This ad is printed without mentioning the year, but mention that the first session was on Wedensday 26 September, and that was in 1928
  9. Lee Falk said nervous disorder - some kind of neuralgia
  10. Billy Meohlenbrock is William Edwin Moehlenbrock Jr (1938 - 1989), son of William Edwin Moehlenbrock (1896-1958) and Elizabeth Hartmann (1900-1938). William Edwin Moehlenbrock Sr. is a brother of Claire Lydia Moehlenbrock, whife of Ray Moore.
  11. Ed Short is Benjamin Edwin Short (1882-1969) married with Otie Lorraine McCoy, sister of R. Wilson McCoy.


  1. ancestry.com: Illinois, Marriage Index, 1860-1920
  2. 2.0 2.1 Granberg, Ulf. "Wilson McCoy", Stora jubileumsboken, Semic Press (1975)
  3. ancestry.com: Federal Census 1910
  4. Ad for a course in Drawing and Illustrating (1928)
  5. The Hatchet, Yearbook 1924 Washington University, p 167
  6. "Winners of Tenth Tangled Comic Competition", St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) 18 Jan 1925, p 39
  7. "Two out-of-town weddings of week of interest here", St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri), 14 Jun 1925, p 34
  8. "Recent engagements and weddings", St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) 13 Sep 1925, p 31
  9. The Hatchet, Yearbook 1926 Washington University, p 123 and 629
  10. "Annual Costume Ball of Students in the St. Louis School of Fine Arts", St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) 24 Feb 1924, p 114
  11. The Hatchet, Yearbook 1926 Washington University, p 625
  12. PhantomWiki: Ulf Granberg
  13. "100 wonderful prizes for the 100 best colored sketches of the new St. Louis Diary Gold Medal Ice Cream packages", St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) 03 Nov 1929, p 122
  14. "Select Nationally Known Artist", The National Underwriter, 1941-11-06: Vol 45 Iss 45, p 28
  15. "Accident & Health Queen", Best's Review 1942-01: Vol 42 Iss 9, p 53
  16. Goulds's St. Louis Cite Directory, Polk-Gould Directory co (1930), p 973 and 1048
  17. Goulds's St. Louis Cite Directory, Polk-Gould Directory co (1931), p 937 and 1009
  18. The Hatchet, Yearbook 1928 Washington University, p 372
  19. Rhoades, Ed, "Remembering Wilson McCoy", Friends of the Phantom (newsletter), issue 22 (summer 2001)', p 19-22
  20. "Noted Resident", The McHenry Plaindealer, 18 Nov 1948, p 12
  21. Loring, Kathryn, "Today with Women", Chicago Tribune, 17 Aug 1958, p 153

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