Franklin L. Folger
By: Jacob Bonta
For generations, magazines, and newspapers invested in original content the same way Netflix and other streaming services do today. Featured artist Franklin Folger built a name and an illustrious career generating commercial art and cartoons for publications across the nation.
Franklin Lewis Folger became one of the most well-known cartoonists in American history with the creation of his comic strip “The Girls”. It would seem he was destined for the publication business with an impressive lineage including his father and grandfather, Lewis B. Folger and Lewis G. Folger, both artists for The Cincinnati Enquirer and as a (self-proclaimed) descendant of Benjamin Franklin, the first-ever American publisher.
Folger’s famous creation, “The Girls”, was syndicated in hundreds of newspapers & magazines from 1952-1977. In the series, Folger created caricatures of “the ladies who lunch”, the housewives and society ladies who populated the American middle and upper classes of the time. His treatment of his female characters was gentle but humorous, as they often found themselves in every day but quite ridiculous circumstances. His light-hearted yet clever approach resonated with readers, especially women, launching the cartoon’s success and syndication across the country and worldwide. The series was additionally compiled into seven books by Doubleday and its followers included such notables as Eleanor Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Folger began his art career early, publishing cartoons in the Cincinnati Times-Star at age 14. During high school, he was a cartoonist for the Withrow High School newspaper and designed and illustrated the school’s annual publication. He went on to study at the Art Academy of Cincinnati before becoming a freelance commercial artist and selling cartoons and illustrations to various magazines including The Saturday Evening Post, Life, and Esquire. His career was interrupted by World War II when he was drafted in 1942. Drawing cartoons for the Army newspaper, he served in Texas until 1947.
Upon returning to Cincinnati, he continued to freelance and was known for a seven-day-a-week work ethic. Following The Girls release in The Enquirer and throughout his career, Folger continued to produce a prolific volume of work, creating dozens of illustrations and cartoons to sell to various publications and advertising agencies, in addition to, developing six cartoons a week for The Girls. Sometimes described as reclusive, his success allowed him to pull back from society to a degree, functioning mainly through his business manager for the remainder of his career. Throughout his life, Folger was an avid collector and supporter of the arts, particularly in Cincinnati. He often went for walks around the city and could be found people-watching at art galleries and exhibitions as well as department stores and the local health food store.