Predecessors

A Facebook friend of mine, Eric Beteille, updated his status with an amazing search of the 1940 Census Archives to find who lived in his house then. Not previously knowing such a treasure trove of info was available online I, of course, did the same thing, and this is what I discovered (actual page cropped, click it for the bigger picture), explained below:

In 1940 the Woolsey family resided in our home, which they rented at a rate of $60 per month. William, Sr. (79 years old), was the head of the household. He was retired. His wife Katherine (62) was a chef at an unspecified hotel. She made $1,200 in 1939. William and Katherine had two sons, William, Jr. (35) and Robert (25). William, Jr., worked as an auditor at an unspecified aeronautics firm and made $3,600 the previous year. Robert, was an artist and he reported making no income in 1939. The Woolsey’s also had a lodger named Edith Swinton (35). Edith was a single female whose occupation is listed as bookkeeper in the service industry. She made $1,200 in 1939. William, Sr., Katherine, and Robert completed their high school educations, William, Jr., and Edith had college degrees. William, Sr., was born in Illinois. Katherine and William, Jr., were born in Minnesota. Robert and Edith were born in North Dakota. The Woolsey family was living at this same address since at least April 1, 1935. At that time Edith was living in Minneapolis.

I googled everyone’s names, but the only thing I found was for Robert (presuming of course it’s the same person), in the form of the following cursory information at askart.com, sourced through Edan Hughes’ “Artists in California,” 1786-1940.

“After studying at Otis Art Institute, Woolsey worked in Los Angeles for the Public Works of Art Project during the 1930s.”

So I googled “Robert Woolsey WPA” and got nothing; thenI searched for “Robert Woolsey Otis Art Institute,” and found this 2006 post on the┬áthe Cartoons, Model Sheets & Stuff Blog about the background artistry of Hanna Barbera painters Robert Gentle and Art Lozzi. In a 2009 response a commenter named Brad Woolsey writes:

Bob Gentle and my father (Robert Woolsey) were friends in art school in the ’30s. I found a charcoal portrait of my father done by Bob completed in ’38. Bob Gentle ended up doing backgrounds and my father had to drop out of art school even though he was on scholarship at Otis in LA due to finances — he eventually became a toy designer/engineer.

Sounds like it very well could be the same fellow. If so, sad that Robert had to leave art behind. Sad also that a search for “Robert Woolsey Toys” came up empty. How cool would it be if he helped design, Erector Sets, the Slinky or Silly Putty.