John Francis "Frank" Holme

Holme was the most famous of the newspaper sketch artists who covered the trials of Adolph Luetgert. Holme's drawings of trial scenes appeared in the Chicago Daily News. Several drawings by Holme are reproduced in Alchemy of Bones, including some original drawings stored in the Special Collections of the University of Arizona Library. Holmes was also a writer and printer. He founded a small publishing endeavor called the Bandar Log Press, putting out limited editions with meticulous attention to the quality of the typography and printing. When friends raised money in the press to subsidize the Bandar Log Press, Mark Twain was among those who contributed. As a newspaper artist, he experimented with a variety of techniques: wood-cuts, chalk-plates, zinc-etchings, copper-plate etching, dry-point, photo-engravings from pen-and-ink drawings, greased crayon and wash-drawings.

A drawing by Holme of the Luetgert trial from the October 21, 1897, Chicago Daily News.

More pictures by Frank Holme are located throughout this Web site. Most of the illustrations taken from the Chicago Daily News were by Holme.

Born: June 23, 1868, in Corinth, West Virginia.
Parents: John Messinger and Eliza Johnson Holme.
1870: Holme's family moves to Keyser, West Virginia.
Education: Attended secondary and high school in Keyser.
1880s: Holme works in the art department of the Wheeling Register. "It was his first opportunity for artistic experiment, and he worked in every medium known to the newspaper artists of those days, — wood-cuts, chalk-plates, and zinc-etchings," Edwin B. Hill wrote.
Late 1880s: Holme works at the Pittsburgh Press. His assignments include a disastrous flood at Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on May 31, 1889. He illustrations gain attention, and the New York Graphic publishes a special edition featuring them.
Circa 1890-1892: Holme comes to Chicago and works at the Chicago Blade. Edwin B. Hill wrote:
"The installation of a time-clock, however, was to him an impertinence and an indignity. He refused absolutely to punch it, and resigned, — a fortunate move, as it resulted in his promotion to Carter H. Harrison’s Times. Here, as head of the art department, under the city editorship of Willis J. Abbott, he did excellent work.".
1892-95: Holmes works for the Chicago Times. Sometime during this decade, he also apparently worked at the Chicago Chronicle.
May 1893: Holmes marries Ida Van Dyke of London, England, and Grimsby, Ontario.
Mid-1890s: Hill writes: "Friends would drop in of an evening in their house in West Elm Street, and many and various were the comments passed on the work in hand. Rudyard Kipling’s 'Jungle Book' was recently off the press, and it was popular with the coterie of newspapermen who were Holme’s closest friends. One night when inspection of the art-work was going on, one of the gang spoke his thoughts: 'Ha! Nothing finished! Bandar-logs!' And from then on Holme and his wife were affectionately known as Mr. and Mrs. Bandar-log." Around the same time, they discuss publishing some of the amusing newspaper clips they've collected and calling the venture the Bandar Log Press. But even though Holme acquires a printing press, the book does not yet see the light of day.
October 1894-June 1895: Holme goes to California and works at the San Francisco Chronicle.
1895: Visiting Vancouver, Holme sketched a man and wired the outline to the Chicago Daily News – purportedly the first drawing ever wired to a newspaper. "Victor F. Lawson of the News paid $4 telegraph charges, but the artist’s sole reward was the order not to repeat the offense, — a bit of procedure that callously ignored the fame accruing to the newspaper for the pioneer drawing," Edwin Hill wrote.
Late 1890s: Holme works for the Chicago Daily News.
December 25, 1896: Holme publishes Just For Fun, the first book of the Bandar Log Press, a collection of reprinted newspaper articles he and his wife had found amusing. The book is a limited edition distributed to seventy-four of their friends as a Christmas present.
Address in late 1890s: 266 Chestnut Street, Chicago.
Fall 1897: Holme draws illustrations of the Luetgert trial. His colleague, John Craig Hammond, later wrote: "During the famous Luetgert murder trial, Holme was at the court-room every day. Hours at a time I have seen him stand in the rear of the court-room and sketch with lightning speed. His sketches did not have to be worked up. Every line counted as he went along. His drawings of that trial were copied throughout America and England – partly owing to the character of the case, but more so owing to their merits as drawings."
December 16-26, 1897: The Art Institute of Chicago held an exhibition of newspaper drawings by Holme, John T. McCutcheon and William Schmedtgen. (This was one of three exhibits at the museum showcasing the same three artists.) The exhibit featured several drawings that Holme had made at the Luetgert trial, some of them available for sale at either $5 or $10. Schmedtgen's illustrations also included three from the Luetgert trial.
September 1898: Holme founds the Chicago School of Illustration. Noted typographical artist F.W. Goudy taught lettering at Holme's school. Students at the school included Bertha Lum, who made a significant contribution to the Japonisme movement with her woodblock prints and paintings; Oswald Bruce Cooper, who later developed several fonts known as Cooper; and William A. Dwiggins, who later developed the Metro, Electra, Caledonia, Eldorado, and Falcon typefaces and designed a well-regarded 1935 edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.
Late 1890s:
Holme founds the Palette and Chisel Club.
January 1901:
Suffering from tuberculosis, he moves to Asheville, North Carolina. Holme's wife and Oswald Cooper continue running the Chicago School of Illustration in his absence.
1903: Moves to a "ranche" outside of Phoenix, Arizona. Describing his laid-back lifestyle in a letter to a friend, Holme writes: "After supper we visit each other’s tents and swap lies – or sit by the stove to read or write letters till bed time which ought to be about 9 o’clock. And yet I suppose that 'somewhere in this favored land' people are hustling and working and rushing around just like I used to see them in Chicago." Holme continues publishing Bandar Log Press books.
October 12, 1903: Holme is unable to attend an art exhibit in Chicago involving many of his friends, so the artists make miniature replicas of the seventy-six artworks. William Randolph Hearst charters a Pullman train to transport the small drawings to Arizona, and a reception for Holme to view the art is held at the opera house in Phoenix.
1904: Holmes moves to Denver, Colorado, in one last effort to find more breathable air.
Died: July 28, 1904.
1930s: Thirty years after Holme's death, one of his friends, Edwin B. Hill, Ysleta, Texas, formed a group called the Frank Holme Memorial Group to keep the artist's memory alive. Hill occasionally published small one-page fliers and miniature books about Holme.

© 2003 by Robert Loerzel.

"Cub Days"

Excerpts from Founder of the Bandar Log Club and His Meteoric Career by John Craig Hammond (Ysleta: Edwin B. Hill, 1936).

When such men as President Roosevelt, Chauncey Depew, Mark Twain, Alexander Revell, George Ade, Kirk LaShelle, Peter Finley Dunne, John T. McCutcheon, Grover Cleveland, James H. Eckels and a score of other prominent men in the art and business world, paused to pay a tribute to Frank Holme, it is little wonder then that thousands and tens of thousands of people followed the work of one of, if not the cleverest, newspaper artists of the day…

I remember ten years ago, when I was on the Chicago Chronicle with Holme. Those were cub days, and Holme even then was known as the right hand of a cub reporter. Take him with you on a story and Holme got the news, drew the pictures, and told you how to write it.

One night a murder story came into the office. It was known as the "headless bicycle rider mystery." A headless trunk had been found in a catch-basin. It was sent t find the story – Holme to get some sketches. It was nine o’clock at night, a long ride on the street car, and a two-mile walk in a driving rain. But the facts were found, Holme secured his sketches, and on the bumping Milwaukee avenue car back to the city Holme drew his sketches and had them ready for the city edition…

…He found a little room (for the Holme School of Illustration) in Van Buren street, close to the lake, and he let his friends know that he could teach drawing by mail. It only seemed a night’s time when the school had branched out until it occupied an entire floor of a big office building. Those were the days when Holme was making money, when his school was crowded with pupils and his mail came in huge sacks…

Flashing Visions

Excerpts from F.H., a Denver Post article by Eva Dean, , originally published on July 31, 1904, and reprinted in 1935 by Edwin B. Hill:

…Breezing was the way he went about. Of him personally, there are only flashing visions left.

The first one always called up by mention of him is the tall, slender figure in black, with his overcoat flying loose (for never did I see it buttoned; and never did I see him in anything but black). This first vision is always striding somewhere, coat fluttering back, the brimmed soft black hat a little on one side; his companion invariably a bit behind him.

Then memory seems to arrive and look at one out of soft, brown, deepening eyes. There was no sparkle in them, just shadows, and thought, and kindness. The dark brown hair never shone, but was always soft and fluffy. That thin under-lip had a habit of dropping in stress or concentration of any kind.

When about to embark on new plans or ventures, he was apt to sit down and tell all present a humorous story which would break the tension of expectancy, and make his hearers acquainted and in sympathy with the state of his mind. He was always acting on sudden impulses and plans; but he did not abandon them because they were hastily conceived; and they were seldom unsound, no matter how novel.

One statement he made quite often, and used in his advertising, and was fond of emphasizing. It was: "Personality is the force that dominates events." He seemed to be a living example of it, and to a remarkable extent, on the lives of his friends ever since…

Doing things was his life: helping other people do things; trying to bring them in contact with whatever was stimulating toward the creation of beauty. Somehow I cannot imagine him in the presence of a dallier.

The secret of why he was so poignantly and lastingly successful in "the gentle art" of making devoted friendships was, I believe, unconsciously revealed to me one evening as he sat poised on the corner of a table. (Don’t you remember how he invariably preferred to poise on a table corner in preference of a chair?)

He said: "Do you know, no matter who he is, I can never forget that everybody knows something that I should like to know!"

Memories of Frank Holme

Excerpted from More Than A Memory by Edwin B. Hill, (Ysleta: Edwin B. Hill, 1936):

Holme always worked rapidly and accurately... He seemed tireless. It is said that he did more work than any three other men in his department. An instantaneous appreciation of a situation that interested him was treasured in his mind in all detail until he could transfer it to paper...

In San Francisco, The Bandar Log Press was quiescent. The type had been carefully tied up, when they left Chicago, and in this condition was repacked for shipment to West Virginia. On the arrival of the box, however, it was discovered that a break had occurred; the type was hopelessly pied, and part of it lost in transit.

Holme viewed the ruin. "Well, letter by letter as it dropped out on the type across country it probably sprouted a lot of other Bandar Logs," was his characteristic comment...

Over-work culminated in tuberculosis of the lungs. In January, 1901, he was ordered to Asheville, North Carolina, where he remained for two years.

Idleness was never a part of the life of Frank Holme. Despite remonstrances of his wife and his closest friends, he worked on until he could no longer wield the pen and pencil...

Realizing the end was inevitable, Holme craved the companionship of his newspaper-working friends. The office of the Arizona Republican of Phoenix became a home to him. Here he would commingle with "the gang," staying up oftimes until the paper went to press in the early hours of morning. He was urged to take more care of himself, to keep hours commensurate with his condition. But knowingly he refused. It was too late, and, besides, the friendship of co-workers was compensation beyond ordinary comprehension.