September 4, 1912
Bronx, New York City, United States
|Died||May 12, 2004(aged 91)|
|Danny and the Dinosaur|
Laugh It Off
The Ruling Clawss, as A. Redfield
Syd Hoff (September 4, 1912 – May 12, 2004) was an American cartoonist and children's book author, best known for his classic early reader Danny and the Dinosaur. His cartoons appeared in a multitude of genres, including advertising commissions for such companies as Eveready Batteries, Jell-O, OK Used Cars, S.O.S Pads, Rambler, Ralston Cereal, and more.
Hoff was born in Bronx, New York. While he was still at high school, Milt Gross, a popular 1930s cartoonist, told him at an assembly, "Kid, someday you'll be a great cartoonist!" At 16, he enrolled at the National Academy of Design in New York City. At 18, he sold his first cartoon to The New Yorker, and eventually sold a total of 571 of them to the publication from 1931 to 1975. Hoff became known for his cartoons in The New Yorker depicting tenements and lower-middle class life in the city.
His cartoons have appeared in a variety of publications including the New Yorker, Esquire, and Look magazine. He was also the host of a television show Tales of Hoff, in which he drew and told stories.
Hoff wrote and illustrated over 60 volumes in the HarperCollins "I Can Read" series for beginning readers, most notably Sammy the Seal and the popular Danny and the Dinosaur (1958), which sold 10 million copies and has been translated into a dozen languages.
In 1976, Hoff edited and published Editorial and Political Cartooning: From Earlier Times to the Present, which contains over 700 examples of works from the world's editorial and political cartoons.
Hoff drew two long-running syndicated comic strips: Tuffy (1939–1949) and Laugh It Off (1958–1978). One of his recurring characters is a walrus-mustached man who eventually appeared as the father in his daily Tuffy, done for the King Features Syndicate from 1939 to 1950.
Tuffy was originally commissioned by William Randolph Hearst in 1938, and was declared "essential for national morale" during the American involvement in World War II. This classification kept Hoff out of active military duty during World War II, although he joined the Office of War Information and drew propaganda cartoons which were dropped behind enemy lines.
Starting in 1933, Hoff began to contribute cartoons to leftist newspapers and magazines, including The Daily Worker and New Masses as A. Redfield, the pseudonym that he adopted for his radical work. Hoff's first published book The Ruling Clawss (Daily Worker, 1935) collects over 150 Hoff cartoons originally published in the Communist daily, and his first book for children Mr. His: A Children's Story for Anybody was published as a pamphlet by (and also within the pages of) New Masses magazine.
Hoff's output under the A. Redfield pseudonym began to taper off by 1940, though he remained politically active. He was questioned by the FBI in 1952 about his A. Redfield work and Communist Party association, after being photographed with Marxist civil liberties advocate Corliss Lamont at a protest against the atomic bomb the previous year. Hoff was never formally charged, nor blacklisted. Nevertheless, he remained concerned for the remainder of his life about being identified as a "Red" and the impact that this might have on the reception of his children's books.