The creative work of Peter Hoffman, a nationally syndicated cartoonist who created the “Jeff Cobb” comic strip, has been donated by his family to the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections at The University of Toledo.The collection consists of nearly 5,000 drawings by Hoffman and documents more than 20 years of his work.
Hoffman, a UT alumnus, died in 2013 at age 94.
The collection includes Hoffman’s original drawings for the Cobb strip from 1954 to 1978, as well as illustrations he did for another syndicated strip he produced from 1950 to 1978 titled “Why We Say.” This work, which he wrote as well as illustrated, explained the meaning of common words and phrases. Both “Why We Say” and “Jeff Cobb” were syndicated by General Features Corp. and ran in more than 100 newspapers in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada.
Hoffman began drawing as a child while enrolled in Warren School in Toledo. His first published work was a drawing of cowboys and Indians he submitted to the Toledo Times newspaper when he was 4 years old. He continued to take art classes at Scott High School when he was a student there.
At UT, he received a bachelor’s degree in advertising and marketing in 1941, and served as art editor for the University’s yearbook and staff cartoonist for The Campus Collegian newspaper from 1937 to 1941. While a student, Hoffman met local Toledo cartoonists Allen Saunders and Elmer Woggon, creators of the nationally distributed “Steve Roper” comic strip.
After college, Hoffman worked briefly in the advertising department for Tiedtke’s, the popular downtown Toledo department store. He quit that job to join the Army Air Corps, where he served in England during World War II, becoming a captain and winning the Bronze Star. He also illustrated several wartime publications.
When Hoffman returned from the war, he visited Saunders and Woggon, who were impressed with the work he had done in the Army. They hired him to be the ghost illustrator of “Steve Roper,” a job Hoffman did from 1945 to 1954.It was during the time that he was illustrating “Steve Roper” that he started the “Why We Say” strip. He also became interested in developing his own narrative strip, which led to “Jeff Cobb.” Cobb was a handsome investigative reporter for the fictional Daily Guardian newspaper. Hoffman not only illustrated the strip, but he researched and wrote each one, which were based loosely on real crimes. In the later years of the strip’s publication, Cobb became known for the patch he wore over one eye, the result of an arson investigation that played itself out in the pages of the strip. Because readers reacted well to the change in his appearance and it made Cobb distinctive, Hoffman continued to draw Cobb with the eye patch for the rest of the strip’s existence. In an interview in 1985, Hoffman said he often patterned his cartoon characters after prominent figures of the day such as John L. Lewis, Aristotle Onassis and Bob Hope. The dog in the strip was drawn to resemble Hoffman’s own dog, Candy.
The Canaday Center had acquired a small collection of Hoffman’s drawings in 1985. “This addition expands greatly the center’s holdings on one of the University’s most creative graduates,” said Barbara Floyd, director of the center.
“Hoffman’s drawings are incredibly detailed. They show such precision and carefulness in execution. They are examples of the high style of graphic illustration when comic strips looked almost like photographs, as compared to today’s looser style,” Floyd said.
In addition to the syndicated strips, the collection contains some of Hoffman’s Toledo advertising work. For many years after his retirement, Hoffman drew illustrations for the UT Alumni Association, including the covers of many of the association’s 50-year anniversary reunion booklets. He had a knack for capturing the essence of University personalities in these drawings, and they were popular among the UT alumni. Many of these illustrations also are included in the collection.
The collection was donated to the Canaday Center by Hoffman’s niece, Sharyanne Kollin, and his nephew, Paul Hoffman.
“Considering Pete’s fondness for The University of Toledo, he would certainly be very pleased knowing that his creative work was being cared for by the Canaday Center,” Hoffman and Kollin said.
The collection is being organized, which will take several months due to the quantity of drawings. The collection will be open to researchers after it is processed and a guide is prepared, Floyd said.
The center also plans an exhibit of examples of Hoffman’s work for later in 2015.
For more information, contact Floyd at 419.530.2170.