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William Donahey
ca. 1920
ca. 1920
Born October 19, 1883
West Chester, Ohio
Died 1 February 1970(1970-02-01) (aged 86)
Occupation cartoonist and illustrator
Nationality American
Period Twentieth century
Teenie Weenie character description
Teenie Weenie character description
Tweenie Weenies ca 1922
Tweenie Weenies roofing with cards
William Donahey - Little Tom Tucker 1921
Little Tom Tucker
William Donahey (1921)
1920 Tubberculosis postcard
1920 postcard by William Donahey

William Donahey (19 October 1883 – 1 February 1970) was a U.S. cartoonist and creator of The Teenie Weenies, a comic strip about two-inch-tall people living under a rose bush. The strip appeared in the Chicago Tribune for over 50 years. He drew The Teenie Weenies for a total of about 2100 strips.

Donahey was a very shy child when growing up. He would dream up imaginary characters and The Teenie Weenies as a pastime. He later turned them into a profession in the form of comic features in newspapers, books and advertising.



Donahey spent much of his childhood alone because he was introverted. One of his pastimes was imagining strange creatures in a small world. He later claimed this was the birth of The Teenie Weenies. His parents, John C. Donahey and Catherine (Chaney) Donahey, noticing his creative work, enrolled him in the Cleveland School of Art. They had hoped that he would follow his older brother James Harrison "Hal" Donahey (1875–1949) into the illustration business. Donahey graduated from college in 1903, worked briefly in advertising and then joined the staff of Cleveland's The Plain Dealer, where his brother Hal was the political cartoonist.

While working for the Plain Dealer he met his wife, Mary Augusta Dickerson, of New York City. They were married on August 16, 1905. She was a columnist and children's book author. Here he specialized in children's cartoons. His wife introduced him to some of the traditional children's stories he had missed when he grew up, such as the Mother Goose rhymes, Alice in Wonderland and Arabian Nights. Donahey liked very much the Mother Goose rhymes and took an interest in them. He not only illustrated children's cartoons but then started illustrating Mother Goose rhymes as well. Soon he refined his writing skills and composed his own poems and stories.

The Teenie Weenies

When Chicago Tribune editor Joseph Medill Patterson saw Donahey's artwork, he offered him a full-time job as a cartoonist for the comics section. Here is where he created The Teenie Weenies inspired by The Brownies, the popular feature by Palmer Cox. The Teenie Weenies, written and illustrated by Donahey, contrasted normal-size objects with tiny protagonists.

Donahey's stories consisted of a large illustration and accompanying text about the lives of many characters that lived beneath a rose bush with full-size objects like hats, jugs, and old boots. There was an illustrated story that involved an old rusty tomato can. The first feature appeared in black and white on June 14, 1912. Color was added in 1923 when the comic feature moved to the regular Sunday comics section.


The Teenie Weenies was syndicated in newspapers internationally, and the characters appeared in books, school primers and advertising. Donahey franchised his work for use on decals, dolls, clothing, handkerchiefs and tin boxes. He had a number of licensing agreements for his work with companies like Monarch Foods and Reid-Murdoch. He dedicated most of his work and energy however into the newspaper cartoon comic strips. Donahey was a member of the American Press Humorists and Society of Midland Authors.

Personal life

William and Mary Donahey owned the Pickle Barrel House in Grand Marais, Michigan where they spent their summers. The house has been restored and now serves as a museum on the main street of Grand Marais. Donahey was close friends with Otto E. Newberg, who operated a lumber mill in Grand Marais and is the author of an unpublished book, Anatomy of Morality. One of Donahey's older brothers was Victor Donahey, the governor of Ohio from 1922 through 1929.


Works authored

  • The Pixeys - comic strip 1925.
  • Teenie Weenies - comic strip 1914-1925, 1933–1934, 1941-1970.
  • The Teenie Weenie Primer, Adventures of the Teenie Weenies 1920
  • Down the river with the Teenie Weenies 1921
  • The Teenie Weenie Man's Mother Goose 1921
  • The Teenie Weenies Under the Rose-Bush 1922
  • The Teenie Weenies in the Wildwood 1923
  • Alice and the Teenie Weenies 1927
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Spencer Press, 1953) Donahey wrote the 1953 foreword.

Illustrated works

William Donahey illustrated the following books:

  • Huldy's Whistle by Anne Archbold Miller (Reilly & Lee, Chicago, 1919).
  • Lady Teddy Comes to Town by Mary Dickerson Donahey (Small, Maynard & Company, 1919).
  • The Children's Mother Goose collected or reinterpreted by William Donahey (Reilly & Lee, Chicago, 1921).
  • The Teenie Weenie Man's Mother Goose collected or reinterpreted by William Donahey (Reilly & Lee, Chicago, 1921).
  • The Spanish McQuades: The Lost Treasure of Zavala by Mary Dickerson Donahey (Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc., Garden City, NY, 1931).
  • Hi, Ho, Pinocchio by Josef Marino (Reilly & Lee, Chicago, 1940).
  • The Miss Minerva books by Emma Speed Sampson (Reilly & Lee, Chicago).
    • Billy and the Major (1918)
    • Miss Minerva's Baby (1920)
    • Miss Minerva on the Old Plantation (1923)
    • Miss Minerva Broadcasts Billy (1925)
    • Miss Minerva's Scallywags (1927)
    • Miss Minerva's Neighbors (1930)
    • Miss Minerva Goin' Places (1931)
  • Cahn, Joseph M., The Teenie Weenies Book: The Life and Art of William Donahey, Green Tiger Press, 1986.
  • Cross, Robert, "The Gentle Teenie Weenies Man"; Chicago Tribune; Dec 3, 1967; pg I44
  • Chicago Tribune obituary; "WM. DONAHEY, TEENIE WEENIE CREATOR, DIES"; Feb 2, 1970; pg B10
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