Charles Addams

Charles Addams

Charles “Chas” Samuel Addams (January 7, 1912 – September 29, 1988) was an American cartoonist known for his particularly black humor and macabre characters. Some of the recurring characters, who became known as The Addams Family, became the basis for two live-action television series, two animated TV series, three motion pictures, and a Broadway musical. On his 100th birthday, Google displayed a Doodle celebrating his work.

Trade Mark

Drew cartoons with a macabre sense of humor akin to Edward Gorey but without the malice of the latter.

Macabre humor



Addams was distantly related to U.S. presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, despite the different spellings of their last names, and was a first cousin twice removed to the noted social reformer Jane Addams.

Member of Theta Chi Fraternity (Iota Chapter, Colgate University)

Biography in: “The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives”. Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 8-10. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1999.

Died behind the wheel of his Audi 4000 outside his Manhattan apartment, after suffering a fatal heart attack.

Enjoyed the works of novelist John O’Hara.

Television producer David Levy approached Addams with an offer to create a series based on his “Addams Family” cartoons (they met at the Palace Hotel lobby in New York). The Family was distinct characters but without personality, so Addams gave his characters names and more characteristics for the actors to use in portrayals. And so was born “The Addams Family” (1964).

Addams Family portrait tv series

The Addams Family tv series

He attended the Grand Central School of Art in New York City in 1931-32.

He attended the University of Pennsylvania in 1930-31. Situated on the campus is a fine-arts building named after him, in front of which is a sculpture of the silhouettes of the Addams Family.

He attended Colgate University in 1929-30.

Addams did cartoons for the Westfield High School student literary magazine “Weathervane.”.

He was fond of visiting the Presbyterian Cemetery on Mountain Avenue, New Jersey.

He was described as artistically inclined, “drawing with a happy vengeance” according to a biographer. His father encouraged this practice in him.

One friend said of him, “His sense of humor was a little different from everybody else’s.”.

As a child, his nickname was “Chill.”.

Childhood friends recall that he was “known as something of a rascal around the neighborhood” and “there was always a little group of boys at his house doing things.”

His father, Charles Huy Addams, was a piano-company executive who had studied to be an architect.

His first wife, Barbara Jean Day, was said to resemble his cartoon character Morticia Addams.

His first marriage lasted eight years.

In the divorce settlement with his second wife, Barbara Estella Barb (Lady Colyton), she was awarded copyright to some of his work.

At one point, his second wife Barbara got him to take out a $100,000 insurance policy. Addams consulted a lawyer on the sly, who later humorously wrote, “I told him the last time I had word of such a move was in a picture called Double Indemnity (1944) starring Barbara Stanwyck, which I called to his attention.” In the movie, Stanwyck’s character plotted her husband’s murder; however, no one has accused Barbara Barb Addams of attempting the same.

He married his third and final wife, Marilyn Matthews Miller in a pet cemetery.

Because of “The Addams Family” (1964), “New Yorker” editor William Shawn banned the cartoons from his magazine, regarding the show as being at odds with the sophisticated readership he wished to cultivate. The ban was lifted after Shawn’s 1987 retirement.

The Addams Family Musical

The Addams Family Musical /by Matt Hoyle

He is mentioned in Edward Eager’s fantasy novel “Knight’s Castle,” as Chas Addams (how he signed his cartoons.).

His first drawing in “New Yorker” ran on February 6 1932, and was a sketch of a window washer.

His cartoons regularly appeared in the “New Yorker”, as well as in “Collier’s Weekly” and “TV Guide.”.

During World War II, he served at the Signal Corps Photographic Center in New York, making animated training films for the Army.

Noted director Alfred Hitchcock was a friend of Addams, and owned two pieces of original Addams art. In Hitchcock’s film North by Northwest (1959), a scene pays homage to Addams: when Roger Thornhill meets Eve with Mr. Vandamm and Leonard, he comments, “The three of you together. Now that’s a picture only Charles Addams could draw.”.

In 1961, Addams received a Special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his body of work.

From 1985, Addams lived in Sagaponack, New York. The estate where his family lived was nicknamed “The Swamp.”.

A scholarship in his name was founded in 1991: the Charles Addams Art Scholarship.

Addams drew more than 1,300 cartoons over the course of his life.

Addams served as an escort for celebrities on social occasions; his roster includes Greta Garbo, Joan Fontaine, and Jacqueline Kennedy.

In 1946 Addams met and became friends with sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury, after meeting at “Mademoiselle” magazine. The magazine was going to publish Bradbury’s short story “Homecoming”, the first in a series of tales about the Elliotts, a family of vampires living in Illinois (for which Addams had made an illustration). Addams and Bradbury were going to collaborate on a book chronicling the Elliott Family’s complete history, with Bradbury writing and Addams illustrating, but it never happened. However, in October 2001 Bradbury’s collection of tales on the Elliot Family was published, in an anthology called “From the Dust Returned.” The book had Addams’s original 1946 illustration on its cover, along with a narrative from Bradbury and an explanation of his work with Addams.

He was nominated for the 2012 New Jersey Hall of Fame for his contributions in the General Category.

Upon his death, he was cremated and his ashes were interred at the Charles Addams Estate Grounds, Sagaponeck, Suffolk County, New York in the family pet cemetery.


Filed under: Birthdays

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!