William Hamilton (cartoonist)

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William Hamilton
Born William Hamilton
(1939-06-02) June 2, 1939 (age 75)
Palo Alto, California
United States
Nationality American
Education Yale University
Phillips Academy
Occupation Cartoonist, playwright, novelist
Employer The New Yorker (1965-present)
Spouse(s) Candida Vargas (1969-1976)

William Hamilton (born June 2, 1939 in Palo Alto, California)[1] is an American cartoonist and playwright. He is most closely associated with the magazine The New Yorker. Hamilton is famous for his wit and irony and for presenting his characters, most often examples of modern, affluent types, with distinctive "ski-jump" noses noted for a peculiar shape that has become a sort of unofficial trademark.


Hamilton grew up on the family estate Ethelwild in St. Helena, California. While he came from a moneyed family, his father was an unemployed, free-spending eccentric amateur inventor. The house, inherited from an uncle, was much as it was in 1901, and Hamilton tells of ancient pencils that shattered upon use. Hamilton's interest in cartooning was sparked by stacks of European magazines found in the house.[2][3]

Hamilton attended Phillips Academy, where the relatively poor Hamilton studied alongside the children of the wealthy. He said that the experience of being "out of place" was "an ideal experience for going into the arts" and "the process of being an alien gives you the distance to be an artist."[2][3] He went on to Yale, where he drew cartoons and covers for campus humor magazine The Yale Record[4] and was a member of Skull and Bones.[5] He graduated from Yale in 1962 with a degree in English.

While serving in the US Army (1963–5) he sold his first cartoon to The New Yorker in 1965.[2][3] In the World Encyclopedia of Cartoons, Richard Calhoun describes Hamilton's work:

His close-up renderings of features have more the quality of preliminary portrait sketches than of caricature... His humor also tends to be of a rather personal stamp—very much New York, corporate and Ivy League in setting, and dedicated to the deflation of intellectual pretension and cliché... those familiar with the rather hermetic environment he satirizes will laugh (or wince) at his thrusts. Especially keen are his frequent variations upon the theme of the cocktail party—surely one of civilization's most persistent forms of self-inflicted torture. The drink is innocuous, the food familiar, and the topics of conversation hopelessly predictable.[6]

In 1969, Hamilton married Candida Vargas, granddaughter of Getúlio Dornelles Vargas, dictator of Brazil. They separated in 1976. The disintegration of his marriage prompted his turn to playwriting, and his first play Save Grand Central was "about the middle of the end of a marriage." Hamilton's plays document the same world as his cartoons, and sometimes recycle lines from his cartoons.[2] His play White Chocolate has been described as "a farce about race and class in the upper echelons of New York society."[3]



  • The Antisocial Register, Chronicle Books, 1974.
  • Terribly Nice People, Putnam, 1975.
  • Husbands, Wives and Live-Togethers, Putnam, 1976.
  • Introducing William Hamilton, Wildwood (London), 1977.
  • Money Should Be Fun, Houghton, 1979.
  • The Men Will Fear You, and the Women Will Adore You, St. Martin's Press, 1986.
  • Voodoo Economics, Chronicle Books, 1992.
  • My goodness, I had no idea people from California had ancestors!


  • The Love of Rich Women, Houghton, 1980.
  • The Charlatan, Simon and Schuster, 1985.
  • The Lap of Luxury, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1988.


  • Save Grand Central, 1976
  • Plymouth Rock, 1977
  • White Chocolate, 2004


  1. ^ "William Hamilton." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 3 May. 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d Faber, Nancy (August 20, 1979). "Parties with the Upper One Percent Provide the Pith and Vinegar for Bill Hamilton's Cartoons". People 12 (8). Retrieved May 3, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Gordon, AL (January 3, 2005). "A Cartoonist With a Knack for Social Criticism". New York Sun. Retrieved May 3, 2011. 
  4. ^ Hamilton, William (September, 1960). Cover Illustration. The Yale Record. New Haven: Yale Record.
  5. ^ McGee, Celia (October 5, 2004). "Mr Wasp Draws a Bead on Racism". New York Daily News. p. 40. 
  6. ^ Calhoun, Richard (1980). "William Hamilton". In Horn, Maurice. The World Encyclopedia of Cartoons. Chelsea House. pp. 278–9. ISBN 0-87754-088-8. 

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