Doc Rankin

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"Doc" Rankin in 1921, as staff cartoonist for Loew's Weekly.

Ainsworth H. "Doc" Rankin (November 27, 1896 – January 1954) was an American army officer and freelance cartoonist.[1] He was an editorial page cartoonist for the Brooklyn Eagle for a number of years and is best known for producing the touring show This is the Army with Irving Berlin, which toured military camps during World War II.[2] He is also widely believed by comic collectors to be the anonymous artist who produced nearly 200 "Tijuana bibles" for New York printers during a two-year period around 1935,[3] based on an identification by sexologist, folklorist and bibliographer Gershon Legman. Legman claimed to have met Doc Rankin in a Scranton, Pennsylvania novelty shop[4] and learned from him that he was one of the artists behind the popular, ribald 8-page cartoon booklets which were some of the earliest underground comics, drawn in a style resembling the later work of Robert Crumb.[5]

The son of a Scottish doctor,[6] Rankin was born in Buffalo, New York and lived for six years in England before returning to New York City, where he graduated from a Brooklyn high school. He served in the First World War in the Army's Chemical Warfare Service, in the same unit as Martin Branner, who would later go on to create the popular comic strip Winnie Winkle.[7] After the armistice was signed Rankin drew cartoons for the service newspapers and joined a troupe that toured occupied Europe entertaining the troops.[8]

Returning to the US he was a reserve cavalry officer between the wars, while maintaining a freelance cartooning studio in Manhattan where he produced commercial art and cartoons, including the artwork for Tin Pan Alley sheet music. For many years he supplied editorial page cartoons for the daily Brooklyn Eagle, drawn in a dramatic conté crayon style similar to the work of Robert Minor, and unlike his humorous pen and ink gag cartoons.

Never widely known as a cartoonist, he retired from cartooning after his military call-up in 1940. He served during the Second World War as a Special Services officer with responsibilities for entertainment and camp morale, first at Camp Upton on Long Island, where he launched a camp newspaper before helping to put together the touring This is the Army show, and then overseas in Europe. He remained in the military after the war, rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel, and died of heart failure at Fort Bragg in 1954. He is buried in Fayetteville, North Carolina.


  1. ^ "Around the borough: Lt. Col. Ainsworth H. Rankin" Brooklyn Eagle, January 9, 1948. Retrieved May 29, 2009.
  2. ^ The Songwriter Goes to War by Alan Anderson, p. 39-40, 50-51, and passim (2004) ISBN 0-87910-304-3
  3. ^ Heer, J (2002). "Tijuana Bibles". St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture. Gale Group. Retrieved 2009-04-02. 
  4. ^ Legman, G. I Love You, I Really Do (Part Two), 2017, p. 456-458.
  5. ^ Spiegelman, A (1997-08-19). "Tijuana Bibles". Archived from the original on 2011-03-06. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  6. ^ "Dr James B Rankin Dies; Retired Boro Physician, 83", Brooklyn Eagle, June 26, 1946, page 11.
  7. ^ "Gas Defense Plant Has Serious Job for its Workers", Brooklyn Daily Star, September 24, 1918, pg. 1.
  8. ^ "Loew Cartoonist is Buffalo Boy. Ainsworth H. Rankin Rises to Fame", Buffalo Courier, Oct. 15, 1921, p. 70.