William Hamilton ’58, a cartoonist for “The New Yorker,” passed away on afternoon of April 8, 2016 when his car was struck by another vehicle. He was 76.
Famous for his distinctive combination of caricature and realism, as well as his tendency to provide commentaries of high society, Hamilton began his industrious career as a cartoonist drawing illustrations for The Phillipian and Pot Pourri during his time at Andover. In 1965, he began working at “The New Yorker” and stayed there until his death.
In addition to his work at “The New Yorker,” Hamilton was also a novelist and playwright. His collection of written work features many of the same critiques of high society as his cartoons. He has written four plays, “Save Grand Central” (1976), “Plymouth Rock” (1977), “Happy Landings” (1982), and “White Chocolate” (2004), as well as three novels, “The Love of Rich Women” (1980), “The Charlatan” (1985), and “The Lap of Luxury” (1988).
Hamilton developed a love for drawing at a young age, submitting cartoons to major newspapers by the age of 12. David Othmer ’59, who worked with Hamilton on The Phillipian as a Managing Editor, recalls Hamilton’s love of art.
“He was constantly doodling, constantly drawing. What became his career was something that started long before it was a career. He would be in any situation, whether it be at Commons, in a classroom, or outside, and he would capture the essence of the situation in a cartoon kind of way, and it would be very funny,” said Othmer in a phone interview with The Phillipian.
“He would have that artistic ability to capture the moment, and the sense of humor that made it humorous,” Othmer said.
Othmer continued, “He had a very acute sense of the irony of life, even then, and that sense of irony and poking fun at people just continued on throughout his life. His cartoons were identifiable not only by the style of drawing but by the emotions being conveyed and the situations being depicted. [The subjects] were all stuffy, high-society white people. He was always poking fun at the establishment, and he did it very cleverly.”
After graduating from Andover, Hamilton attended Yale University, and then served with the Army in Alaska from 1963 to 1965. Hamilton employed his skills as a cartoonist while writing his application to the university.
Othmer said, “One of the standard questions on all the applications back then was ‘Why do you want to go to this school?” It was three pages. On the first page [of Hamilton’s application], there was a drawing of a dandy in a straw hat, and the caption underneath was ‘I can’t go to Princeton.’ On the second page, there was a drawing of a hippie with a scraggly beard, all dirty and disheveled, and the caption was ‘I can’t go to Harvard.’ The third page was a blank page with just a caption: ‘So I guess I have to go to Yale.’ That was his application to Yale.”
Hamilton was born June 2, 1939, in Palo Alto, Calif., to Alexander Hamilton and Ellen Ballentine. He is survived by his wife, Lucy Young Hamilton; his daughter, Alexandra Hamilton Kimball; his son, Gilliam Collinsworth Hamilton; and his two grandchildren.