J S "Vet" Anderson


Jesse Sylvester "Vet" Anderson was an American artist and animator who worked in London between 1919-1921.

He always gave his birth details as 1 May 1873, in Bear Lake, Michigan, although the 1880 US census suggests he was born in Canada before his parents emmigrated to farm in Michigan. He married in his early twenties and had two children, but his wife Alice died young. On the outbeak of the Spanish-American War in 1898 he enlisted in the US Military, but after eight months at training camp the hostilities ended and he was discharged.

Largely self-taught as an artist, he got a job in the art department of a Detroit newspaper, and was soon contributing illustrations to various periodicals. His habit of wearing his uniform to work, claiming it was his only suit of clothes, earned him the nickname "Vet" which he subsequently incorporated into his signature.

Around 1901 he moved to New York, drawing full-page caricatures for the Herald-Tribune's Sunday section, among other work, and making a name for himself with cartoons in magazines such as Puck and Judge and book illustrations.

In 1916 Anderson joined the Barré-Bowers animation studio to work on a series of Mutt and Jeff films that would prove very popular.

After the USA entered WWI, in April 1917, Jesse tried to re-enlist, but was told he was too old. He persuaded the British authorities that he was born in Canada and thus British, and on 3 September 1918 he enlisted in the Tank Corps as a camouflager. His Army record states that he was 5 ft 5½ ins tall and weighed 163 lbs. Initially posted to Wareham, he was transferred to the Central Workshops at Bovington when the War ended, and was demobilized in March 1919.

Settling a while in London, he found employment with Kine Komedy Kartoons, who were keen for him to teach their animators the 'American method' of sequential animation on paper, as opposed to the cut-out animation practised in Britain. He is credited with two films for Kine Komedy Kartoons: The Daring Deeds of Duckless Darebanks (caricaturing Douglas Fairbanks) and The Smoke from Gran-Pa's Pipe (Gran-Pa spins his grandson a couple of tall stories), both released in 1920. It has also been reported that he animated an anti-prohibition cartoon for the brewing industry, but I hve not yet found any record of such a film. It may just be that he was commissioned to draw cartoons for the leafleting and poster campaign started by the Brewers' Society in 1920 when it feared that Britain might follow the USA's lead.

At the end of 1921, by which time he had earned sufficient money in London to provide for himself and his new wife, 26-year-old Emily Rees, they moved to Paris where Emily gave birth to their daughter Loma, and Jesse extended his artistic range by studying sculpture. In December 1922 he took his family back to New York where he worked as an animator for Fables Studios. In 1931 the family moved to California, where Jesse animated for a few studios, but his approach to animation remained dated, and he turned to producing bas-relief sculptures. He died in 1966.


The Daring Deeds of Duckless Darebanks(Kine Komedy Kartoons 1920) Director, Designer, Animator
The Smoke from Gran-Pa's Pipe(Kine Komedy Kartoons 1920) Director, Designer, Animator

Links to Other Sites

Cartoon Research Early NY Animators Profiles: Jesse “Vet” Anderson - a comprehensive profile of J S Anderson compiled by Charlie Judkins.

BFIPlayer - The Smoke from Gran-Pa's Pipe: video of Vet Anderson's 1920 film

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Peter Hale
Last updated 2019