Joseph Alfonsos Farren was born on December 20, 1884 in Boston, Massachusetts. His father was Patrick H. Farren, a fifty-two-year-old commercial traveler, who had emigrated from Ireland. His mother was Sarah F. Farren, a forty-year-old native of Massachusetts. He was the youngest of their five sons. The family lived at 130 Worthington Street in Boston.
By 1900 his father had died and his mother moved the family to 57 Aspinall Avenue, Brookline, MA, a Boston suburb, where she lived with all five of her sons, four of who were working adults. The oldest son was thirty-five years old, while Joseph was still in school at age fifteen.
He enjoyed art and worked on the school newspaper, while an older brother, John Farren, had already finished school and was working as a staff artist at The Boston Post newspaper.
In 1903 Joseph Farren graduated high school and afterwards joined his brother working in the art department of The Boston Post newspaper.
In 1910 he married his wife Ada Burns. They moved to 212 Kilton Street in Boston, MA, where they raised three children, Joseph Jr., Donald, and Lorna.
In 1912 he drew the comic strip "Hank and Knobbs" for The Boston Globe. From 1916-1918 he drew the comic strip "Terry and Tacks" for The Boston Post. He later drew sports cartoons for The Boston Herald. He was an avid golfer, and he competed in Massachusetts statewide tournaments. He was offered a steady job as an Advertising Salesman for a golf and ski shop, the Thomas H. Logan Company.
On September 10, 1918 he reported for the draft registration for the Great War. At the age of thirty three with a wife and children, he was exempt from military service. He was recorded to be of medium height and build, with blue eyes and brown hair. His mother lived with him to help to raise the children. They lived at 1157 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.
In 1926, at the age of forty, he was hired to draw political cartoons for The New York Times. He moved to half of a two-family home at 32-20 Eighty-third Street in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY, which he rented for $75 a month. In 1930 they moved nearby to 34-20 Eighty-Fourth Street.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s he began to work as a freelance artist drawing pen and ink interior story illustrations for pulp magazines, such as Clues Detective Stories, Detective Fiction Weekly, Exciting Western, and Fifteen Western Tales.
On April 25, 1942 during WWII he registered for the draft. He was recorded to be five-ten, 175 pounds, with blue eyes, gray hair, ruddy complexion, and completely deaf. He was listed as self-employed, but his business contact was listed as Mr. W. T. Tate at the Frank A. Munsey Company, 280 Broadway, NYC, which suggests he had steady work with that pulp publisher.
After the war he moved to 82-16 Thirty-fourth Avenue in Jackson heights, Queens, NY. He had an art studio in his home, where he drew freelance pen and ink story illustrations for pulp magazines, such as Exciting Western, Fifteen Western Tales, Giant Western, Popular Sports, Popular Western, Texas Western, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, and West.
He remained an avid golfer all his life. He balanced his art career and golf by a clever weekly routine of visiting midtown Manhattan on Friday afternoons to pick up his new pulp magazine assignments from his publisher's office and then spending Saturday and Sunday composing, designing and drawing everything. He would then mail a small portion of his finished drawings to the art director every morning before heading off to the golf course at the Kissina Club in Flushing, Queens.
In 1950 he illustrated a popular book for young readers, South Pole Husky, by Charles S. Strong.
Joseph A. Farren died of a heart attack in his home in Jackson Heights, Queens, at the age of seventy-nine on February 9, 1964.
© David Saunders 2009