Rex Hayden Maxon was born March 24, 1892 in Lincoln, Nebraska. His father, Norris Hayden Maxon, was born 1849 in Iowa. His mother, Ellen Estella Maxon, was born 1851 in Illinois. His parents married in 1874. He was the youngest of three children. His older sisters Jessie and Lois were born in 1875 and 1888. Jessie was a school teacher and Lois was a talented artist. They both helped to train and encourage their little brother to become an artist. His father was a bookkeeper at a manufacturing company that produced pump engines.
In 1899 the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where they lived at 6719 Sixth Street. They later moved to 6618 Virginia Avenue.
In 1904 St. Louis hosted The World's Fair. Midwestern culture was profoundly inspired by the awesome spectacle of The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, which attracted visitors from around the world.
At the age of thirteen he began to work in a print shop that supplied local business and newspapers with graphic designs services for advertisements.
In 1906 he began to study art at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts.
In 1913 he attended the Chicago Art Institute and studied with Jean LeBrun Jenkins(1876-1951). After three years he returned to St. Louis to work for The St. Louis Republic. He lived at 104 Waverly Place in Webster, Missouri.
In 1916 he joined the St. Louis Brush and Pencil Club, which provided nude models for Life Class and during the summer months they took weekend trips to the surrounding countryside for landscape sketching and fraternal picnics. Most of the members were professional newspaper artists from the Midwest.
He was hired by the Collier Advertising Company of St. Louis.
On June 5, 1917 he reported for draft registration during the Great War. He was recorded at the time to be short, slender with brown eyes and black hair. At the age of twenty-five he was not selected for military service.
In 1918 he married Hazel Carter, who was born 1892 in Missouri. She was a newspaper writer of feature articles.
After their honeymoon they moved to New York City and lived on Nautilus Avenue in the Seagate section of Brooklyn.
In 1920 their son William Rex Maxon was born. Their daughter Jeanne Maxon was born eight years later.
He drew story illustrations for fictional stories written by his wife that appeared in New York newspapers, such as The New York Globe, The New York Evening Mail and The New York Evening World. He also drew advertisements for clients. These assignments were handled by the Ethridge Association of Artists from their New York Studio at 23-25 East 26th Street.
In 1925 he and his family moved to 81 Mackey Avenue in Port Washington, NY, a suburban town in Nassau County, which is connected to midtown Manhattan by a forty minute commute on the Long Island Rail Road.
In 1929 he replaced Hal Foster as the artist that drew Tarzan, a popular newspaper comic strip, for which he is best remembered. Tarzan was so popular that Rex Maxon became a newspaper celebrity. He made guest appearances at publicity events that were staged at local department stores, where he set up an artist's easel and entertained the shopping public by drawing quick sketches of Tarzan.
His wife, Hazel Carter Maxon, was also a celebrity. In the 1930s she had a cooking show on the radio in New York City. Dutton & Company published her book "Parties," which gave helpful directions on how to organize successful parties. She also wrote articles for The New York Times with helpful hints on skiing, yachting and house pets.
During the 1930s the Great Depression devastated newspaper and advertising industries, although pulp magazines enjoyed their most profitable period. The pulps did not depend on advertising dollars, because they sold cheap thrills to the public for pocket change.
To supplement his lost income, Rex Maxon began to contribute pen and ink story illustrations to pulp magazines. His work appeared in Fighting Western, Leading Western, Private Detective, Spicy Adventure, Spicy Detective, Spicy Mystery, Spicy Western and Super Detective. Most of his work was unsigned and uncredited, or it was signed in ways that obscured his true identity. Some of his pulp illustrations are signed "M," "H.M.," "R.M.," "R.Hayden," "R.Morton" or "R.Manning." This subterfuge helped to preserve the famous reputation of "Rex Maxon" as the artist that drew the newspaper comic strip, Tarzan.
He also drew comic pages that were printed within pulp magazines as an innovative special feature. He drew K-Bar Katie, Tex Morgan, Lariat Lucy and Sob Sister Sue. All of his work in the pulps was under the art direction of Adolphe Barreaux for magazine published by Harry Donenfeld.
During WWII he was over fifty, which was too old for military service.
After the war he continued to draw for comic book publishers, such as Avon, Better, Marvel, Trojan, and Dell.
In 1954 he drew and inked the first appearance of another memorable character, Turok - Son of Stone.
During the 1960s he continued to draw for Dell and Western Publishing comic books, on features such as Turok, Dinosauria, Young Earth, Young Hawk, and Track Hunter.
His wife also continued her professional career. She wrote articles for The Daily New Record, the newspaper of the New York Clothing Industry, and her book Opportunities in Free-Lance Writing was published by Grosset & Dunlap.
In 1969 he and his wife moved to London, England, where she worked on a writing project, while he painted landscapes and portraits.
In 1972 they returned to America and settled near their daughter in Rockland County, on the Palisades facing the Hudson River.
Rex Maxon died at the age of eighty-one in Boston, MA, on November 25, 1973.
© David Saunders 2012