Patrick J. Monahan was born Patrick John Sullivan on January 4, 1882 in Des Moines, Iowa. His father, Eugene John Sullivan, was born 1850 in Ireland. He was a coal miner. His mother was Mary Maggie Sullivan, born 1858 in Ireland. They married in Ireland in 1871 and then immigrated to the U.S. They settled in Des Moines, where they had three children. Their first child, Mary, was born 1880. Patrick was their second child and his younger brother, Eugene, was born in 1884. They lived in Des Moines on Eighth Street.
In 1891 his family became ill with influenza. He and his younger brother recovered, but his father, mother and older sister all died. He was eight and Eugene was six. They were raised by charitable neighbors, James and Rose Ellen Monahan, who lived one block away on Ninth Street.
In 1895 at the age of thirteen he finished schooling and went to work. This was customary for most American teenagers at that time. He worked at a local newspaper, The Des Moines Mail & Times, where he became interested in a career as a newspaper cartoonist.
Over the next five years he studied at the Des Moines Academy of Art. The school was charitably sponsored by the Des Moines Women's Club and the Iowa Society of Fine Arts. He studied with Charles Atherton Cumming(1858-1932) and A. C. Macy, who had previously headed the art department at Drake University in Des Moines. In 1900 the academy was renamed the Cumming School of Art.
By 1900 at the age of eighteen he worked as a newspaper cartoonist for The Des Moines Daily News. He still lived at home with his widowed mother and brother. He signed his work "P. J. Monahan" in acknowledgment of the family that raised him, but he signed legal documents "Patrick J. Monahan Sullivan."
In 1902 he illustrated a locally published book Bread and Lasses by Emilie Blackmore Stapp.
On October 24, 1905 he married Louise Cecelia Averill. She was born March 4, 1884 in Des Moines. Her parents were from Canada and New York.
In 1906 their daughter Cecelia was born, and one year later Rosalie was born.
In 1907 the family moved to New York City. They lived at 342 Sixty-third Street in Brooklyn. He opened an art studio in the Printers Craft Building on 34th Street and Eight Avenue, where he worked as an illustrator, while he continued his advanced training at the Art Students League on 57th Street.
He soon sold freelance illustrations to Leslie's Weekly, The Delineator, and Judge Magazine.
On April 25, 1910 his three-year-old daughter Cecelia ate toxic oil paint and died of accidental poisoning.
After the accident he moved the family to 238 Thirtieth Street in North Bergen, New Jersey, where his son Justin was born in 1910.
His illustrations appeared in more and more magazines, such as The Ladies Home Journal, Pearson's, Collier's, and Hampton's Magazine.
In 1912 he joined the New York Society of Illustrators.
His story illustrations and cover paintings appeared in pulp magazines, such as All-Story Weekly, All-Story Cavalier, The People's, and The Popular.
In 1913 his brother in Iowa competed in a championship as the captain of a bowling team that was affectionately named in his honor, The People's Popular Monthly Bowling Team.
His children Rosalie (b.1908) and Justin (b.1910) were followed by Joseph (b.1911), Bernard (b.1914), Aileen (b.1916), and Rita (b.1918).
During summer months P. J. Monahan often vacationed with his growing family at Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, where they stayed in a cottage at Pine Tree Point. The area was a popular spot for resort hotels frequented by actors, musicians, chorus girls, and vaudevillians. Monahan was regarded as a local celebrity. Other notable residents included the inventors Thomas Edison and Hudson Maxim, with whom he socialized.
In 1918 he designed an innovative internal-combustion engine. He applied for a patent and formed the Monahan Rotary Engine Corporation of New York with from investment capital raised from a growing circle of trusted friends.
On September 9, 1918 he reported for draft registration in the Great War. He was recorded at that time to be of medium build, medium height, with blue eyes and brown hair. He did not serve in the military, because he was thirty-six years old and the father of six.
He contributed several patriotic posters to the Liberty War Bond Drive, as did other celebrated illustrators, such as James Montgomery Flagg, Howard Chandler Christy, and John A. Coughlin.
After the war his work appeared throughout the 1920s in pulp magazines, such as Action Stories, Complete Novel, Top-Notch, Western Story, Detective Story, Detective Book, Munsey's, and Illustrated Novelets.
In 1924 they moved to a thirty-two-acre farm in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. He closed his NYC art studio and build an art studio on the new property.
In 1926 he was listed in a national directory, Advertising Arts & Crafts, as an "Illustrator of Fiction Stories in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey."
His illustrations continued to appear in pulp magazines such as Adventure, Railroad Man's, Air Trails, Sweetheart Stories, Love Story, Cupid's Diary, and Love Romances.
In 1928 his barn and studio burned down. Shortly afterwards he moved his family to 342 Sixty-third Street in Brooklyn, NYC, while he supervised the reconstruction project. Two more children were born, Richard and James, to make him a father of eight.
While driving back and forth from the city he had an auto accident and suffered a serious head injury.
Patrick J. Monahan died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of forty-nine in Woodcliff Lake, NJ, on November 1, 1931.
© David Saunders 2011