Raymond George Sisley was born May 22, 1892 in Chicago, Illinois. His father, George Edward Sisley, was born April 3, 1865 in Chicago. His mother, Gertrude Belle Schoonmaker, was born on March 17, 1869 in Belvidere, IL. His parents married on June 25, 1891 in Hampshire, IL. He was their only son. His father operated a newspaper printing shop during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
In 1894 the family moved fifty miles west of Chicago, to Genoa, IL, where the father had purchased the local newspaper, The Genoa Issue, of which he became the publisher and editor. The family lived on South Superior Street.
In 1896 his father became the Treasurer of Genoa, and one year later was appointed the Postmaster.
By 1910 the Sisley family had moved back to Chicago, where the father had been hired as the editor of the American Review. They lived at 416 Roslyn Place.
In 1911 Raymond Sisley graduated from high school in Chicago.
On November 17, 1914 his mother died at the age of forty-five in Chicago.
In 1915 thanks to his father's business connections Raymond Sisley was hired as a staff cartoonist on The Chicago Tribune, where he worked with the famous satirical sports columnist, Ring Lardner (1885-1933), as well as another staff artist, Herbert Morton Stoops (1887-1948), who was five years older and worked as an illustrator.
On April 20, 1917 Raymond Sisley joined the army and served in Company C, 149th Field Artillery, 42nd Division during the Great War. His fellow staff artist from The Chicago Tribune, Herbert Morton Stoops, also served in France during the Great War as a First Lieutenant in the 6th Field Artillery, First Army Division. His newspaper published an grateful article in acknowledgement of his enlistment for military service.
Raymond Sisley wrote several entertaining articles about his experiences in France during the war, which were published in the newspaper.
On March 14, 1918 his father died at the age of fifty-seven at St. Joseph's Hospital in Chicago.
On May 10, 1919 he was honorably discharged and returned to The Chicago Tribune with a hero's welcome.
One month after the triumphant homecoming parade, "Ray Sisley, of Chicago Tribune Art Department, is recuperating at the Culver Military Academy, ,Culver, Indiana," according to the June 26, 1919 issue of the pressman's trade journal, Editor & Publisher.
After he left the hospital, since both his parents had died, he lived at 925 Foster Avenue, at the home of his mother's sister, Maude E.(Schoonmaker) Lanning and her husband, Herbert R. Lanning and young son.
In September 1919 he was back at work at The Chicago Tribune.
On March 13, 1920 he married Edith A. Moore. She was born in Chicago in 1901.
During the sensational roaring twenties he continued to work for The Chicago Tribune. It seems likely that he studied at one of the excellent art schools in Chicago at this time, because his skills clearly improved. Instead of drawing cartoons, he also began to illustrate stories with painted illustrations.
In 1924 he became the Art Director of The Chicago Tribune.
One of his closest friends was Gordon Seagrove, a writer of short stories, articles and advertising copy. His father was the famous head of the Secret Service, which bore his name.
By 1926 he and his wife had moved to New York City, where he pursued his career as an illustrator. They lived in Mamaroneck, New York, a suburb about thirty minutes north of the city by commuter train to Grand Central Station. He rented an artist studio in Manhattan at 116 East 19th Street. His apartment house was the residence of many newspaper reporters, editors, writers and advertising agents.
His illustrations appeared in Ladies Home Journal, McCalls, and Liberty Magazine. He also worked in advertising with sales arranged by an advertising agency.
On April 21, 1928 The Chicago Tribune had a feature entitled Ten Years Ago in which they shared a glimpse into Raymond Sisley's war experience from a decade earlier.
In the morning of every work day his wife drove him to the station to catch the train and every evening she picked him up from his return commute. On June 9, 1927 he was quoted in a local newspaper, The Evening Gazette, as saying, "The kind of guy I'd like to be is one of these big, two-fisted he-men who park their cars at the station and leave their wives at home without a car all day long. That's the way to treat a woman - if you can get away with it. I can't."
In 1932 his unhappy marriage ended in divorce. They had no children.
In 1933 he moved to California to work for The Los Angeles Times and to get a fresh start on life. He joined the Pacific Post of the American Legion. Several of his illustrations were published in the American Legion Magazine.
As with many professional newspapermen of his generation he was a heavy drinker. As the Great Depression brought further hardships and deprivations his personal situation worsened. By 1940 he was an inmate at Kings Park State Hospital for the Insane, which was located in Kings Park, Long Island, NY.
By 1942 he had recovered his health and lived at 123 East 37th Street in mid-town Manhattan.
He illustrated many stories for Blue Book Magazine and developed a long relationship with this pulp magazine, for which his reputation is renowned.
On April 26, 1942 he reported for registration during WWII. He was recorded to be fifty-one, five-nine, 185 pounds, with brown eyes and brown hair and a tan complexion. He was also recorded to have a scar on his nose, a scar on the side of his torso from an appendix operation, as well as an operation for Peritonitis.
In 1943 he lived at 119 East 34th Street. Oddly enough, the artist Walter Scott Darr, who was also born in Illinois, happened to live next door at 123 East 34th Street at that same time.
During WWII he did not serve in the military, because he was over fifty, in ill heath, and a WWI veteran.
After the war he married his second wife, Mrs. Madeline Hobbs of Great Neck, NY. She was born May 23, 1901 in Alberta, Georgia. She was the widow of William Whitman Hobbs, who ran an advertising agency in NYC. She had two teenaged sons from her first marriage, Thomas E. Hobbs (born 1928) and William Warren Hobbs (born 1930). Raymond Sisley and Mrs. Madeline Hobbs Sisley lived in the town of Huntington Station on Long Island.
Raymond George Sisley died at the age of seventy on February 1, 1963. His wife, Mrs. Madeline Hobbs Sisley, died at the age of sixty-five on October 2, 1966.
© David Saunders 2013