John Henry Striebel was born Floyd Henry Striebel on September 14, 1891 on a farm in Bertrand, Michigan, at the state line on the north side of South Bend, Indiana. His father, Henry W. Striebel, was born 1869 in Michigan of German ancestry descended from the Kingdom of Wurttemberg. His mother, Helen Kizer, was born 1871 in Indiana of German ancestry. His parents married in 1890 and had two children. His younger sister Bertha was born two years later. His father worked as a grocery clerk.
In 1898 the family moved fifty miles west to Portage, Indiana, on the shore of Lake Michigan, where they lived at 556 Burroughs Street. The town is not too far from Chicago, which is just another forty miles further along the shoreline of Lake Michigan.
In 1907 his family moved back to South Bend, Indiana, where his father became a partner in the Striebel & Bernhard Grocery Store. They lived at 570 West Navarre Street in South Bend.
In 1908 at the age of sixteen he began to contribute a daily current events cartoon on local topics to The South Bend Daily News.
In 1910 he attended the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.
In 1912 he left college after completing his Sophomore year and moved to Chicago, where he lived at 6840 Merrill Avenue. He worked for the Meyer Both Engraving Company, one of Chicago's largest suppliers of commercial art for the advertising industry. They were located at at 2314 Indiana Avenue. Meyer Both provided employees with on-the-job art training, but also distributed a profitable home study art instruction program.
He drew line art for the fashion industry and advertising but in the evenings he moonlighted as a free-lance artist and drew feature cartoons for The Chicago Sunday Tribune. He signed this work with his preferred name "John H. Striebel" instead of "Floyd H. Striebel."
On June 30,1915 he married Margaret Fernandez. She was born June 19, 1893 in Valparaiso, Indiana. He may have met her through her brother, William J. Fernandez, who was an art director in magazine advertising.
On August 12, 1917 their daughter Marjorie Anne Striebel was born, and on July 2, 1918 their son John Henry "Buddy" Striebel was born.
The artist did not serve in the military during the Great War, at which time he was twenty-seven years old and supported a wife and two infant children.
In 1921 he drew the comic strip "Folks Back Home" written by Robert Quillen for The Chicago Tribune.
In 1922 he drew a syndicated comic strip "Pantomime." According to promotional materials it was "a high class feature told without words, by pictures alone. It combines in one the best elements of the modern strip, the sketch from life, and the daily cartoon, with all the humor and all the punch of the best comics, without being the least low-brow. It is a refreshingly radical departure from the well worn paths of comic art. Mr. Striebel ranks today as one of the most widely known and highly paid artists in the Middle West."
In 1923 the Chicago telephone directory listed the artist as the occupant of room 1019 in the Fine Arts Building, 410 South Michigan Boulevard, an impressive center for artists, writers, advertising companies and social clubs.
In the summer of 1924 he and his wife and kids moved to Woodstock, New York, a popular artist's community, where he studied painting with Henry Lee McFee (1886-1953) and Andrew Dasburg (1887-1979). The Striebel family lived on Orchard Place. One of his painting was included in an exhibition with George Bellows (1882-1925) and Rudolph Tandler (1887-1940), which it was favorably reviewed by The New York Times.
In 1925 he opened an art studio in New York City's Greenwich Village at 15 East 9th Street.
By 1925 he painted three covers for Liberty Magazine, which also published several of his story illustrations.
On September 17, 1926 he and his wife traveled to Europe.
In 1928 he illustrated the story "Show Girl" by J. P. McEvoy for Liberty Magazine. The story concerned a Jazz Age flapper named Dixie Dugan, who was based on a sexy Hollywood movie star Louise Brooks. The collaboration was so popular that Striebel and McEvoy were asked to adapt the story as a newspaper comic strip. They created Dixie Dugan, which enjoyed sensational popularity and remained in syndication for over thirty years.
Striebel became a nationwide celebrity, which brought him wealth, fame, and head-spinning flattery. It also brought an unbearable strain to his private home life. By 1929 his marriage had collapsed and divorce procedures had begun. He had moved out, but only to another nearby home in the same town. At this same time the nation was adjusting to the Great Depression, when hard times forced most people to resort to drastic measures to make ends meet.
During this difficult transitional period he began to earn extra income off the books by drawing line art for pulp magazines. These drawings appeared regularly in Five-Novels Monthly, West, and Short Stories.
He had to invent a pen name for this moonlighting work as a pulp artist, because he was under an exclusive contract with the newspaper syndicate and he was a celebrity going through a divorce with concerns about his alimony settlement during the social and cultural upheaval of the Great Depression.
Striebel lived in Woodstock, while his comic strip character Dixie Dugan lived in a fictitious town named "Stoodwock." He had cleverly invented the name by switching the initial letters "W" and "S" from the two syllables.
In an oddly similar manner he also invented a pen name for his pulp magazine drawings by cleverly switching the two syllables of his name "Striebel" to become "Bill Streib." This fictitious fellow would be known in formal circles as "William Streib." This playful charade became even more obvious when it was occasionally misspelled in a few revealing instances as "Strieb."
In 1932 according to a biographical article on the artist in Popular Mechanics, "John Striebel reminds one of Douglas Fairbanks in appearance. He has a genial, observant eye for the foibles of humanity which is reflected in the Dixie Dugan strip. Not all cartoonists are accomplished artists in other media than pen and ink, nor does the profession demand that they should be, but Striebel is an expert in oils and water colors and a great many of his paintings have been reproduced as magazine covers. Striebel looks up from his drawing board and says whimsically, 'Now I'm experimenting with the popular idea that life begins at forty.'"
This wistful outlook seems all the more poignant when considering that at the time of the interview his marriage had collapsed and he was suffering a mid-life crisis.
After a year of making good money on the side selling pen and ink story illustrations to pulp magazines with no legal repercussions or conflicts he was eventually tempted to earn even more money by selling painted covers to the pulps. But since cover artists received much wider public exposure on the American newsstand, where his pulp cover art might be displayed next to Dixie Dugan, he had to invent a pen name that was less playfully suggestive of his real name. Instead of William Streib he used the pen name "Stephen Waite" for his pulp cover art. Here again relying on the familiar initials "W" and "S."
Pulp cover art signed "Stephen Waite" appeared on Complete Adventure Novelettes, Complete Western Love Novelettes, Complete Mystery Novelettes, Star Magazine, Short Stories, Five Novels Monthly, Lover's Magazine, Ace-High Magazine, Short Stories, and West.
In 1933 under the name Stephen Waite he illustrated Clear The Trail by Charles Seltzer for Doubleday & Doran Co.
In one revealing instance an editor re-used a cover painting from 1931, which he had signed "Stephen Waite," on the January 1934 issue of Short Stories, in the table of contents of which printed credit for the cover was given to "William Strieb." This was among the last published appearance of either pen name.
After a few years this subterfuge finally ended when the artist married his second wife, after which time his financial affairs were settled and he no longer needed to earn a secret secondary income.
In Chicago on August 21, 1934 he married his second wife, Evelyn M. Kreighbaum. She was born in Indiana on July 24, 1912, which made her twenty years younger than his first wife. She was an artist and had completed her freshman year at college. They moved to the old Chapman Estate in Woodstock on Ohio Street in Bearsville, NY.
During the 1930s he painted covers for Sunday supplement magazines in The Chicago Tribune and New York Daily News. He also did promotional work for the popular Vic & Sadie Radio Show.
His elderly parents retired from work in South Bend, IN, and came to live with him in Bearsville, NY.
He was too old to serve in the military during WWII.
On June 11, 1943 his mother died at the age of seventy in Bearsville, NY.
On July 20, 1954 his father died at the age of eighty-five in the hospital in Kingston, NY.
In September of 1956 he and his wife visited to Europe on vacation. He traveled incognito using his actual name, Floyd H. Streibel.
According to a lifelong friend, "he has nice brown eyes, a quiet manner and much mystery. He is not snobbish, but only frightfully busy."
After an illness of several weeks, Floyd "John" Henry Striebel died at the age of seventy at his home in Bearsville, NY, on May 22, 1962. Dixie Dugan ran for four more years in newspaper syndication and finally folded in 1966.
Please also see the related profiles for William Streib and Stephen Waite, which are located on this website under their own names.
© David Saunders 2013