Livingston Hopkins (1846–1927)

HOPKINS, LIVINGSTON (YOURTEE) YORK (1846–1927), cartoonist best known as 'HOP', was born on 7 July 1846 at Bellefontaine, Ohio, United States of America, son of Daniel Hopkins (1800–1849), surveyor, and his wife Sarah, née Carter. He attended school in Bellefontaine, where he caricatured the teacher, and in Kalida and Toledo, Ohio. At 17 he left a clerkship to join the 130th Ohio Volunteer Regiment, which was reviewed in Washington by President Lincoln before it saw service near Petersburg, Virginia, in the summer of 1864. Hopkins, however, spent most of his time picketing the lines and relieving his boredom by drawing. Mustered out in September 1864, he took a job as a railroad messenger, worked on newspapers in Ohio and Illinois and in 1870 moved to New York. By then a freelance 'Designer on Wood', he contributed to newspapers and comic magazines, and illustrated books. In 1880 A Comic History of the United States, which he wrote and copiously illustrated, was published but a patriotic reading public was not amused. On 9 June 1875 at Toledo he had married Harriet Augusta Commager.

In 1882 Hopkins met William Traill who so inspired him that by February 1883 Hopkins had arrived in Sydney with his wife, three children and a two-year contract with the Bulletin. Soon he was joined by 'Phil' May, lured by Traill from England, and together they contributed much to the Bulletin's popularity and prosperity. Their skill, enhanced by improved methods of reproduction, attracted other artists to the magazine. Best known of 'Hop's' cartoons were the Sudan war and Federation series, and those that caricatured Sir Henry Parkes, (Sir) George Dibbs, (Sir) George Reid, (Sir) William Lyne, Bernhard Ringrose Wise and other public figures. In 1904 he published a selection of his work, On the Hop, but his output steadily declined until his virtual retirement in 1913, by which time he was a director of the Bulletin.

'Hop's' draftsmanship was inferior to May's and though his political satire was racy and irreverent, it lacked toughness; as the Bulletin put it, 'he used his gift for gaiety and mirth, searing or scathing none'. Yet Hopkins remained the most popular of the Bulletin cartoonists and, for its proprietors, perhaps the most useful. He diligently kept notebooks of ideas and captions, and constantly referred to the scrapbooks of his past work. His 19,000 drawings included social satire, jokes, Bulletin calendars and postcards, and illustrations for such publications as F. J. Donahue's The History of Botany Bay (1888). His interpretation of the politicians and the regular appearance of his symbolic figures and menagerie of allegorical animals did much to explain the gospel of economic and racial isolationism, Republican nationalism and cultural chauvinism that the Bulletin preached before Federation.

Tall, angular, urbane, a keen player of bowls and maker of violins, Hopkins was not always the puckish imp of his cartoons. Although he moved easily in the Athenaeum Club and Bohemian circles and ran an artists' camp with Julian Ashton at Balmoral, he was observant of propriety and in private sometimes authoritarian and moody; publicly he could be awesome, though not all agree with Norman Lindsay that he was an 'inflexible autocrat' and 'quite humourless'. Hopkins died at Mosman on 21 August 1927 and was cremated at Rookwood. Predeceased by his wife, he was survived by a son and four daughters. His estate was valued at over £44,000.

Portraits of 'Hop' by William Macleod, Ashton and W. T. Smedley are in the Art Gallery of New South Wales. He was an etcher and a painter as well as a cartoonist, and samples of his work are in the Mitchell Library, Australian National Library, and art galleries at Geelong and Castlemaine and in most States.

Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861–1866, vol 8 (Cincinatti, 1888); D. J. Hopkins, Hop of the Bulletin (Sydney, 1929); O. F. Bond (ed), Under the Flag of the Nation (Columbus, 1961); N. Lindsay, Bohemians of the Bulletin (Sydney, 1965); Bulletin, 1883–1913, 28 Aug, 4 Sept 1927, 29 Jan 1930; '“Hop”: His Confessions', Lone Hand, Dec 1913–June 1914; Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 10 July 1927; Sydney Morning Herald, 22, 23 Aug 1927; M. Mahood, The Political Cartoon in N.S.W. and Victoria, 1855–1901 (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1965); L. Hopkins scrapbooks, 1874–1925 (State Library of New South Wales); manuscript catalogue under Hopkins (State Library of New South Wales); private information.


Reproduced by kind permission of the Australian Dictionary of Biography Online,, The Australian National University.