Fanny Young Cory

(1886-1972) American Illustrator

Fanny Cory (who signed her work variously as FTC. F.Y. Cory, and Fanny Y. Cory) had two distinct careers: one, in periodical and book illustration, and later another in syndicated newspaper cartooning.

Scarcely five feet tall as an adult, Cory was born in Illinois but raised in Helena, Montana. She moved to New York in 1894 at the age of 17, staying with her older brother Jack, a political cartoonist. She gained admittance to the Art Students League and entered the professional field in 1897. Cory built a practice doing illustration work and creating covers for St. Nicholas and general interest publications: Life, Scribner’s, Century, Harper’s Bazaar, and The Saturday Evening Post. She was also commissioned to illustrate books for children, including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1902) and works by Frank L. Baum, including The Enchanted Island of Yew (1903). Her work, like that of most women in the industry, focused on depictions of family life. Her early work is not uniform in approach. The Fanny Cory Mother Goose (1913)–some of which is reproduced here–is an uneven affair, with several styles in play. 

She returned to Montana around 1903 to devote herself to family life, withdrawing (to a degree) from the market. With husband Fred Cooney, a rancher, she raised three children. In the 1920s, in need of cash to educate her children, she turned to newspaper cartooning. Cory became newly well-known for “Sonnysayings,” a somewhat treacly single-panel feature based on a utterances of Sonny, a five year-old boy. She also produced the “Little Miss Muffet” comic strip, reproduced in many newspapers. She produced these features for 30 years, finally retiring in 1956. 

Little Miss Muffet was anthologized in Big Little Books in 1936 [#1120] and in comic book form in 1947 and 48. I tracked a comic book down. The drawing has some very nice moments, which–unfortunately–are mostly ruined by the garish color applied to her overwhelmingly linear, monochrome daily comic strip. Where given circumstances call for a more neutral approach to applied tone, Cory's key drawing fares better. 

From the 1920s to the 50s, Cory the rancher woman produced watercolors known as the “Fairy Series”, which she regarded as her best work. A "Fairy Alphabet" book was published posthumously.  

In 1951 Fanny Young Cory Cooney won "Montana Mother of the Year," which reportedly filled her with pride. This biographical detail also nicely captures the socially circumscribed roles which defined even a nationally significant professional woman like Cory. She was 94 at her death in 1972.

FY Cory, interior illustration. Harper's Bazaar, 1903.

FY Cory, Front Cover for The Fanny Cory Mother Goose. Bobs-Merrill Company Publishers. 1913.

FY Cory, endpapers for The Fanny Cory Mother Goose. Bobs-Merrill Company Publishers. 1913.

FY Cory, The Fanny Cory Mother Goose.

FY Cory, The Fanny Cory Mother Goose.

FY Cory, The Fanny Cory Mother Goose.

FY Cory, The Fanny Cory Mother Goose.


Fanny Cory, "Little Miss Muffet" No. 11. Magazine published quarterly by Best Books, Inc. Copyright 1937, 1938, 1948 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.  December 1948.

Fanny Cory's "Little Miss Muffet" was a daily strip. When King Features sought to repurpose and reprint her strip in a comic book format (common practices) they did so by slapping garish color on what had been a somewhat austere black-and-white project.  

Cory, "Little Miss Muffet," distorted by chirpy, "active" color. 

Cory, "Little Miss Muffet." The night scene depicted above gives a slightly better sense of the original strip. The emphasis on value captures the simplified character of Cory's key drawing, which can be overwhelmed by King Features' high-keyed color palette. 


FY Cory, another piece from "Fairy Series". Watercolor painting. 1930.
It was later accompanied by text in the Fairy Alphabet Book: "Q is for Queen / Asleep in her bower/ Which is made by the shade/ Of a clematis flower." 

FY Cory, a piece from "Fairy Series". Watercolor painting. 1930.

FY Cory, a piece from "Fairy Series". Watercolor painting. 1930.