Some Ting Things

TingCoverI picked up this booklet at City Lights some very long time ago, and recovered it from basement obscurity just last year. There is no publication date, no copyright notice, no ISBN, but I can only assume it was published at the end of 1957, as per this reference at the McMaster Library archives. The last dated cartoon in the book is June 12, 1957. It would have been the first of the cartoon collections. Merle “Ting” Tingley has a brief reference in the Canadian Encyclopedia article on Cartoons, Political; the Tingley collection at University of Western Ontario library archives houses a large collection of his work; a few entries in books – Best Canadian Political Cartoons 1984 and various National Cartoonists Society albums – collected at Michigan State University Libraries Comic Art Collection – as do I, incredibly. Two articles in The Ryerson Review of Journalism, Spring 1990, and Summer 1999 mention him in context of the politics and the workplace of the time. From a piece by Bill Brady in the May 19th Free Press;

It all started in Montreal as Ting began to draw in school, then there was an art course and, with no jobs in commercial art, he got work as a draftsman. But he soon grew bored and, in 1943, joined the army, where he found his true love — cartooning. While serving in Germany, Ting met someone who would become a lifelong friend, Jim Bowes of London, Ont. Bowes introduced Ting to the army weekly paper Khaki, and it was here that his real career began. At war’s end, without a job and no desire to return to the drafting table, Ting compiled a list of newspapers that did not have editorial cartoonists. Then, on his ancient motorcycle, he crossed Canada, visiting those papers, but headed back east with no prospects. He decided to drop in on his old army pal Bowes, who was working at The London Free Press. Bowes suggested that the paper really needed a cartoonist, but didn’t think they’d go for it and encouraged Ting to “get his foot in the door” and take any job available at the paper.”It sure wasn’t what I had in mind, and a long way from drawing cartoons, but I took the job anyway,” said Ting, who started at the paper washing prints in the basement darkroom, deep in the bowels of the newspaper building on Richmond Street. When George Wenige became mayor, an editor thought a political cartoon might be in order. Ting was summoned from his subterranean post, picked up his pencil and drew “King George” in a crown — Ting’s first Free Press cartoon.

If the ‘Common Man’ were to draw cartoons, that would be Ting. He wasn’t Duncan MacPherson. He wasn’t Aislin. Where they had sabres, Ting had table knives.

Ting newsboy cartoon

For forty years he showed up for work and drew cartoons, gentle, funny cartoons about our city and the province and the world. Even if we kids didn’t understand the issue, every day we would scour the cartoon for a glimpse of Luke Worm. Not only was I a cub scout on tour one day – no doubt Mr. Tingley would never recall the meeting, nor the example he set – but I was also a Free Press delivery boy. I loved those papers under 30 pages. That four-fold was easy to hurl from a big black Raleigh rolling down the sidewalk.

Ting future car

 Retro future stuff has always been fun. Some of these things have come true… (sure). The phonograph is an iPod… the TV, a DVD player… that parking radar – think GPS, or internet connection to Google maps – that would be useful – and that is a Smart car in the trunk isn’t it?Parking downtown has always been the issue we all scream about. There was never enough enough of it. Never will be.

Ting Ghost town

And look at this from 1954. From a retro-glimpse to the future, to a retro-glimpse of the past. As businesses move to city outskirts … downtown London may become a ghost town. Over 50 years ago. The issue hasn’t changed, and hasn’t been resolved.


  1. Doug, thanks for this review of Ting’s work. Boy, he sure captured the times. I’m always going to remember his ghost cartoon everytime I visit downtown London.

  2. He lives at the Waverley Mansion Retirement Residence.
    10 Grand Ave (Grand Ave and Ridout St. in Southwest London)
    London, ON
    N6C 1K9
    I interviewed Ting last year for an Oral History Class at UWO.
    He is a wonderful man with a huge heart.
    I interviewed Merle Tingley, Maurice Chapman and William Clarke, for an Oral History of Storybook Gardens.
    For more information, please contact me at:

  3. Did anyone ever publish all his early cartoons, and the London Free Press political cartoon drawings?

  4. There were periodically published albums of the previous years cartoons. I saw them occasionally come through when I worked at City Lights, and in other used book shops. There’s been nothing since his retirement.

  5. we have a book titled Ting cartoons 1977 edition the london freepress. it is signed by Ting to my husband Dave..i would like to know if it has any value?

    • I assume you’re proximate to London Ontario? The autograph makes it worth something to you as a personalization for sure, and perhaps as an autograph for collectors. I’d ask at Attic Books in London if it has any value beyond that. The market for his cartoons is local, small, and not really demanding.

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