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Cartoonist's 40 years began with Ledger


November 22, 2018

Courtesy Photo

Ledger publisher Doc Eggensperger and Barry McWilliams in November 1978, when Doc became the first subscriber to Barry's Cartoons.

This week, Barry McWilliams celebrates 40 years of creating cartoons for newspapers. In 1978, Barry was working at The Madisonian newspaper in southwest Montana. He sold advertising, wrote articles, took photos and ended up drawing cartoons. Eventually, other newspapers contacted the newspaper and asked if he could draw for them, too.

Barry told The Ledger recently that "at that point ... I realized that my lifelong dream of becoming a cartoonist might just happen then." So he quit his job and spent three weeks drawing up 22 cartoons. He made 10 packets of those cartoons and headed out the Sunday before Thanksgiving 1978 to try and sell his work to other newspapers.

The first newspaper he went to was The Sanders County Ledger. Barry said he had met some weekly newspaper guys in the state and "it became very evident to me that Doc Eggensperger was the most highly respected weekly publisher in the whole state of Montana. I said to myself, 'you know, I can't think of a better guy to start with than Doc.'"

So with not much money left to his name (he hadn't been working for three weeks as he created work to show newspapers), Barry bought a week's worth of groceries and cut a week's worth of firewood, then left his family to try and sell his work. He drove through the night to Thompson Falls to make his first sale. It was Thanksgiving week and he was trying to sleep in his car outside the Ledger office. At one point, he said he looked up and there was Doc opening the door. Barry jumped out with a set of his cartoons, and Doc made him a cup of coffee. Barry handed Doc a set of his cartoons and Doc looked through them, eventually making a deal to publish Barry's work.

Barry left Thompson Falls and signed up seven papers in that week, and made it home to have Thanksgiving dinner with his family on Thursday. "Then it went on from there," he said. He went state to state for a couple of years and ended up with 450 newspapers publishing his cartoons. "But it all began that cold morning when I was broker than sin in Thompson Falls."

Congratulations to Barry on 40 years of entertaining newspaper readers, and thank you for sharing your story and connection to The Sanders County Ledger with us. We are thankful to be a part of your journey.


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