William Donahey (19 October 1883 – 2 February 1970) was a U.S. cartoonist and creator of The Teenie Weenies, a comic strip about two-inch tall people living under a rose bush. The strip appeared in the Chicago Tribune for over 50 years. He drew The Teenie Weenies for a total of about 2100 strips.
Donahey was a very shy child when growing up. He would dream up imaginary characters and The Teenie Weenies as a pastime. He later turned them into a profession in the form of comic features in newspapers, books and advertising.
When Chicago Tribune editor Joseph Medill Patterson saw Donahey’s artwork, he offered him a full-time job as a cartoonist for the comics section. Here is where he created The Teenie Weenies inspired by The Brownies, the popular feature by Palmer Cox. The Teenie Weenies, written and illustrated by Donahey, contrasted normal-size objects with tiny protagonists.
The Teenie Weenies was syndicated in newspapers internationally, and the characters appeared in books, school primers and advertising. Donahey franchised his work for use on decals, dolls, clothing, handkerchiefs and tin boxes. He had a number of licensing agreements for his work with companies like Monarch Foods and Reid-Murdoch. He dedicated most of his work and energy however into the newspaper cartoon comic strips.
William and Mary Donahey owned the 16-foot-tall, two story Pickle Barrel House in Grand Marais, Michigan where they spent their summers. Built in 1926 the barrel house was paid for by a pickle company, whose pickles William Donahey would plug, via the Teenie Weenies, in his comic. A smaller barrel in the back served as a kitchen. The barrel fell into disrepair after Donahey’s death, but it was restored as a tourist attraction by civic-minded locals in 2005 and now serves as a museum on the main street of Grand Marais.
Grand Marais, Michigan: Pickle Barrel House, courtesy of RoadsideAmerica.com