Who was COBB X. SHINN?

Seriously, who was Cobb X. Shinn? He's one of those people who left behind a history of ephemera images, but there doesn't seem to be any biographical information.

Cobb X. Shinn_Ford postcard_tatteredandlost
Click on image to see it larger.

This card is one of several done by Shinn for the Ford Motor Company. If you search the net you'll find others in the series such as the one here at Postcardy: The Postcard Explorer and one for sale at Card Cow.com.

At the Metro Postcard site I found the following:
Ford Motor Co. 1903-
Dearborn, MI

This company’s innovative production line methods gave it an edge over much competition and it quickly became America’s leading automobile manufacturer. Large efforts were made by Ford to promote their products outside of the normal range of advertising. They published a magazine, Ford Times, between 1908 and 1993, which was accompanied by the publication of many postcards. A noted artist signed card set is the Ford Booster Comic that illustrated Ford vehicles outperforming their competition in a number of humorous situations.
Shinn didn't just do these humorous Ford cards. Look around enough and you'll find a variety of subject matter. Now I can't say that most of his work was particularly exciting. He seems to have done best when using humor. His romantic cards, many available at Card Cow, leave a lot to be desired.

Shinn was also an illustrator of children's books. I have not found any of these illustrations online, though the books themselves are for sale. One book was Little Black Sambo. I found the following online in a book entitled From Colonialism to the Contemporary Intertextual Transformation in World Children's and Youth Literature by Lance Weldy, published by Cambridge Scholars Press in 2006:
The minstrel tradition reappeared in such publications as Albert Whitman & Co., 1926 publication, illustrated by Cobb X. Shinn. This edition, which was also republished in 1935, uses Bannerman’s “poses” or positioning of character, but paints them in the minstrel tradition, blackface with large eyes and mouth. Sambo is once again constructed in this illustration as a savage native of Africa.
I dare say, that doesn't sound promising.

As you search through Google you'll also come across a book entitled "Drawing the Easy Way: How to Become an Artist" by Cobb X. Shinn, published in 1928 by A. Whitman, Chicago. I haven't found anything about the content.

But really, the most interesting thing I found was this ad from American Photography, Volume 14 by Camera Club of New York. The ad reads:
Freak Fotographs "The Turtle that Drinks Milk." 6 x 8 print, 25 cents. No collection is complete without this print. COBB X. SHINN, 23 Liberty Building, Indianapolis, Ind.
HUH? What? Who was this guy? Seriously? He took photos of turtles drinking milk? Okay, if anyone ever comes across this post and actually can point me in the direction of one of these milk drinking turtle shots do drop me a note. Or if anyone has details about the life of Cobb X. Shinn, drop me a note. I'm now fascinated.

And for those who are just thinking, "Oh for cryin' out loud, just show us the back of the card already!"

Ford postcard_1915_tatteredandlost
Click on image to see it larger.

Cobb X. Shinn...a name you most likely never knew when you awoke this morning. And just think, this stupid post will eventually be searchable by Google and others will read this nonsense and walk away going, "Huh?"

And if I wish to get completely absurd, well...ummm...Cobb and corn husking? I'm seein' a thread. A thin thin thread. And if you don't know what I'm talkin' about for cryin' out loud read the back of the card.

UPDATE: Ask and ye shall receive. I received a post from Tom at Tom's Model T's providing information about Cobb T. Shinn which I'll post below. Please visit Tom's site to see a collection of 37 Shinn Model T Ford cards. A really nice collection. Thanks Tom!
Ford Comic Postcards: by Cobb Shinn:

"His drawings of the Model T Fords portrayed the frustration of their owners and the merriment of observers" (Sylvia C. Henricks)

Cobb Shinn (1887–1951) was born in Fillmore, Indiana, to Roscoe and Emma Pierce Shinn. He moved with his family to Indianapolis where he took art classes at the YMCA. In 1907 he enrolled in the John Herron School of Art and studied under William Forsyth and William M. Allison.

Shinn is primarily known as a postcard artist. He began producing cards as early as 1907. His most popular /images included novelty cards featuring Ford cars, printed by Commercial Colortype Company.

Shinn served in France during World War I, returning to Indianapolis in 1919. The retail demand for postcards was waning, partly due to a glut on the market, so he turned to other forms of commercial art. Shinn produced a comic strip for the World Colortype Company of St. Louis, Missouri, and illustrated children’s books for the Chicago publisher Albert Whitman. He also created books of clip art. These small drawings were used as fillers in newspapers and other publications.

Some of his postcards have the sentiments mimic a Germanic accent or some refer to it as a Dutch accent. (SOURCE: Tom's Model T's)
Update No. 2: Today I received a comment with further information about Mr. Shinn which might explain that milk drinking turtle:
Other popular series included “Riley Roses,” and “Sepia Wooden Shoe Dutch” cards featuring Dutch children. The Riley Roses series included a portrait of Indianapolis poet James Whitcomb Riley and a stanza from a Riley poem. Shinn also produced postcards under the pseudonym “Tom Yad.”

Shinn married Ramona Bowlin in 1925.

During the 1930s Shinn began an association with the Bretzman Photo Studio, Indianapolis. He specialized in photographing models in comic or exaggerated poses for use in advertisements. (SOURCE: Indiana University)

Update No. 3: Received a comment today from Evan who provides the following information:
There's a short article on Cobb Shinn in the Winter 1997 issue of Traces (a magazine published by the Indiana Historical Society).

Currently (as of 1.23.11) there is a copy for sale on Amazon: http://amzn.to/fZ3Egi

Update No. 4: Received a comment today from Jeff Levine. Thank you Jeff!
During the 1940s and possibly a bit earlier - up until his death in 1951 - Shinn built a business out of selling "stock cuts".  These were cartoon and thematic line art illustrations on photoengraved blocks for letterpress and were the forerunners of both paper and electronic clip art.  His "Cutalogs also featured pages of stock photos, attention-getters (pre-designed layouts for postcards and ink blotters) and other similar items.
I love how the pieces of the puzzle of his life are slowly coming to light through readers making comments.

Update No. 5: Jeff Levine informed me today that Shinn's actual first name was Conrad. Cobb was merely a nickname. Thanks Jeff!



  1. Nice article. I actually have a category for Mr. Shinn:

    There doesn't seem to be much written about him, but he was a rather prolific postcard artist. There hasn't been a huge demand for Shinn cards compared to other artists - the quality of most is average in my opinion, nothing too spectacular - but the Ford cards may appeal to Ford collectors.

  2. Yes, prolific would be the best word to use for Mr. Shinn. I had made sure I put a link to your site since you had the most copies of his work anywhere online. Hopefully someday a family member will find the post and supply some information. I still want to know about those milk drinking turtles.

  3. Here are some links to Cobb X. Shinn



  4. OMG Little Black Sambo! I remember that book, I think there was a copy of it at my gran's house in the days when you never thought twice about the implications! Unfortunately it has not survived, my gran was a horror for putting really good stuff into charity sales.

  5. Yes, I too had a copy of Sambo and loved it. I wish I still had it. It was one of my favorite books. Loved the illustration of the tiger running in circles until it turned into butter. And I recall sitting in my little chair next to my Scottish grandmother reading her the book a few weeks after I learned to read. She was so thrilled when I read the word "crimson" without any problem.

  6. It must have been a favourite with Scottish grandmothers!

  7. I have an original Cobb Shinn postcard. He did a beautiful drawing in 1908 of my grandmother, who apparently he know. It's a profile bust, coming out of a flower. It's been a treasure in my family all this time. I've always wanted to know who he was, but just recently thought, 'I think I'll google Cobb Shinn; amazing.

  8. There's a short article on Cobb Shinn in the Winter 1997 issue of Traces (a magazine published by the Indiana Historical Society). http://amzn.to/fZ3Egi

  9. Anonymous3/14/2011

    I'm wondering of Cobb Shinn did the American postcard series " Baseball Kidlets" #195?

  10. Sorry, can't help. I've never found anything linking him to those cards, which doesn't mean he didn't do them. Perhaps in the future someone will find this post and enlighten us.

  11. Thanks for sharing the post card info. I have also been curious about Cobb Shinn. I have several of his "cutalogs". These were books of images one could buy for advertising and layouts. Mine are from the mid 1940s and 50s.

    If anyone is interested, I have just listed one for sale on Etsy.

  12. Thanks so much for the information on Cobb Shinn. I have quite a few of his book illustrations (drawings in black and white) which appear to be a series of consecutive pages, or possibly an entire section of a children's puzzle and game book. There are detailed illustrations where rhyming words must be found within, illusions to figure out, math puzzles, connect the dot, logic, comics, etc.... It's quite fascinating and nothing like what I have seen by Shinn elsewhere (although finding info about him is a challenge). These illustrations are too large and detailed to have possibly been postcards. Does anyone know anything about Shinn having illustrated books for children at one time? The size of the pages and the content make we wonder if they were not part of a school book.

  13. RoosterTail, I'm thrilled you found this post. Indeed, it is difficult to find definitive information about Shinn. Perhaps you could post the images you have and I could link to them.

  14. Anonymous2/15/2016

    I have been collecting his postcards for about 15 years and have an album filled. I love his work. He also went by the name of Tom Yap. (Cobb Shinn. Cobb x , Cobb X Shinn and Tom Yap.)

    1. If you have a website or plan on making one please send me a link. I'd love to see your collection.

  15. I have the flower postcard/profile of beautiful lady - cobb shinn postcard. My family posted it in 1910 and it's signed "Cobb Shinn." This is lovely Art Nouveau illustration and there is a demand for it.

    1. I'd certainly love to see it. If you scan it I will post it for you.

  16. Is anyone interested in Cob & Shinn's first world war cards(uncirculated) done by Charles Chaplin and has Chaplin appearing in them M. Smith 561 703-7111

  17. Cobb X Shinn illustrated The Northland Bird Life book 1924 published by the Albert Whitman Co. of Chicago, written by my grandfather Roy J Snell. Also Eskimo Island and Penguin Land in 1924.