Frank B. Lanning Jr. (1906-1987) is best known for his long career (1937-1982) as a sports cartoonist for the Providence Journal Company newspapers. The primary focus of his thousands of newspaper drawings and freelance illustrations was Rhode Island athletic teams and personalities.
He was also a talented journalist and a frequent speaker at athletic banquets. With his many columns, drawings, program covers and gift presentations, he was one of the state's most visible and popular artists.
Lanning grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, but moved to Providence, Rhode Island, when his father, Frank Lanning, Sr., got a job as a cartoonist with the Providence Journal-Bulletin. When they moved back to Cleveland a few years later, Lanning became his father's understudy. After his father passed, he took over as the newspaper cartoonist and then a few years later moved back to Providence where he became the full-time cartoonist at the Journal, following in his father's footsteps.
Frank Lanning spent 46 years as the legendary sports cartoonist at the Providence newspaper, where his cartoons gained national attention year after year. Besides his daily newspaper cartoons, he contributed features combining text and drawings, for example, his long-running Evening Bulletin column "Brightening His Corner."
Lanning demonstrated a selfless commitment to athletics not only in the pages of the newspaper, but also through his work for Providence College, Brown University, Bryant College, and the University of Rhode Island. These athletic teams benefited from the easy recognition gained by his distinctive sketches of their mascots.
He designed mascots and logos for their sports teams, as well as covers for sport publications and sporting events. He is credited with creating the logo - the Raging Rooster - for Bryant College, which appeared in 1948. He also coined the term "firehorse" for basketball and created the Ram cartoon of the University of Rhode Island's mascot. With his illustrations, he also honored many individuals connected with athletics at many of Rhode Island's colleges.
He is remembered by those who worked with him as "one of the nicest people you would ever meet." He was as popular as any of his fellow writers, probably because every year he included caricatures of the newspaper staff in his cartoons. Lanning is a member of the Rhode Island Heritage, Providence Gridiron Club Halls of Fame, and the University of Rhode Island Athletic Hall of Fame.
About the Collection
The Frank Lanning Collection at Providence College consists of the approximately eighty (80) prints that Mr. Lanning presented to members of the P.C. community over the years. These prints were eventually transferred to the College Archives for preservation and cataloguing. The artist's signature, usually Frank Lanning rather than Lanning, appears in all but one of the cartoons.
The illustrations were relabeled and arranged by the date of the particular game or event described. The few that could not be so defined were labeled undated and located at the end of the Collection. Several games or events were the subject of more than one drawing.
The subjects of this collection of Journal and freelance illustrations are of, the teams, games, local rivalries, administrators, and undergraduate and alumni athletes of Providence College from 1924 to 1982. The earliest cartoon was drawn in June of 1944, the last in November of 1982.
Some titles were noted under/above the drawings, and some were written into the cartoons. Because Mr. Lanning also did freelance work, we could not always determine whether or when the drawings appeared in The Providence Journal, The Evening Bulletin, Providence Sunday Journal, or the Providence Journal-Bulletin.
Dr. Deborah Johnson, Providence College Professor of Art History, provided information on terminology commonly used to describe the physical characteristics of the prints. The most common media in the Collection which are cartoons, have dimensions ranging from a height of 6" to 13.5" and a width of 5" to 22" and refer to the size of the graphics, not the paper on which they are printed.
Paul D. Bienvenue, Providence College Computer Imaging Technician, assisted in preservation and improved access by scanning these the prints as JPG files.
The sources for the biographical information were the files located in the College Archives and several Journal articles published at the time of Mr. Lanning's death.