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Ted Key Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: DMW
Date: 10 Oct 1979

Biographical History

Ted Key (1912-2008) was an American cartoonist and writer who is best known for creating the character "Hazel".

Ted Key was born on August 25, 1912 in Fresno, California as Theodore Keyser. His father, a Latvian immigrant, changed the family name (originally Katseff) to Key during World War I. After graduating from the University of California- Berkeley in 1933, where he was art editor of the student newspaper and associate editor of the college magazine, Key moved to New York City and worked as a freelance cartoonist and wrote for the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency. While in New York, Key joined the Cartoonists Guild of America in an effort to increase the amount of money received for his work. During World War II, Key served in a public relations capacity with the United States Army Signal Corps.

Key developed the Hazel character, a maid and related characters Mr. and Mrs. Baxter, cats: Two Ton and Mostly; and dogs: Smiley and Schnoozel. The idea was picked up by the Saturday Evening Post in 1943 and cartoons featuring her Hazel began appearing in the magazine. The Saturday Evening Post retained exclusive rights to the character while it was published in the magazine. Hazel replaced the panel Little Lulu and became a regular monthly feature until the Saturday Evening Post ceased publication in 1969. However, Hazel was picked up by the King Features Syndicate and they began publishing the cartoon six days a week. Key adapted the Hazel character for other mediums. Hazel was used in promotional material and Key wrote a movie and musical treatments. Hazel was also successfully adapted into a non-animated television series, starring Shirley Booth. The show, produced by Screen Gems, aired initially on NBC for four seasons starting in 1961. The show as brought to a conclusion on CBS in 1966.

Key also published gag cartoons in other magazines including Collier's and This Week. In addition to drawing cartoons, Key illustrated motivational materials published by Economics Press designed for children and businesses under the titles Positive Attitude and A Sales Bullet. Also a writer, Key authored the children's book Phyllis and wrote screenplays, several of which were produced as Walt Disney movies. These films, The Million Dollar Duck (1971), Gus (1976), The Cat from Outer Space (1978), all featured animals as leading characters. Key is also credited with also wrote the story for Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World (1973), which was produced in the United Kingdom. Key is also credited with creating the characters Peabody and Sherman.

The National Cartoonists Society named Hazel the Best Newspaper Panel cartoon in 1977. Key was also active with the Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America and was a speaker at the 1957 Canadian National Exposition.

For much of his career, Ted Key worked out of his home outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Key retired in 1993 and died on May 3, 2008.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Ted Key Papers are arranged in seven series. The majority of the material in the collection is related to Key's Hazel character which appeared as a: syndicated cartoon, magazine cartoon and television show. Also available is material related to Key's work in motion pictures and original artwork by other artists. The collection includes printed material, original artwork, writings, and correspondence.

Artwork (1942-1993) is the largest series containing original artwork for the Hazel panel cartoon as it appeared as a syndicated cartoon for King Features Syndicate (3,925 cartoons) and as a magazine cartoon in the Saturday Evening Post (over 300 cartoons). There are also non-Hazel gag cartoons that were published in magazines such as Collier's and This Week (over 600 cartoons). In the inventory portion of this finding aid, there are links to two PDFs of item-level lists of magazine cartoons created by Key. Please note, these lists have not been verified.

The magazine cartoons have been numbered by Key and are primarily from 1942 through the 1960s. These items measure approximately 11" x 15" and were drawn in ink on paperboard. Many originals, particularly of Hazel have paper overlays on which pigment was applied for spot color (typically yellow). Captions are written in pencil. On back are numbers assigned by Key, the date of publication and publication name. The collection includes some full color cartoons as well as several are multiple page spreads. The collection also includes artwork for Hazel as a syndicated panel cartoon from 1969-1993. Earlier years measure 11 ½" x 14 ½" and have captions written in pencil. Work from the 1980s and 1990s measures 7 ½" x 9" and captions have been typed and pasted on. The Hazel syndicated cartoon was drawn in ink.

Also included in this series is original color artwork for Diz and Liz which appeared in Jack and Jill magazine; miscellaneous original artwork by Key; and cartoons by other artists including several pieces for Life magazine. In addition to magazine and syndicated cartoons, there is rough artwork for the Positive Attitude posters and A Sales Bullet illustrations Key produced. These posters feature positive aphorisms about being a good person and a good employee, such as "The right way…is the best way" and "Doing your share helps get the job done!". These roughs were done in watercolor on paper and are numbered and dated. Also included are rough ideas that were rejected.

Correspondence (1943-2002) contains incoming letters from fellow cartoonists Syd Hoff, Lynn Johnston (as well as her niece) and Ed Nofziger as well as a small sampling of fan mail. Key also corresponded with Adlai Stevenson, Bess Truman, Hazel television star, Shirley Booth and children's author Betty MacDonald.

The Personal series (1957-1986) consists of mementos, including a placard for the NBC spelling bee and a handkerchief embroidered with the name Hazel; a photograph of Key; and awards including a letter from Syracuse University.

Promotional material (1940s-2004) includes a variety of printed material using the Hazel character as well as publicity for movies written by Key including posters and press kits.

Proofs (1954-2008) is comprised almost entirely of proof sheets the Hazel syndicated panel cartoon. Each week appears on a single sheet. There are two sets of proofs for most years; some sets are not complete. There are a few also miscellaneous proofs for magazine cartoons and a Hazel book.

Writings (1960-1998) consist of proposals, screenplays, treatments and scripts for Hazel related productions as well as Key's screenplays for the motion pictures Cat From Outer Space, Digby the Biggest Dog in the World, Gus and Million Dollar Duck. The series includes material for ideas that were never produced including a memoir. The Hazel television scripts are not written by Key and for several other titles, Key worked with collaborators who have been named in this inventory where available. The series also contains handwritten gags for Hazel. Often these sheets are dated at the top with a week's date range. Some gags have been crossed out as "drawn" and some contain very rough sketches drawn in ballpoint pen.

Miscellaneous (1942-1992) includes clippings, book dummies, published material, a typed translation taken from a Norwegian Hazel book and a cassette tape recording of a Toonerviews interview with Ted Key, Chon Day, Fred Lasswell, Hank Ketcham and Chance Brown.

Arrangement of the Collection

Magazine cartoons have been arranged by date and separated into Hazel and non-Hazel sections within each year. Syndicated cartoons are arranged in chronological order. Correspondence is arranged in alphabetical order by sender.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Reproduction, literary, publication, commercial and sales rights have been retained by Key's heirs.

Related Material

Published works related to Hazel and Key's other work are located in Rare Books. Please use the the Classic Catalog to locate these materials.

Special Collections Research Center has collections of over one hundred cartoonists. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Key, Ted.

Corporate Bodies

King Features Syndicate.

Associated Titles

Digby the biggest dog in the world.
Gus (motion picture)
Hazel (Television series)
Hazel (cartoon)
Million dollar duck (motion picture)
Saturday evening post.
The cat from outer space.


American wit and humor, Pictorial.
Animals in motion pictures.
Caricatures and cartoons -- United States.
Cartoonists -- United States.
Comic books, strips, etc.
Motion picture plays.
Screenwriters -- United States.
Women household employees -- Caricatures and cartoons.

Genres and Forms

Cartoons (humorous images)
Clippings (information artifacts)
Promotional materials.
Proofs (printed matter)
Scripts (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Ted Key Papers
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Ted Key, 1963-1964, 1966-1969, 1971-1974, 1978, 1990, 2000.

Gift of Peter Key, 2009-2010.

Illustration, gift of Martin McDermott, 2021

Table of Contents




Promotional material