Elzie Crisler Segar was born and raised in Chester, Illinois on December 8th, 1894. He was the youngest of eight children but was technically an only child. His seven siblings were all half brothers and sisters. His parents were Amzi Andrews Segar and Erma Irene Crisler Segar. At the age of 12, Segar began his first real job at the Chester Opera house owned by J. William Schechert. There he had many responsibilities including hanging movie posters around town, drawing ads for the front of the theater, playing drums during films, and creating glass slides as advertisements for local businesses to be projected onto the screen.
When he was 18 years old he decided that he wanted to become a cartoonist. He invested $20 and worked on a correspondence course in cartooning from W.L. Evans of Cleveland.
Inspired by the comedy movies of Charlot, Segar created a few comics copying the same situations, which found no success. After meeting Richard Felton Outcault, creator of "The Yellow Kid" and "Buster Brown," Segar was introduced at the Chicago Herald. The Herald published Segar's first comic, "Charlie Chaplin's Comedy Capers" on March 12, 1916. The strip was poorly drawn but because the humor was acceptable it ran for 13 months.
World War I was in full effect when Segar began drawing a strip called “Barry the Boob.” The comic was about a soldier in an unnamed army on the fields of Europe. The strip ran from April 23, 1917 until June 1, 1918. Again his work contained great humor but the artwork was less than satisfactory. Months later, he worked at the Chicago Evening American where he created the comic “Looping the Loop.”
Two years later, William Curley, the managing editor, sent Segar to New York to work for King Features Syndicate. In 1925 he began drawing a new comic called “Thimble Theatre” for the New York Journal owned by William Randolph Hearst. In 1929 Segar first introduced Popeye to his Thimble Theatre strip. Popeye soon became the star of the strip, which increased demand for the newspaper. It is estimated that Segar was making over $100,000 a year at the height of the great depression.
In early 1938 Segar was diagnosed with Leukemia. He spent several months in the hospital while the Thimble Theatre was temporarily given to another artist to draw. He took the strip back for a few months in the summer, but again became ill and never drew another strip. The last Thimble Theatre strip drawn by Segar was printed August 27, 1938. He died on October 13, 1938 at home and is buried in Santa Monica, California.