Born in Illinois on March 5, 1862, Newell showed artistic ability during his youth yet decided to work in a cigar factory at age sixteen. This employment didn't last long before he moved on, taking a position as an apprentice making enlargements of crayon portraits. Newell learned much about drawing and began illustrating on his own. With his illustrations and his comics, he began achieving success in national magazines. Noted for his humor and later for the techniques he created that comic artists imitated, Newell turned to writing and illustrating children's books. His first book Topsys and Turvys could be read upside down. He also created the Slant Book, using inventiveness to popularize a single idea. At age 62, Newell passed away from Lou Gehrig's Disease, a neurodegenerative disease.
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