The Story of Dudley Ward and his Dingbat Calendars

It’s the New Year in Dingbat Land! But what is a Dingbat?⁠

“Surgery Update in Dingbat Land” – Museum of Health Care 997032007

Pictured here, “Dingbats” are small fantastical creatures created by English-Canadian illustrator William Dudley Burnett Ward (commonly known as Dudley Ward). Born in England in 1879, Ward studied at South Kensington Art Schools in London, in addition to learning in Brussels and Amsterdam. He moved to Canada in 1910 and spent time living in both Toronto and Montreal. His Dingbat characters, which combined cartoon art and surrealism, began appearing on advertising calendars for the Charles E. Frosst pharmaceutical company in 1915, and continued under different artists until they were discontinued in 1996 because it was decided that they represented unfair competition for other pharmaceutical brands.

Dingbat Character by William Dudley Burnett Ward
“Industrial Medicine in Dingbat Land” –
Museum of Health Care 997032005

Remembered by so many for his Dingbats, Ward was also an accomplished artist outside of his work for Frosst– he acted as an illustrator and cartoonist for the Illustrated London News, Ally Sloper, and Bystander in England, and the Courier, Canada Weekly, and Maclean’s in Canada. He was also a member of the Society of Graphic Arts in Toronto, and his work went on exhibition with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, the Canadian National Exhibition, the Art Association of Montreal, and the Ontario Society of Artists from the 1910s through the 1930s. Today, in addition to the many Dingbat calendars in the collections of the Museum of Health Care, his works can be found in the National Gallery of Canada and the AGO – Art Gallery of Ontario⁠.

Frosst Pharmaceutical Company logo, 1899 – 1915

Interestingly enough, the Dingbat calendars started in February each year, and the last page was January of the following year!⁠

To learn more about these artifacts and more, visit our online collection catalogue by clicking the button below.

Shaelyn Ryan <br>(Collections Technician/Assistant 2022)
Shaelyn Ryan
(Collections Technician/Assistant 2022)

Shaelyn Ryan is a recent graduate of Queen’s University, having completed her Bachelor’s degree in History in 2021, and is returning to Queen’s in the fall to pursue a Master’s degree in History. Either as a Summer Student or Work-Study Student through Queen’s University, Shaelyn has helped catalogue and research many of the museum’s collection of artefacts as a Collections Technician (since 2018). 

3 thoughts on “The Story of Dudley Ward and his Dingbat Calendars

  1. I have an original Dingbat illustration by Dudley Ward . If there is any interest at all I can email you a picture. This has been handed down through my husbands family over the years and should be of some value to a museum or collector?

      1. Jill, I would love to see a picture of your Dingbat illustration. I have been researching the dingbat calendars for a few years and also any of the dingbat artwork associated with Dudley Ward.

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