1877 Born Nov 12 in Philadelphia, PA, fifth in a family of eight children. Grew up in Germantown, PA. Father died when he was 10. Mother managed to keep the large family together and ran the family laundry business.
1895 Graduated from the Philadelphia Central High School and enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Dropped out of school after one semester because he said, “they have nothing to teach him ".
1896 Worked as "cub reporter" for a Philadelphia newspaper doing sketches in Police Court. Then moved to the Philadelphia Inquirer where he stayed for three years learning the trade.
1898 Started working at the Philadelphia North American. Began receiving commissions.
1900 Moved to NYC to work for the Evening Journal.
1901 Returned to Philadelphia and the North American.
1902 Married Elsie Barrows on Oct. 7.
1904 Left the North American to work for the Public Ledger. He was approached by Reilly & Britton to illustrate The Land of Oz. Because he had so many assignments, Reilly & Britton had to hold three conferences with him before he was persuaded to accept the work. He set up his studio at "Devil’s Half Acre," a reconstructed colonial house in Lumberville, PA. This is where he illustrated most of the early Oz books. Neill also had a studio at 1020 Chestnut St. in Philadelphia.
1905 Returned to the North American, where he remained for the next 7 years. Continued to illustrate the Oz books and others, and developed his contacts for obtaining magazine illustration commissions.
1911 Resigned from the North American to freelance full time.
1913 Moved back to New York City since most of the magazines he was illustrating were located there.
1915 Elsie divorced John. They had no children. (He had been separated in NYC for two years.)
1919 Married actress Margaret Carroll. (Later nicknamed “Mommy Moy”). She was 30 and he was 42. Over the years they raised a family of three daughters, Natalie, Annrea, and Joan.
1925 Moved to Kensington Gardens, Great Neck, Long Island.
1930 The Depression brought hard times for illustrators as magazines and newspapers cut back on the expense of illustration and began to hire mostly photographers.
1933-35 The family moved many times. First they moved south to Palm Island, near Miami, Florida. Then for short periods in Townshend, Vermont, then New York City, and Scotland, CT.
1936 Bought the 130 acre "old Yaeger farm" on a mountain top in Flanders, New Jersey for $6000. Renamed it "Endolane Farm." Lived there for the rest of his life.
1943 Died September 19 of heart problems at age 65.
Some of my favorite pieces. Family owned.