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Ted Key was born in Fresno, California, on August 25th, 1912, and attended the University of California at Berkely, where he received his early art training. He was art editor of the campus daily newspaper and associate editor of the campus monthly humor magazine. While in college, he sold his first cartoon.
After graduating in 1933, Key moved to New York to become a magazine cartoonist. There, he sold cartoons to the leading magazines of the time: The New Yorker, Ladies Home Journal, and Good Housekeeping, with the notable exception of The Saturday Evening Post.
Key became associate editor of The Judge magazine in 1937, leaving to become a radio writer for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. During World War II, the army relocated him to the Philadelphia area, where he lived the rest of his life.
In 1943, Key first sold a cartoon about a maid to The Saturday Evening Post. By the end of the year, the maid had a name, Hazel, and Key had a new identity, her creator. He would continue to draw Hazel for the next 50 years, producing cartoons of the humorous, lovable, and tart character for Post readers on a weekly basis through 1969 and for King Features Syndicate six times a week through 1993.
Hazel's huge success brought Key numerous publishing deals. E.P. Dutton & Co. put out eight collections of Hazel cartoons and three collections of his other cartoons in hardback; Bantam Books republished six of the Hazel books in paperback; and Curtis Books published three other collections of Hazel cartoons in paperback. Key also wrote three children's books for E. P. Dutton, illustrating one, which was made into the movie "Digby: the Biggest Dog in the World."
In a further testament to her popularity, Hazel became a TV Show in 1961. The show, which ran in prime time through 1965, starred Shirley Booth, who won two Emmy Awards for her portrayal of the sassy maid.
Key's fruitful mind also produced numerous other characters during his career. The most notable are Peabody and Sherman, the time-traveling dog scientist and his boy, who Key created for the animated TV show 'Rocky and His Friends,' which debuted in 1959. Key also sold ideas for three 1970's movies: 'The Million Dollar Duck,' 'Gus,' and 'The Cat from Outer Space' to the Walt Disney Co. Additionally, Key wrote the screenplay for 'The Cat From Outer Space,' and turned it into a novel that was published in the United States, Great Britain, France, and Japan.
Key died in 2008 outside Philadelphia at the age of 95. His legacy lives on through the various characters he created, but especially through Hazel, the maid with a heart of gold who ruled her household with an iron hand.