"The work of Art exhibited at the Post Office by Winsor McCay," a reporter noted at the time, "is a great credit to the young man’s artistic ability." A whirlwind of drawing gigs soon followed.
McCay moved to Chicago, where he was an apprentice at the National Printing and Engraving Company, and then to Cincinnati, where he was paid to draw the so-called "freaks" – among them a bearded lady – at the Vine Street Dime Museum. In 1900, he was snapped up by the Cincinnati Enquirer to draw a strip called "The Tales of the Jungle Imps by Felix Fiddle," but in 1903, he left the Enquirer for The New York Herald.
In 1905, he debuted "Little Nemo in Slumberland," his master-work, which would appear in various papers for the next two decades. The title character of McCay's strip was a young boy, always drawn tousle-headed and in his pajamas. Every night, Nemo would be sucked down into the land of dreams, toward the domain of King Morpheus and his daughter, Princess Camille. (Camille is featured prominently in Monday's Google Doodle.)
"Little Nemo in Slumberland," McCay's biographer John Canemaker has written (hat tip to the Ohio State University Libraries), "unlike any comic strip before or since... [I]t represented a major creative leap, far grander in scope, imagination, color, design, and motion experimentation than any previous McCay comic strip (or those of his peers)."