George Joseph Herriman’s grandfather had been working as a tailor since at least 1847, when he was twenty-seven years old, and he had been in business with his half-brother Alexander Laurent Chessé since at least 1850. In 1854, shortly following the death of each of their fathers, Herriman and Chessé opened a tailor shop at this location on busy Royal Street, and it remained a productive business for the next thirty years.
The Herriman & Chessé tailor shop occupied the ground floor of the three-story building at 318 Royal Street. Here, they sold clothing made from fabrics that they would purchase themselves on trips to France. There were two counters for serving customers, along with two glass display cases, and a large cedar chest. In addition to purchasing fine clothing, customers might also pick up tickets to political rallies as well as news of the latest political and cultural activities.
In the top floor of the building was an upscale apartment that brought some unwelcome notoriety to the building in 1879, when a man named William Beasley was seen throwing a woman named Missouri Jane Hebert from the gallery; he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to twenty years of hard labor.
Despite this interruption, work at the tailor shop proceeded until 1887, when George Herriman Sr. brought his son into the business, renaming it Herriman & Son. The shop moved to 118 Customhouse Street, where father and son worked together for three years, until George Herriman Jr. moved his family to California, never to return. In Los Angeles, George Herriman Jr. continued to work as a tailor in a series of shops and small factories, and became active in the Tailors’ Union No. 81.
There are only a few references to the tailor profession in George Herriman’s comics. When asked about his childhood, Herriman would usually say he was the son of a baker. He never explained why.