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|Sheet Music Cover Art History (Continued)|
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Following the trend that E.T. Paull was very much on top of, many publishers started to enhance their covers more so with art than just text. There are a number of broad categories of cover art that were used, the most obvious pertaining to the title or content of the music within. However, particularly in the case of piano rags or marches, the title did not always suggest a format for the cover art, so publishers and artists winged it. There was also a matter of the style of art that would represent the piece, whether the content within was clear or not. With that in mind, a few of the categories for what is now collectible cover art in addition to or replacing textual content might be as follows (in no particular order - click on a category title for further detail - hover to view an example):
Publishers established in the 1890s and 1900s saw the need for catchy covers immediately, particularly to accompany the emerging ragtime genre. In the 1890s, The introduction of photographic printing and offset presses, which were a modification of the lithography process, put fancy color covers within affordable reach of all commercial publishers. Some of the older firms resisted for some time, either continuing to use text-based covers or relying on commercial stock art in a monochrome format, but most of them either languished or caught on to the reality of marketing in a new century. A new field emerged from the need for what was, in essence, perpetual advertising - that of the career cover-art illustrator. Working within their own realm of personal talent, be it realistic portraits or eye-catching graphical content, many of them thrived throughout the ragtime era. Some publishers retained the services of an in-house designer or artist, but the top illustrators worked as independent contractors for whoever would buy their art. Some even created a catalog of stock illustrations, any of which could be used for a variety of pieces. Some of the most prolific are featured here. Thanks up front should go to Marion Short who with her husband Roy uncovered or collected information on many of these artists when compiling her five books on Collectible Sheet Music Cover Art, all of which are highly recommended acquisitions for any collector's library.
You may view the linked covers using two different methods. To see a half-size image on this page, simply over the mouse over a tune title for a second and it will load. To see a full-size image hover the mouse over the image, or to see at least some of them with more information on the piece, click on the tune title to load the cover window.
|A. (August/Ernest) Hoen & Company|
Best represented musically by the large remaining cache of E.T. Paull publications, the A. Hoen lithography house hosted some of the finest craftsmen of the trade, adept not only at superb illustrations and mapwork, but the demanding process of color separation onto multiple stones as well. Unfortunately for the sake of historic clarification or recognition, virtually all who worked for Hoen were "company men" whose names have not made it to print, unless they were cleverly concealed within the drawings somewhere. There was also a very coherent and uniform style with most of the Hoen covers and posters, which would make it even harder to distinguish the work of any individual artist. There are employee names throughout the years associated with the firm, but their duties are not clearly known.
The firm was initially started by German immigrant Edward Weber and his nephew Ferdinand August Hoen in Baltimore, Maryland in 1835 as Edward Weber & Company. They printed the first color cards ever produced in the United States and the first lithographic maps printed in the country as well in 1842 for the Fremont Reports, connected to the United States Congressional Reports. August took the firm over with his brother Ernest Hoen and cousin Henry Hoen in 1848 upon Weber's death. Hoen's new firm of A. Hoen & Company not only provided some very fine monochrome and color covers and litho-photography for local Baltimore publishers, but for firms in Washington, D.C. and as far off as the Carolinas.
Some of the artist's names from that era, notably Clayton (a prolific Baltimore engraver), Gillingham, Webb, Duffy and W. French, have been found on some covers. In the 1860s August Hoen patented what he termed the Lithocaustic method of lithography which allowed for easier viewing of the etching in the stone while it was in progress, making the shading of gradients and halftones a much faster process. He prominently displayed a critically acclaimed print from this process in the 1876 Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From 1860 to 1883 August was awarded several patents for processes intended to create improved halftone prints with both monochromatic and multi-stone lithography.
A branch of A. Hoen eventually surfaced in Richmond, Virginia, run mostly by one of August's sons, Ernest August Hoen, who was named after his uncle, assisted by his younger cousin, Ernest's son Edward Weber Hoen, named after the founder. Ernest was a fine musician and music lover who attended Loyola College. August had opened a branch in Richmond, Virginia around the time of the Civil War, and one of their first contracts was to print confederate money. After learning the printing business with his father, he moved to Richmond became the manager in the early 1880s, but it is hard to discern if any of the Baltimore artists followed. Some sources cite 1876 as the year he moved, but Ernest is still shown as working for his father or uncle in Baltimore at the time of the 1880 census, and still living in Baltimore for the 1887 city directory.
In the newer Richmond plant the quality of inks and paper stock, as well as the multi-layer lithography process itself saw great advances, to the point where most Hoen-produced covers and cigar boxes from the 1890s forward still retain their original hues after more than a century. Whereas most sheet music publishers used from one to three colors in simple patterns for their covers, E.T. Paull was looking for something more, and settled on the five color multi-layer process utilized by Hoen, instantly setting his works apart visually and thus creating sales for what the consumer viewed as both music and art. Oldest sibling Adolph G. Hoen eventually moved to Richmond, but his involvement in the firm may be peripheral, as he was listed as a physician in 1910.
The works by the Hoen firm are usually well-marked so their parentage is clear, whether it be maps, cigar boxes, business stationary, posters, or their beautiful sheet music covers over a period of seven-plus decades. Focusing on the era of E.T. Paull, they tended towards not only a high modicum of realism (with very few caricatures), but a level of detail in the backgrounds that most cover artists ignored.
The Baltimore branch of Hoen had been creating lithographic covers since 1848 and chromolithographic sheet music covers since 1851, mostly serving a wide range of Baltimore and Philadelphia music publishers. Among their most frequent Baltimore clients were the firms of George Willig, F.D. Benteen and Henry McCaffrey. However, their sheet music cover output appears to have ended in the mid 1880s.
The Richmond branch of A. Hoen, on the other hand, had no history of providing sheet music cover art before they were contracted for The Chariot Race or Ben Hur March in 1894 by E.T. Paull. It appears that his was the only sheet music they printed covers for (in most cases, the music plates themselves were created elsewhere), it is likely that Paull found some way to convince them that the visibility provided by his music might bring the firm more work at the very least. They were also possibly the only company in Richmond, much less Virginia, capable of the level of artistry he was looking for, with their enormous building covering a full city block, indicating stability and growth. At one point in the mid 1910s there were between 125 and 300 employees [reports vary] working at the Richmond branch.
Whether it was a battle scene or some natural catastrophe, the vivid hues the Hoen firm achieved, often focusing on reds, provided great accent to even the smallest of details such as lava ash or a swinging sword. Even though it is common to display framed sheet music today, it was an honor applied largely to the Hoen works from the Paull catalog during the early 20th century. As Paull engaged the company even after he had moved to New York in 1896, with Hoen covers appearing into the late 1910s, there may be some possibility that some of the production was also done in the Baltimore branch of the firm, but this is difficult to verify as there were no distinct codes or indicators to identify this.
Ernest was an active member of Richmond society and a member of the Wednesday Club as well as the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Westmoreland Club. He was married to Baltimore native Clara Byrne and had two sons, Hudson P. Hoen and Dr. Walter Scott Hoen, a United States Navy surgeon in the 1910s. Ernest had his own printing patent listed in 1907, which consisted of a unique method for printing dispensable tickets. His health started to fail in 1913 and he retreated to Atlantic City, New Jersey in the spring of 1914 to try and recover. It was there that pneumonia took his life in April 1914. His son, Walter, died in July 1918 in Port Au Prince, Haiti, while on Naval duty.
The Richmond branch continued into the early 1930s under Edward Hoen, concentrating on the envelope business. He finally passed in 1941 at age 78. Both of the Hoens are buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. Albert Hoen continued to run the Baltimore office as president of the firm until his death on May 1, 1956 at age 93. The original Baltimore office of the Hoen firm continued in the lithography and printing business until around 1981 when it dissolved after filing for bankruptcy.
|William Starmer and Fredrick Starmer|
Virtually anybody who has even a minimal sheet music collection that includes ragtime-era items likely has a cover done by one of the prolific Starmer Brothers. They had a consistency that was hard to match in terms of creating eye-catching cover art that did justice to or often outshined the contents within. By some accounts, they were responsible for nearly a quarter of all signed covers in large format from 1900 to around 1919, and continued producing cover art into the mid 1940s.
The artists were both born and raised in Leeds, Yorkshire England, William in 1872 and Frederick in 1878, to boot maker James Starmer and Ann Elizabeth Starmer. There was one older brother, Edwin J. Starmer, born around 1868. In the 1891 England census, the family was shown living at the same address in Leeds that they were in a decade prior, and 19-year-old William was listed as a litho-artist or lithographer. The brothers and their father eventually relocated from England to New York City, William in 1898 and Frederick in 1899. James returned to England for a time, followed by William in 1900, who went back to marry Julitta (Dawson) Starmer. He returned to New York shortly thereafter to continue his work. The rest of the Starmer family and Julitta followed in June 1904. The brothers were set up fairly soon as draftsmen and artists. For many years, it was hard to discern that there were two separate Starmers at work, since the covers had similar attributes and they all had the same Starmer signature.
The 1920 census showed all of the Starmers still living in the same apartment, with both brothers listed as commercial draftsmen. William's wife Julitta passed on in February 1922. Passenger manifests of the 1910s and 1920s indicate many trips back to England as well, so they did stay connected with their home country. William was remarried to highly-regarded English teacher Edith Mary White in the summer of 1924 in Bradford, England, her native city. The following year she retired from a 35 year career of teaching, and was widely honored for her service, although in the New York state census for 1925 she still listed teacher as a profession. At the time of the 1930 census William's accountant son, 23 year-old William, Jr., was still living with the couple in Queens. William Sr. listed himself as a commercial artist with his own studio, likely the same situation as in previous years. The retired Mrs Starmer also was noted in the newspapers frequently as leading the choirs at the Remsen Street Reformed Baptist Church in Queens in addition to her other church activities.
William Starmer made several trips back to England, likely to see family or keep his visa current, from as early as 1907 to the late 1930s before travel restrictions were in place due to the oncoming war. Both brothers sailed there and back in 1905, 1907, 1909, 1913 and 1924. On January 31, 1924, he was naturalized as a U.S. citizen. Frederick appears to have made one final round trip voyage in September 1925 before returning to England for good around 1929. Information on him in the 1930s is difficult to come by at this point, but it is assumed he continued a career in commercial art either in Bournemouth near Dorset. William took subsequent round trip voyages in 1927, 1929, 1936, 1937 and 1938. The 1940 enumeration taken in Queens showed him still listed as a comerical artist.
In the November 12, 1941, Long Island Daily Press, an article about William Starmer, now living in Astoria, New York, stated that Frederick had immigrated back to Bournemouth, England around 1929. Whether he continued his career as a full-time artist is uncertain, but as World War II was started, Frederick had a found another important position in his community:
William A. Starmer... a commercial artist, spent Armistice Day in the Astoria Station House, coloring maps of the precinct zones for civilian defense.
He opined that his brother, Fred W. Starmer, 63, also a commercial artist, was equally busy in civilian defense work 3,000 miles away in Bournemouth, England, where Fred is a post warden and has experienced more that 200 air raids since the outbreak of the war.
Laying aside his paints and brushes and other tools for a moment, William related that he and his brother came to this country from England in 1898 and went into business as commercial artists. Fred returned to England 12 years ago.
As soon as the war began, the older brother said Fred began working on defense maps for the sections of Southampton and Weymouth, similar to the job which William is doing.
The older brother, who was one of the first to report to the Asotria police for post warden duty, said he received a letter from Fred several years ago but it was badly cut up [redacted] by the censor and all he could make out was: "I have plenty to tell you." The censor, however, permietted a snapshot to pass
It showed Fred and eight other post wardens wearing their tin hats and gas masks, sitting in a sandbag shelter.
William died in New York in September of 1955 at age 83, and Frederick followed in Bournemouth, England, in March of 1962 at age 84.
The sheer volume of work with the Starmer signature on it makes it clear that both of them worked in the sheet music field as well as their other pursuits. Assuming each brother signed their own covers, albeit with only the last name, and that there are some distinctions between the drawings they created in virtually every conceivable category and theme, it may be possible at some point to catalog to a certainty of 70% or higher which brother drew particular covers, and if there were any collaborative efforts. But given their closeness in both style and life-long pursuits, it would stand to reason that there was some crossover in their drawing styles, and perhaps many of the brilliant covers they turned out were collaborations.
As you look through their collection, represented here in only a small quantity, note their fluid use of color, as well as the ability to draw realistic people simply but elegantly without delving into caricature unless it was called for. There is a mix of still lifes with simply patterned covers, and their command of lettering in interestingly derived fonts is also evident. Style on many of the covers is paramount, whether it be for fashion or for fadeaways. Rarely did anything delve into negative stereotype, perhaps a part of their British upbringing. Much in the vein of Currier and Ives, the brothers often captured subjects in a candid photographic sense that made the drawings look very natural. Through Remick's sheer volume of distribution, their work is in many ways the face of the ragtime era at its best.
Joseph E. Rosenthal was largely about the business of art, and as a result did not leave much else behind on himself or his family. He was born in New York City to Polish father Marcus Rosenthal and German mother Maria Rosenthal, the last of four children, including Charles (1834), Lettie (possibly Leticia) (1854), and Louis (1857). In the 1860 census Marcus was listed as owning a clothing store in Manhattan. Marcus also appeared in the 1870 census in Richmond, Virginia, as a retired merchant without the rest of the family, of which the circumstances are unknown. The rest of the family is difficult to locate in that record.
As was common at that time, Joseph likely took on an apprenticeship in his teens, and ended up in a lithography shop. He clearly displayed an innate artistic talent, so that line of work was well suited to his skill set.
Joseph married German immigrant Rose Oldman around 1892, and their son Herman E. was born on May 6, 1893. He was followed by Leonel P. in April, 1899 and Helen S. in 1900. Curiously his profession listed in the 1900 census was that of hardware, in spite of his being well established in lithography. This may have been a sideline, or an error on the part of the enumerator. During the previous four years Joseph had been engaged by publisher and composer Edward Taylor (E.T.) Paull, who came to New York in mid 1896, to create a number of chromolithographic sheet music covers. Paull had been using the A. Hoen firm in Richmond, Virginia, but for a while also tried out several New York City artists such as Rosenthal and Bert Cobb. Joseph's covers rivaled those of Hoen very nicely, yet provided a clear contrast to the more established Virginia firm. Hoen tended to take up most of the page with a framed image, while Joseph often made the subject of the picture the centerpiece, allowing for more white space on the page. His use of coloring was equally effective and both natural and vivid at the same time, often with stunning results. His occasional caricatures where less comical and more whimsical, and therefore much more respectful to African-Americans than was typical during the late 1890s.
It is not clear how the relationship between Paull and Rosenthal ended, but no further covers of his appeared under the Paull label after 1900, and one of his chromolithographs was copied by Hoen for a reprint of A Warmin' Up in Dixie. Still, Joseph had other work with music publishers dating back to 1887, including M. Witmark, Howley, Haviland & Company and The United States Publishing Company. While less colorful, owing to those publishers typically spending less on the artwork, those covers are equally striking in their simplicity. It is notable that he even advertised on the non-Paull publications, including his Pearl Street address after his signature. The location was also associated with the Metropolitan Engraving Company both before and after the 1890s, but whether it was his company is unclear. One source shows it as having dissolved in 1892, but advertisements from 1896 and later plus a New York Times article from 1905 all mention his business at that same address.
There were few music sheets after 1900, but Rosenthal did turn to both commercial and commissioned art, with his work appearing in magazines, newspapers, books and posters for such concerns as Broadway theaters. Business was fairly good, however, and by 1910 he and the family were living at 1097 Park Place in Brooklyn, employing three servants. He was listed in that census as an artist in the business of "lithographing." Around this time he moved his office to midtown, the center of the publishing and music world. From his new location occupying the fourth floor at 413 Broadway, Rosenthal reached out through advertising. One 1912 ad read:
Two copyrights for the Mayfair Novelty Company from that time indicate that Joseph was also serious about fine art as well. One from 1918 was the topical A Dying Soldier's Vision, and another from 1919 was a typical still-life, Fruits and Flowers.
As of 1917 the company was truly a family business. Herman was working as a bookkeeper and lithographer, according to his draft record. The 1920 census listed Joseph as a lithographer, and both Leonel and Herman working in the same capacity, with Helen as their secretary. Joseph's brother-in-law Victor Oldman was working as a collector for the firm. Ads in the trades and directory listings throughout the 1920s indicate that the firm was still active and viable.
For the 1930 census, Joseph, now 70, was still listed as a lithographer, Herman as a lithography artist, and Leonel as a prover, a quality control role in the process. By now the family had moved to 2705 Avenue J in Brooklyn. The last listing seen for the firm was in the 1933 directory, still at the Broadway address. Joseph died two years later at age 75, leaving his business to his sons, and his colorful legacy for the rest of us.
|Edward H. Pfeiffer|
Edward Pfeiffer was born in New York City in August, 1868 to a German immigrant father Henry Pfeiffer and New York native mother Mary York. Some sources indicate a birth year of 1869, but the 1870 and 1880 census records suggest the earlier year. Edward was familiar with art production at a young age since his father reportedly worked as a professional engraver, although Henry was listed also as a tailor. Edward had two older siblings, including Emily (1859) and Julius (1862). According to a brief biography assembled by his granddaughter, Ann M. Pfeiffer Latella, the young man showed a predilection and interest for art at an early age, probably due to Henry's creative influence. In the 1880 census the family is shown living in Manhattan with Henry working as a tailor and Emily as a dressmaker.
Less known about Pfeiffer was his work as a community activist and writer. He contibuted articles to various publications, usually about a cause. One example is Making Your Neighborhood Safe for Democracy 1919 edition of The Outlook. In his role as the Publicity Secretary for the Central Mercantile Association, he wrote about a boys home in Chelsea, a community on the west side of Manhattan. Pfeiffer was also part of the Chelsea Fresh Air Society which secured "outings and vacations for the need poor of Chelsea District." His name was found on the boards of other charities as well. By 1920 Edward showed as divorced, but still working as a commercial artist. As of the early 1930s Edward was infirmed and in managed care where he eventually passed on in early 1932 at age 63.
Edward Pfeiffer's first covers date back to 1892, and his volume of work spans over 100 publishers, indicating that his reputation as a freelance artist was likely considerable. The Pfeiffer signature varied in scope from the simple EHP to Fifer to the official sounding Pfeiffer Illustrating Co.. However the majority of his works featured the unique E.H. Pfeiffer N.Y. script, which is as recognizable to collectors as the Disney signature is to children of all ages. While many of his works reflect some representation of the title of the piece they adorn, he was particularly gifted with drawing floral motifs and attractive women, exercising careful consideration for near-photo realistic shading. Pfeiffer was also an early advocate of what became the Art Deco school of art by the late 1920s. Of particular favorites listed here are the highly stylized Bantam Step and three different versions of Wild Cherries.
|André De Takacs|
This unique illustrator and sometime composer was born in Hungary in 1880. His Hungarian father, Andrew De Takacs, who may also have been an artist, was a Hungarian Count. His mother was Helena Therese Chevalier (Bodnar) De Takacs. Andréa immigrated to America from Budapest, arriving June 11, 1901 on the Patricia from Hamburg, Germany. He soon became established as an artist in New York, although he had settled in nearby Hackensack, then Tenafly, New Jersey.
André, as he then referred to himself, started on a path that left a fascinating legacy of artwork,
Two of André's songs included Silent Wooing and When Bessie Met the Bobby of Her Dreams was dedicated to his wife, Elizabeth "Bessie" Schenkel of Tenafly, New Jersey. She also posed for the cover art. André married her on November 20, 1902, just 17 months after arriving in the United States. Bessie was the granddaughter of locally famous violinst Leonard Schenkel who owned the Schenkel Inn in Tenafly, which her parents later ran as the Clinton Inn. She was used as a model for his covers from time to time. In a historical book on Tenafly by Eva Browning Sisson, she recounts the day that the electric trolley line first ran there in 1907. André was present at the inn which held a dinner in honor of the event, and he quickly sketched a drawing of the trolley and surrounding area, which was auctioned off for $20 to benefit the local fire department.
The De Takacs and Schenkel families moved over the next couple of years, and are shown in the 1910 census living with their two daughters Edythe H. (1905) and Bessie Elizabeth (1906), along with Bessie's recently widowed mother and her siblings in Palisades, New Jersey.
There are indications that André may have been involved in the New York motion picture industry, perhaps as a set or art designer. He was known to have worked for Universal Film Company (predecessor to Universal Pictures) from 1916 to 1918. He lists them on his September 1918 draft record, indicating that he was working as an artist. During this period André would also refer to himself as "count" at least once in one novel that he illustrated. His unusual signature was modified several times during his career.
André De Takacs died suddenly on August 23, 1919 at the age of 39, his sad demise reportedly the result of a heart attack in a New York City taxicab en route to a hospital. The funeral notice in the New York Herald had an open invitation to "Member of the American Motion Picture Association" to attend. Bessie worked for several years as a telephone operator but had some financial troubles throughout the next several years. She followed André in 1927 by her own hand, commiting suicide by ingesting mercury. Both are buried in Englewood, New Jersey. Their daughter Edythe (De Takacs) Jepson became an artist in her own right, and was married to one as well, Paul Jepson. She lived into the 21st century, dying at age 101 in 2006.
De Takacs used lots of bold coloring in his work, such as in My Pony Boy, and was able to create both realistic images as well as pleasingly abstract ones. He was quite versatile with the "fade-away" technique, where the clothing or other portions of a subject is of the same color or pattern as the background, making the the relevant portions stand out more while the rest of the figure fades into the background. View She Used to Be the Slowest Girl in Town and Somebody Else is Getting It for vivid examples of this technique.
Many thanks for additional information and verification go to Andrea Ellis who was named after her great grandfather, as well as Keith Emmons of HulaPages.Com. The last few years have been a voyage of discovery for her family as well in regards to André De Takacs' artistic legacy.
Eugene Buck (possibly Jean in his early years) was born in 1884 in Detroit, Michigan to George Buck and Catherine McCarthy. He had two other brothers, including Charles A. (7/18/1883) and George W. (1889). Gene was, as some have called it, a triple or quadruple threat, known nearly as well as a musician, lyricist, composer and producer as he was for his cover art contributions.
Eugene's father was an inventor, but he died when the boy was around nine years old, leaving his family nearly destitute. Catherine managed to keep them in a home in Detroit and made sure her sons got a proper education in a parochial school, and two years at a Jesuit college for Gene.
In early 1907 Gene temporarily lost his sight due to ulcers on his retinas, and was unable to work for several months. After three to four months his sight returned sufficiently enough for him to continue. He relocated to New York City, arriving with only $13.50 in his pocket and no firm position. It did not take him long to find work again as a free-lance cover artist, even making more contributions to his old employer. Gene took a studio next door to artist James Montgomery Flagg, who would soon be famous for the Uncle Sam "I Want You" poster. In addition to covers and paintings he started writing jokes and verses for comic weeklies. The bulk of his 5000 cover illustrations range from 1904 to 1914, a time when he started experiencing more permanent vision problems, making any continuation of drawing difficult at best. The 1910 census shows him in Manhattan as a "designer" in the music field, but he was starting a career transition.
Starting in 1910 Buck tried his hand at composing. Many of his earliest songs contributions were as a lyricist to the music of Dave Stamper, the accompanist at that time for Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth, appear on a series of Edison Diamond Discs from the early to mid 1910s. Gene was quite active in the New York music scene and mingled with stars of stage and screen. In 1912 he was engaged by Oscar Hammerstein to do set designs for singer Lillian Lorraine, and also directed her act, which included his co-composition Daddy Has a Sweetheart and Mother is Her Name. Originally intended for her performance in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1911, the song was rejected as the wrong material for Miss Lorraine. She left the Follies a few weeks later, and Hammerstein engaged her as well as Gene to help with her appearances in his show. Lorraine and the song subsequently became a hit, as did the follow-up, Some Boy. Gene also wrote with composers Victor Herbert and Rudolph Friml. He was also one of the founding members of ASCAP in 1914.
Buck spent nearly seventeen years in the employ of Florenz Ziegfeld contributing compositions and set design for the famous Ziegfeld Follies, and even doing some directing as well. His 1918 draft registration showed him as a playwright with Ziegfeld working at the New Amsterdam Thetaer. As Ziegeld's male talent scout he was responsible for either discovering or engaging the services of stars such as Ed Wynn, Eddie Cantor, Will Rogers, W.C. Fields and artist Joe Frisco. He was said to be most proud of acquiring set designer Josef Urban, a European who had been stranded when his company folded. Even though he had no English skills when hired, he became an instrumental member of the Follies, helping design and build many stunning sets. He even decorated the Buck's home in Great Neck. Gene was also responsible for originating the combination restaurant and show on the roof of the New Amsterdam, which became known as the Midnight Frolics, ultimately producing 17 editions of the revue. In 1917 he co-wrote the show Zig Zag for the London Hippodrome. In early October of 1919, Gene married actress Helen Falconer, with whom he would remain for life.
Buck continued composing into the 1920s and was the President of ASCAP (American Society of Composers and Publishers) from 1924 to 1941, playing a large role in the licensed use of music on radio. He also was known to have kept some black composers from direct involvement in ASCAP, and was admittedly surprised to find that there were objections to this mode of thinking. Buck helped ASCAP to win a major music protection case in front of the Supreme Court in 1931. During much of this time the Buck family lived in Kensington, Nassau County, New York, then in Great Neck on Long Island. The 1930 census showed Gene, his wife Helen, and their two sons, Eugene Falconer "Gene" (1/1925) and George William (12/1925), in Kensington, with Gene listed as a theatrical producer. Also in the house were his younger brother George, and Helen's two sisters.
In 1936 Gene and ASCAP were up in arms about proposed changes to 1909 copyright laws which, in his words, would legalize music piracy by broadcasters, hotel operators and the film industry. He already had offered some choice words for radio, saying that it could "kill a popular song" in just six weeks. The lobby behind the Duffy bill called ASCAP a group of "racketeers." At issue was the removal of a damage clause and limit royalties to songwriters. Buck was passionate to the cause, introducing some of the "racketeers" at a press conference, including George Gershwin, Rudy Vallee and Ethelbert Nevin. He was further supported Deems Taylor and Oley Speaks, and publishers Carl Fischer, G. Schirmer and Irving Berlin. Florida and Washington state laws were used as a challenge to the ASCAP case, stating that the licensing was illegal. This contest ultimately went through several appeals to to the Supreme Court in 1939, and ASCAP prevailed for the moment. This was followed by a challenged from N.A.B., the National Association of Broadcasters, one of the original sponsors of the Dufffy bill. The Buck family was seen on a cruise passenger list in 1936 sailing from San Francisco through the Panama canal. He was also heavily involved in ASCAP 25th anniversary concerts at two World's Fair locations in both New York and San Francisco in 1940. For the enumeration that same year taken in Kensington, he listed himself as an author. His brother George and sisters-in-law were still lodging with the family as well.
Buck tried to buck BMI and their licensing practices in front of Congress in 1940 and 1941. On February 22, 1940, while vacationing in Phoenix, Arizona, he was arrested on a Montana warrant that charged attempted extortion. This came from the demand by Buck and ASCAP that certain radio stations pay fees for the use of music over which the organization claimed control. He claimed that the arrest was part of a "smearing campaign," thus the arrest on a Federal holiday, and was released on $10,000 bond. The suit brought by the states attorney in Montana alleged that ASCAP was threatening to the licenses of radio stations and theaters that were not making substantial payments for those licenses. In turn, ASCAP was fined by the courts for $35,250. While the overall charges were later reduced, when ASCAP was threatened with litigation claiming them to be a monopoly in 1941, Gene consented to a compromise, then stepped down from his leadership role in early 1942 after seventeen years.
In spite of the occasional negative press, Buck was later remembered in his ASCAP role as "the greatest exterminator of piracy since Decatur," referring to the famed 19th Century naval officer Stephen Decatur. In 1940 he received the Henry Hadley Medal from the National Association of American Composers and Conductors for his efforts in advancing and protecting American music. He also became the president of the Catholic Actors Guild, a position he held through the end of his life. He was also a lifelong member of the board of directors of ASCAP. In his long career Gene was reported have had done as many as 5000 covers, although this includes arranging photographic as well as text-based covers. He also contributed to over 500 songs. Gene died in Great Neck in February 1957 after an illness of two weeks. His funeral rites were presided over by former president Herbert Hoover.
Notable in Buck's style is the use of minimal color palettes, often leaving many elements of the cover clear or showing a single color that would define the cover. The people were consistently drawn with succinct expressions, and the artistic elements when they appeared were well-defined although simply colored and logically patterned. Many of his covers do not bear his signature, but his distinct lettering technique on the Remick issues certainly help give them away.
Joseph Hirt was one of those singularly talented "company men" who while working for other lithographers managed to have his work signed, an honor most often reserved for top artists in a firm. Beyond that, virtually nothing was known of him before the research on this article, and even that yielded few clues on this illustrator who still managed to leave his mark on a few landmark covers, and likely on many more that remain uncredited.
Joseph was born in New York City in 1879 to German immigrant tailor Julius Hirt and his Prussian/German bride Dorothea "Dora" Rogowski.
While no knowledge remains about Joseph's upbringing or training, by the time he was 20 in the 1900 census he listed his career as a pen and ink artist, making it likely that he had either apprenticed or taken classes at an art school. It was over the following decade that Hirt did some of his most lasting and recognizable works for at least two different lithography firms, including Teller, Dorner & Company, and several publishers. Three standouts are the highly recognizable Red Wing, a companion piece titled Sun Bird, and the less well-known but equally stunning Lucia, all of them a tour de force in multiple colors. Very few lithographers created covers of more than two colors plus black, with the exception of the A. Hoen firm who routinely turned out four color prints for composer/publisher E.T. Paull. So the Hirt works do stand out, and in some ways are equal to the Hoen covers. Another of his most widely circulated works was Take Me Out to the Ball Game.
As of the 1910 census Joseph was still living with some of his siblings and his widowed mother. As it turns out, he was also widowed, his first wife Adelaide having died recently. The family had moved from lower Manhattan to near Harlem, living at 234 W. 120th Street, and Joseph was listed simply as an artist. The bulk of his cover art, which first appeared in 1901, was done between 1904 and 1911. There were perhaps over 200 completed in that time, with only a few remaining examples appearing between 1912 and 1917. Around 1912 Joseph went into commercial art, working for a few years at Universal Art Service at 1531 Brodway, doing advertising and theater posters. He also married again, this time to Flo Baumann. By 1918 he had become a manager at one of the largest New York firms, Morgan Lithography Company at 1600 Broadway. On both his 1918 and 1920 draft records, Joseph lists his address as 56 Manhattan Avenue, one block off from Central Park West at 103rd Street, indicating a positive change in fortune. However, he had switched positions again by 1920, working now as a commercial artist in the film industry.
Now no longer involved in the music business, Joseph stayed with commercial art into the early 1930s. He was married a third time around 1921 to Evelyn Ruth Bond, nearly 20 years his junior, and they had two sons, Joel (1922) and Everett Quincy (1923). In the 1930 census Joseph was listed once more as a manager for a commercial art firm. Joseph, or perhaps Evelyn, also fudged his age to the enumerator by five years in that record. As many positions in advertising evaporated during the Great Depression, Hirt, possibly either retired or downsized, switched to the canvas, and became a fairly reputable painter. Some of his oils are still in circulation in collections decades later. In the 1940 enumeration taken in Queens he listed himself as a commercial artist, even though his output in that realm had diminished. His age listed on that record was 50, a full decade off the mark. On his 1942 draft record, this time showing a somewhat more accurate birth year of 1881, he was listed as a self-employed painter having moved back to Manhattan, living at 1322 6th Avenue. Joseph Hirt died a year later, survived by his wife and two sons, and leaving behind an artistic legacy across several different mediums.
|Walter J. Dittmar|
Signing always as W.J. Dittmar, Walter Dittmar was born in 1879 to German immigrant John Frederich Ferdinand Dittmar and his Pennsylvanian wife Mary Schanbacher in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He was the youngest of five surviving siblings, including Charles Frederick Elmer (1864), Emma A. (8/1866), William (3/1870) and Oliver Ferdinand (6/9/1872). The future artist was a life-long resident of Williamsport. Walter received no formal artistic training other than what was taught in high school, although his father was a woodcarver, which requires some level of artisan skill. In his late teens he was employed as a freelance illustrator with the Grit Publishing Company in Williamsport.
On April 15, 1903, Walter was married to Daisy Irene Scudder at her parent's home in Williamsport. From 1904-1914 or so Dittmar was the primary artist for the amazingly prolific Vandersloot Music Company. His covers adorned more than 100 music sheets published by the Williamsport company. Walter's parents were charter members of the First United Evangelical Church in Williamsport, and his brother William was a church worker who was in the choir and taught Sunday school. The family was heavily involved in Christian community, which brings up an enigma of sorts.
As was expected at that time, many of the rags and song publications from Vandersloot, as well as other publishers, were steeped in ethnic stereotype. So Dittmar could turn out a beautiful landscape for a sentimental piece one week, plus attractive drawings for the Herald, yet the next week produce some blatantly offensive images for rags that even included Nigger in the title. But accounting for the environment of that era (although not so much in rural Pennsylvania), work is work, and he did it well.
The 1910 census shows Dittmar as an independent artist with his own shop. Daisy had given him two children, Irene (1906) and John (10/1909). Irene's sister was living with the couple, and Walter's mother, sister, and brother William were residing next door. A few years later on his 1918 draft record, Walter's employer was shown as the local Herald Publishing House, which put out Christian materials. Little had changed by 1920 as the census showed that the Dittmar family seemed to all live in the same general block in Williamsport. Walter was still listed as an illustrator, although he eventually also taught art in the Williamsport school system from the 1920s to the 1940s. He further illustrated for a Williamsport-based monthly Christian magazine called the Gospel Herald, and for the Union Gospel Press of Cleveland, Ohio, from the 1910s to the 1960s, listing the latter as his employer on his 1942 draft record. Walter passed on in 1964 at age 85 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His daughter Daisy had carried on the family tradition by teaching art in secondary schools in Williamsport.
Of note in Dittmar's illustrations, which actually had quite a bit of variety between beautiful nature or romantic scenes and outright caricature, was his effectively sparse use of color. While it may have been a directive by Vandersloot in order to keep cover costs down, it was more likely because he was color blind, making management of multiple colors difficult at best. With just one color plus black he was able to create subtle shadings and halftones that filled out many details in a picture, even if tree leaves aren't really pale maroon. He also provided a great consistency for the Vandersloot output, much in the way that Hoen did for E.T. Paull, making the pieces from this publisher just as indentifiable without having to look for the logo. Even on covers incorporating photographs Dittmar was able to make artwork out of an otherwise stiff looking band portrait.
Many thanks for additional information and verification go to the descendants of W.J. Dittmar, historian Alec Stevens, and the Lycoming County Historical Society.
James Dulin was a Kansas City, Missouri native, born October 24, 1883 to James Everett Dulin and his wife Lillian H. Hagerty, both Illinois transplants. He was the oldest of two boys, including his much younger brother Everett V. Dulin (1/1899). James was living in the same place as many fine ragtime composers like Charles N. Daniels and Charles L. Johnson, the latter of for which he eventually created some covers.
On July 15, 1909, James married Michigan native Adah Dorothy Donaldson, who was also a fine artist working for a Kansas City paper. Forthe 1910 census Adah was living in a boarding house in Kansas City, but James was not found in the listing, possibly because he had gone out on the road to look for a better work situation. The couple moved to Chicago, Illinois, later that year. Dulin started producing sheet music covers and other art from his own studio in Illinois in late 1910. Dorothy was soon working as a staff artist for the Chicago Tribune. Among her specialties were fashion drawings, for which her reputation would grow into the 1930s. She also contributed some sheet music cover art during her career. Both of them were utilized by F.J.A. Forster Music in Chicago.
Enlisted for service during World War I, James so enjoyed France that after the war he moved his art studio there along with a printing business, and the Dulins spent a lot of time in Europe throughout the 1920s. While there he created many fine graphics for a number of French organizations and even engaged in book illustration. Dorothy was engaged in doing paintings and drawings for fairy tale books, a skill that brought great demand for her work. Records show a couple of trips to and from France in the 1920s, and even a 1930 trip to Shanghai, China, so he was also a seasoned traveler. In 1923, James taught illustration classes for the summer school of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Throughout the decade he maintained a residence in Illinois. In 1931 the Dulins re-established themselves permanently in the U.S., possibly living in Springfield, Missouri for a while, where James continued to do music covers and other commercial art through the mid 1950s. His 1942 draft record showed him as employed by the Carl Gorn Printing Company in Chicago. He listed his brother as living in New Jersey and working as an MD.
While James' earlier works referenced Dulin Studios, he later signed his works with a vertical Jamie, sometimes unobtrusively hidden within the image in the manner of Al Hirschfeld. It was reported that as late as the 1950s Dulin was receiving perhaps $25 per cover, and often created many images for one piece to give the publisher something to choose from. He was frustrated with the non-artistic turn that covers had taken, moving to personalities and photographs with only some abstracts surrounding them. James would often not know the names of the pieces he was commissioned to draw for, so would leave nonesense titles in place which the publisher would replace. The family remembers one in particular called Ixio Pontne. Other than payment for the art, he rarely received even a courtesy copy of the sheet, and his original artwork was usually kept by the publisher. Having moved to Sarasota, Florida in the late 1940s, James joined the faculty of the Ringling School of Art, which was associated with the famous Ringling Brothers Circus family. There he taught drawing and painting. James Dulin died in June of 1958 in Sarasota. He is buried in Springfield, Missouri.
In spite of the detail present in much of Dulin's work, his images remain uncluttered and to the point. Color use was kept to a simple palette (easier for printers), and each element had a clear purpose within the image, whether background or foreground. Since many of his later works went unsigned to avoid a particular legal conflict of interpretation or authorship, an accounting of his full body of covers is difficult at best.
Many thanks for additional information sent to me by Jacques Dulin of Washington, son of James Dulin.
There is very little professional or family information available on this elusive artist. Henry Reichard (who most often signed his work as H. Reichard) was born in 1862 in Furth, Germany, to woodworker Robert Reichard and his wife Lousa. (The 1900 census shows 1863 as his year of birth, but the 1880 census and his death record both show 1862.) Henry was the second of four children, including Emma (1860), Mary (1864) and Carl (1866).
It is clear that by the time of the 1900 census that Henry was based again in Missouri, living in the Saint Louis suburb of Saint Ferdinand (now part of the city). His occupation in that record was listed as a designer. Reichard's brother was also an artist, and both had works featured in the famous Pan American Exposition held in Buffalo, New York in 1901, site of the assassination of then-President William McKinley. The 1902 Saint Louis city directory shows Henry as the head of his own self-named firm, working in "Art and Advertising." Most of his sheet music covers appear to be from publishers in Saint Louis, including many on featured items in the John Stark catalog, even though John Stark himself was working in New York City during much of that period. Ragtime historian Ed Berlin has suggested that the girl depicted on the Reichard cover of the five Pastime Rags by Artie Matthews is actually John Stark's daughter Eleanor Stark.
Henry worked well with line-shaded motifs, and appeared to be comfortable with either pencil or charcoal in his renderings laced with some watercolor. With little exception there is some form of flora or floral motif in most of his artwork, and a level of fine detail in all of it. Reichard's sheet music drawing career may have been short lived, as all of of his covers appear only in the 1910s. Henry was still in Saint Louis 1910 listed in the census as an artist of pictures. Jeanette was still living with Lena and Henry at that time. He opened Reichard's Art Shop within a couple of years, probably an outlet for supplies as well as a studio. He ran the store until at least 1915.
Henry and Lena had moved to Chicago by 1917, and opened a short-lived music store on South Halstead Street, selling pianos and phonographs, and presumably sheet music. As of the January 1920 enumeration Henry was listed as a commercial artist and living in a Chicago boarding house. His status was still that of married, but it was possible that Lena was sick and in a hospital or hospel of some kind. She died on October 14, 1920 at Cook County Hospital. Little is known of Henry's career in the 1920s. However, by the time of the 1930 enumeration, he was rooming in Chicago with psychology teacher Elizabeth Carter, possibly his landlady. He was listed in that census as a commercial artist, but in what media is unclear. As Lena was shown as his wife at his time of death in spite of her absence, he evidently never remarried. Henry Reichard died in late 1939 in Chicago, and is buried in Norwood Park Cemetery.
Many thanks for some additional information and verification go to David Reichard McCusker, the Great Grandson of Henry Reichard.
Very little is available on this talented artist whose primary legacy graces a number of large format covers from the early 1900s to around 1914. Frew was born in Ireland on January 21, 1875, and immigrated to the United States in March 1895, remaining in the country as a non-declared alien resident. He met his wife Molly Elizabeth in New York and they married in 1909. The 1910 census showed them living living in Manhattan with John listed as an illustrator. His 1918 draft record listed him as a self-employed artist. For the 1920 enumeration he listed himself as a commercial artist and as still married to Molly.
From 1903 into the late 1930s Frew took multiple trips back to the United Kingdom, likely both to visit family as well as keep his visa current as he retained his Irish citizenship. Molly accompanied him on many of these trips. Still listed as a resident alien in 1930, it is unclear if Frew was ever naturalized in the United States, although there is a possible matching record indicating that he may have done so in the 1930s. The couple was found living with John's cousin Victor Stewart and his wife Irene Stewart on Riverside Drive in Manhattan for the 1930 census. In their fifties by this time, the Frews evidently never had children. By 1940, Molly had died, but John was still residing with the Stewarts, and had no occupation listed in the census.
John was able to produce quality artwork on demand, and some of his concepts combine the simple with the intricate. In many cases the subjects would be well rendered with careful shading while the backgrounds were very basic. His work was not as dimensional as other serious artists, but covers such as the comical Dill Pickles Song and the entrancing Solace (done while publisher John Stark was still doing business in New York City) are nonetheless visually stimulating. His most widely circulated work, due in part to the success of the piece within, is the famous Alexander's Ragtime Band song cover. John Frew worked within a limited circle of New York publishers, and reputably suffered from eccentricities that many associated with artistic types, a factor that may have made his working relationships difficult. He also dabbled in comic and magazine/book cover art from the early 1930s through the mid 1940s, including the Astounding Stories line. Frew died in a mental hospital in 1955 having exhausted his funds.
Bert Cobb managed to leave a mark on American cartoon and sheet music cover art, as well as fine portraits of canines, while not leaving much of one on public records, making it difficult to obtain very much information on his life. He was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1869 to Ohio native Henry B. Cobb and his Illinois wife Sarah Johnson. The family was in the spring bed business at that time. However, they soon moved to Wilmington, Delaware where Henry expanded into making car sprin0gs for carriages and trains. Albert had at least seven siblings, including Henry Zenal (1867), Henry Reid (1871), A. Pullman (1874), Kate (1877), and a brother born in 1880 who died in infancy.
After being educated in Wilmington at a military school, Bert went to the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts in the late 1880s. There he learned etching and cartooning, as well as working with woodcuts and half-tone lithography. It was in cartooning that he got his start, working first at the Kansas City Star, then in Philadelphia around 1898. While there he contributed comic strips to the syndicated McClure's Sunday Section and did occasional work for the Philadelphia Sunday Press By 1900 Bert was residing in New York City and contributing humorous writings and comic caricatures to various papers through syndication, focusing largely on the New York Morning Telegraph Sunday edition.
Bert branched out and took on a bit of sheet music cover art jobs during this period. Most of his work covers 1900 to 1903, supporting publishers E.T. Paull and Howley, Haviland & Dresser. He is now largely known for his early "coon song" caricature covers for H, H & D, but Bert tackled some fine art projects as well. This includes the simple but elegant Arizona, Champagne, Broken Ties and Where the Orange Blossoms Bloom for Paull. Even though they were largely monochromatic, an unusual move for the publisher who was known for using brilliant multi-color chromolithographic covers, Bert's drawings show amazing detail and depth. His covers were rarely seen after 1903, but a couple appear as late as 1911 under the Jerome H. Remick logo. On February 26, 1901, Bert was married to Louise Ann McMurray in Manhattan.
Over the next several years, Cobb's cartooning work was seen in the political humor magazine Puck, as well as in the New York Globe. He had a brief court battle with the American Newspaper Syndicate in Washington, DC in 1905, winning a suit for an account due of $75 for his work. Around 1906 Cobb moved to Boston and his strips were found in the Boston Herald and the Boston Post. A 1907 syndicated strip was about a clumsy fellow named Stumble-Toe Joe. One that appeared in the Herald from 1907 to 1908 was Ambitious Teddy about a boy who was at times a bit zealous. Another good humorous example of mischevious children was a strip that ran in 1911 called Meddlesome Millie about a little girl that constantly got into trouble. During the mid 1910s he became the official cartoonist for the Republican National Committee. Before 1920 he had moved back to New York City where he became a member of the New York Press Club and the New York Illustrator's Club. There he did some artwork for an early rendition of Life Magazine (not the same one that started in the 1930s). Around 1922 he married again, this time to Elizabeth "Lisa" Balsie. The couple lived in the Bronx in New York City, but did not have children. That same year, he created a notable series of cartoons honoring "Captains of the Automobile Industry," which appeared in newspapers through the United States and Canada.
Cobb changed directions in his drawing career in the early 1920s, and starting in 1923 he devoted himself mostly to dry point etchings of famous dogs. Many of them were commissioned by the owners of award winning canines, and his reputation grew to the point where he was almost constantly in demand. This further resulted in multiple coast to coast gallery exhibits from the mid 1920s to the early 1930s. The most prestigious of these showings were held at the Kraushaar Galleries in New York. Cobb also compiled at least two books of his artwork published in the early 1930s, Portraits of Dogs and Hunting Dogs, in addition to doing fine illustrations for many others. He was also the unofficial cartoonist for the Republican National Committee.
In the 1930 census Bert and Elizabeth were still living in the Bronx, with Bert listed as an artist. They moved to a Cleveland Drive address in Valhalla, New York, within a couple of years. In mid-March 1936 Cobb was admitted to Grasslands Hospital in Valhalla with pneumonia, dying on April 2 after a ten day illness at age 66. His original art work, particularly his dogs, still commands prices as high as the four digit range nearly a century later.
Clare Victor Dwiggins, a native of Clinton, Ohio, was born June 16, 1874 to Charles Dwiggins and Mary (Shepherd) Dwiggins, the oldest of three children, including Claudia (1877) and Vincent (1879). He was named for County Clare in Ireland and for the famed author of Les Miserables, Victor Hugo. The family moved to Wilmington, Ohio soon after his birth. In his early teens Clare and his friends formed a "traveling college of art" doing free-lance work for anybody who would pay. He listed himself as a "professor of free-hand drawing."
Among Clare's running features in the beginning were J. Filliken Wilberfloss, Them Was the Happy Days (nostalgia even back then) and Leap Year Lizzie. By 1900 he was living in Philadelphia and listed as an artist, recently married to his wife Betsy Lindsay. When his works evolved into comic strips by the middle of the decade, Dwig, as he was nicknamed, produced the long-running and popular School Days, Ophelia Bumps and Her Slate, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and Nipper. He also produced a number of witty and colorful post cards that are now highly collectible. Betsy was reported to have been his model for many of them.
By 1907 the couple was living in Manhattan. In the 1910 census Dwig was listed as a newspaper cartoonist. This would coincide with the time period when St. Luis publisher John Stark was also located in the New York, and would have commissioned the two covers of Dwig's work he featured. It is not clear whether composer James Scott specifically wrote Ophelia in reference to the comic series by Dwig, but he was evidently the only composer to get any covers by the cartoonist.
Dwig truly enjoyed life with a sense of humor and had a retreat at Canada Lake in the Adirondack Mountains, a location that became famous for many wild weekends and summer vacations, as well as a natural outdoor inspiration for his famous newspaper and author friends. Many of them enjoyed visits to his "Dwigwam" in the scenic woods. In 1920 he was found in Plainfield, New Jersey with Betsy, Phoebe (1910) and Donald (1913), again listed as a newspaper cartoonist. By 1930 the family had moved to more upscale Johnstown, New York, and he now listed himself as a studio cartoonist. In the late 1930s the Dwiggins family moved once again, this time to Los Angeles, California where Dwig worked with the Disney studios and as a newspaper cartoonist, the occupation he listed in the 1940 census. He also illustrated children's books including five published by August Derleth. Dwig worked nearly until his death in October 1958 in North Hollywood, California.
As Dwig often fondly remembered his small home town of Wilmington, Ohio, he likely responded well to requests from Midwest publishers for custom work. Some of his later works, such as an illustrated version of Tom Sawyer and the exploits of a character simply named Bill sold very well and are highly collectible today. On the two covers that are shown here, note Dwig's sense of whimsy mixed with madcap creativity.
Albert Barbelle was of French Canadian and American descent. Born in Fall River, Massachusetts to Alfred Wilfred Barbelle and Mary "Marie" Marcotte., Albert was the middle of five children in the family. There were other branches of the Barbelle family in Fall River as well, many of them being Albert's first cousins. His father died in the mid 1890s.
Albert spent much of his initial formal art study in his teens in both Paris and London, learning both traditional and commercial art.
The 1920 census showed Barbelle as a studio artist. He had recently married his wife Irene, and Alfred's mother was residing with the couple. By the mid 1920s the couple had divorced, and in 1930, still listed as a commercial artist, he was now showing as married to (looks like) Franck Barbelle. This relationship also ended in divorce soon after that. After his two failed marriages, Barbelle's involvement with music increased when he married Austrian-born composer and concert pianist Paula Fuchs in the mid 1930s. She was also a composer, having written Dusting Stars Around the Moon with cover artwork provided by Albert. The 1940 enumeration showed the couple living in Manhattan, and although Paula was listed as a piano teacher, Albert listed "radio reader" as his occupation. By 1942 he and Paula were living in Richmond, New York, with Albert showing only that he owned his own business, possibly his art studio, which was still in Manhattan on 45th Street.
Later in his life Albert had moved to Staten island, and was able to arrange some gallery shows of his more serious beautiful paintings. Barbelle's last cover, The Party's Over from the show Bells Are Ringing, appeared late in 1956, capping a cover career of some 44 years. He was actively involved as an artist in the community, largely with the Staten Island Museum in New York City, until his death in February of 1957. Albert died just two weeks shy of his 70th birthday following two months of ill health. Paula survived him until 1975, when she passed away in Miami, Florida.
Barbelle's work was wide ranging, including enhancing photographic subjects, fantasy creations and interesting silhouettes, a series of what would now be considered politically incorrect African-American themed humorous greeting cards. He even did some work illustrating the early Mickey Mouse in print in the early 1930s, having drawn the famous Disney character for Mickey's first book. But his forte was in painting beautiful women. He was very conscious of style and fashion, and was careful to keep his work contemporary as both of those elements evolved through the decades. His use of color was more subtle than some artists, but always tasteful, often with one particular hue deliberately highlighting a picture for effect. The volume of work turned out in some forty years was quite impressive, with the earlier large format sheets usually signed with his full name, but later works only as Barbelle.
|R.S. [Rosebud] - Rosenbaum Studios|
The identity of the artist (or artists) behind this mystery signature has not, to date, been identified with any level of certainty. However, researcher Keith Emmons has uncovered the origin of the famous Rosebud Symbol and the man who ran the studio. His name was Morris Rosenbaum (German for "rose bush") who formed the Rosenbaum Studios (R.S.) in Manhattan in the early 1910s. Further research showed him to be a Russian/Polish immigrant born to contractor and builder Jacob Rosenbaum and his wife Katherine Rosenbaum who had both married at age 16 in 1878. The growing famly moved to the U.S. around 1887 or 1888, shortly after Morris was born. Starting as a building contractor, Jacob later became a real-estate broker in New York City. Morris was the second oldest of six of eight surviving children,
Morris Rosenbaum is likely responsible for those cryptically signed covers with the rosebud/RS symbol which date back as far as 1906 when he was 19 or 20. The 1910 census showed him as a naturalized citizen working as an artist for a weekly art magazine and still living with his family. The same information shows on his 1918 draft registration in Manhattan. The 1916 New York City directory revealed a number of artists working for Rosenbaum Studios, giving some indication that it was a fairly busy place and a potential training ground for aspiring illustrators. They included Harold Guenther Breul from Rhode Island, Mortimer Flaum from New York City, Emil James Bistran from Poland, James Murray Mitchell from South Carolina, and Reinhold William Gundlach from Germany, all ranging in age from 19 to 38 years old.
The number of minor and major variations of the symbol alone suggest that it is likely the work of four or more artists, including Morris, which are represented over a nearly 27 year span of the studio's cover art production from West 45th Street, and later on 5th Avenue. As many as fourteen variations of the Rosebud symbol appeared with the initials R.S. on art that graced the covers of many pieces, suggesting the hand of multiple artists. Around 1913 Rosenbaum had employed the famed illustrator of the Oz books William Wallace Denslow, who was befriended by another Rosenbaum employee, Maurice Kursh. Denslow's tenure was short lived as was he, passing on in 1915.
For some time the studio was employed nearly exclusively by the Leo Feist publishing house (1912 to 1919) and later the Irving Berlin company (1919 to the late 1920s). Some covers showed just the rosebud and others the stem and rose in varying proportions. Other variations in the use of color palettes and line style on the drawings themselves further reinforce this contention. The advantage of utilizing a staffed studio was that fees were generally standardized, and the staff could be called upon to provide a wide variety of needs, such as full color drawings or simple border art for a photographic cover. As with the large number of E.T. Paull engravings from the Hoen Company, it is difficult to discern the work of individual artists' contributions, even if their names are known.
The family appears to have been skipped in the 1920 count as an extensive search failed to locate them in the census. However, a Manhattan directory of that same year confirms the existence of the Rosenbaum Studio with Morris as the proprietor. A 1921 article in the New York Times concerning a corrupt officer accepting bribes to help recover stolen vehicles mentions Rosenbaum as an artist, one whose car had been recently stolen from in front of his studio on 45th Street. In 1924 Rosenbaum stored a substantial coup when he was commissioned to design the logo for a recently formed film company, MGM, adopting Samuel Goldwyn's own lion logo. His iconic art work, in which the company filmed as many as four lions over the years, has remained substantially unchanged since it first appeared on screen in 1925 in films like Ben Hur.
The 1925 New York State and 1930 Federal censuses showed Morris still living with his parents, listed as a commercial artist, an indication that he probably never married. Fresh cover output from Rosenbaum Studios appears to have all but ceased around 1930, but he still tried to keep the business alive. An advertisment in the New York papers in 1937 was soliciting customers for Rosenbaum Studios to create advertising art. The 1940 enumeration showed him living with his widowed father, still as an artist in his own studio. On his 1942 draft registration Morris noted only that he owned his own business, likely still in graphic arts, and listed his elderly father as his contact. Beyond that all that could be found was his death in New York City a decade later.
|Joseph and Saul Wohlman|
Joseph and Saul Wohlman were part of a multi-talented family that was somewhat grounded in the entertainment and art business. Born in New York to Austrian Yiddish immigrants Hyman and Celia Wohlman, they had four other siblings including Irving (3/1889), David (3/1890), Alexander (2/1893) and Bessie (1897). Hyman worked in the garment industry in a cloak factory. Irving started his own successful sign painting business in Manhattan. David was a salesman for music publisher F.J.A Forster, eventually opening his own music store in New York in the 1920s. Alexander worked in the theatrical business in various guises, listed as an actor in the 1910 and 1920 census. He was also the commercial manager for the Gilbert & Friedland theatrical firm.
Covers attributed to Saul (S. Wohlman) started appearing in 1919, perhaps the earliest ones drawn in Cuba and commissioned and delivered through the mail. Those from Wohlman Studios (Wohlman) around 1920. Given their collective history in the industry, Joseph was possibly the founder of the firm, and Saul the artistic force behind it. For the next fifteen years many artful covers and magazine advertisements or illustrations appeared with the Wohlman name on them. In retrospect, many of the Wohlman covers were more graphic than they were art, as the brothers went into business at a time when the music industry was creating new standards for cover size. Most publishers abandoned the larger 10"x13" covers during the war, and used more templates that could be repurposed for a number of different pieces. They still managed quite a few originals that were very elegant and steeped in the Art Deco trend of the 1920s. It is unclear if other artists worked for the firm. However, it is probable that the more colorful painted half-tone artwork, and even much of the graphic line art was done by Saul, while some of the line art and the layout was handled by Joseph.
In the mid 1930s Saul and his mother Celia had moved to Oceanside, New York, away from the city, still listing himself as an artist in the local directories. Joseph and his wife Sophie were still living in Newark, and by 1940 he had joined Irving as a salesman with the sign company. As of the 1942 draft, Irving was still running his sign company in Newark, but Saul and Joseph were not part of that record, perhaps due to previous exemptions. Beyond 1948 there is little trace of the Wohlman brothers except for their deaths, both in New York a dozen years apart. They left behind several hundred music covers and graphics in other media as well, certainly help to contribute to and even set some standards for the generic but elegant style of sheet music seen throughout the jazz age and beyond.
|Frederick S. Manning|
Few sheet music cover artists were able to capture the essence of beautiful women quite the way Frederick Stewart Manning was able to. He actually entered that specific field as a second career of sorts later than most artists, being in his mid 30s when his music covers started appearing. Frederick was born in Port Huron, Michigan, in 1874 to British immigrant Thomas E. Manning and his Illinois born wife Jane M. Stewart. He had two sisters, including Clara (1878) and Pearl (1881). Fred's family moved to St Paul, Minnesota when he was very young, and they appear there in the 1880 census, Fred listed as the misspelled Stuart.
As Frederick's talents and experience increased, the family moved to Chicago. They soon added Thomas R. to the family on May 22, 1905. While in Chicago Fred did more commerical and comic art, including cartoons for the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Evening Post. He also illustrated a book of poetry, Sweethearts Always, compiled by Janet Madison. Some of his first sheet music cover art appeared in Chicago as well, some of it uncredited. Fred is shown in the 1910 census in Chicago with Hattie and sons Lyle and Thomas, listed as a portrait artist, another of his lines of work that would become more prominent.
In 1911 the Mannings moved to New York City with Frederick in search of a more serious and profitable career in advertising artwork. He scored quickly, creating ad art for companies as varied as the Union Pacific Railroad and Coca Cola. His work soon caught the eye of Will Von Tilzer of Broadway Music, and publisher Leo Feist, and he produced covers for them. He was also a member of the Society of Independent Artists, and exhibited with them during shows held in the late 1910s. Manning's passion for fine portraits continued to surface, and portrait artist is the vocation shown on his 1918 draft card, registered on Staten Island where the family was now living. Lyle had registered the year before, and likely served, but Frederick remained stateside.
In the 1920 census Frederick was listed as a landscape artist, and his wife inexplicably with the name Josephine. This misidentification led to a notion by researchers that Manning had possibly been divorced, but further information proves this to be untrue. Lyle was also starting his own career as a commercial artist around this time. From 1919 to the late 1920s Frederick produced a number of beautiful and elegant covers for publisher Jerome H. Remick, most of which remain highly collectible decades later. In a Colorado article uncovered by researcher Keith Emmons, it was announced that Frederick and his sisters had each inherited the substantial sum of $200,000 from a great grandfather. With this he eventually moved back to Staten Island into a house in Dongan Hills, commuting on the famous Staten Island Ferry to his Manhattan studio. The 1925 New York census, however, may have been taken before this time, as Frederick, Hattie and Thomas were living on 14th Street on the north side of the somewhat Boehmian area of Greenwich Village, surrounded by other artists, musicians and theater folk. In 1929 Frederick received a commission for a portrait of national hero, pilot Charles Lindbergh, Jr., which currently can be seen at the Minnesota Historical Society.
While a number of artists simply followed requested ideas or even submitted their own conceptions for final use without question, Manning was always sensitive to his clients in that he wanted them to be satisfied with what he produced. Therefore, working on his experience in advertising, he would submit a watercolor draft of each concept to the publisher for selection or final approval. Then he would create his works, using paid models, in either watercolor or pastels with occasional ink highlights. He reportedly received $150 a cover from Remick for the bulk of his work in the 1920s, which although a decent wage back then is roughly only two to three times what one copy of some of his more collectible covers sell for currently.
Although much of Manning's earlier work is signed with the full signature represented above, he would occasionally use only his initials (F.S.M.), or in later years only his last name. As of the 1930 census, Thomas was seen living with Hattie and working as an assistant vice president for an electric company, but Frederick appears to have missed that record, perhaps on travel at that time. In subsequent years he and Hattie moved to Matawan, New Jersey. When the demand for cover artists of his type faded in the 1930s, he continued serious painting by public or private commission until shortly before his death. Lyle, who had enjoyed a career of his own as a commercial artist, died in September of 1959. Frederick S. Manning passed on at age 85 in 1960 in Matawan. Hattie survived the both until 1968. The beauty Manning captured in his subjects of yesteryear lives on today in vivid hues, which affirms the old saying that beauty is truly ageless.
Thanks go to Frederick's stepgrandaughter through Thomas' second wife, Carrie Leoni, for relaying memories of a period when she lived at the Manning household in Matawan, New Jersey, which dispelled the notion of divorce and helped to prompt further research on Manning.
Sydney Lefkowitz was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1901. He was the youngest of eight children of Austro-Hungarian immigrants Joseph Lefkowitz, a poultry salesman, and Rose Berger. His siblings included Mildred (1888), Israel (1889), Henry (1890), Samuel (1892), Celia (1894), Abraham (1897), and Emmanuel (1899). In 1910 the family was shown living in Brooklyn. While Sydney desired to be an artist at a young age, he did not want to be a starving artist. So he pursued commercial art early on, recognizing the viability of doing so in the growing fields of magazine and sheet music illustration.
Clearly reflecting the hair and clothing styles of the 1920s in his art, many of Leff's covers could be categorized as Urban or Moderne. He was both highly involved and evolved in his cover artwork during the bulk of the Art Deco era of the 1920s and 1930s. He appeared as a commercial artist in the 1930 census, living in Brooklyn with his wife of Russian descent, Rita Zion, whom he had married in 1928. Rita was also a talented illustrator, which was likely how they met. During the subsequent decade the Leffs had two daughters, Joan (1931) and Gail (1934). The 1940 enumeration also showed Syd to be a commercial artist. However, Leff retired from producing music covers in the 1940s as more of them were featuring celebrity photographs than they did art.
The next obvious move was to advertising, in which he became somewhat of an icon on Madison Avenue. Sydney lost his wife Rita in 1979. After another retirement, Sydney tried marketing some of his older sheet music drawings again on calendars, mugs, and other merchandise, with limited success. Still, his work had staying power, a point that was emphasized as recently as 2000 when some of his covers were featured in a caberet music exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York with Mr. Leff in attendance. He finally passed on at his assisted living residence in December of 2005 at age 104.
One word that describes Leff's style might be contrast. Whether it be in shading or through starkly different yet complimentary covers, he was able to bring out the parts of the cover that were most relevant to the song within. Irving Berlin in particular used Leff for a large number of publications during his career in part because of the artist's command of relevance, and they became close friends. Leff also conveyed emotion and attitude, partially through facial expression but also through the use of body language. His comic covers are whimsical in both content and proportion without overdoing the caricature aspect.
Being the type of person who wants to be pretty good at everything rather than regarded the best at any one thing, and also because I like having my hands on every possible aspect of what I do, I slowly became involved in producing cover art for my own music. I had some art training during my regular secondary school education, and got involved in graphic arts in college, with more emphasis on design than painting or rendering. I have also studied animation art, again not the same as static art forms. So I went into this with at least some notion of an artistic eye as well as practical real world experience in drawing that went beyond paint by numbers (although I did pretty good on those).
Somewhere along the way, likely during the 1930s, photographically produced covers became cheaper to produce than those with colorful cover art. For starters, many more people were able to take photographs than those who possessed the talent to draw or paint relevant artwork. Then there is the factor of celebrity endorsement, which photography best represented. By the 1970s. a larger number of covers were regressing back to text-only format with minimal or no art at all. So when I started producing ragtime covers I did it within the capabilities of the tools I had. The initial covers were plays on the ubiquitous G. Schirmer yellow books with some minor alterations. The Hanon Rag and Ragtime Nocturne logically fit into this mold. But when the titles became more descriptive, I figured that some kind of artwork was necessary.
In the case of Pride of the Prairie, Ragtime Bobolink (by Joseph Lamb), Snuggle Pup (by George L. Cobb) and The Ragtime Pamela, I turned photographs into a mix of watercolor and pastels in an attempt to create something that looked painted or drawn. For The Necromancer, I was fortunate to have an appropriate drawing given to me by noted artist and former Washington Redskin George Nock, which I incorporated with a custom text logo. The Wiener Schnitzel Rag is an attempt at cartoon watercolor, and was done by my own hand. Ragapples was also rendered by a number of painting and computer generated techniques from individually photographed or scanned elements. As my skills increase in both manual and computer art I am sure that future covers will be more adventurous, and will hopefully recapture to some extent those days when cover art was a prominent feature or enhancement of sheet music.
As America entered World War One (then called The Great War) in 1917, the U.S. Government asked all industries creating consumable products with valuable materials, including paper, to cut back on those materials. In the case of sheet music, this meant not only changing the size of the music from the large 10" x 13.5" format to the now common 9" x 12" format (and even smaller sheets during the war in some cases), but also condensing four pages of music into two, and shrinking the cover art as well. In many cases, including the fabulous Paull covers, it meant using a smaller color palette to conserve ink. While this change not as drastic as the migration from 12" album covers to 5" CD covers, it still had some impact on how art was realized on sheet music covers.
E.T. Paull died at the end of 1924 shortly after copyrighting his last piece, Spirit of the U.S.A.. One additional work, Top Of The World was published after his death complete with the trademark cover in glorious color. Still, the end of the era of E.T. Paull, coupled with the format size and advancements in photographic printing, also marked the end of the cornucopia of fabulous covers as the trend shifted more towards celebrity pictures, standardized pictures or patterns, and sparser art. Some of this change reflects the financial ravages of the great depression of the 1930s, but much of it was a move to cut overall costs and production time as well as streamlining appearances as music consumer tastes matured. There was also increased sensitivity to racial stereotyping and gross caricature. While the Starmers, Leff and others continued to produce covers, they were engaged more in design than full-fledged art. Entertainment interest had shifted towards player pianos, sound recordings, radio, movies, and the combination of sound and pictures in 1928. While there are a few worthy pieces from the 1930s on, most are more in the style of poster art with subdued colors on coated papers. As much as the golden days of ragtime, radio, television, and even rock and roll are gone in these days of techno-everything, we should as much recognize the golden age of sheet music as a whole, not just the covers. But wasn't it fun just the same?
So if you're going through a box in Grandma's attic, visiting an out-of-the-way antique mall, or attending an auction just for fun, don't ignore that pile or box of sheet music over there since there are likely a few treasures within. If you don't want it, then at least tell me about it. Somebody's got to preserve this bit of Americana! And I don't mind. Really!
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