Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thomas E. Hibben, Jr.

THOMAS E. HIBBEN, JR., Architect and Engineer

By Tony Woolrich

Thomas E Hibben wrote two books about tools and metallurgy for young people, during the 1930s but is now forgotten.

Thomas Entriken Hibben, Jr. was born October 1893, at Indianapolis, Marion Co., Indiana, USA, the son of Thomas Entriken Hibben, Sr., the artist. He studied architecture and engineering, attending Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and schools in London and Paris. Thomas designed several of the buildings at Butler University in Indianapolis and the first phase of the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.

He came to Washington in the early 1930s to serve as chief engineer in an emergency reconstruction program under President Roosevelt, and worked on several New Deal projects for the Government. He was interested in low cost housing and was an authority on rammed earth construction [pisé]. He married Carmela Koenig, 5 July 1938, in Holborn, London and adopted Roderick, her son from a previous marriage.

During World War II, Thomas was an industrial and construction engineer in the Bureau of Economic Warfare. He also served in the African and Italian campaigns, and later in Austria. After the War he became an expert in foreign trade and economic development of emerging nations.

Between 1946-50, he was advisor to the United States section of the Caribbean Commission and also adviser for foreign economic development in the Office of International Trade, United States Department of Commerce. He was engineering and technical consultant to the joint Philippines-United States Finance Commission in 1947, and was the author of reports “The Economic Development of the Philippines,” published in 1947, and the “Industrial Development of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” 1948. For the next two years, he was technical adviser on power and economic development to the joint Brazil-United States Technical Mission and he filled a similar role as engineer-adviser to the Technical Mission to Western Germany.

He was appointed by Secretary General Trygve Lie of the United Nations in 1950 as resident representative with the rank of an ambassador to Pakistan. While attending an official function in Karachi he suffered a heart attack and died, aged 58. His remains were returned to Arlington Cemetery in Washington, DC.

Like his father, Thomas was an artist and he authored and illustrated by line drawings, two books about technology for young people.

A passage from the dedication to the first, The Carpenter’s Tool Chest (1933), explains his approach:
This book was made for you, TOM, and HILTON and ROBERT, that you might know something of the tools with which the world around you has been built and how these tools came to be. Then, too, I would like you to know about the carpenters, how they lived and worked, built bridges and boats and buildings down through the centuries. And while carpenters' work is more for boys than for girls I would like JILL and BARBARA and PHYLIS-ANN to read the book too, for tools and the people who work with them are so important to us all our lives that I think we ought to know as much about them as we can.
The book begins with a series of pages each illustrating the changes in the design of different hand tools from prehistory to the present-day—the hammer, measuring tools, the saw, the plane, the drill, etc. Then follow a series of chapters describing how the tools were used and their history by period, beginning with the stone age and ending with the Renaissance. Hibben ranged world-wide for his illustration examples.

In 1940, after extensive research in Europe, he wrote and illustrated Sons of Vulcan, the story of metals. The book begins with a brief history of tools and the work of the smith in antiquity followed by two chapters about mining, a chapter about metals and two chapters about tools in the bronze and iron ages, followed by a brief history of steel. The book concludes with chapters about the modern blacksmith and his work and makers of arms and armour.

Both books are clearly written and the writer’s voice can be heard as though he is in the room talking to the reader. Hibben’s drawing style was very simple, and largely comprised re-workings of previously published work, such as medieval illuminated manuscripts and books of the Renaissance engineers.

Needless to say, Hibben does not appear in modern academic studies of children’s books and he wrote nothing else that appears in online catalogues.

George C. Hibben, "…60 Poles to a Sugar Tree and Thence to the Beginning". A Social History of the Pioneer Hibben Family 1730 to the early 1900s. Charleston, MA, Privately printed, 2003. pp.297-299. The relevant chapter can be accessed online.

Books by Thomas E. Hibben
The carpenter's tool chest. Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott, 1933.
The sons of Vulcan. The story of metals. Philadelphia, New York [etc.], J.B. Lippincott Co., 1940. [available online via the Internet Archive]

Friday, January 30, 2009

Everybody's strip cartoons

Back in 1939, Everybody's magazine ran a full page of cartoon strips featuring two regular characters; the third was a random humour strip by various artists. Dealing with the latter first, two of the strips below are signed 'Moore' and a third with an unrecognisable scrawl. I suspect these are originals to Everybody's. The second feature, so to speak, was "Abel the Seaman", a three panel pantomime gag strip about which I've been able to find nothing.

The main attraction on the page was "Skippy" by Percy L. Crosby, a Brooklyn-born artist who created the character of Skippy in 1923 for Life magazine. A daily strip was syndicated by King Features Syndicate between 1926-45. Skippy Inc. was incorporated in 1932 and issued licenses for dozens of items, ranging from children's clothing to ice cream. The astonishing story of Percy Crosby is told in full at How he lost control of Skippy and was detained in a mental hospital for the last 16 years of his life and how his heirs have subsequently tried to regain control over the Skippy trademark makes for a harrowing (and, it has to be said, one-sided) story. But well worth reading.

(* Skippy comic strip © Skippy Inc./Percy Crosby Estate; others possibly © IPC Media.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Everybody's cartoons

Continuing our trip through the pages of Everybody's magazine. The magazine had a good sprinkling of cartoons in its earlier days spread around the pages as fillers. By 1942, there was a page dedicated to cartoons as well as Arthur Ferrier's spotlight on stars panel. This page continued well into the 1950s and possibly all the way through to when Everybody's was relaunched as Today in February 1960.

In 1939, cartoons made up a major portion of the cover, if not the full cover. The only cartoonist to sign his name (amongst the handful of issues I've seen) was Edgar Spencerley, whose cover appears as our column header. Today's column is dedicated to everyone like myself who leaves doing their income tax returns to the last minute. Hopefully you'll get a laugh out of some of the images below.

(* All images © IPC Media.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Eric Tansley

The other day I posted some illustrations produced by Eric Tansley for Everybody's magazine. I also recently had an enquiry about him asking if I knew any more about him beyond what I had posted here on 18 April 2008. At the time I had to say no, but decided that I'd do a little more research on him. And I got a lucky break when I managed to locate an address for him, although it wasn't a new one: it was for where he lived in 1950. However, it was the breakthrough I needed and, with a little more digging, I was able to discover a little more about him. All—although it isn't a huge amount—will be revealed in the appended notes at the end of the original entry.

Eric Tansley is a bit of a mystery artist. He wrote and illustrated two books on birds soon after the war, Birds of the Field and Woodland (1948) and Birds of the Hill, Moor and Marsh (1950) and illustrated many books ranging from nature studies to a history of the Wild West. In the 1950s his illustrations appeared in a number of novels published by Blackie & Son and Thomas Nelson & Sons. He was still illustrating books in the 1970s, his last known work appearing in 1975 when he wrote and illustrated Fishing. However, beyond a list of his work (see below), I know nothing about his career.

Tansley's illustrations appeared in Eagle Annual, Swift Annual and Everybody's in the 1950s and he was a long-time contributor to Treasure in the 1960s, producing some delightful covers, usually featuring animals and children.

Eric Arthur James Tansley was born in Gillingham, Kent, on 6 May 1916. He was living in London at 86 Cannon Street, E.C.4 in 1950 and subsequently drifted south through a series of addresses: 90 Warham Road, South Croydon [1953/55], 96 Moat Road, East Grinstead, W. Sussex [1958/59], 32 Reigate Road, Brighton, E. Sussex [1962/69], 20 Kings Drive, Pagham, W. Sussex [1970/72] and finally Claremont, Brook Furlong, Bembridge, Isle of Wight [1975/78]. He died on the Isle of Wight on 27 July 1979. He was buried at Bembridge Cemetery. Tansley was married to (1) Evelyn M. Griffin in 1939 and (2) June Tansley (nee Wilkinson) in 1959. He had one daughter by his first marriage.

Birds of the Field and Woodland. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1948.
Birds of the Hill, Moor and Marsh. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1950.
Fishing. Maidenhead, Purnell, Sep 1975.

Books Illustrated
My First Mother Goose, by Philip Brown. Wilcox & Follett Co., 1946.
Snow Dog, by Jim Elgard. London, John Lehmann, 1949.
Spotlight on Animals, by Chapman Pincher. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1950.
The Flag from the Isles, by William Croft Dickinson. London, Jonathan Cape, 1951.
Ajax, Golden Dog of the Australian Bush, by Mary Elwyn Pratchett. Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1953.
Trouble in the Big Top, by Lane Mitchell. London & Glasgow, Blackie & son, 1956.
Conspiracy at Abbey, by Eric Leyland. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957.
Pocomonto and the Spanish Steed, by Rex Dixon. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957.
Rebellion at Prior's, by Eric Leyland. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957.
Stop Thief, by Eric Leyland. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957.
Ivanhoe, by Walter Scott. London, Weidenfeld & Nicholson (Heirloom Library), n.d. (1950s?).
The Book of the West. An epic of America's wild frontier and the men who created its legends, by Charles Chilton. Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1962.
Interesting British Birds, by Kathleen N. Daly; illus. with Robert Aitchen. London, Blackie & Son, 1969.
Love and Marriage, by Edward Lyndoe. London, Spearman, 1970.
Ajax the Warrior, by Mary Elwyn Pratchett. Harmondsworth, Puffin Books, 1972.
Uncle Whiskers, by Philip Brown. London, Andre Deutsch, Nov 1974.

(* All artwork shown here appeared in Treasure in 1964-65 and is © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd. None of Tansley's books appear to be in print, but some are available second-hand. Many thanks to John Phemister for the photo of Tansley's gravestone, taken 11 November 2011.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Harry Zelinski

One of the names that kept cropping up as I was looking through Everybody's and John Bull was Zelinski. Not a common name and definitely one worth some investigating, I thought. And here's the results, bolstered by a handy little editorial featurette and photograph I stumbled across in the pages of John Bull.

Harry Zelinski was born Harris S. Zelinski, his birth registered in Rochford, Essex, in 1922. He once crewed a boat that came third in a race at Burnham-on-Crouch but would later claim not to remember what sort of boat it was. He served during the war as a pilot and met his wife, Mary, whilst both were serving in the air force. They had two daughters, Diana and Pauline.

Described as "a ruddy-faced, relaxed man," Zelinski was living in an attractive Georgian house at 5 Priory Crescent, Lewes, in the mid-1950s. He would later move to Hollands, Warren Lane, Friston near East Dean in East Sussex [1959/62] and thence to various addresses in Seaford, East Sussex: 31 Beacon Road [1963], Green Walk [1964/66], 59 Dane Road, [1968/75] and Taras, Marine Parade [1978]. He subsequently moved to Corfe Castle, Dorset [1981/84] where, unfortunately, the trail grows cold. Mary Zelinski died in Dorset in 1997 but I've found no further sign of her husband.

Zelinski appears to have been a prolific and popular illustrator with various magazines, where he was noted for his exotic use of flat, rich colours . He claimed to be naturally lazy, "particularly in the autumn" when he would rather while away the hours in a armchair with a pile of records for his gramaphone. While working, he always had music playing in the background—anything from Bach to Eartha Kitt. He was a happy painter, working wherever and whenever he wanted, but had no great sympathy for art for art's sake. "If I really had something vital to say to the world, I should like to be able to say it with music."

Since no great statements were made by Zelinski through music, here's a little gallery of his artwork which I (and I'm sure he would appreciate the gesture) shall leave to speak for itself.

(* Artwork © IPC Media.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Everybody's Illustrators

Looking through issues of old weekly magazines like Everybody's really highlights the difference between magazines in the 1950s and those of fifty years later. The use—and quality—of illustrations was much higher and added a dimension that's lacking in today's magazines. By the time I was seeing what could be called the general weekly magazines—Tit-Bits, Weekend and the like—in the 1970s, they were filled with sensational, true-life confession style articles and were well on the way down the path to the celebrity-obsessed crap that passes for magazines these days, which are all about pointing and tutting. Who cares if someone has put on a few pounds or lost a few pounds? Is that really what passes for entertainment these days?

The illustrations below represent a tiny snapshot of the diversity of the stories that appeared in Everybody's—crime, war, nature, romance, science fiction, humour... nothing seemed off limits. Yes, they also had their interviews or articles about film and TV stars, but the next article along would be historical, or travel, or political. In many ways the Sunday supplements took over that role, leaving the general magazines to sink... or swim briefly before sinking in some cases. Sad, eh?

Gordon Nicholl
R. M. Sax
Eric Tansley
Laurence Houghton
Eric Tansley
Eric Tansley
Edwin Phillips
Leslie Caswell
H. W. Hailstone

(* All images © IPC Media.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

H. H. Harris

The Art of H. H. Harris

by Gordon Howsden

A number of skilled artists, some famous, some forgotten, were active from the Edwardian period through to the Second World War designing cigarette cards. The major printing firms who specialized in producing the cards usually had their own in-house artists who could turn their hands to almost any subject. Leading among these was Mardon, Son & Hall of Bristol, part of the Imperial Tobacco empire, who fielded a team of artists whose versatility was astonishing. Flowers to Footballers, racehorses to railway engines—regardless of subject they could produce artwork of the highest quality.

When commissions were placed with outside artists these were often specialists in their field, for example Arthur Wardle for dogs, Frank Mason for ships and Roland Green for birds. In addition, some lesser known but very proficient commercial artists were utilized and because their bread and butter work was usually preparing artwork for advertisements or story illustrations their biographical details often remain unrecorded.

A good example is Herbert Harris, who signed his work “H H Harris”, whose career extended from roughly 1910 to 1946 but whose personal details are unknown. His earliest work was for the S H Benson advertising agency for whom he developed the ‘Pyjama Man’ who was regularly utilized in Bovril adverts. The first of these was published in 1920 and showed a smiling shipwrecked man, still wearing his green-striped pyjamas, sitting astride a giant floating jar of Bovril with the slogan, “Bovril prevents that sinking feeling”. This ad was held over from the 1912 period as it was considered insensitive to have published it at the time in view of the sinking of the Titanic.

During the 1920s Harris’s work can be found in Passing Show magazine and Printer’s Pie, and in the 1930s he developed a multi-framed cartoon series for Bystander. His sketches also appeared on calendars and bridge scoring pads. The earliest book I have traced that contains his illustrations is The Errant Golfer by E P Leigh Bennett, published in 1929. This may have been significant for Harris as possibly it came to the attention of Mardon, Son & Hall. In any event, they commissioned him that same year to prepare the artwork for a series of 25 cards to be issued by W D & H O Wills in their boxes of cigarettes. It was titled Famous Golfers and depicted some of the leading exponents of the game in colourful and slightly humorous poses.

In a departure from normal practice Harris’s signature appeared on the face of the cards and also on the reverse side underneath the title. Selected original paintings were framed up by Wills for their picture gallery which from time to time was loaned out for exhibition purposes. The texts on the reverse of the cards were prepared by Golf Monthly magazine and how well Harris interpreted these interesting descriptions. George Gadd’s putting style with “elbows well out” and Alexander (“Sandy”) Herd’s “endless number of waggles” are superbly depicted.

The success of Famous Golfers persuaded Wills to use Harris for another series and this was titled Lawn Tennis, 1931. Again Harris’s skill at depicting various players’ idiosyncrasies is immediately apparent. The “Bounding Basque”, Jean Borotra, leaps towards the net and the determined features of Lilli D’Alvarez, whose methods were described in the text as: “there are no half measures; the Senorita is always out to win”, are perfectly illustrated. Again Harris’ signature appears on the front of the cards but this time his name was omitted from the reverse.
The Bovril ads continued through the 1930s and the last reference to the “Pyjama Man” that I have is an advert in a 1939 circus programme. It is possible, however, that they continued to be used beyond this date. Some children’s books were illustrated by Harris and published under wartime restrictions. The titles I have identified are: Nursery Rhymes, Jolly Junior's Fairy Tales, Junior's Jolly ABC and What Fun. These probably date from 1945/6. From the examples I have seen, the artwork is first class and Harris’s depiction of animals in humorous situations is first class.

(* I've been unable to confirm dates for Harris; the only reference I have found gives fl. 1918-40. I do know that he was represented by the agents Francis & Mills from at least 1921 to at least 1951 and he seems to disappear from the phone book that year, which makes me wonder if he was the Herbert H. Harris whose death, aged 61, was registered at Bromsgrove in 1Q 1952. Unfortunately, there are a number of possible candidates born around 1891 and far too many Herbert Harris's listed in the census records for me to make even an educated guess at which is "our" Herbert H. Harris.)


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