Motor Illustrator: E. Franklin Wittmack
August 1954 cover. In a mountainside scene we see a mechanic leaning over the hood of a stalled red car. A family of bears comes right up to the car and the woman in the passenger seat raises her hand to her mouth in alarm.
Edgar Franklin Wittmack (July 10, 1894 — April 25, 1956) was an illustrator of German ancestry, born in New York City. He graduated from high school in 1913 and started spending summers working as a farm hand on the E. C. Potter pig farm of Clearwater, Montana. Inducted into the Army from Missoula, Montana in 1917, he served briefly with the U.S. Army as a private in the 166th Depot Brigade. Back in New York by 1920, he took classes at the Art Students League, where he studied with painter/illustrator Frank Vincent DuMond. By 1925, however, he had found work as secretary at the Arthur Balthazar Industrial Appliances Company Inc. through a family connection; Balthazar was his maternal great uncle. But we may assume he did not find fulfillment in that work. In July, 1920, he quit that job and went to France where he studied for a short while at L'Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, returning to New York five months later.
His work appeared in a number of popular magazines, primarily in the twenties and thirties, and included at least the following publications: Argosy, Nation's Business, American Boy, Collier's, Everybody's Magazine, Liberty, Outdoor Life, The Saturday Evening Post, Elks, People's, Picture-Play, St. Nicholas, United States Saturday Post, and Scientific American. And for Popular Mechanics he appeared to be a main cover artist.
A Republican Lutheran who loved the outdoors, Witmack often painted action-oriented themes as well as realistic and inventive technological advances. He did a great deal of work for pulp magazines, his illustrations appearing in Adventure, Clues Detective, Complete Stories, Frontier Stories, Short Stories, Weird Tales, West Weekly, The Popular, West, Romance, Top-Notch, and Western Story.
He worked on advertising campaigns for Pratt and Lambert paint, American Airlines, and Cities Service (now Citgo). With Cities Service, he was asked to create commemorative paintings of newly built tankers for Cities Service magazine.
His book work was extensive, as this range of titles attests: Thumbs Up!; The Mystery of Adventure Island; Fish and Tin Fish; Guadalcanal Diary; The Mystery of the Dark Mountains; The Black Star. A Detective Story; First to Fight; Sea Raiders Ho!; Red Earth; Joe Below Zero; Rough Riders Ho!; The Story of the Great War; Great Adventures in History and Legend; Keep 'Em Crawling; and African Hunter. We know he illustrated several posters, as well. In 1950, he illustrated a poster within the Pride of Service series — the Battle of the Philippine Sea, published by the Government Printing Office. For the National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week in 1951, he painted a poster showing an amputee operating a machine to test the viscosity of oil. One of his final assignments was to compose posters for the President's Commission on Employment of the Physically Handicapped, to be displayed on sides of postal vehicles. His commitment to the handicapped also extended to his agreement to be one of the judges in Pennsylvania's first contest for handicapped amateur artists. Those interested could obtain applications from any of several Bureau of Rehabilitation offices, with submissions due by May 1, 1956. Unfortunately, Wittmack died of a long-time heart ailment on April 25, 1956.
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