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AUTO HISTORY

Motor Illustrator: J.O. Todahl

March 1919 Cover. Beside a red barn a man stands in the bed of a truck with milk cans and a calf he is buying, and reaches out to take a bill of sale from a woman dressed in lilac. In the foreground, an older, white-bearded man, in a tan work jacket and hat, carries a wooden crate that's just been delivered.

March 1919 Cover. Beside a red barn a man stands in the bed of a truck with milk cans and a calf he is buying, and reaches out to take a bill of sale from a woman dressed in lilac. In the foreground, an older, white-bearded man, in a tan work jacket and hat, carries a wooden crate that's just been delivered.


John Olaf Todahl (September 21, 1884 — 1924) was an artist, illustrator, and newspaper cartoonist who lived on both coasts of the United States. Born to a Norwegian family in Crookston, Minnesota, he became an illustrator for newspapers in Seattle, Washington, New York, and Connecticut. While in Seattle, he became a member of the Seattle Cartoonists' Club. Somewhere between 1911 and 1913, he moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut but also became a member of New York's artist community. Drawing cartoons for the Bridgeport Standard, he listed his occupation in 1913 as cartoonist. He was also a cartoonist for the New York Tribune. In addition, he drew magazine illustrations for Red Cross Magazine, Boys' Life, McClure's, Scribner's, Everybody's Magazine, The Metropolitan, and Motor Boating. And he was a member of the illustration staff for Modern Publishing Co. (1918) and Popular Science.

Todahl is perhaps best known for his World War I imagery — a poster drawn for the U. S. Shipping Board (which created the Merchant Marine), oil paintings featuring dogs and soldiers, paintings of marine battles, and a May 1918 Red Cross Magazine cover of a medic taking care of a wounded soldier. A July cover for the same magazine depicted a soldier carrying a wounded military service dog.

The artist was also a member of the Guild of Free Lance Artists and drew at least one advertisement, the 1923 Depollier Watches ad. He also illustrated these books: 1921's His Hold and a frontispiece for 1920's The Cinderellas of the Fleet (about submarine chasers).

The author of the latter book was William Washburn Nutting, writer and former editor of Motor Boat. Todahl and he became friends. Both expert sailors, they made a voyage to Norway in spring 1924, planning to pick up a sturdy sloop there (which would be the Liev Eriksson) and return to America, taking the supposed Viking trail. On July 4, 1924, they departed from Norway, planning stops in Iceland and Greenland. They made it to Greenland and planned to sail on to Labrador, Canada. They set out on that leg of the voyage but an ice-choked ocean and a winter hurricane must have ended it. Despite the involvement of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy in an all-out search, the vessel was never found.

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