Thursday, April 1, 2021

Ernest Kurt Barth (1929-2001)

Last time I wrote about Lou and Zena Shumsky, authors of the young person's novel First Flight (1962). (She was really the author. Her husband was more of a technical advisor.) This time I would like to write about the illustrator of their book, Ernest Kurt Barth.

Ernest Kurt "Ernie" Barth was born on March 23, 1929, in Rockville Centre, New York, to Ernest and Paula K. (Meeh) Barth. His parents were born in Germany and arrived in America only shortly before his birth. The elder Ernest Barth was a painting contractor but also, as his son remembered, a hobbyist. Ernie Barth was thus well prepared for illustrating a book about boys who build and fly model airplanes.

Ernest K. Barth graduated from Memorial High School in West New York, New Jersey, and served for two years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He applied his G.I. Bill benefits to his education in art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in fine arts in 1952. I suspect that he also met his future wife at Pratt.

Ernest Barth had a varied career in art. He worked for a firm called Cellomatic in the early days of television animation. In 1954, he served as an assistant to Al Capp (1909-1979) on the syndicated comic strip Li'l Abner. (Frank Frazetta [1928-2010] was another of Capp's assistants at the time.) From 1953 to 1957, Barth created cover art and interior illustrations for science fiction magazines. Afterwards, he expanded into illustrating books for Dell, Harper & Row, and Random House. Later in life, while living and working in Tuxedo Park, New York, he worked as a graphic artist and commercial artist.

Barth's first wife, Eileen Ann Furlong Barth (1931-1986), was also an artist and a teacher of art at Monroe-Woodbury High School in Woodbury, New York. She was the daughter of Raymond H. Furlong, a printer for the New York Times, and Anna (Ungerer) Furlong, a bank clerk. The Barths and their two daughters lived in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico, for a year in 1973-1974, where Eileen Barth received her master's degree in fine arts. Eileen Ann Furlong Barth died tragically young of cancer. Her husband remarried. He died on March 28, 2001, in Tuxedo Park. His remains were cremated and the ashes scattered, fittingly, by airplane over Orange County, New York.

One of the reasons that I have wanted to write about Ernest Kurt Barth is to show his artwork in the fields of science fiction and fantasy. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb) has a list--actually two lists--of his credits in those fields. I would like to acknowledge that website and to expand on the available biographical information on him. (Find A Grave has a fuller biography than what I have written here, and so I would also like to acknowledge Von Rothenberger, who posted it, along with a photo of Barth, to that site.) There are two entries on the ISFDb on Barth, one for Ernie Barth, the other for Ernest K. Barth. My hope is that those two entries will be combined and that Barth will receive his full due as an artist.

Ernie Barth's cover for Fantastic, October 1954. He was twenty-five when this picture was published. The cover story was "The Yellow Needle" by Gerald Vance.

If you pull back the curtain and show how artwork is really made, submitted, and used in publication, you will see images like this one, Barth's illustrations for Russ Winterbotham's short story "Loralei of Chaos," from Amazing Stories, November 1954. Note the editor's or engraver's marks in blue pencil. Note also the name "H. Rogoff." That was Herb Rogoff (1927-2018), art editor of Ziff-Davis Fiction Group and himself an artist.

Finally, Barth's illustration for "Forced Move," a short story by Henry Lee, published in Worlds of If, June 1955.

Text copyright 2021 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Lou & Zena Shumsky

Louis Shumsky was born into a large family on January 9, 1919, in Norma, New Jersey. His parents, Joseph and Esther Shumsky, were Russian-Jewish immigrants. At age twenty-one, Lou Shumsky was already at work as a photographer, and that's the job he did in the U.S. Army during World War II. He enlisted on November 26, 1940, more than a year before his country entered the war.

Lou Shumsky served at least part of his tour of duty in London, England, and that's where he met his future wife. Her name was Zena Feldman, and she was born in Hackney, Greater London, on January 21, 1926. Zena had an unsettled family life. Her parents, Barnet Feldman and Rebecca Karpinski, divorced in 1937. Zena attended a girls' school in London on a scholarship but had to end her studies and go to work when her father left. She first worked in a law office. Recognizing her talent, her employers offered to pay her way through law school if she would return after graduating to work for the firm. But Zena wanted to be a writer, and so she declined. Instead she went to work for Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in London. On May 3, 1945, Zena Feldman and Louis Shumsky were married in London. The war in Europe ended just five days later.

The Shumskys returned to the United States in the late 1940s and settled in New Jersey. They had two sons together and moved to Rochester, New York, in 1954. They collaborated on two books, First Flight, illustrated by Ernest Kurt Barth and published in 1962, and Shutterbug, illustrated by Vic Donahue and published in 1963. Zena Shumsky also wrote books on her own, under her own name and two pen names, Jane Collier and Zena Collier. These include:
  • The Year of the Dream (young adult fiction, 1962), illustrated by Harper Johnson
  • A Tangled Web (young adult fiction, 1967)
  • Seven for the People (young adult nonfiction, 1979)
  • Next Time I'll Know (young adult fiction, 1981)
  • A Cooler Climate (adult novel, 1990)
  • Ghost Note (adult novel, 1992)
She also wrote short stories for popular magazines, including:
  • "Family Affair," Canadian Home Journal (Nov. 1957)
  • "The Innocents," McCall's (Aug. 1964)
  • "Trial by Night," Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (Jan. 1974)
  • "Accomplices," Alaska Quarterly Review (Fall/Winter 1985)

Louis Shumsky died on May 6, 1968, in New Jersey. Zena remarried in 1970 and was also known by her second married name, Zena Hampson. She lived a writing life and was a member of writers' groups and participated in writers' events. Described as a "small, pretty woman with a soft voice and a delightful English accent,"* Zena Feldman Shumsky Hampson died on October 5, 2016, in Rochester, New York. She was ninety years old.

*From the Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY), September 22, 1962, page 8.

I will write a Book Jacket Bio on the illustrator of Lou and Zena Shumky's book, Ernest Kurt Barth, in the next installment of this blog.

Original text copyright 2021 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Iris Owens (1929-2008)

Iris Owens was born Iris Klein on November 25, 1929, in Brooklyn, New York. Her father, Max Klein, was born in Austria. Klein was a professional gambler and his family's life unsettled as a result. In 1940, when the census enumerator found him, he was driving a fruit delivery truck. Iris' mother, named Rose, was a native of Russia and bore three children, of whom Iris was the youngest.

Iris Klein attended Barnard College and is supposed to have graduated from Brooklyn College. She was married twice before age thirty and divorced in pretty short order. She never again married and died without having any children of her own.

Iris moved to Paris in the 1950s and wrote or co-wrote five pornographic novels for Olympia Press under the name Harriet Daimler, what reviewer and novelist Herbert Gold called her nom de cochon ("pig name"). She returned to the United States in 1970 and took up residence again in New York City. Just two more books flowed from her pen, After Claude, from 1973, and Hope Diamond Refuses, from 1984. In 1975 she taught a creative writing workshop at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York. As the years went by, Iris Owens made fewer and fewer forays from her apartment. Late in life (or maybe not so late) she was, according to accounts, a shut-in. Even the New York Times failed to take note of her death, which came on May 20, 2008. Described during her life and afterwards as ageless, timelessly beautiful, even Junoesque in her stature and appearance, she was seventy-eight years old when the end came.

The narrator of After Claude is a young woman writer who has returned to New York after having lived in Paris. Her name--or maybe we can call it a meta-name--is Harriet Daimler. Herbert Gold (who is still with us) reviewed After Claude for the San Francisco Examiner (July 1, 1973, p. 188), writing: "Owens Qua Daimler [has] proved one of the most important triple-headed theses of modern times: That at one and the same time a woman writer can be (1) funny, (2) pornographic and (3) ladylike." The book is indeed funny--hilarious might be a better word for it--until it isn't anymore. Like Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth (1969), it is a funny book about serious things and ends in a kind of sadness and loss. Mr. Gold wrote: "This book dissolves finally in hysteria, the satire troubled by real pain, and the curious abandon at the end of the book adds a dimension of pathos which is against the principles of your standard black humorist."

I snapped this book up when I saw it because of the blurbs on the cover, because it is a fairly short novel (only 219 pages), but mostly because of the cover with its classic 1970s photo illustration and typography, more so because of the classic 1970s look of the cover model. The photographer is Neal Slavin, who is also still with us. I wonder if we'll ever know the name of his subject (although she looks a little or a lot like the actress Jenny O'Hara).

If you would like to read more about Iris Owens, try "Iris Owens: Wit of the Bitch," by Izabella Scott, by clicking hereA list of books by Iris Owens, from the website Wikipedia:

As Harriet Daimler:

  • Darling (1956)
  • The Pleasure Thieves, with Marilyn Meeske, who wrote under the pseudonym Henry Crannach (1956)*
  • Innocence (1957)
  • The Organization (1957)
  • Woman (reissued as The Woman Thing) (1958)

As Iris Owens:

  • After Claude (1973)
  • Hope Diamond Refuses (1984)

Iris Owens (1929-2008)

Original text copyright 2021 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Jane Werner (1915-2004) & Eloise Wilkin (1904-1987)


Nearly every American child from the 1940s to today knows and remembers Little Golden Books, a series that began as a joint venture between Simon and Schuster and Western Printing and Lithographing Company. The books in this series are and were loved and treasured, and they have sold millions of copies since their beginning in 1942.

Ten years later, Simon and Schuster published The Christmas Story, written by Jane Werner and illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. Jane Werner's prose and Eloise Wilkin's pictures are tender and sensitive and well suited to children. An example appears on the first page of The Christmas Story:

This is Mary, a girl of Galilee.

     She lived long years ago, but such a wonderful thing happened to her that we remember and love her still.

". . .we remember and love her still." The book and the story behind it are stories of love, joy, and devotion. The Christmas story, one of love, is also one that will never end.

Elsa Jane Werner was born on July 11, 1915, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin High School as salutatorian in 1931 and the University of Wisconsin in 1936. (One of her classmates was writer and biographer Maurice Zolotow.) Elsa Jane Werner taught English and social science in Sheboygan for a year. By 1939, she was working for Western Printing in Racine, Wisconsin, where she would go on to write scores of Little Golden Books, beginning with Noah's Ark in 1943. She was also an editor, and as her brief biography in The Christmas Story reads, she supervised the line of Golden Books from the Walt Disney Studio. In 1954, she married Earnest C. Watson (1892-1970), a very prominent physicist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The couple lived in Santa Barbara and in India. Jane Werner Watson survived her husband by more than a quarter of a century. She died on April 9, 2004, in Santa Barbara.

Eloise Wilkin was born Eloise Margaret Burns on March 30, 1904, in Rochester, New York. When she was toddler, her family moved to New York City. They moved back to Rochester when she was fifteen, and she graduated from Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute in 1923. She supported herself as a freelance artist in New York City for four years before marrying Sidney J. Wilkin (1899-1964) in 1930. "I was never driven to have a career," she said. "Family life was always my first interest," and so she stopped working full time as an artist in order to raise a family, which would eventually number four children and many grandchildren. (1)

In 1938, Eloise Wilkin's sister, Esther (sometimes spelled Ester) asked her to draw the pictures for a book she had written called Mrs. Peregrine and the Yak. It was Eloise's first children's book and the start of a new career that would carry her through to the end of her life. In 1944, she began illustrating books for Western Printing and had forty-seven titles in all for the company. Jane Werner Watson called her "the soul of Little Golden Books." (2) Eloise also designed dolls and counted Nikita Khrushchev among her fans. 

Eloise M. Burns Wilkin, a devout Christian, died on October 4, 1987, in Brighton, New York. Incidentally, her sister, author Esther M. Burns (1902-1985), married the brother of Sidney Wilkin, George A. Wilkin (1901-1987).


(1) Quoted in "Eloise Wilkin: A Portrait" in the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette (Lancaster, Ohio), December 15, 1979, page 9.

(2) Quoted by Eloise Wilkin's daughter, Deborah Wilkin Springett, in her introduction for Eloise Wilkin Stories (2005).

The fourth and fifth images shown above include depictions of Joseph, the patron saint of fathers. I show it here in the year that my own father has died. This will be our first Christmas without him. St. Joseph is also the patron of happy deaths. I can't say that my father's death was happy, but he died in his sleep, apparently at peace and without pain, and to join my mother, his wife, who went before him and perhaps prepared his way.

Merry Christmas


Happy New Year to All!

Copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Al Price (1924-1994)

Alvin Mefford Price was born on July 19, 1924, near Georgetown, Kentucky. His parents were Emerson Mefford (1882-1929), a sharecropping farmer, and Nellie B. (Johnson) Mefford (dates unknown). Alvin was the third of their seven children.

Alvin's father died when he was four years old. His mother tried to keep the family together, "[b]ut it was more than she could do," Alvin remembered. "My oldest brother was big enough to work on the land, so she kept him. Four of us were sent to the orphanage in Louisville. My name was Alvin Mefford when I went to the orphanage."

When he was in the fourth grade, Alvin was adopted by Mrs. Carrie Price, a school dietician, and her husband, a hotel janitor. He took their surname and became Alvin Mefford Price. He later shortened it to just Al Price.

Price first went to Louisville Central High School, then, when his family moved, to Northwestern High School in Detroit. He played tennis and basketball and served on the student council. He also won a National Scholastic award for a picture he had painted in his junior year. Price attended summer school every summer and graduated from high school in just three years.

World war came and in September 1943 Price enlisted in the U.S. Army. Recognizing his artistic talent, the army sent him to art school at McDill Field in Florida, then to Greenville Army Air Field in Greenville, Mississippi, where he and two other artists designed posters. Price was transferred to Hawaii, then to Guam, where he spent thirteen months before returning home to be separated in 1946. Price served another year in the army from July 1952 to July 1953.

As his biography in Haunted by a Paintbrush (above) says, Al Price studied at Wayne University (now Wayne State University) in Detroit, also at several art schools. He was an illustrator, painter, and muralist. In addition to appearing in many magazines, his paintings and drawings were and are in Illinois Negro History Makers (1969), at the Coleman Branch of the Chicago Public Library, and possibly also in the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, co-founded by his friend and associate Margaret Burroughs (1915-2010).

Price lived in Chicago for many years. In addition to his work as a commercial artist and fine artist, he was also a teacher, and he was deeply involved in the art scene in his adopted hometown, more specifically the art scene that included black artists Bernard Goss (1913-1966), Anna McCullough Tyler (1930-2009), Alfred J. "Al" Tyler (1933-2011), Vincent Saunders, Jr. (1916-2005), Benny Horton (dates unknown), and Sylvester Britton (1926-2009).

Al Price died on January 15, 1994, probably in Chicago. He was sixty-nine years old.

I found Al Price's autobiography Haunted by a Paintbrush: A True Story (1968) at a local secondhand store yesterday, and what a treasure it is--a treasure not only because of its smallness and its several pen-and-ink illustrations but also because it is a story for children about overcoming adversity and persevering in pursuit of one's dreams.

The images above are from that book. From top to bottom they are:

1. The front cover, which shows the artist in a double self-portrait, as an adult and as a child, with themes and motifs that reappear in the interior, the handmade hobby horse and the artist's easel.

2. An illustration showing Al Price in childhood with one of his sisters, possibly his older sister Sallie. The names on the wall are of his other siblings, Ella and Billy. Note the hobby horse and other homemade toys.

3. A biography of Al Price, prepared, I presume, by Margaret Friskey (1901-1995), editor of Childrens Press of Chicago and the person responsible for the publication of Haunted by a Paintbrush.

4. A photograph by Robert Vandiver of Al Price in his studio with one of his paintings. The painting is unidentified, but it has an obvious heroic quality. The man's slight dress, the manacle on his left wrist, and the shackle on his left ankle suggest that he is a slave now freed. It looks like he is casting down a round object, but what is it?

The self-portrait on the cover and the photograph both show Price with brushes in his right hand, but after badly injuring that hand in a fall from a scaffold, he had to learn to paint with his left hand, and that's what he did for more than half of his life.

I'm afraid I couldn't find any images of Al Price's paintings or murals on the Internet, and that's a shame. We shouldn't forget artists and their works. I'm happy to have this chance to remember Al Price and to show once again a little of his very fine artwork.

Original text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Carolyn Haywood (1898-1990)

Carolyn Haywood lived a very long life and wrote dozens of books beloved by children. She was born Mary Carolyn Haywood on January 3, 1898, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Charles and Mary Emma (Cook) Haywood. Her brother George Biddle Haywood, with whom she lived later in life, came along after her on October 2, 1901. (He also served in the U.S. Army during World War II.) Carolyn was an artist before she was a published author. She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and, as the book jacket bio above tells us, under three pupils of Howard Pyle, who was called the father of illustration in America. Her first book was B is for Betsy, published by Harcourt Brace in 1939. The book jacket bio here is from Back to School with Betsy, dedicated to her brother George and published in 1943. Late in life, Carolyn wrote several books about Christmas, including Merry Christmas from Betsy (1970), Merry Christmas from Eddie (1986), Santa Claus Forever! (1982), and How the Reindeer Saved Santa (1986). Carolyn Haywood died on January 11, 1990, a little more than a week after her ninety-second birthday.

Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, November 11, 2017

N. Roy Clifton (1909-1985)

Norman Roy Clifton was born on September 17, 1909, in Sheerness, Kent, England. His parents were Irish-born but lived in England. They emigrated in the census year of 1911 and were in Winnipeg, in the Province of Manitoba, in the Canadian census year of 1921. Mr. Clifton was on the move again during a census year in 1930, when he crossed from Canada into the United States. He was enumerated that year in Manhattan but was without employment in the first full year of the Great Depression. The book jacket biography above, from Mr. Clifton's book The Figure in Film (1983), gives the facts regarding his career. Educated in England, Winnipeg, and Auckland, New Zealand, N. Roy Clifton worked as a lawyer, educator, and librarian. He was also keenly interested in theater, film, and square dancing. According to a source on the Internet, Clifton taught geography at Richmond Hill High School, presumably in Richmond Hill, Ontario, in the 1950s and '60s. According to that same source, he died in 1985

In addition to being a poet and an author of non-fiction, Mr. Clifton wrote a children's novel called The City Beyond the Gates, illustrated by Tibor Kovalik and published by Scholastic-TAB Publications in 1977. It's an odd book and written in an odd way. The language, imagery, and themes are are a mix of the poetic, allegorical, dreamy, fabulous, absurdist, and surrealistic. It is in fact a dystopian novel, an unusual genre for children. It must surely be one of the earliest books of its kind written specifically for children. By the way, the illustrator, Tibor Kovalik, was born in 1935 in what was then Czechoslovakia. He emigrated to Canada in 1968 and has worked as an artist, art director, and art teacher. You can find his self-titled website at this link:

Updated November 13, 2018
Original text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley