|Poster featuring the VBC's eagle trademark designed by Clarence P. Hornung.
Image from The University of Illinois library.
In 1942 and 1943 the Victory Book Campaign collected millions of donated books to give to American troops entering the war. To research the VBC, one of the first things I did was find a copy of the organization's annual report. The following quote appeared in a paragraph about coverage in the media:
"The flying eagle with his bundle of books was widely used, some papers carrying it and its V.B.C. message daily throughout the campaign. This was a most successful symbol and a superior design made for the committee by Clarence Hornung, America's leading artist in the field."
As a graphic designer I was immediately interested in this Hornung guy. Why had I never heard of "America's leading artist in the field"? A search on Google didn't turn up much. I found a couple blogs with short posts about Hornung. From these I learned that he designed logos for many of the top book publishers and book printers of the day.
|Clarence Hornung sketching logos for Richfield Oil Company in his 47th Street Manhattan studio.
Photo from my collection.
|The faded spine of my copy of Hornung's 1930 book Trade-marks. Unfortunately, my copy is missing its dust jacket.
|Spread from Trade-marks featuring logos for publisher Farrar & Rinehart.
|Detail of page showing Hornung's logo for Maple Press Company. If you are in publishing you'll recognize this printer my it's current name of Maple Vail. Also note the debossed border.
|Cover of Harnung's
"These trade-mark emblems are the simplest and most forceful means by which an association of ideas can be presented to the public. ...The recurring symbol, so thoroughly American in its characteristics, becomes a bull's eye of thought and action, hitting squarely, fiercely. Let us have more direct knock-out blows whether these be on the battle front or the home front. Let our propaganda efforts be representative of the best available advertising genius."
|Spread from wartime self-promo booklet featuring Hornung's logos designed for government organizations.
I should mention here that in the 1940s "propaganda" wasn't the dirty word that it is now. It was merely the propagation of ideas. These days the same efforts go by the friendlier terms of "public relations" or "marketing".
More About the Man:
Clarence P. Hornung (1899–1997) had an impressive design career, yet he is all but unknown today. The son of German immigrants, he was born and raised in Manhattan. During the first world war he was a lieutenant in the US Army, training military students in Stateside. After the war he returned to College of the City of New York to study advertising and commercial art. He worked in-house at an unnamed advertising firm for less than a year when he left to start his own business. In his short autobiography he wrote about becoming a freelancer. As a solo designer myself, I can appreciate his sentiments:
"...I felt encouraged to venture on my own, confident that my ability and youthful enthusiasm would see me through any rough period. ...no one had warned of the uphill struggle which could be either 'feast' or 'famine' when commissions could not be counted on with any degree of regularity."
Hornung's biography includes the text from his first business announcement, which he issued in 1923. I quite like the way this self-promotion is worded:
"Having returned from his wedding trip the artist (Clarence Pearson Hornung) is pleased to announce that he is prepared to accept whatever commissions his patrons or patrons-to-be may entrust to his care for the designing of magazine and newspaper advertising, fine books, brochures and catalogs."
Over the decades Hornung produced a wide variety of works. He engraved decorative borders. He designed typefaces, including a monospace face for IBM's first electric typewriter. He was a design consultant for Coca-Cola. He designed automobile ads and sales catalogs for for Rolls-Royce, Packard, and Locomobile. Of great interest to me, Hornung also wrote about his work in book design:
"The field of book publishing offered many opportunities for me: the design of the complete book, publishers' colophons and especially bookbinding design. One commission, I recall, gave me particular joy as it presented the opportunity to decorate covers of the Encyclopedia Britannica's 14th edition issued in 1929."
If Clarence Hornung had a specialty it was logo design:
"Since 1915 when I received my first commission as a youngster it has been estimated that I have drawn about five hundred trade-marks in great variety including commercial marks and logotypes, personal signets, monograms, printer's devices, publisher's colophons, association emblems, university seals and private press marks."
Hornung authored multiple books, which were collections of historic graphics. He drew great "personal satisfaction" from these pet projects. Today's graphic designers might be familiar with Handbook of Designs and Devices, which was first published in 1946 and is still available from Dover Publications.
In studying the Victory Book Campaign logo my initial goal was to offer some insight into marketing the WWII program to the public. Having been impressed by Hornung's career, I hope that my post will also help illuminate the accomplishments this forgotten personality of graphic design.
"Clarence Hornung, The Master of Marks" on Letterology blog.
"Printer, Publisher, Typographer, etc. Trademarks Designed by Clarence P. Hornung" on Lux Mentis Booksellers blog.
Cabarga, Leslie. Logo, Font & Lettering Bible. HOW Design Books. Cincinnati, 2004.
"Eagles Added to At Museum..." The Citizen Advertiser. Auburn, NY, August 11, 1943.
Hornung, Clarence P. Boyhood Days in New York, 1992.