Thursday, March 28, 2013

Alanson B. Hewes: Book Illustrator and WWII GI

Council on Books in Wartime logo scanned from the copyright page of the book Report from Red China (1945).
The Council on Books in Wartime had a very charming logo (it reminds me of that 1943 Warner Brothers cartoon where Daffy Duck dive-bombs a villainous vulture). One use for the council’s book-toting eagle was on the title pages of books printed during the war. I haven't seen where else it might have been used, but I imagine it was printed on letterhead, business cards, etc. The words, “Books are weapons in the war of ideas” were developed by W. W. Norton (founder of the book publisher). There’s a story surrounding this slogan that deserves its own future post.

The official history of the CBW conveniently named the artist behind the design: “The Information Committee secured the services, gratis, of Alanson Hewes, who designed the Council’s colophon.” I wanted to learn more about Alanson’s career, so I started a Google search. Unfortunately, the only things that turned up were five books that he had illustrated: The Yankee Cook Book, published by Coward-McCann (1939); The Martha Washington Cook Book, published by James Direct, Inc. (1940); Songs of American Folks, published by The John Day Company* (1942); The Lady and the Painter, published by Coward-McCann (1951); and McKay's Guide to Africa, published by David McKay (1954).
Alanson Hewes’ illustration for the Poultry and Game chapter in The New England Yankee Cookbook (1940).

You might notice that there was a nine-year gap between the third and fourth books. I discovered that this was partly because he was drafted into the Army in December 1943. I found Alanson’s enlistment record on the National Archives site. I know for sure that it’s him, because his civilian job was listed as “Artists, sculptors, and teachers of art”. We also see that he was a resident of New York, NY (which makes sense since he worked in publishing). Many of the National Archives’ personnel records for WWII were lost during a 1973 warehouse fire, so we’re not likely to find out where he served during the war. Hewes was 38 years old when he was drafted (an old man by Army standards), so I doubt that he was put in front-line combat.

I was hoping to find a period article or even an obituary that would offer more of a biography, but the enlistment record and his book illustrations will have to do.

Alanson Hewes’ illustration for the Cider Champagne recipe in The New England Yankee Cookbook (1940).

Cover illustration from Songs of American Folks (1942).
Cover illustration from Songs of American Folks (1942).

*The founder of The John Day Company was Richard J. Walsh, Pearl S. Buck’s husband.

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