Wednesday, August 7, 2019

A camouflaged cure for a morning hangover

Below This camouflage cartoon by American artist Walter Hoban (1890-1939) was featured in his comic strip Jerry on the Job. It was published in the Oregon Daily Journal (Portland OR) on August 16, 1917.

A CAMOUFLAGE DRINK in the Times-Tribune (Scranton PA) on December 11, 1917—

Making the morning after seem like the night before is the mission of the camouflage, the newest drink. Camouflage, as every student of the war knows, means "making things seem what they ain't." Thus the camouflage looks like a glass of milk, but has the far different effect so much desired on cold, gray mornings. In a word it is a "pick me up" that no man need blush to order after he gets into his working clothes. It is composed as follows: One-half jigger of apple brandy, a half jigger of dry gin, white of an egg, tablespoon of cream and a pinch of powdered sugar. The mixing glass should then be filled with cracked ice, the contents shaken well and strained into a small tumbler. Take two of these and, it is said, one hears sweet music; three and one grabs the next ship for the land of hot dogs, limburger and sauerkraut to take a wallop at the kaiser.


CAMOUFLAGE in the Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer (Bridgeport CT) on October 13, 1917—

If I could use war tactics,
Said the football player fellow,
I'd camouflage the pigskin
By painting it bright yellow;
We'd then fool our opponents,
And win the game hands high,
'Cause they'd think we had a pumpkin
And were going to make a pie.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Chicago camouflage artist's wife held for shoplifting

Above World War I-era embedded figure puzzle as published in the St Joseph Daily Press (St Joseph MO), April 16, 1915. Artist unknown.


FINDS MISSING WIFE IS HELD AS SHOPLIFTER in Sioux City Journal (Sioux City IA), April 25, 1922—

Chicago, April 24—A three days' search for a missing wife ended when her husband discovered her in the house of correction serving a 10 days' sentence as a shoplifter.

The women is Mrs. Lilian Norman, 22. Her husband, Frank, is well known as a professional skater, having appeared in the College Inn and other places of entertainment. He is also a commercial painter and during the war was a camouflage artist.

They were married a year and a half ago, and until a month ago they resided in Kansas, which state was the birthplace and home of Mrs. Norman. Four weeks ago they came to Chicago. 

Norman believes his wife innocent of the charge of taking a piece of cloth. He says some professional shoplifter, near capture, thrust it in her handbag.

Brokerage proclivities applied to auto camouflage

Ambulance camouflage in New York (1918)
Harry K. Taylor was a college-age, self-assured scion from Hartford CT, who described himself as “a man with brokerage proclivities and tobacco-raising tendencies.” Having volunteered for service in World War I, a lengthy ordeal was required before it was determined in which capacity he should serve (he eventually ended up at a wartime secretary for the YMCA). He reported this in disdainful detail in three Sunday installments in the Hartford Courant, the first one on July 14, 1918, titled ON THE FIRING LINE WITH A HARTFORD YMCA SECRETARY. Here is a brief excerpt that describes his short-lived lame attempt at vehicle camouflage

Then someone thought up a simple job, that of camouflaging a Ford. I had no overalls but applied and was accepted. Camouflage is so perfectly ridiculous and the paint is applied in such a haphazard fashion that even a college professor or a minister can do that. I turned my attenuated uniform inside out and tackled the car with teeth gritted. Some days later I encountered this car in Tours, not on tour, and felt so ashamed of its appearance that I wanted to hide behind a cathedral. It would have mortified a Cubist or Futurist.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Cartoonist Cliff Sterrett | Camouflage Catastrophe

Below This camouflage cartoon by American artist Cliff Sterrett (1883-1964) was featured in a comic strip series called Polly and Her Pals. It was published in the Bridgeport Telegram (Bridgeport CT) on September 26, 1918.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Cartoonist Walter Hoban | Jerry's Dog is Camouflaged

Below This camouflage cartoon by American artist Walter Hoban (1890-1939) was featured in a comic strip series called Jerry on the Job. It was published in the South Bend News Times (South Bend IN), July 28, 1917.

Monday, July 29, 2019

WWI Cartoon Search for Slackers and Draft Dodgers

Above This camouflage-themed cartoon was distributed in the US by the Bell Syndicate. It appeared in the Pottsville Republican (Pottsville PA), January 31, 1918. The signature is less than clear, but it was probably created by a California-based cartoonist named Edmund Waller Gale Jr. (1884-1975).

Friday, July 19, 2019

Camouflage Artist | John Dwight Bridge

Portrait of a Lady in a Red Dress by J. Dwight Bridge (n.d.)
J(ohn) Dwight Bridge was born on December 9, 1893, in St. Louis MO, where his family was socially prominent, wealthy and influential. His ancestors had been among the founders of Washington University. Having moved from Walpole MA to St. Louis, his family “made a fortune” from the railroad and the manufacture of cast-iron stoves.

Dwight attended a prestigious private school in Pawling NY. He then went on to study art at the Art Students League in New York, where he worked with painter, muralist and interior designer Albert Herter, whose father had co-founded the Herter Brothers interior design firm in New York, and whose son was Christian Herter, Secretary of State in the Eisenhower administration.

In 1917, having returned to St. Louis, Bridge announced his intention to “give up his career in art to enter the Episcopal ministry.” But when the US entered World War I, he decided instead to enlist as a camouflage artist. In September 1918, when the US Army formed its first camouflage unit, he was among the first to enlist, along with fellow artists Barry Faulkner (Abbott H. Thayer’s cousin), Sherry E. Fry, William Twigg-Smith from Hawaii, and Everit Herter (son of Albert Herter), who had only recently married.

Appointed Sergeant Major (and soon after First Lieutenant), Bridge was the highest-ranking non-commissioned officer of the group. He shared a tent with the unit’s leading commissioned officer, Lieutenant Homer Saint-Gaudens, the son of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the celebrated American sculptor. After months of training at Camp American University in Washington DC, the camouflage unit (officially known as Company A of the 40th Engineers) departed for France at the end of December 1918. In the subsequent months at the front, two members of the unit died in action, including Everit Herter, who was killed at Chateau-Thierry. Following the war, Bridge lived in Paris, then resettled in New York.

In 1918, five weeks before her husband's death, Everit Herter's wife had given birth to a son named Everit Herter Jr., who never saw his father. Around 1920, Dwight Bridge relocated to Santa Barbara CA, where his former teacher Albert Herter had established a new permanent studio at his mother’s former estate, called El Mirasol. Bridge married Everit Herter’s widow, Caroline Keck Herter, and thus became the stepfather of Everit Herter Jr. In July 1919, the Herters’ second son, named Albert, died in Santa Barbara at the age of two years and ten months. In their early years of marriage, Dwight Bridge and Caroline Herter Bridge became parents of two of their own sons, Matthew and John Jr.

J. Dwight Bridge (c1933)
In the 1920s, Bridge’s marriage fell apart. After several years of estrangement, he and his wife obtained a divorce in 1933. At about the same time, Bridge’s father died in St Louis, and he was slated to receive an inheritance of about $100,000 (worth nearly two million dollars today). In newspaper interviews, he revealed that he would refuse to accept it, saying that “an inheritance is more of a hindrance than a help.” Instead, he gave the money to his former wife and their children, and announced that henceforth he would survive as what he called a “vagabond” or “hobo”  artist.

He decided to hitchhike somewhat aimlessly around the country (his travels would take him as far as Japan and China) all the time earning his living by painting portraits. Carrying few possessions and almost no money, he began his trek in Salina KS, “the geological center of the United States.” According to a 1933 newspaper story (of which there were many, since his story was rightly regarded as odd, even bizarre), having arrived at Salina at 9:30 in the evening, he “laid all his money—30 cents—and his half-filled package of cigarettes down on the station platform, buried his wedding ring and, although it was night, immediately began a search for employment. He was 40 years old.” He was allowed to sleep in jail that night, and, in the morning, began to hitchhike west, earning his meals and lodging by various means. He was, he explained to reporters, “a man from the East, without any funds, a painter who could whitewash fences and paint doors, portraits or murals.”

The news stories bore fruit. After trading pencil portraits of meals, he was soon receiving commissions for portrait painting. The first was for $200, but he gradually raised the price to $500. On his trip to Japan, where he had eight commissions, he stopped over in Hawaii to see his former fellow camoufleur, William Twigg-Smith, whose relatives owned the newspaper there. From Hawaii, he flew back to the US mainland, then resettled in New York, while also continuing to travel around, from city to city, painting portraits of the rich in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Dayton OH, San Francisco, Palm Beach, Colorado Springs, and elsewhere.

In a 1946 article in the Palm Beach Post, there is a pencil portrait of US Navy Captain Martin L. Marquette, who was then the commanding officer of the Naval Special Hospital (about to be closed) in Palm Beach. The drawing, the article explains, “is the work of J. Dwight Bridge, portrait artist and veteran of both World War I and II, to whom the closing of the hospital will signal a return to civilian life. During the past few months, while recuperating at the hospital, Mr. Bridge as part of his rehabilitation work has got his hand back in sketching by doing 90 portraits of the staff and patients at the hospital...During the war [WWII] he engaged in camouflage work in the AAF [Army Air Force] along similar lines he followed for the engineers in the previous war.”

Three years earlier, one of the Bridges’ sons, John Dwight Bridge Jr, (born 1920), had been killed in action while serving with the US Navy in the Mediterranean.

John Dwight Bridge Sr. died in Palm Beach FL on October 22, 1974.



Evelyn Burke, “‘Hobo Artist’ Paints Society Folk But He Doesn’t Like Money” in Pittsburgh Press, May 2, 1935.

“Capt. M.L. Marquette” in Palm Beach Post (Palm Beach FL), February 3, 1946.

Helen Clanton, “Hitch-Hiking as a Form of Service” in St. Louis Globe Democrat, January 13, 1936.

“Noted Artist Says Fighting Elements Provides More Thrills Than Many Sports” in Dayton Daily News (Dayton OH), April 15, 1936.

“St. Louisan in Camouflage Unit of US Army Home” In St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 15, 1919, p. 5.

“St. Louisan Who Paid Way Around World as Painter and Portrait He Made” in St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 19, 1933.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Camouflage Artist | Stephen Jerome Hoxie

Above (and in additional photos below) USS Henderson, painted in a camouflage scheme designed by Stephen J. Hoxie (c1918).


Stephen Jerome Hoxie (1895-1981) was born in Warwick RI in 1895. He studied art at the Rhode Island School of Design for two and a half years. He commonly signed his paintings as S. Jerome Hoxie. He is sometimes mistakenly cited as Stanley Jerome Hoxie.

He married Jessie Isabella Sanders about 1920. They had three children: Jean Maybell, Jerome Ward and Joseph Sanders. According to an online post by one of his descendants, he abandoned his wife and children “on an island off Martha’s Vineyard in 1926.” Somewhat later, he married again.

Earlier, during World War I, he had worked with the US Navy and the Emergency Shipping Board in the development of camouflage for merchant ships. There is a label on a lantern slide belonging to Everett L. Warner (who oversaw the artists at the Design Subsection of the Navy’s Camouflage Section) that states that Stephen Hoxie designed the camouflage for the USS Henderson. That he worked with Warner is also confirmed by a news article in The Evening Post Magazine (New York) in 1919, which lists Hoxie as one of the artists who assisted Warner.

In online notes about his life, it is commonly stated that “He did a study of color at the Eastman Kodak Research Laboratory.” If true, this may have taken place during the war, while he was a camoufleur. While the Design Subsection was in Washington DC, there was also a Research Subsection at the Eastman laboratory in Rochester NY (staffed mostly by physicists, not by artists). He may have researched color there.

After the war, during the Depression era, Hoxie was hired by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) to make detailed colored gouache paintings (for the purpose of documentation) of examples of clay vessels and other craft artifacts, as part of a government project called the Index of American Design. He seems to have made around 82 of these, some of which are now housed in the archives of the National Gallery of Art, and can be accessed online. These are signed and dated, c1935-1936. Other works are said to be in the Mystic Seaport Museum.

Stephen J. Hoxie painting for Index of American Design (1936)

He illustrated at least two books: Jessie Weems Brown, Stonington Cooks and Cookery (Pequot Press, 1949), and History of East Greenwich, Rhode Island 1677-1960 (1960). He also designed a series of at least eight illustrated maps of various Connecticut counties, as published by the CT League of Women Voters in 1934 and 1935. A portion of his map for Hartford County was reproduced in the Hartford Daily Courant in 1935. The article notes that “S. Jerome Hoxie of Mystic did the pen and ink sketching and lettering, working first with a pencil under a microscope…”

Stephen J. Hoxie illustrated map (c1935) detail 

In 1966, a highway observation site on Interstate 95, near Mystic CT, was named in his honor and is now officially known as the Hoxie Scenic Overlook.

He died in Stonington CT in 1961.

“New Field for Camoufleurs” in The Evening Post Magazine (New York), May 24, 1919, p. 3.
 “Historic Highlights of State Recorded on Pleasing Maps” in Hartford Daily Courant (Hartford CT), May 26, 1935.
 “Hoxie Overlook” in Hartford Courant (Hartford CT), July 8, 1967.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Despoiled ship shape: only a seagull fouls a deck

Above World War I-era photograph of dock workers loading an unidentified dazzle-painted ship, c1918.


CAMOUFLAGE in the Sydney Morning Herald (AU), Tuesday, August 19, 1941, p. 6ff.—

…There is a story of one naval officer who, when the painting of the decks of his ship was proposed, turned indignantly on the camoufleur, saying: "What, foul the teak of my decks! Only a seagull has the right to that, sir." 


GLOOM DISPELLERS: Camouflage in Rockland County Times (Rockland County NY), April 6, 1918—

Officer Ford found a man clothed in pajamas promenading on Sharp Street at two o'clock the other morning.

On being accosted the man was startled, and then explained that he was a somnambulist.

"I don't care a #%## what your religion is," said the Chief, "you can't go around wearing them kind o' duds."


STORIES OF INTEREST: A Cubist Puzzle in the Los Angeles Herald. November 12, 1917—

The wife of a well known cubist artist was returning from Spain to France. The customs officer opened her baggage and discovered a remarkable canvas. The picture appeared to represent a collection of old iron, which had been strongly colored. The officer gazed with astonishment, mingled with suspicion, at the work of art. "That's my portrait," said the lady coldly. "Never!" returned her examiner. "That must be the plan of a submarine or airplane." An engineer as expert was called. He looked at the masterpiece for a long time and turned it round and round. Finally, he said, "It is possibly a machine, but it will not explode." On this the lady was allowed to depart.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Achtung! Beware of another camouflaged dog!

Above This is the cover page of the inaugural issue of a German satirical magazine called Kladderadatsch. It was founded 1848 in Berlin by David Kalisch and Albert Hofmann. There is a story (true or not) that Kalisch and the magazine's staff were having dinner one evening, in part to reach an agreement about the name for the magazine.

During dinner, a dog knocked over a stack of plates, at the sound of which someone at the table said "Kladderadatsch!" which is the German sound for "Crash!" Kalisch loved it (one wonders if he was inspired by the French magazine Le Charivari, meaning "street noise" and/or The London Charivari) and decided to use that expression as the magazine's name.

In the top center of the cover is a drawing of a smiling boy (see below) by Wilhelm Scholz, in which, in tribute to the noisy dog, there is a drawing of the dog hidden (camouflaged, embedded) in the boy's cheek to the left of his nose. That same drawing continued to be on the cover for forty years.

Find the hidden dog
See also: Bevis Hillier, Cartoons and Caricatures. London: Studio Vista, 1970.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

WWI Camouflage Artist | Bror Julius Olsson Nordfeldt

B.J.O Nordfeldt (c1900)
Above One of my favorite photographs is a portrait of Swedish-born American artist Bror Julius Olsson Nordfeldt, ca. 1900 / unidentified photographer. Bror Julius Olsson (B.J.O.) Nordfeldt papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Nordfeldt designed ship camouflage for the US Shipping Board during World War I, in San Francisco. He was a fascinating character, with an all but unbelievable range of interests and capabilities. The newspaper article below provides an account of the wartime camouflage work he did with William Penhallow Henderson, Maynard Dixon, A. Sheldon Pennoyer, Edgar Walter and others.


SHIP CAMOUFLAGE in Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque NM). January 12, 1919—

Most delightful as well as instructive was the talk on “Ship Camouflage,” given by William Penhallow Henderson at the new museum [New Mexico Museum of Art in Albuquerque] on Tuesday evening before a really distinguished audience that included Lieutenant Governor and Mrs. [Benjamin] Pankey and other state officials, playwrights, poets, painters, scientists, educators and the social set. Col. Ralph E. Twitchell presided and cleverly introduced the speaker who illustrated his talk with the model of a camouflaged ship made by [Bror Julius Olsson] Nordfeldt, and with blackboard drawings. Mr. Henderson and Mr. Nordfeldt had been in charge of the work of camouflaging the ships on the Pacific coast at San Francisco and shipyards north and were so successful in developing the technique and devising patterns that their work became standard for the rest of the country. It was a significant statement that up to two weeks before the signing of the armistice not one ship camouflaged according to the method adopted was sunk. Mr. Henderson described how the first theory adopted, that of low visibility, proved unsatisfactory because of its limited application. It was followed by a brief period of experiments with a transition method of “impressionism,“ which was succeeded by the successful “cubist” or “distortion” patterns. Four basic patterns for that method were adopted on the Pacific coast, a combination of several of these being developed into the most successful patterns by Mr. Nordfelt and Mr. Henderson. The latter described how practical steps were taken to save the government large sums on paint and labor developing an efficiency which permitted them to accomplish with three men what it elsewhere took sixty to do. It was explained that the enemy submarine made three observations in order to get the range for the torpedo, these observations being taken at a distance of from 2,000 yards to several miles. For the last and nearest observation only eight seconds, at the most, were available to the submarine observation officer and if he was deceived by the camouflage pattern as to the location of his third sighting point, the location of the vitals of the ship and its superstructure, then the object for which the ship was camouflaged was attained for the torpedo was certain to go wild or at the most would strike only such portion of the ship as was amply protected by bulkheads. Mr. Henderson made his talk doubly interesting by the relation of incidents at the shipyards and detailed explanations of the science of camouflage which gave his listeners a far different idea than most of them had formed by casual reading.

Below William Penhallow Henderson and his wife, the writer and editor Alice Corbin. While they were living in Chicago, she was an associate editor for Poetry Magazine, while he was commissioned by Frank Lloyd Wright to design murals for Midway Gardens. He also designed the scenery for an innovative Chicago-based stage production of Alice in Wonderland.* In 1916, when it was determined that his wife Alice had tuberculosis, they moved to Santa Fe NM. After the US entered the war in 1917, Henderson began to work on ship camouflage in San Francisco.

* A dramatic screenplay script rendering of Alice in Wonderland by Alice Gerstenberg; Actress Vivian Tobin; copyright A. C. McClurg & Co., Chicago 1915, Produced by The Players Producing Company of Chicago (Aline Barnsdall and Arthur Bissell), at the Fine Arts Theater, Chicago, 2/11/1915. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Canine Stealth | Can you find the cubidachshund?

Can you find the cubist dog?
Above This is one of a series of cubist-themed puzzles that were published in the San Francisco Sunday Call during 1913. This network of lines was published on the entertainment page on May 26, with a challenge to the readers to "find the cubidog" and, more specifically, to "find a cubidachshund" by filling in a certain number of shapes. The solution (posted below) was revealed the following Sunday. This is an embedded figure puzzle, of course, a variant of camouflage. But this example predates World War I, and "camouflage" was not yet an English word. Instead, this is a spin-off from the famous Armory Show which opened in New York in early 1913. It was the American public's first introduction to Cubism. More>>>

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Dazzle Camouflage Picture Puzzle

Cartoon Puzzle, East Hampton Star, February 22, 1929, p. 5

WWI Ship Camouflage Artist | Arthur Turnbull Hill

USS West Zula (1918)
In 1918, The East Hampton Star (East Hampton, Long Island NY) announced its plan to publish a list of residents who were serving in World War I. Among those who replied was an artist named Arthur Trumbull Hill (1868-1929), who had already been employed as a civilian “camofleur” [sic] for several months. He welcomed the opportunity, he said—

to give you some idea—no detailed description is allowable—of the unique and important work the Navy and Shipping Board have done in Marine Camouflage since the United States entered the war.

This was published as a Letter to the Editor on the front page on October 18, 1918. He went on to say—

Everyone, of course, has by this time, seen some of the camouflage ships, but few know that these remarkable, and frequently very handsome, cubistic looking productions in line and color, are the result of a carefully defined system adopted by our navy and only after the most exhaustive tests, and that the designs, far from being a hit or miss proposition, are most carefully worked out and elaborated [in] almost infinite variety under the immediate direction of artists employed solely for this purpose by the Federal Government. In fact, the personnel of the Navy and Marine Camouflage Departments include some of the most talented artists in America.

In signing his letter, Hill listed his affiliation as USSB, EFC—for US Shipping Board, Emergency Fleet Corporation. In other words, he was working for the civilian branch of wartime camouflage, which itself was overseen by the US Navy. In December 1918, four of his paintings were included in an exhibition in New York of war-related art, titled the Allied War Salon. His exhibited works were titled “Camouflage at Robins Dry Dock,” “Camouflaged Ships at Erie Basin,” “Camouflage on the Mystic River,” and “Leaving for Providence.”

These works and those of fourteen others were included in a section in which the artists were described as “Marine Camoufleurs of the US Shipping Board, Second District.” This is the same district (based in New York) for which William Andrew Mackay was the Chief Civilian Camoufleur. The other camoufleurs were Spencer B. Nichols, Hobart Nichols, Alonzo Kimball, Alfred Huty, George E. Harris, Hubert R. Chapin, Henry Davenport, Harry Farlow, Thomas D. Benrimo, Ralph T. Willis, Carol M. Sax, M. McGregor Jamieson, Alon Bement, and George Wright.

Arthur Trumbull Hill died in Brooklyn NY in 1929. Five years later, there was a memorial exhibition of his artwork at the South Gallery, Guild Hall in East Hampton. The majority of the exhibited works were from his wife’s collection. She also wrote the catalog introduction, which included the following statement—

In this collection, as a matter now of historical interest are several pictures of camouflaged ships which my husband painted when he served as a camoufleur in the marine camouflage in the World War.

USS Major Wheeler (1918)
USS Major Wheeler (1918) second view



A.E. Gallatin, Allied War Salon. Exhibition catalog. New York: American Art Galleries, 1918.

Arthur Turnbull Hill, in National Cyclopedia of American Biography.

Hill, Arthur T. A.T. HILL, CAMOFLEUR. Letter to the Editor. The East Hampton Star (East Hampton NY). October 18, 1918, p. 1.

Local News: MEMORIAL SHOWING OF WORK OF A.T. HILL AT GUILD HALL. The East Hampton Star (East Hampton NY). July 19, 1934, p. 5.

Note The ship photographs on this post are intended merely as examples of WWI dazzle ship camouflage. They may not have any connection with Arthur T. Hill.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Camouflage Artist | Iowa Artist Halleck J. Finley

Halleck J. Finley (c1944)
Above A magazine photograph of American artist and photographer Halleck J. Finley in the 1940s, at which time he was an advertising artist, photographer and art director in New York. During World War I, he had served in France as a US Army camoufleur.


Finley was born in 1895 in Knoxville IA. He was the son of a school administrator named S.J. Finley, who had moved from Quaker City OH to serve as the school superintendent in Knoxville and Oskaloosa IA. The family apparently also lived in Waterloo IA, as well as in Indianapolis IN, where Halleck graduated from high school. He studied at John Herron Art Institute of Art in Indianapolis for two years, until his family moved to Hollywood CA, where he continued to study art and design. His brother, Harold M. Finley, had joined the editorial staff of The Los Angeles Times in 1909. Around 1915, Halleck Finley began to work for the advertising section of the same newspaper, while still attending classes in the evenings.

In 1916, he was hired as a scenic artist to work on the production of Joan the Woman, an important early silent film, directed by Cecil B. DeMille and produced by Jesse Lasky, with Geraldine Farrar in the role of Joan of Arc. Soon after the US entered the war in 1917, DeMille was appointed to a government committee whose purpose was “to mobilize the theatrical profession for war work.” DeMille’s particular duties, the article continues, “will be to take charge of the recruiting for the camouflage companies.”
Halleck J. Finley in 1917

In 1917 (perhaps at DeMille's suggestion), Halleck Finley and another young artist, a scenic designer named David E. Taylor, volunteered to join the army as camouflage specialists. According to The LA Times, Finley “was the first man to be recruited to this branch of the service in Southern California.” The two men were trained at Camp American University in Washington DC, in preparation for serving in France.

Camp American University (Washington DC)

While in France, excerpts from wartime letters to his family were sometimes published in The LA Times. But they offer little insight into his involvement in camouflage. As an article in that paper surmised—

Whether the censor had deleted passages telling of the camouflage work of the corps at the front, or whether the actual work of making the Germans think a big gun is only a fallen tree has not yet begun, the letters tell of no particular doings yet of the camoufleurs.


Harry A. Williams, MISSOULA MIKE A COLONEL: At Least that is What Every One Calls the Marine Philosopher, in Los Angeles Times, May 27, 1919—

[Williams describes a postwar conversation at the Times Building with a returned US Army veteran, known as Missoula Mike, who had served in France with Halleck Finley. Finley has returned from the war to work at the newspaper, and Mike recognizes him from across the room.] “See that guy with the pensive face humped over a drawin’ desk in Boss Dodge’s department. If that ain’t Halleck Finley who was over there with our camoufleurs, I’m a poor guesser.”

Mike crossed the editorial room for a closer look, and the mutual recognition was plain to the naked ear…

“Last time I saw Finley before this was up in the Argonne. The camouflage boys, at least some of ‘em, when not engaged camouflaging the trenches, roads, barracks an’ one thing an’ another was paintin’ pictures along the front. In other words, they was engaged in picklin’ a world war in oil. Crawlin’ out of the brush one day I comes on Finley all humped up in a shell hole drawing a life-like picture of a battle. About that time a small shell hits in a bucket of red paint an’ splatters it all over the canvas. That gave Finley an idea. Instead of notin’ what a close call he had, he simply remarks that the next time he wants to produce a likeness of a great battle he’s simply goin’ to drop a hand grenade in a bucket of red paint, an’ let the explosion do the rest.”


After returning to Los Angeles c1919, Finley worked for a number of years as a free-lance designer and illustrator. During the mid-1920s, he worked in collaboration with his artist wife, Frances (Mudge) Finley, whom he married in November 1923. They had two children, a son (possibly Harold) and a daughter (Eliza Lee Petofi, born Finley), but the marriage appears to have ended. While working as an art director and illustrator, Halleck Finley “continued to do his own work and many leading advertising accounts boasted Finley color paintings in their ads.”

Halleck Finley magazine illustration

Over time, he became increasingly interested in the possibilities of creating illustrations, not by painting and drawing from photographic image sources, but by using photographs themselves as illustrations. Finley moved to New York, where he was hired by McCall’s magazine to use photographs to illustrate fiction.

In the June 1944 issue of Popular Photography, Finley published an article titled “What’s the Matter with Amateurs?”  in which he characterized amateur photographers as sloppy, undisciplined and preoccupied with gadgets (they were amateurs!). The article caused an uproar, which prompted the magazine to run a lengthy follow-up feature in the August issue, titled “What’s the Matter with Halleck Finley? The Amateurs Answer Back with Pro and Con Letters to the Editor.” In one of those letters, a reader asked (apparently aware of Finley’s Midwest origins) “Where did you see that sloppy print you write about? In Muddy Creek, Iowa?”


In 1975, when Halleck Finley was 80 years old, he called the office of The LA Times, "asking for rights to reprint a piece he did in 1919, soon after he left the army camouflage forces at the end of World War I." Art Seidenbaum, the journalist who spoke with him, went on to talk to him at length about his feelings about growing old. The columnist continues—

We started to talk about old times—his—and how he'd lived in New York and Mexico and parts everywhere during the intervening years. "I never liked old people," he said, "until I woke up one day and found out I was one of them."

There is no mention of where Finley was living at the time of the phone conversation. But he continued on for twelve more years and died in Austin TX in 1987.


ABANDONS NEWSPAPER WORK TO ENTER ARMY.  Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1917.

ANGELOS TO GO AS CAMOUFLEURS. Youths Leave for East to Aid in New Division, in Los Angeles Times, September 23, 1917.

CAMOUFLAGE FROM PICTURE STUDIOS. Los Angeles Times, September 22, 1917.

IOWAN WITH "CAMOUFLEURS": Halleck J. Finley, Now of Los Angeles, Accepted in Engineering Corps, in Marshalltown Evening Times Republican (Marshalltown IA), September 28, 1917.

Art Seidenbaum, OLD-TIME DERISION. Los Angeles Times, July 18, 1975.

WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HALLECK FINLEY?: The Amateurs Answer Back with Pro and Con Letters to the Editor. Popular Photography, August 1944.