Saturday, May 9, 2015

USS Sturgeon Bay in Camouflage at Green Bay WI

USS Sturgeon Bay in dazzle camouflage
What colors were used on World War I American camouflaged ships, and in what combination? It seems we can never be certain, since apparently no color photographs were made of them. Some hand-painted models exist. There are also several hundred color lithographic plans (including one full set at the Fleet Library at the Rhode Island School of Design), but they state that the colors shown on the plans are merely placeholders and may not be the actual colors applied. There are also dozens (probably more) of artists' on-site portrayals of dazzle-painted ships, c1918-1919.

Never before have we seen a hand-tinted photographic postcard of a dazzle-painted ship, of which there are two versions (above and below on this blogpost: NH 105922-A-KN and NH 105922-KN) on the website of the Naval History and Heritage Command. These are cropped and uncropped photographs of the USS Sturgeon Bay at Green Bay WI, two postcard versions of the same view, c. 1919 .


Associated Press, SCHOOL FOR CAMOUFLAGE ARTISTS AT GREAT LAKES, Janesville Daily Gazette (Janesville WI), August 26, 1918, p. 1—

Great Lakes, Ill., Aug. 26—A school of camouflage artists is the newest feature of the art officer school of the Great Lakes naval training station. The instructor is Karl O. Amend,• formerly a theatrical scenic artist in New York. Courses in the school will take 12 weeks to complete and graduates are to be given opportunities for advance rating in the service.

USS Sturgeon Bay in dazzle camouflage

From CAMOUPEDIA: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage (2009) and other sources: Karl (Otto) Amend (1885–January 2, 1944). Originally from Ohio, Amend was trained as a set designer. He designed stage sets for various Broadway plays, including Smile at Me, I Must Love Someone, and Vanities, and was founder and proprietor of Amend Scenic Studios. In 1982, an exhibition of his work, titled Behind the Scenes: The Theater Art of Karl Amend, was held at the New York Public Library.

more info

Reed College Dazzle Camouflage

Dazzle-painted USS Lake Charlotte (c1918)
Above There is an unrestored version of this public domain postcard on the website of the Naval History and Heritage Command, where it is identified as the USS Lake Charlotte or the USS Lake Silver (NH 105954). In other sources, the same ship is referred to as the War Cymbal.


Anon, STUDENT ON HIGH SEAS in Morning Oregonian (Portland OR), November 30, 1917, p. 8—

In the soldiers' mail to Reed College this week is a letter from Hugh Broomfield, the last Reed man leaving for France. The letter was written from New York and says: "When this letter reaches you I will probably be out on the high seas. I am on board the steamer now and our quarters are quite comfortable. Our ship has been undergoing the 'camouflage' treatment and has been painted with blotches of blue, pink and green. It is a funny sight. I wish the scheme success and hope it deceives the 'subs'…"

The steamer on which Hugh (Dent Garvin) Broomfield crossed the Atlantic did survive that voyage. He became a member of the US Army Air Service, and was shot down in France on October 21, 1918.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ghost Army Now in Book Form

Two years ago, Rick Beyer came out with a documentary film, titled The Ghost Army, which premiered on PBS. It provided a vivid account of a once top secret World War II American Army unit (the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, aka The Ghost Army), the mission of which was battlefield deception, using sonic and radio confusion, visual camouflage, inflatable decoys, and all sorts of persuasive phony events. The film has been a great success, and it is now being followed by the release of a richly illustrated book about the same unit. Co-authored by Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles (whose father  belonged to the unit), the book is titled The Ghost Army of World War II (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2015).

Below is one of the images from the book. It's a Christmas card that was made by one of the artists (unidentified). It makes inventive use of a cut-out silhouette technique that was first introduced by American artist Abbott H. Thayer, in advance of and during World War I. In this case, a silhouette of a soldier has been cut out of the cover, so that the background changes as the card is opened, as underscored by the punchline: "I can't conceal my wish for a Merry Christmas."

In Thayer's case, he recommended (in a 1918 article) that anyone, even a novice, could produce a functional camouflage pattern, for whatever setting, simply by superimposing a cut-out stencil silhouette on a photograph of the customary background of the subject to be camouflaged. One of his own demonstrations of that is shown below.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Painting White Horses for Camouflage During WWI

German horse-painting (c1915)
A couple of years ago, we posted a photograph of French soldiers applying dark coloring to a white horse, to make it less conspicuous. Later, we discovered other references to the same practice, as well as a wonderfully funny cartoon from Life magazine. It was also used by the American Army  (during the same time period) in its military activities on the US-Mexican border. In our earlier posts, we expressed concern about the harm that might result to the horse, since the pigment that was used was potassium permanganate (aka permanganate of potash or Condy's crystals). As we noted, "Among US soldiers during WWI, it was used twice daily as an irrigation in treating gonorrhea. Today, it is used in connection with eczema, blisters and athlete's foot—and in rocket propellent." It turns out that this horse-painting was practiced by not only the Allies but also by the Germans. There is a photograph (above) from a wartime issue of Scientific American (February 6, 1915) that shows a horse being painted by German soldiers.

Near the end of the war, it was still being practiced, as evidenced by this excerpt from an eyewitness article in the Saturday Evening Post (September 21, 1918, p. 52)—

At five a.m. we rose and went to the railway, where we saw the beloved regiment, in the midst of which we had lived so many years, entrain. Perfect order prevailed, though the embarkation took several hours. Each squadron occupied a train. Freight cars fitted up for soldiers and horses; platform cars for baggage and provisions; and at the end a car or two, second class and far from clean, for the officers, doctors, and so on. A most curious sight were the horses belonging to the regimental band. It was a tradition of the regiment that though the other soldiers were all mounted on bay horses the band should ride pure white steeds. With the new ideas of warfare these animals became a danger to their unit, and had been dyed for safety in olive brown. This was their first appearance in their disguise; and their comrades in the four squadrons did not recognize them and made a dreadful fuss, showing such desire to avoid the poor painted creatures that the latter felt insulted, and regarding themselves as victims of a ridiculous mistake they lost no opportunity of protesting. Their humiliation turned them timid and fractious, and it took time and persuasion to get them into their cars. Everyone rushed to help; and officers as well as soldiers were amused at the result of this first essay at camouflage, which came as a diversion to our strained feelings.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ship Camoufleur Alon Bement—Again

Alon Bement, artist, teacher and camoufleur
We've featured American artist and teacher Alon Bement (shown above) at least three times in earlier blog posts. As happens with all of us, he would be all but forgotten today were it not for the fact of his influence on the painter Georgia O'Keeffe. During World War I, he also served as a civilian ship camoufleur, an experience he wrote about in newspapers and magazines. From 1920 to 1925, he was the director of the Maryland Institute College of Art (known then as the Maryland Institute School of Fine and Practical Arts). According to that school’s website, as its director—

[Alon Bement] brought a modernist sensibility to the school, introduced extension courses for high school students, and sent art education instructors to remote parts of Maryland. He made the public exhibitions hosted on campus an institutional priority including one of the first public shows of work by Henri Matisse in the United States.

In the 1930s, he became associated with the William E. Harmon Foundation and served as Director of the National Alliance of Art and Industry, during which he played a role in the production of two educational films, The Negro and Art (1933) and We Are All Artists (1936), both of which are now online.


SS Aurora in a dazzle camouflage pattern (1918)

Anon, “Navy Camoufleur at Manual” in Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn NY), May 6, 1919, p. 14—

Alon Bement, a camoufleur, first class, of the United States Shipping Board, and formerly a teacher at the Teachers’ College, Columbia University, was the speaker at the Senior Assembly of the Manual Training High School yesterday. At the beginning of the war Mr. Bement, who had considerable reputation as an artist, was called to act as a naval camoufleur. He was sent to Washington DC where he worked out designs for camouflaging ships, using small models for the purpose. If the designs were found to be feasible, they were reproduced on a linen sheet, taken to a shipyard and painted on a ship.

Mr. Bement went into detail to show how portions of the ship were marked out for certain colors by means of a hand mirror when the sun was shining. The camoufleur would stand on the edge of the dry dock and reflect the light along the lines which were intended to mark the borders of the various colors. In this way the apportioning off of the ship was readily accomplished.

Mr. Bement told of other schemes which were attempted to combat the submarine menace such as the construction of an outer hull to prematurely explode the torpedo. This means was hastily abandoned because such a hull would slow down the ship to such an extent that it would fall an easy prey to the U-boats.

He also explained why only the transports, freighters and destroyers were camouflaged and not the battleships. The big fighters were not daily subject to submarine attack so that it was unnecessary to give them their “make-up” and since it costs $3,000 to paint a battleship attention was confined to the first mentioned ships.

Mr. Bement told of how in a captured German U-boat, the British found fifty-eight pages of a leaflet in the commander’s cabin, telling what methods the Prussians were taking to combat the camouflage of Allied ships. With this find, the Allied camoufleurs were able to take new steps to offset the year’s calculations of the Germans.

One of the most interesting parts of this news article is the description of the use of a hand mirror to convey to the painter—whose task it was to mark out on the actual ship the camouflage color divisions with chalk—the location of "dots" from a distance (a process that's all but identical to the use of a pouncing wheel in transferring a pattern from one surface to another). About a year ago, we posted another news account of the same technique.

Ann Elias on Flowers and Australian Art

Cover of Ann Elias, Useless Beauty (2015)
Art historian Ann Elias, Associate Professor of Theoretical Enquiry at the Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney AU, is well-known for her writings on art and camouflage. Now she has produced a book (see cover above) about aspects of the significance of the representation of flowers in art, and especially Australian art. Titled Useless Beauty: Flowers and Australian Art (UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015), go online here to find out more. Below are two recent statements about this thoughtful, interesting book.

Professor Ted Snell, AM CitWA, Director, Cultural Precinct, University of Western Australia—

Ann Elias convincingly argues for the "useless beauty" of flowers and their significance in constructing a comprehensive and inclusive record of the art of Australia. Dancing elegantly through history to elucidate the role of flowers in imparting complex narratives of social life, celebrations, remembrance, attitudes to death, notions of gender, sexuality and cultural difference, she covers a wide territory with elegance and precision. Underlying her thesis is a deeper question about beauty and whether there is value in attending to its undoubted allure when making art, about flowers or anything else. The many illustrations prove her point.

Professor Su Baker, Director, Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), University of Melbourne—

Who would think the flower painting genre could tell such a dynamic history of western art and elucidate the contradictions, social and political conditions of Australian culture. Through this clear and very readable account of the flower painting traditions in Australia, Ann Elias reveals the way these forms of "useless beauty" give us insights into the moral and aesthetic polemics, the anxieties, desire, ambitions and aspirations of Australasian art and culture. This book takes us on a journey through the 20th century, recalling the roots of European traditions, the measures of taste and beauty that were dominant allegories for good living. Elias outlines the gendered political separation of art (useless beauty) and science, the true nature of things.  All the more surprising is that artists such as Tom Roberts, George Lambert, Hans Heysen and Arthur Streeton gave such serious attention to the motif of the flower. We hear from Elias her rich insight and the many examples of the work of these heroic Australian painters, and see the care with which they attended to these gentle subjects. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Steganography, Camouflage and Eviatar Zerubavel

Cover of Hidden in Plain Sight (2015)
Above Cover of the latest camouflage-related book, titled Hidden in Plain Sight: The Social Structure of Irrelevance, just out from Oxford University Press. It's the latest achievement by Rutgers sociologist Eviatar Zerubavel, who is well-known for his earlier books, such as The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life (2006) and (our favorite) The Fine Line: Making Distinctions in Everyday Life (1993).


In Zerubavel's insightful and wide-ranging book, among the subjects introduced is a current encryption technique known as steganography. Now practiced in its digital form, the term was originated in 1499 (so says Wikipedia) by Johannes Trithemius in Steganographia, "a treatise on cryptography and steganography, disguised as a book on magic." We ourselves first learned about it in 2006 at an international conference at the University of Northern Iowa on Camouflage: Art, Science and Popular Culture, at which digital media scholar Eugene Wallingford (UNI Computer Science Professor) offered a wonderful overview of current uses of digital steganography.

Here is an excerpt from Zerubavel's text about steganography (pp. 35-36)—

There is a particular form of background-matching camouflage known as steganography, in which actual "signals" are purposely designed to be mistaken for mere "noise" and thereby effectively ignored. One can thus send a covert message in such a way that no one apart from oneself and one's intended audience (who are in fact usually alerted to expect it) even suspects its existence. Whereas in cryptography  only the content of the hidden is concealed, in steganography, its very existence is concealed as well.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dazzle Ship Camouflage | Stephen Hobbs

Disruptive Ship Camouflage © Stephen Hobbs (2015)
Above We've featured the camouflage-related work of South African artist Stephen Hobbs in earlier blog posts, including his experiments with building camouflage and a dazzle-patterned pop-up book. His latest artwork (as shown above) will soon premiere in a series of installation / performances called Stephen Hobbs: SAS Somerset & Other War Stories, on Thursday, April 2, 2015, from 5 to 9 pm, at Twenty Fifty, First Floor, 8 Spin Street, in Cape Town.

The SAS Somerset is an actual historical South African ship, and the world's last remaining boom defense vessel. Hobb's installation will feature "a unique and dynamic use of dazzle patterning and lighting onto a mock assemblage of the SAS Somerset; a spectacle conceived to enliven and transform the perception of the vessel's significance in location and history." Produced by Stephen Hobbs, in collaboration with David Krut Projects.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Abbott Thayer and Background-Picturing

Background-picturing experiment with G.H. Thayer painting
Above Roy R. Behrens (©2015), an experiment using Adobe Photoshop software in an attempt to replicate a camouflage effect that artist/naturalists Abbott Handerson Thayer and Gerald Handerson Thayer (father and son) referred to as background picturing. The initial illustration (top left) is a watercolor painting by Gerald Thayer that was originally reproduced in Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom (1909). The actual painting is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


The following is an excerpt (in reference to the image above) from an as-yet unpublished essay by Roy R. Behrens, titled "Seeing Through Camouflage: Abbott Thayer, Background-Picturing and the Use of Cut-Out Silhouettes" (©2015)—

Years ago, I published an article in which I suggested that Abbott Thayer had anticipated a computer-based method of working on multiple solutions to the same art or design composition, by which we use the SaveAs command on computers.• In drafting this article, it occurred to me that he may also have anticipated another digital practice, as suggested by background-picturing. This can best be understood by looking at a series of illustrations.

The first of these illustrations is an unaltered reproduction of a watercolor painting by Gerald Thayer, titled Male Ruffed Grouse in Forest [top left]. First published in full-color in in 1909 in Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, it is a masterful demonstration of the intricacies of background-picturing, or (figuratively speaking) of “seeing through” an animal as if it were transparent. In the next two illustrations, the woodland setting [top right] and the bird [bottom left] have been selected and removed, using Adobe Photoshop. In the final stage [bottom right], I have instructed the software to fill the empty silhouette of the bird, using a setting of ContentAware, based on information in the shapes and colors in the background. The result is surely successful, albeit less than equivalent to what the Thayers intended, since the source of this solution is a single particular background and not, as they hypothesized, an average of “innumerable landscapes.”

• See R.R. Behrens, “Abbott H. Thayer’s anticipation of a computer-based method of working” in Leonardo. Vol 34 No 1 (2001), pp. 19-20. Available online here. See also and "Abbott H. Thayer's Vanishing Ducks."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New Book on Camouflage Cultures | 2015

Cover of Camouflage Cultures (2015), available now
The latest book on art and camouflage is an anthology of the papers that were featured at an International Camouflage Conference at the Sydney College of the Arts, the University of Sydney AU in August 2013. Titled Camouflage Cultures: Beyond the Art of Disappearance, its editors are Ann Elias, Ross Harley and Nicholas Tsoutas. Included are writings that touch on such diverse fields as art history and theory, studio art, biology, cultural theory, literature, and philosophy.

The book will be available in late April 2015 from the Sydney University Press (ISBN 9781743324257) . Among its contributors are Roy R. Behrens, Donna West Brett, Paul Brock, Ann Elias, Ross Gibson, Amy Hamilton, Pamela Hansford, Jack Hasenpusch, Ian Howard, Husuan L. Hsu, Bernd Hüppauf, Ian McLean, Jacqueline Millner, Jonnie Morris, Brigitta Olubas, Nikos Papastergiadis, Tanya Peterson, Nicholas Tsoutas, Linda Tyler and Ben Wadham.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Futurist Togs For Sniper Camouflage (1917)

US proposal for disruptively-patterned sniper suit (1917)
Above This photograph of an American soldier dressed in a disruptively patterned sniper outfit (this is a detail of a larger scene) was one of a series of official government photos that were provided to US news agencies in 1917-18. It was subsequently published in various newspapers and magazines throughout the country, including, for example, in a feature titled CAMOUFLAGE DEVICES FOR DECEIVING ENEMY in the Washington Times, January 5, 1918, p. 4.

Later, as shown below in this post, the same figure was one of several components in a photomontage that appeared on the cover of a French magazine, Lectures Pour Tout, on May 1, 1918.


Anon, FUTURIST TOGS FOR SNIPERS in Chicago Daily Tribune, July 24, 1918, p. 6—

Artists of the [Blackhawk] division [at Camp Grant IL] camouflage department today gave free rein to their imagination and color fancies when Lieutenant Roy Shinew, whose studio at 3714 West Grand Avenue was closed when he entered the service, began experimenting on a series of sniper uniforms.

Types of uniforms so far turned out by the class resemble nothing more than futurist paintings of a nude falling down stairs. They are streaked with paint in broken lines and seem a joke until fitted to the body of a man and seen from a short distance in the open.

Cover of Lectures Pour Tous (1918)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hunters Masquerade as Cow (1578)

US Patent No. 586,145 (1897)
Above Patent drawings for US Patent No. 586,145, titled "Hunting Decoy," as devised by J. Sievers, Jr. (1897). Not a bad idea, but apparently nothing new. As evidenced by two 1578 Dutch engravings by Philips Galle (shown below on this page), as early as the 16th century European deer hunters were camouflaging themselves by masquerading as cows. In both prints, notice the telltale human feet apparent beneath the cow costumes. Both prints (out of rights and in public domain) are in the collection of the Rijksmuseum.


Anon, from the Humeston New Era (Humeston IA), Wednesday, December 21, 1921—

How to stop certain Iowa druggists from making bootleg whisky under the camouflage of cologne and similar euphonious preparations is the problem which Prohibition Enforcement Officer Bronson finds himself up against. Some druggists are getting alcohol ostensibly for legitimate purposes and converting it into bootleg whisky, Mr. Bronson told Commissioner Haynes, and it is difficult to detect them. Before departing for Iowa from Washington he urged the commissioner to allow him six more field men and two officers who are druggists. Indications are the added force will be granted.

Engravings by Philips Galle (1578)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Joseph Harker | Dracula Meets Camouflage

Portrait of Joseph Harker (n.d.)
In the San Francisco Chronicle, on Sunday, May 11, 1919, a full-page article appeared on various aspects of wartime camouflage. Titled TROOPSHIPS DAZZLE-PAINTED SO COMMANDERS OF U-BOATS CAN NOT TELL WHETHER THEY WERE COMING OR GOING, it was written by Burleigh Rushwood. Here's a brief excerpt (p. 10)—

[During World War I] One of the strokes of genius on the part of an [French] administrative department…was the selection of a famous scene painter for the work [of camouflage]. This was [Louis] Bérard, who painted the famous scene of the farmyard for [Edmond] Rostand's great sensational play Chantecler. Bérard put up all sorts of queer devices for the misleading of enemy observers. He created fake lakes where there was no water and he was the originator of the bright idea of designs for gun emplacements that changed color as the seasons of the year changed. The success of Bérard led the British Government to call in famous London scene painters like Joseph Harker, and at one time the scene decks in the great spaces of Drury Lane Theatre were filled with canvases in the course of preparation for the front.

We have easily determined that the French stage designer was Louis Bérard, perhaps best known as "le decorateur de Chantecler," a wonderfully zany satirical play by Edmund Rostand, in which all the actors were dressed in animal costumes (below, see program cover of the NYC production of the same play, starring Maude Adams •). In Cécile Coutin's Tromper l'ennemi (2012) Bérard is described as an accessoiriste de théatre (property man) who served in the Section de Camouflage (1914-15) as a camouflage instructor at the studio at Amiens. She includes a three-page section on "Louis Bérard and His Contribution to the Invention of Camouflage" (pp. 48-51). Regrettably, the text is completely and only in French.

Nor did it require much effort to find out more (if not very much) about Joseph Cunningham Harker (1855-1927), who was a well-known scenographer in the London theatre. Above is a painting of him, possibly a self-portrait. He was one of a long line of Harkers who were prominent in the theatre, including his actor father, William Pierpont Harker, and his own son, the character actor Gordon Harker. Today, two of Joseph Harker's great-great-granddaughters, Susannah Harker and Caroline Harker, are accomplished British actresses. During his lifetime, Harker was a scene painter for the Lyceum Theatre, which was managed by Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. In that book, one of the leading characters (called Jonathan Harker) is named after Stoker's friend.

• Views of the NYC production of Chantecler (with sets most likely not designed by Bérard) are available here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

More A.E. Hayward Camouflage Cartoons

A.E. Hayward, September 27, 1917, p. 22
In an earlier post, we talked about American cartoonist  A.E. (Alfred Earl) Hayward (1884-1939), and reproduced one of his "camouflage cartoons" that appeared in 1917 in his daily series “The Padded Cell,” in the Philadelphia Public Ledger. Here (above and below) are more from that same series (restored and modified somewhat) from other issues of the same newspaper.


Anon, BOOZE CAMOUFLAGED BY BREAD in The Brockport Republic (Brockport NY), February 21, 1918, p. 7—

The vigilance of a local post office clerk deprived a Camp Funston infantryman of two pints of whiskey and revealed a novel method transmitting through the mails. A compact package handled by a clerk, who noted it was damp. He opened the package and discovered two loaves of bread. A closer examination disclosed the inside of each loaf had been removed and a pint of whiskey inserted.


Anon, The Plattsburgh Sentinel (Plattsburgh NY), Julu 1, 1921, p. 4—

Two loads of Canadian whiskey were captured in the vicinity of Malone during the past week. One car was cleverly camouflaged and booze skillfully hidden in the rear.

A.E. Hayward, October 5, 1917
Anon, INNOCENT LOOKING CADILLAC HAD 18 CASES OF WET GOODS in Essex County Republican (Keeseville NY), October 27, 1922, p. 1—

A neatly camouflaged booze car was captured [by police] near Keeseville. The troppers found that so far as appearances went there was nothing contraband in the car. An examination proved, however, that there were enough false compartments in the Cadillac 1922 touring car to conceal eighteen cases of Scotch and Canadian rye whiskey.

A.E. Hayward, September 18, 1917, p 18

A.E. Hayward, October 2, 1917, p 20
A.E. Hayward, October 3, 1917, p 22
A.E. Hayward, September 18, 1917
A.E. Hayward, September 28, 1917, p. 22

Monday, December 22, 2014

Trojan Horse Camouflage | Shakespeare Too

Sheboygan Press, January 1, 1918, artist unknown
Above A cartoon illustration on the historic antecedents of World War I camouflage as published in the Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan WI), January 7, 1918, p. 8. The artist's signature, at bottom right, is unreadable. Image restored and adjusted.


Theodor Reik—

Where would a clever man hide a particular leaf? In the forest.


Colin Watson—

A needle is much simpler to find in a haystack than in a bin of other needles.

William Jennings Bryan's Camouflage 1918

William Jennings Bryan (1908)
Above William Jennings Bryan during 1908 presidential campaign.


 (Anon, CAMOUFLAGE BY MRS. [WILLIAM JENNINGS] BRYAN: There's A Reason for His Long Locks, Says Former Secretary in Washington Post, March 1, 1918—

Syracuse NY, February 28—Camouflage was invented by Mrs. William J. Bryan way back in 1882 to hide—oh, well, read Mr. Bryan's own explanation, given for the first time today, as to why he maintains the famous flowing locks of hair that tickle his collar:

"It's my wife's idea," he smiled. "The Lord made me for utility rather than for beauty. He gave me ears that stick out a great deal more than artistic standards require.

I had my hair cropped away back in 1882 when I was engaged to my wife and the result was terrible. I nearly lost her. She has made me wear my hair long ever since. It is what I call justifiable camouflage."

Bryan Dollar (1896)

• Re Bryan Dollar, acccording to Wikipedia, "Democratic and Populist presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan proposed free silver, that is, if you presented silver at the mint, you'd get it back, stamped into silver dollars. At the time, the worth of the metal in a silver dollar was 47 cents, so obviously people would want to do this and it would be inflationary. This piece demonstrates the argument against free silver, championed by Republican candidate William McKinley."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A.E Hayward's Camouflage Cartoons

Above Cartoon by A.E. (Alfred Earl) Hayward (1884-1939), from his daily series “The Padded Cell,” in the Philadelphia Public Ledger on October 4, 1917, p. 22. In addition to this series, Hayward also originated "Pinheads” and “Somebody’s Stenog," a strip about a stenographer named Cam O’Flage.


Anon, CAMOUFLAGE BATHING SUIT CAUSES SENSATION, in Boston Sunday Globe, August 24, 1919, p. 47—

Old Orchard Beach, August 23—This week the town has been filled to its capacity. No such summer business was ever seen here before. There were more automobiles at Old Orchard Sunday afternoon than ever before in a single day, according to the traffic officers.

A camouflage bathing suit was seen here for the first time this week. It was worn by a tall, slim beauty, who attracted more attention than a flock of seaplanes. As she sauntered down the beach she resembled a crazy patchwork quilt. Beach loungers thought she was wrapped in a silk bed covering. She presented a wonderfully attractive picture, however, as she trotted down to the water and plunged into the surf.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Is Camouflage? | René Bache

René Bache, "What Is 'Camouflage'?" (1918)
Above Full-page newspaper article titled “What Is Camouflage?” by René Bache, in The Daily Ardmoreite (Ardmore OK), March 6, 1918, p. 6. Born in Philadelphia, Bache (1861-1933) was a journalist and author who wrote for Scientific American and other periodicals. He was also the Great-Great-Great-Great Grandson of Benjamin Franklin.


An excerpt pertaining to ship camouflage from the same article—

Up to now the warpaint of fighting ships has been slate gray, which was supposed to harmonize with the sea, but henceforth (though the problem has not been worked out satisfactorily yet) they will be "camouflaged" in schemes of colors. In the American navy this idea is being tried out on destroyers; and not long ago one of Uncle Sam's submarines, while taking part in maneuvers, actually got lost from the fleet because (being adorned in this way) the other ships lost sight of it.

The United States government now requires that all of its merchant ships shall be similarly treated, information for the purpose being furnished to owners and ship masters by the Bureau of War Risk Insurance. They are at liberty to choose their own painting scheme from several "recipes" supplied. Of these the simplest consists in painting the vessel in such a way as to eliminate highlights and shadows [called countershading]. The under part of the "overhang" Is made white, and the super structure dark, the result being a blend with sea and sky.

Other schemes consist in arrangements of the primary colors In various patterns, the effect sought being a blend that will produce visually the impression of gray. But this gray has to the eye much more "deadness" than gray paint. It is misty. Optically speaking, the same principle applies as in the case of the zebra, whose black and white stripes, vivid enough when seen close at hand, are meant by nature as a protective coloration—in other words, to make tho animal less visible. Seen from a distance on its native desert, its stripes blend into a gray that is much less conspicuous than a mule's "all-over" gray.

One of these arrangements is of wavy stripes, green, blue and white. Stripes of curvilinear and scroll forms, it is found, have a confusing effect to the eye, the outlines of a hull thus adorned being lost to view at any considerable distance. Incidentally they make difficult the focusing of a telescope or binocular upon the ship, rendering it harder to see the craft distinctly.

Some of those schemes, curiously enough, seem to split up the ship's hull and superstructure into several parts, visually, with an appearance as if sea and sky showed between. The whole puzzle is very difficult to analyze, but when it has been thoroughly worked out, and its elements reduced to a scientific basis, it may be possible to make a vessel actually invisible at a distance of a mile.

Meanwhile, and for present purposes, the object sought is to render ships less easy to see. The sea is blue. The sea is green. The sea is mottled gray. Its color depends upon that of the day, which it reflects. Take a bucketful of water from the ocean, and it has no color. In reality the sea has no color of its own. How, then, shall it be successfully imitated?

One expert [William Andrew Mackay], who has made long study of the subject, declares that the color effect of the sea is a mixture of violet and green. If, therefore, a ship be painted with these two colors in a suitable pattern (stripes wavy or in scrolls), it will be made relatively invisible, because at a distance the light rays will mingle and so affect the optic nerve as to produce a color impression like that of the sea.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

David Bower | Camouflaged Room Interiors

All images © David Bower
We've known about and admired the three-dimensional "camouflaged rooms" of Chicago-area artist David Bower (1936-) for decades, as early as 1980 for sure. One of our favorites is pictured above.

Described by Bower as sculptural "shelf environments," this particular one, titled Sheep Have No Fear Because of Their Whiteness (1980), measures 33 in wide x 11 in high x 7 in deep, and was made with acrylic on wood. Other works of his from this series are shown below, courtesy the artist.

 David Bower, Camouflage Chicago (1977), 24 x 10 x 7, acrylic on wood.

David Bower, Room at Troggerstraus (1977), 24 x 10 x 7, acrylic on wood.

David Bower, Room for Sigmund (1977), 24 x 10 x 7, acrylic on wood.

David Bower, Like a Red Brick Room (1977), 24 x 10 x 7, acrylic on wood.

David Bower, Room for Rollo (1977), 24 x 10 x 7, acrylic on wood.

David Bower, Room at Bebelstrasse (1977), 24 x 10 x 7, acrylic on wood.

For more on American artist David Bower (Emeritus Professor of Art at Northern Illinois University) and his camouflaged room series, see Chapter Eight in False Colors: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage (2002).

Camouflage: Making a Cannon Look Like a Cow

Above We recently found this delightful cartoon (which we've restored and reconstructed) in an old issue of the East Oregonian (Pendleton OR), Saturday, July 26, 1919. Unfortunately, the illustrator isn't credited nor is there any signature.


Anon, TWELVE QUARTS PROVE TOO MUCH WHISKEY, in The Watchman and Southron (Sumter SC), March 23, 1921—

Officers Owen and Chandler yesterday afternoon came upon a hot trail which led to the arrest of a Florida man after twelve quarts of good whiskey had been found in his possession. The man was on the Northwestern train and was headed toward Camden with the whiskey at his side, the case containing the whiskey he had tried to camouflage by spreading on a layer of oranges over the top. When arrested he stated that he had purchased the whiskey in Savannah and was taking it to Asheville to sell at a profit. He said that his health had been bad lately and that he was in need of the money to go to a hospital on. The Florida citizen was kept in confinement at the police station last night and will probably remain put until some better arrangements can be made in his case.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Camouflage Artist | Eliot O'Hara

Eliot O'Hara, Duval Street
Above Recently we ran across a reproduction of an on-site watercolor painting by American artist Eliot O’Hara (1890-1969) titled Duval Street (in Key West FL). Of course we could be totally wrong, but it’s tempting to imagine that the bow of this ship is painted in a striped dazzle camouflage scheme. That’s certainly odd, because there doesn’t seem to be any camouflage on the rest of the ship.

There is an additional reason to suspect it might be camouflage: O’Hara, who was already famous as a watercolorist in the 1940s, worked as a World War II ship camouflage artist in the US Navy’s camouflage section. He was stationed in Washington DC, where he worked under marine camoufleur Everett L. Warner. We know this in part because one of O’Hara’s WWII camouflage co-workers, Robert Hays, shared the following story with us in a letter in 1999—

Eliot O’Hara [was] a well-known watercolorist in the Washington DC circuit, who berated me one day for allowing people to come in to see him—it annoyed him. Even though everything was restricted and we all had badges permitting us to enter the area, only those with badges could enter and some were curious about his presence—ha! I felt like I was a baby sitter or something.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has a wonderful photograph of O’Hara (below) at work in his studio. Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0015251.

O'Hara in his studio

Friday, December 12, 2014

Teddy Bear Camouflage

US Patent No 285,951
Above One of several drawings submitted for US Patent No. 285,951, titled "Stuffed Toy Bear," invented by Sarah J. Raymo (1986).


Rian James, "Protective Coloring" in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 3, 1932, p. 21—

I love the snob's bold camouflage,
Which is a personal mirage
To clothe the timid man inside,
A primal creature's way to hide.
Confused and groping consternation,
Against veneered civilization.

I love the snob's cold camouflage;
I'd seek to make my own barrage,
Oh, cutting glance, oh, chilling leer,
A snob's effective, bright veneer.
I'd like to be a snob, and see
Just what a first rate ass I'D be!


Associate Press, INTEMPERATE BREATH in Plattsburgh Sentinel, May 14, 1920, p. 1—

NEW YORK, May 13—A teddy bear whose mouth gave forth a strong and intemperate odor aroused the curiosity of customs inspectors searching the crew's quarters aboard the steamship Morro Castle. They ripped off the head and found a canister full of whiskey where only sawdust should be.

Three hot water bottles in the room of a husky chef also [raised] suspicion and they were found to contain whiskey.

It was reported that the inspectors found 200 bottles altogether.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Eric Sloane | Camouflage and Comic Books

Eric Sloane (1942), Camouflage Simplified
We've talked about American artist Eric Sloane (1905-1985) in an earlier blog, specifically in reference to a 60-page Illustrated guidebook called Camouflage Simplified, published in 1942. It's easily our all-time favorite comic-style overview of the subject. It's a delight just to look at the drawings, such as the examples above and below. It turns out that, according to the Hathi Trust Digital Library, the book is now in public domain, and is available in full online. Take a look at it; it's a pleasurable way to spend some time.

Eric Sloane (1942), Camouflage Simplified

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

History of Camouflage Comic Book

Camouflage comic © John Kramer
Thanks to Claudia Covert, Special Collections Librarian at the Fleet Library at the Rhode Island School of Design, for alerting us to the recent posting of an online comic book version of the history of modern camouflage. Produced by Washington DC comic book artist John Kramer and published by The Wilson Quarterly, the 10-page cartoon story, titled HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT: WWI, WWII, and [the] Surprising History of Camouflage, is well-worth an online visit, albeit Abbott Thayer becomes "Abott Thayer," and it's regrettably skimpy on sources.