Thursday, March 10, 2011

Camouflage and Everett Warner's Cousin

I recently found an old memoir by an American clergyman named John B. Ferguson, a graduate of Miami University of Ohio (1903), who was pastor for fourteen years at two Presbyterian churches in Indiana, in the towns of Howe and Hopewell, then later at the American Union Church in Manila in the Philippines. During World War I, he also served in France with the YMCA, an experience that he later described in Through the War with a Y Man (1919). It turns out that Ferguson was a relative of Everett Longley Warner, an American Impressionist painter who played an especially pivotal role in the development of US Navy ship camouflage during that war. In the book, Ferguson writes this about the day of his departure from New York Harbor for Europe on the SS Chicago (pp. 46-47)—

As was the case with most boats we did not sail immediately. It was exceedingly interesting to see all the camouflaged ships in the harbor. My artist cousin, Everett Warner, very graciously came to see me off. When I saw him come on deck, my first question was, "How did you get on this boat without a passport." He showed a little silver badge which meant the naval board, and I saw that ranks and badges were very important things in the army. From him I took my first lesson in the interesting art of camouflaging. A big freighter near us was all in gray and black. He told me how important it was to have the funnels properly done. There were many theories about it, and I suppose the cubists had their ideal opportunity, for the color scheme on some of the boats seemed to the layman's eye about the most conspicuous mark on any except a painted ocean.