Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Camouflage Artist | Fritz Kleesattel

Vintage ad for Camel cigarettes (1940s)
 Fred Otto Kleesattel, better known as “Fritz” Kleesattel, was an American advertising artist who was born on July 10, 1889, in Cincinnati, Ohio. After studying at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, he worked as a graphic designer in Louisville, Kentucky, where he established a studio called Klee Ad Art.

His most memorable undertaking occurred in 1913, when he was commissioned by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company to create the packaging for Camel cigarettes. It was Kleesattel who designed the Camel in the logo. It is said that he also contributed to the design of various labels for Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Heaven Hill Distilleries, and other corporate clients.

After the US entered World War I, Kleesattel enlisted in the American Army and was assigned to the camouflage training unit at Camp Sherman in Ohio. As a camoufleur with the rank of Sergeant, he was an assistant to Indiana-born camouflage artist and patent attorney Joseph Allen Minturn (1861-1943), who later wrote a book about his wartime experiences, titled The American Spirit (1921). In that memoir, Minturn (who mistakenly refers to him as “Kleesatelle”) recalls that Kleesattel was admired in the camp for his “conversion of a conspicuous latrine into a pen of mules,” one of which “had his head, made of painted tin, projecting out between the two top boards in such a natural way that his ears flapped in the wind, and Major Arthur Robinson declared it so fooled his favorite saddle mare that she neighed to it when he rode up one day to get a close view of the penned animals” (p. 97). Later, his and Minturn’s unit served overseas in France.

Kleesattel died in Louisville on January 16, 1965.

Joseph Allen Minturn, The American Spirit. Indianapolis IN: Globe Publishing, 1921.
Anon, “Camel (cigarette)” on Wikipedia at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel_(cigarette)>.