Saturday, January 4, 2014

WWI Camouflage in Des Moines

WWI truck camouflage
Above World War I camouflaged truck in France (c1918).


From an unsigned news article titled CAMOUFLAGE ARTIST SUGGESTS HOW TO HELP AUTOISTS GET AROUND COP'S FEET in the Des Moines News, Des Moines IA (1917)—

Pierre Defregger, artist, issued from his East-side attic last week for the first time in nigh onto 20 years.

For years Pierre has been so busy in his attic painting pictures of cast iron oak trees growing beside wooden rivers that run uphill, that the census man has never discovered him.

But Pierre should worry.

When he came out of his attic, he brought with him a regular twentieth century idea, hatched by him in solitude, which he says will save the city of Des Moines thousands of dollars in the long run, and prove a pleasure and convenience to local taxpayers.

All Pierre asks in return is that he be put on the city's payroll at a fair salary, with the title of Professional Camouflage Artist.

Here are some of the time-saving, money-saving innovations that Pierre Defregger thinks that a first-class camouflage artist could accomplish for Des Moines:

1. Camouflage the feet of all traffic officers to look like the pavement, so that motorists can drive right over them and not have to go way around. "This would take considerable paint," Defregger points out, "but the cost is inconsiderable when compared with the saving of time to motorists."

2. Camouflage the legs of all women who wear unreasonably short skirts this winter. This might be done in a number of ways. Either camouflage them the color of the atmosphere so that they are invisible, thus saving the boys great eye strain, or camouflage them to represent hitching posts. "When it is taken into consideration," says Pierre at this point, "that most women wait from an hour to two hours for a car, it readily may be seen that a number of teamsters could tie their horses to the camouflaged posts during that period."

3. Camouflage the soft coal smoke issuing from Des Moines' winter chimneys, to represent sunset cloud effects. This could be accomplished by painting the soot particles by means of a squirt gun filled with paint of the desired shade. Says Pierre: "Fly specks on restaurant ceilings could be camouflaged into picturesque effects at small cost, obviating the necessity of redecorating each spring."

4. Camouflage a river to stick under the $400,000 worth of new bridges being built by the city.

5. Show Emil Schmidt* how to camouflage stoves in his street cars this winter.

6. Show Ralph Bolton** how to camouflage heat and light for the Coliseum.

Pierre Defregger, artist that he is, says if the city hires him, he will not guarantee successfully to camouflage food, brains nor clothing. The first two are honestly impossible, says Pierre, and camouflaged clothes always would meet opposition, he thinks, from the prudes.

When asked what he considered the best example of camouflage, Pierre replied: "Bread pudding."


* President of the Des Moines City Railway Company.
** Secretary of the Greater Des Moines Committee