Monday, March 23, 2020

Paint manufacturers, scenographers, and camoufleurs

Harrison Marine Paints Advertisement (1918)
Above There are apparently no full-color photographs of WWI-era camouflaged ships, since color photography (as we know it) had not yet been perfected. But there are thousands of black-and-white photographs, hand-painted ship models (used for testing), and artists' full-color drawings and paintings of ships, including colored diagrams that were used as reference plans as the ships were being painted. There is also this rather extraordinary magazine advertisement that appeared on the back cover of DuPont Magazine: A Review of American Industrial Progress (Wilmington DE) Vol IX No 1, July 1918. Unfortunately, the artist is not credited.


SHIPYARD NEWS: CAMOUFLEURS HERE THROW OUT CHESTS: Pennsylvania Shipyard Force Claims Record for Disguising War Emergency Vessels in Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia PA), December 3, 1918, p. 6—

The Pennsylvania shipyard camoufleurs are getting increased chest measurements.

They boast of the honor of having camouflaged the first and last ship built on the Delaware River for war emergency purposes.

The first ship on which the paint shop artists spilled their gaudy colors was the [USS] John M. Connelly, a 7,000-ton tanker which was launched November 10, 1917.

USS John M. Connelly in dazzle camouflage

The last vessel so decorated to deceive the eye, before the armistice was signed, was the [USS} Indianapolis, a 12,800-ton cargo carrier launched July 4 of this year.

According to the paint shop workers of the Pennsylvania yard at Gloucester, the finishing touches were put on the Indianapolis on November 11, the big day when the glorious news arrived.

USS Indianapolis in dazzle camouflage

The paint shop in the Gloucester yard is in the charge of Harry Epting, foreman.

Virtually all the deceptive lining placed on the ships was done by G.V. Ancker and the fields between colored by the brush wielders of the paint shop.

But the general supervision of the camouflage work fell on the shoulders of Paul [Bernard] King, of the camouflage department of the United States Shipping Board.

We’ve recently learned that G.V. Anker (who drew the outlines of the camouflage schemes on the ships, while less skillful painters filled them in) worked for the Nixon-Nirdlinger Theatrical Company and other major theatres in Philadelphia. In the early 1920s, he relocated to Camden NJ, and established his own firm, in which he designed and painted a wide range of components (including elaborate parade floats), as described in his advertisement below. Of particular distinction was his interior design for the New Lyric Theatre in Camden.

G.V. Anker Company Advertisement (1924)