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.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ames Room and Chair Demonstration

Adelbert Ames II (1880-1955) was an American lawyer and artist who was known for his discoveries in optical physiology and perceptual psychology. In 1928, while at Dartmouth College in Hanover NH, he diagnosed a visual dysfunction called aniseikonia which resulted in the founding of the Dartmouth Eye Institute.

Later, in the 1940s and 50s, he developed nearly thirty experiments in perceptual psychology, now commonly referred to as the Ames Demonstrations. These ingenious laboratory setups, which are still commonly cited in psychology textbooks, were highly unusual, and they prompted extended discussions among psychologists, philosophers, educators and artists. more >>>