Tin Lizzie

The following article was contributed by Jim Hughes and first appeared in his excellent blog, found here: https://codex99.com/archive.html

Tin Lizzie & Dinner For Two

Charley Harper as Illustrator: the 1950s, part II

In the early 1950s Charley began what would be a long association with Western Publishing as a freelance illustrater. His earliest book illustrations were, perhaps not surprisingly, for Ford Times anthologies and compilations, such as the Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes (1950, 1954, et.al.),1 the Ford Treasury of the Outdoors (1952),2 and the Ford Almanac. Later he illustrated Philip Van Doren Stern’s Tin Lizzie3 and Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two.4

Charley was already illustrating for Ford, with the same publisher, and after his Ford Times series “Horseless Carriage Adventures,” clearly know how to draw an antique car, so the choice of him as illustrator for Tin Lizzie was a perfect fit. On the other hand, the book was already extensively illustrated with materials from the Ford archives and Charleys’ work seems like an afterthought.

Aside from the dust jacket and endpapers the rest of the book was done in spot-color. These spot-color illustrations, which have been described as “lyrical,” were much looser and more informal than Charley’s previous work. They show a rather unique sense of humor, a completely novel sense of movement, and stand as a wonderful interpretation of the subject matter.

Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two Cookbook, published in 1958, was completely illustrated by Harper – 157 illustrations over 207 pages (yeah, I counted them). The style and tone of his spot-color work, while very similar to Tin Lizzie, was used here to even greater effect, and the result was nothing less than absolutely pitch-perfect: an early Harper masterpiece.

1. Kennedy, Nancy (ed). Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes From Famous Eating Places, vol. 2. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954. There were several editions of this book between 1950–1968, with various permutations of Harper covers and interior illustrations. You will need to work all of this out for yourself. Here are two examples courtesy of Glen Mullaly:

2. Kennedy, W. D. (ed). Ford Treasury of the Outdoors. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952. The entire book is available online at the Internet Archive.

3. Stern, Philip Van Doren. Tin Lizzie: The Story of the Fabulous Model T Ford. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1955. Stern, primarily a Civil War historian, is perhaps best known for his 4100-word 1943 short story, “The Greatest Gift,” which was the basis for Frances Goodrich’s screenplay for It’s A Wonderful Life (Capra, Frank, dir. Republic Pictures, 1946).

4. Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two Cook Book. New York: Golden Press, 1958. I cannot personally vouch for how good this cookbook was, although it was apparently good enough: New editions were published in 1964, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1984, and as Betty Crocker’s New Choices for Two in 1995 and 2002. N.B.: only the original 1958 edition was illustrated by Charley:

21 Aug 2009, updated 14 Sep 2009 ‧ Illustration