The masterful story illustrator of the “Golden Age of American Illustration”
Henry Patrick Raleigh was born in Portland, Oregon in 1880. Henry dropped out of school when he was 12, to help support his family. At first he sold newspapers, then he got a job with coffee-importing firm. He worked at the San Francisco docks alongside sailors from around the world. His young imagination pictured the distant ports as the sailors filled his ears with amazing tales. He was anxious to transfer these vivid images on to paper. He started to sketch and found pleasure sharing his drawings. He was able to impress the dock workers as well as his boss, Colonel Clarence Bickford. Bickford took a liking to this bright child and offered to pay Raleigh’s tuition to attend the renowned San Francisco art school, the Hopkins Academy. From the beginning of his art education, he outpaced the other students.
In three short years he graduated from Hopkins and got a job with the San Francisco Bulletin newspaper. As an “on the scene” newspaper artist, he saw life in its most extreme and emotionally charged aspects. Raleigh honed his skills as a sketch artist. His abilities grew and at the age of nineteen he was among the highest paid newspaper artists in San Francisco. William Randolph Hearst discovered Henry and asked him to relocate to New York City to work for the Journal. Nine months later, The World offered him a position, with an exceptional salary increase, to focus on illustrating Special Features. This new position required him to work only three days a week. He covered all of the society events to sketch the well-dressed men and beautiful women of New York society. Working a short week gave him the opportunity and the time he needed to expand his career into magazine illustration.
Early assignments came from Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazar, Collier’s, and Saturday Evening Post. Henry had just turned thirty and he was making more money than he could have imagined. He traveled to Europe at least once a year because he found that traveling to exotic locations was the one thing that would balance his life. Travel was the revitalization tonic that stoked the fire of passion for illustration. WWI was in its third year and Raleigh’s “Hunger Poster” was selected by the government for a distribution of 5 million copies. He subsequently illustrated four additional abstract and emotionally charged war posters. In 1914 Raleigh was chosen by Collier’s to provide illustrations for a five-part serialized story by the most popular author of the period, H. G. Wells. The “Bealby” story was immensely important for Collier’s and overnight made Raleigh one of the most sought after illustrators in America.
The 1920’s was age of optimism. The magazines of the period grew in readership and profitability and so did the artists. Raleigh worked at a feverish pace. By his twenty-fifth year as a commercial artist he had published over 20,000 illustrations. During the depression and for three decades his average income was well over $100,000 per year. He has often been referred to as the most prolific commercial artist of the period. In a 1925 article rebounded Art Critic, Evert Shinn proclaimed him “America’s greatest illustrator”. He was praised in articles in International Studio, Harper’s and Vanity Fair, periodicals not usually impressed with the art of illustration. He was the star of the famous Westport, Conn, art colony. He had a reputation for generosity and supported three families. For almost thirty years, most issue of the Saturday Evening Post featured the drawings of Henry Raleigh. In all he was called upon to illustrate over five hundred Post stories for such revered authors as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, Stephen Vincent Benet, William Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis, and Somerset Maugham.