Monday, May 25, 2015

Lettering: Aldren A. Watson

Aldren A. Watson hand-lettered the first American Artist logo. He may have designed the title’s previous name, Art Instruction. It is not known if Aldren studied with a calligrapher or was self-taught. Art Instruction was created by Aldren’s father Ernest Watson and Arthur Guptill who formed the publishing company, Watson-Guptill. Aldren’s “contribution” to the Art Instruction logo was mentioned in the August 1938 issue:
“…This cartoon by Lawrence R. Lewton of Portland, Oregon, was submitted in Art Instruction’s recent Caricature and Cartoon Contest. For Mr. Lewton’s information we’ll explain where the “Beastie” came from. When Art Instruction’s cover was being designed, all seemed finally complete except that white space in the upper-right corner. Editor Watson, glancing at his son Aldren’s letterhead, espied said Beastie, attacked it with editorial scissors and slapped it on the cover design. Be thankful you’re not an editor’s son!”

The title changed with the January 1940 issue; below is the June 1940 American Artist cover featuring cartoonist Rollin Kirby.

The new cover format was introduced with the January 1944 American Artist that mentioned Aldren’s contribution on page two:
“…Although our new cover appears, at first glance, to be entirely new, one feature of the old has been retained; our name, American Artist, which was hand-lettered by Aldren A. Watson several years ago, appears in the same beautifully designed style, white on black, in the band across the top….”
Aldren’s logo was replaced around the last quarter of 1951.

Aldren Auld Watson was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 10, 1917. The 1920 U. S. Federal Census recorded him, his parents, Ernest and Eva, and older brother, Merlin, in Brooklyn at 181 Emerson Place. At the time his father was an instructor at a private school. Their address was the same in the 1925 New York State Census and 1930 census.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
(New York)
May 15, 1932
Miss Golding Entertains
Miss Betty Golding, of 170 Hancock St., entertained at a supper-dance last evening. 
Among those present were the Misses Pamela Peoples, Catherine Streeter, Joan Boselly, Betty Beach, Eleanor Hunt, Julia Gray, Lois Catuna, Robert Rikel, Thomas Noble, John Briggs, Aldren Watson, Donald McGratty, Kenneth Creveling, Winthrop Sterns and Harry Mitchell.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
(New York)
April 2, 1933
Four Watsons Exhibit at the Same Art Show
Parents and Two Sons Display Their Work in Church Gallery—
Father Long Noted Here and Abroad for His Prints
Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Watson just can’t remember when their boys learned to paint.
“They may have learned perspective toddling around the studio floor,” Mrs. Watson says laughingly. 
“They learned to paint the way other children learn to speak,” Mr. Watson explains gravely. 
The studio on the third floor of the Watson home at 181 Emerson Place is always occupied by one or another member of the family, but they manage not to get into each other’s paint pots. 
Mr. Watson has exhibited his block prints and pencil illustrations in the Brooklyn Museum, the British Museum, the New York Public Library, the National Museum and in art shows throughout the country. There is never a time when some of his work is not on exhibition in some part of the country. He was head of the evening art school at Pratt for more! than 10 years. 
Mrs. Watson has been exhibiting with her husband for the last seven or eight years, but her work is in no way like his. While he is interested in forests and ships and is conservative in style, she cannot confined by inches. “I love wide sweeping murals of a decorative sort,” she says. 
Merlin at 19, is a quiet lad with brown hair, deep blue eyes and a serious manner. Weird prints of startling dramatic black and white contrasts, clay masks with fantastic faces, these are the things he loves to do. He studies at the Art Students League, has tried every medium there is, but comes back to black and white because “1 think that way.” 
Aldren at 15 has not quite decided what is his favorite medium. Now he is working on a set of marionettes.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
(New York)
April 30, 1933
Prize Winners
Aldren Watson, a student in the tenth grade at Friends School, who won third prize in the annual group of prizes for creative work in literature and the visual arts conducted by Scholastic, high school magazine. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Watson of 181 Emerson Place. His father is a well known artist. The third prize is a check for $15.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
(New York)
November 27, 1933
Honor Pupils Listed by Friends School
The honor roll of Friends School for November was announced today by Wayne L. Douglas, headmaster. It follows:
…11th Grade—High honors, Betty Beach and Aldren Watson…
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
(New York)
December 23, 1933
John Barnewall Will Be Host at Party on New Year’s Eve
John Barnewall of 570 E. 21st St., a senior at Friends School, will entertain at his home on New Year’s Eve. The guests will be the Misses Betty Beach, Betty Golding, Louise and Julia Gray, Barbara Forshew, Eleanor Hunt, Mary Parker, Barbara Stearns, Ruth Barnewall, Caroline Ebinger, Jean Scott, Joan Boselly, Katherine and Ixiis Whittier; John Briggs, Charles Speer, William Bertsche, Aldren Watson, John McCrate Jr., Winthrop Stearns, Kenneth Creveling, John Parker, Robert Rikel Nathaniel Lubet, Thomas Noble and Vincent Murphy. 
There will be an orchestra for dancing.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
(New York)
April 4, 1934
Dual Role on Friends Nine for Mac Crate
Ace of Pitching Staff Will Also Fill the Gap at First Base
Capt. John MacCrate Jr., son of Supreme Court Justice MacCrate, will fill a dual role with the Brooklyn Friends school baseball team this season…. 
…Other prominent candidates for positions on the team comprise Kenneth Creveling, Bill Von Ax, Aldren Watson, Jeffrey Jennings, Karl Kramer and Randall Walker.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
(New York)
April 16, 1935
8 Net Games Listed for Friends Boys
Brooklyn Friends Boy’s tennis team will participate in eight matches this season. Capt. William Bertsche, the only veteran of last year’s lettermen, will be supported by capable netmen chosen from the following: Vincent Murphy, Robert Rikel, Monroe Grossman, Aldren Watson, Brooks Parker, Arnold Nicosta, Ben Johnson, John James, Martin Johnson, Jack Marshall, Watten Anderson and William Notion.
Aldren spent some time overseas according to a passenger list at He arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 13, 1936 from Libson, Portugal. His Brooklyn address was on the passenger list.

The 1940 census said Aldren and his parents resided in Manhattan, New York City, at 21 East 10th Street. All of them were freelance artists. Aldren’s mother passed away in 1948 and his father in 1969.

Partial list of books by Aldren.

The Song of Songs Which is Solomon’s (1944)
Aesop’s Fables, in a New Translation for Modern Readers (1946)
Gulliver’s Travels (1947)
The Jungle Books (1948)
John Henry and His Hammer (1950)
Pecos Bill, Texas Cowpuncher (1950)
Empire of Fur: Trading in the Lake Superior Region (1953)
Toby and Doll (1955)
When Is Tomorrow? (1955)
What does A begin with? (1956)
The Fairy Tale Picture Book (1957)
John Greenleaf Whittier: Fighting Quaker (1958)
Our Christmas Story (1959)
Mike Fink: Best of the Keelboatmen (1960)
Russian Proverbs Newly Translated (1960)
My Garden Grows (1962)
Watson Drawing Book (1962; with Ernest Watson)
Willie and the Wildcat Well (1962)
American Bard: The Story of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1963)
Hand Bookbinding: A Manual of Instruction (1963)
The Picture Story and Biography of John Adams (1965)
The Snow Book (1965)
Very First Words for Writing and Spelling; A Picture Dictionary (1966)
Just Right (1968)
The Village Blacksmith (1968)
Carol to a Child, and a Christmas Pageant (1969)
A First Look at Psychology (1969)
Maple Tree Begins (1970)
New Under the Stars (1970)
The Hunting Peoples (1971)
Country Furniture (1974)
Uncle Wiggily’s Happy Days (1976)
Source of Everyday Things (1978)
Furniture Making Plain and Simple (1984)
Hand Tools Their Ways and Working (1986)
The Blacksmith: Ironworker and Farrier (1990)
Hand Tools (2002)
Waterfront New York: Images of the 1920s and ’30s (2014)

Aldren passed away May 5, 2013 in Etna, New Hampshire. The following paid death notice appeared May 10 in The New York Times.
Watson—Aldren Auld, book illustrator and author born in Brooklyn, 1917, to artists Eva and Ernest Watson. His final work, “Waterfront New York: Images of the 1920’s & ’30’s,” is forthcoming in July. More information at: Survived by eight children and many other relatives. He was predeceased by parents; brother Merlin Auld Watson; grandson James Watson Harrah.
Aldren’s biography is here. Additional links: Wendy Watson’s Blog, and Thomas A. D. Watson.

(Next post on Monday: Daniel T. Ames, Master Penman)


  1. Thank you for this lovely post about my father. I learned things about him here that I had not known---for example, that he did the lettering for the original American Artist cover. And that he was on his school's baseball team! I believe he was self-taught in his type-design and hand lettering, though he attended the Art Students League for 5 years of training in drawing and painting before embarking on his career as an illustrator and writer. He hand lettered the display texts for almost all of the books he illustrated, and he designed at least one complete typeface which he used in some of his book projects.

  2. I'm adding here 2 more blog posts that I wrote about my Dad, Aldren Watson...a man of wide interests and abilities.

  3. Thank you for your comments and additional links. Your father was a multi-talented man, a Renaissance man.