Monday, April 4, 2022

Creator: Oscar Ogg, Illustrator, Calligrapher and Lettering Artist

Oscar John Ogg was born on December 13, 1908, in Richmond, Virginia, according to his birth certificate at His parents were Oscar Jesse Ogg and Marcie Edna Chappell. Ogg’s father worked for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (D & RG RR). 

The 1910 U.S. Federal Census recorded Ogg, his parents and older brother, Frank, and sister, Virginia, in Salida, Colorado at 601 E Street. Ogg’s father was a superintendent at the D & RG RR. 

The 1920 census said the Ogg family added another child, Robert, to the household. They resided in Albuquerque, New Mexico at 223 West Central. A few years later the Oggs moved. 

Ogg was a student at the Dodge City, Kansas Junior and Senior High School. He was in the class of 1927 and staff cartoonist on the yearbook, The Sou’wester, beginning in 1924.

In 1925 Ogg was yearbook staff cartoonist, sophomore class president, Honor Society member, Hi-Y vice-president, and Sodalitas Latina member. 

The 1926 yearbook said Ogg was the staff illustrator, bass in the Boys’ Glee Club, performer in the Junior class play, Hi-Y president, and Honor Society member. 

Ogg’s senior year activities were noted in the 1927 Sou’wester. He was the yearbook editor-in-chief and staff illustrator, football quarterback, Student Council member, school newspaper Dodger editor-in-chief, Hi-Y president, Boys’ Glee Club first tenor, and Quill and Scroll member. 

According to the 1930 census, Ogg was counted in his parents household. Their address was 1102 Avenue A in Dodge, Kansas. 

Ogg was in the class of 1931 and an architecture major at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. In 1932 he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture

While at school, Ogg was in contact with his cousin, Warren Chappell, an illustrator and lettering artist. In Something About the Author (1990) Chappell explained how he and Ogg moved to New York. 
New York in the spring of 1932 was an unlikely place to set up shop as a graphic artist. First we needed to visit our families and this we could do while sorting out our alternatives. My cousin, Oscar Ogg, who was graduating in architecture from the University of Illinois, wrote that he wanted to do what I was doing rather than practice his profession. We decided that Lydia would remain in Virginia while Oscar and I went to New York to establish a base. It was the summer of Franklin Roosevelt’s nomination. After almost six months, we had our things out of storage and into an apartment at 22 West 54th Street, later to become the interim site of the Whitney Museum. Oscar lived with us for a period while I could share with him some of my experiences with letter forms and introduce him to Huxley House, the outstanding type composition house where he would work for several years. ...
…From 1932 to 1935 he worked as a typographer and then took a position as art director in an advertising agency until 1937. Following this he became a freelance designer, lettering artist and calligrapher …
The New York Times, August 11, 1971, said Ogg “studied layout and typography with Walter Huxley in New York and was an assistant to Boardman Robinson at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.”

Art Digest, March 15, 1939

The Times said
When Mr. Ogg was first working as a calligrapher in New York, providing lettering and jacket designs for book covers, he found himself at a disadvantage because of his youth. To compete more effectively, he grew a red beard since beards were then considered a symbol of age.
Ogg also freelanced as an illustrator. Loring & Mussey published Chappell’s The Anatomy of Lettering in 1935. Chappell may have recommended his cousin, Ogg, to the publisher who used Ogg to illustrate The Knights at Bay, also released in 1935. The following year, Ogg did the jacket art, and probably the lettering, for Chinatown Inside Out; he signed it in the lower left corner.

On June 12, 1934, Ogg married Margarita Westenberger at Blessed Sacrament, Springfield, Illinois. 

In the 1940 census, Ogg and his wife lived at 100 West Fifty-Fifth Street. He was an independent calligrapher. Six months later on October 24, 1940, Ogg signed his World War II draft card. He was self-employed and lived at 228 West 72nd Street in Manhattan. Ogg’s description was five feet nine inches, 140 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair. Who’s Who said Ogg served in the U.S. Army with the Graphic Division, Corps of Engineers, and with Army Intelligence, Washington, D.C. 

Ogg’s An Alphabet Source Book was published in 1940 by Harper and Bros. Thomas Y. Crowell published his next book, The 26 Letters, in 1948. 

The 1944 Manhattan, New York City directory listed the same 1940 census address. The 1948 and 1949 directories said Ogg resided in Jackson Heights, Queens at 34-06 81st Street. By 1951, Ogg made his home in Stamford, Connecticut. The city directory said his address was Lone Close Road near Westover Road. His occupation was an executive. 

In 1946 Ogg established the School of Calligraphy at Columbia University and began work at Book-of-the-Month Club. A 1950 issue of American Printer said 
Book-of-the-Month Club has announced that Harry N. Abrams, advertising manager of the club, plans to resign early this year to launch his own publishing concern which will specialize in the publishing of art books. He will remain associated with the Book-of-the-Month Club as a member of the board of directors and a consultant. Oscar Ogg, present art director of the club, will succeed him as advertising manager. …
Ogg designed alphabets for Photo-Lettering, Inc. in New York: Oscar Ogg Folio, Oscar Ogg Roman 3, Oscar Ogg Italic, Oscar Ogg Roman 4, Oscar Ogg Italic 4, Oscar Ogg Semi Uncial, and Oscar Ogg Irish Uncial. The alphabets appeared in the Alphabet Thesaurus 9000 (1960). 

Ogg passed away on August 19, 1971, in Stamford, Connecticut, according to the Connecticut Death Index at 

Works by Oscar Ogg

Advertising Arts
November 1933

The Knights at Bay
Philip Lindsay
Loring & Mussey, 1935

Chinatown Inside Out
Leong Gor Yun
Barrows Mussey, 1936
Jacket illustration and lettering

Green One
Lelia Brodersen
Barrows Mussey, 1936

Sergeant Death
Frank P. Grady
Loring & Mussey, 1936
Jacket design

Charles Franklin Lender
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1937

An Alphabet Source Book
Oscar Ogg
Harper & Bros., 1940

The Anatomy of Sea Power
Arthur J. Marder
Alfred A. Knopf, 1940
Binding design

May Lamberton Becker
Dodd, Mead & Company, 1940

America Was Like This
Emma Gelders Sterne
Dodd, Mead & Company, 1941

La Jeunesse de Cyrano de Bergerac
Henry de Gorsse, Joseph Jacquin, Joseph Franz Freiherr von Jacquin
Edited by Alexander D. Gibson
Illustrated by by Rafaello Busoni 
Harper & Brothers, 1941
Binding design

Meet the South Americans
Carl Crow
Harper & Brothers, 1941

Art for All Art: Appreciation As Related to Dress, Home, School, and Work
Francis Grant Bartlett & Claude C. Crawford
Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1942

Franklin Street
Philip Goodman
Alfred A. Knopf, 1942
Binding design

The Mask Book
Howell, Soskin, Publishers, Inc., 1942

Mr. Lincoln’s Funnybone: Wherein the White House Joker Retells His Best Yarns & Fables
Edited by Loyd Dunning
Howell, Soskin, 1942

The Raft
Robert Trumbull
Henry Holt & Co., 1942
Jacket design

Frank Crowninshield
Julian Messner, Inc., 1942
Typography and design

Design and Paper, Number 11, c1943, Lettering for Commerce

The Holy Bible
The Illustrated Modern Library
Random House, 1943
Book design

Kate Fennigate
Booth Tarkington
Doubleday Doran, 1943
Jacket design

Life With Father and Mother
Clarence Cay
Alfred A. Knopf, 1943
Jacket design

Man in Structure and Function
Fritz Kahn, M.D.
Alfred A. Knopf, 1943
Slipcase design

Prairie Chautauqua
Lucile P. Fargo
Dodd, Mead & Co., 1943

Sir Walter Scott
Dodd, 1943
Jacket and decorations

Theodore Roosevelt: Strenuous American
Alvin Fay Harlow
J. Messner, 1943

Print, Volume 3, Number 3, 1943

Let Our Hearts Be Stout
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Design and calligraphy

American Artist, September 1944, Oscar Ogg Calligrapher

Inland Printer, October 1944, Calligraphy’s Flowering, Decay & Restoration 

Our Sons Will Triumph
Jack Dixon
Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1945
Lettering and decorations

Print, Fall 1945, Volume 3, Number 4, Lettering & Calligraphy 

The Happy Profession
Sedgwick, Ellery
Little, Brown, 1946
Jacket design

House Above the River.
Michael Foster
Little, Brown & Company, 1946
Jacket design

The River
Ruth Godden
Little Brown, Boston, 1946
Jacket design

The Queen’s Awards 1946
Ellery Queen
Little, Brown & Co., 1946
Jacket design

Oscar Ogg
Dover, 1947

Great Morning!
Osbert Sitwell
Little, Brown and Company, 1947
Jacket design

Ernie Pyle
William Sloane Associates, 1947
Jacket design

The Left Hand Is the Dreamer
Nancy Wilson Ross, 
Sloane, 1947
Jacket design

Edited by Saxe Commins & Robert N. Linscott
Random House, 1947
Book design

Edited by Saxe Commins & Robert N. Linscott
Random House, 1947
Book design

Man Against Myth
Barrows Dunham
Little, Brown & Company, Inc., 1947
Jacket design

Mountain Time
Bernard De Voto
Little Brown, Boston, 1947
Jacket design

The Queen’s Awards 1947
Ellery Queen
Little, Brown & Co., 1947
Jacket design

Three Short Novels By Vercors
Jean Bruller Vercors
Little, Brown & Co., 1947

Treasure Island
Robert Louis Stevenson
Grosset & Dunlap, 1947
Book design

Macmillan Company, 1947
Book design

American Artist, May 1947, A Comparison of calligraphy and lettering

The 26 Letters
Oscar Ogg
Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1948

The Dispossessed
John Berryman
William Sloane Associates, Inc., 1948
Jacket design

Edwin Arlington Robinson
Emery Neff
William Sloane Associates, 1948
Jacket design

Margaret Sidney
Grosset & Dunlap, 1948
Book designed

Rudyard Kipling
Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1948
Book design

Robert Louis Stevenson
Grosset & Dunlap, 1948
Book design

Laughter in the Next Room
Sir Osbert Sitwell
Little, Brown and Co., 1948

The Queen’s Awards 1948
Ellery Queen
Little, Brown & Co., 1948
Jacket design

Road to Survival
William Vogt
William Sloane Associates, 1948
Jacket design

Artifacts ’48
Bruce McClellan
Maple Press Company, 1949

Norman Auth
William Sloane Associates, 1949
Jacket design

The Empire and the Glory: Napoleon Bonaparte 1800–1806
Fletcher Pratt
William Sloane, 1949
Jacket design

Lettering as a Book Art
Oscar Ogg
George McKibbin & Son, 1949
(selected pages below)

Books and Printing: A Treasury for Typophiles
Edited by Paul A. Bennett
World Publishing Co., 1951

Howard Pyle
Grosset & Dunlap, 1952
Book design

Three Classics of Italian Calligraphy. Arrighi, Tagliente and Palatino
With an introduction by Oscar Ogg
Dover Publications, 1953

Europe: A Journey with Pictures
Anne Freemantle and Bryan Holme
Studio Publications, 1954

Modern Prints & Drawings: A Guide to a Better understanding of Modern Draughtsmanship
Paul J. Sachs
Alfred A. Knopf, 1954
Book and binding design

Sixty-three Drawings by Warren Chappell
Typophiles, 1955
Book design

Art in America, No. 4 1959, Calligraphy

Elizabethan Lyrics from the Original Texts
Norman Ault, Editor
Capricorn Books, 1960
Cover design

Oscar Ogg
Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1961
Seventh Printing

Girl From Fitchburg
Bernardine Kielty Scherman, 
Random House, 1964
Jacket design

Oscar Ogg
Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1971
Revised Edition

Further Reading and Viewing

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1 comment:

  1. Hi! Thanks for publishing such an extensive piece about Ogg. I'm wondering if I could ask you some questions about him for a research paper I'm writing. Could you send me an email?