Illustrations that Connect

Albert Staehle was born in Germany and came to America when he was 14 years old.  He was destined to have a career in art, as both his father and grandfather were artists.  His father painted for Currier and Ives and was studying art in Germany when Albert When Albert was 19 years old, he entered a poster contest sponsored by the Borden Company (evaporated milk).  The company wanted a poster to use in its advertisements.  Rather than use an advertising agency, it chose to have people vote on the posters.  Albert’s submission was a cow feeding a calf a bottle of milk saying: “Nothing’s Too Good for My Baby.”  Albert’s poster won and Elsie the Cow became one of the all-time iconic advertising figures.

Albert started getting requests to do illustrations from a number of companies.  When the Saturday Evening Post wanted a cover to boost sales, they came to Albert.  As he was walking past a pet shop, he happened to see a cocker spaniel.  The dog captured Albert’s imagination and Butch eventually appeared on 55 covers for Saturday Evening Post and American Weekly Magazines.  Butch was always getting into trouble, and fans were so enamored by Butch’s exploits, that they would send him replacements (e.g. ration coupons when he was shown eating a set of them).

But it was a request from the U.S. Forest Services that may be Albert’s greatest legacy.  They wanted a poster to draw attention to forest fire prevention.  Albert came up with the idea of a bear dressed in forest ranger’s clothes.  The bear was named Smokey after the nickname of New York City’s fire chief.  Smokey the Bear remains an iconic figure long after Albert’s death in 1974.

Hidden heroes are often renowned for their human touch as well as their accomplishments.  Albert clearly had an ability to convey messages through his illustrations that drew upon human connections.  We may not think of messaging as a heroic act, but leaders in times of national crises need the ability to connect with the general public.  Those who have that ability become national heroes.  In his own way, Albert became a hidden hero for his ability to connect with the general public.

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“Open a magazine from the 1930s and 1940s and look at the illustrations in it.  There’s nobody alive that could touch the way they could draw back then.”  – John Kricfalusi (Artist)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.