Friday, March 09, 2012

H.B. Vestal (1916-2007)

While researching Jack Davis' books on for the previous two posts, something interesting came up in's related results. First, that John Severin, who was recently featured on TI, illustrated a book in the same series. Comic fans will know that both Jack Davis and John Severin were among the elite comic artists who worked on the now legendary E.C. line of comics in the early '50s. So its interesting to see both of them involved in illustrating Random House's historical books for young readers some 15 years later.

But what really caught my attention was another related result. It turns out an illustrator named H.B. Vestal contributed the art to yet another volume in the series. (I found the cover scan to Vestal's book on Flickr in Marxchivist's set called Books, books, books).

Meet the Pilgrim Fathers

I remembered coming across the name H.B. Vestal in my old magazine collection and set to work digging up those images to scan. Vestal had worked in a second-tier women's magazine called "Everywoman." I don't think I've ever come across any of his illustrations in any other mid-century magazines.


At a glance, you can see that Vestal shared an accomplished ability for ink drawing with both Davis and Severin. That might be why the art director responsible for the Random House series chose him to illustrate one of the "Step-Up" historical book.

Vestal seems to have had a steady client in Everywoman magazine. His work appears regularly in the random sampling of about a dozen issues I have that span the period of 1951 - 1957.


Vestal did many spots and some feature artwork for the magazine. He did quite a few illustrations for a monthly column called "Everywoman's Woman."




It was somewhat challenging finding biographical info on H.B. Vestal... but eventually I found him listed on David Saunders' excellent website,


From David's H.B. Vestal page:

Herman Beeson Vestal was born March 27, 1916 in New York City. He became interested in art during his military service. His sketches and watercolors were included in exhibitions of Coast Guard Combat Art, which received press attention.

After the war he returned to NYC and attended the Art Students League.


In 1947 his pen and ink story illustrations began to appear in pulp magazines produced by Fiction House Publications, such as Action Stories, All-America Football, Baseball Stories, Fight Stories, Frontier Stories, Jungle Stories, Lariat, Planet Stories, Two Complete Science-Fiction Adventure Books, Two Western Books, and Wings.


He joined the Salmagundi Club, where his work was included in the 1954 annual art exhibition. His watercolors were singled out for exceptional praise by the editors of American Artist Magazine, which reproduced one of his paintings on their May 1954 cover.



During the 1960s he illustrated several young adult books published by Grosset & Dunlap and Companion Library.


Herman Vestal died in Pittsboro, NC, at the age of ninety-one on September 16, 2007.

* You'll find several examples of Vestal's pulp magazine art at

* The biographical info on H.B. Vestal is © David Saunders 2011


  1. too true all, and did you know that John Severin just passed?

  2. i love your love of illustration. always fun to experience.

  3. Hi Chuck; Yes, I wrote about Severin's passing a couple of weeks ago. Very sad to see another great artist of that golden age leave us.

  4. Thank you Ms. Smart! :^)

  5. Leif, thank you for the nice piece. Beeson was my uncle. Not surprisingly, he also painted many personal works of art, some of which are still around. A lost art and an all to quickly passing generation of artists.

  6. Leif, thank you for the nice piece. Beeson was my uncle. Not surprisingly, he also painted many personal works of art, some of which are still around. A lost art and an all to quickly passing generation of artists.

  7. Thank you for sharing the info on H.B. Vestal. I just picked up an illustration board at my local "opportunity" shop. But I can find nothing that looks like it on the web. Would you share your thoughts? Measures 27 x 19" and has a grim cityscape in blizzard, Santa and this bell collapased at the foot of a street light in front of the Uncle Ren Loans store front. A banner across the top shows 15 childrens all dressed in festive winter garb, a la Rockwell, standing in line to give Santa their holiday requests- excellent work! See the image here~