Nina Dorothy Albright was born Nina Dorothy Abrecht on February 15, 1907 in Manhattan, New York City. Her father, Arthur Gustave Abrecht, was born in 1877 in Germany, and moved to America in 1895. Her mother, Mary Stuart, was born in 1883 in Indiana. Her parents married in 1906 and moved to 521 West 151st Street. Nina was their only child. The father was a journalist at the German language newspaper, New Yorker Staats-Zeitung.
By 1910 the family moved to Brooklyn, where they lived at 1022 Madison Street. The maternal Mother-in-law, Emily Stuart (b.1858), and the maternal Aunt, Nina Stuart (b.1881), also lived with them. The father's newspaper sent him abroad to report from Paris and Berlin as a foreign correspondent, while his wife and child remained in Brooklyn. Nina Abrecht was largely raised by her mother, grandmother, and namesake Aunt.
In 1917, when Nina Abrecht was ten years old, her father was detained in Berlin after the U.S. declaration of War against Germany. With considerable diplomatic effort, her father was released, and sailed back to America on the last boat to leave Hamburg, while German U-Boats hunted in the Atlantic Ocean.
As the Great War progressed Americans grew intolerant of German citizens and businesses. The New Yorker Staats-Zeitung was a most prominent German business, and as such was subject to hysterical attacks by "patriotic Americans" and was harassed by most branches of law enforcement. The newspaper struggled with boycotts by advertisers and newsdealers until it was forced to lay-off employees in order to survive.
Arthur G. Abrecht reluctantly left his career in journalism and moved with his wife and daughter to live with relatives in Howell, New Jersey, where he worked as a chicken farmer for the duration of the war.
By 1920 the family was able to return to New York City, and the father resumed his career in journalism at the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung. The Abrechts lived at 9026 144th Street in Jamaica, Queens, NY.
In 1922 Nina Abrecht, age 15, was awarded honorable mention in a drawing contest at the children's magazine, St. Nicholas. The following year another drawing was awarded First Prize and a Gold Badge. According to the artist, "That settled it - I had to be an artist! Nothing else would do."
In June of 1924 she graduated from a Catholic high school in Queens.
In September 1924 she began to attend the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, School of Art. Her teachers included Max Hermann (1879-1929), H. Winfield Scott (1897-1977), and Frederick V. Baker (1876-1964). Her classmates included Walter Baumhofer, John Fleming Gould, and Frederick Blakeslee.
In June of 1927 Nina Abrecht graduated from Pratt Institute. According to the artist,"After graduation, I tried various fields of artistic endeavor, finally settling upon illustration as the kind of work that suited me best."
By 1928 her father had became City Editor at the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung. Nina Abrecht lived at home with her parents and listed her occupation as "Freelance Artist."
On February 22, 1930 her father quit his job at the newspaper, when he was hired as Publicity Manager at the Hamburg American Shipping Line.
During the next few years Nina Abrecht traveled on several ocean voyages as a director of entertainment, while her father spoke over the radio about the joys of ocean travel with Hamburg American Line. The shipping line was owned by the German government, so the publicist's job was to encourage favorable publicity about travel to Germany. In 1932 the Nazi Party came to power, after which point the allegiance of Arthur G. Abrecht was again of interest to various enforcement agencies of national security.
During the historic 1936 Olympics in Berlin the majority of American visitors traveled by the Hamburg American Line.
In 1939 Germany invaded Poland, which permanently changed the course of civilization. It also ended her father's second career, when the German-owned Hamburg American Shipping Line ceased to operate in American territory, where its ships were subject to confiscation.
In 1940 her father suffered a nervous breakdown and retired. Nina Abrecht found work as a typist at a Department Store. She lived at home with her parents at 6830 Burns Street in Queens, NY.
In 1942 as America mobilized for World War II, Nina Abrecht married Charles M. Schaefer. He was born in 1908 in Germany, and came to America in 1920. He lived in Long Island City, Queens, and worked as ladies hairdresser at his own salon shop.
On July 20, 1942, Arthur G. Abrecht swallowed a lethal dose of poison before going to bed. He woke at 4am to discover his suicide attempt had failed. He dressed and left the home, but continued to wear his red bedroom slippers. He walked to the nearby tracks of the Long island Railroad, but before he reached the tracks, the walk had stimulated his poisoned circulation and resulted in his death. His body was discovered at 5am by a patrolling policeman.
1942 remains in records books as the year in which the most Americans married. It is uniquely matched with 1945, as the year in which most Americans divorced. True to this pattern, Mr. & Mrs. Charles M. Schaefer were divorced in 1944.
After her divorce, Nina Abrecht decided not to go back to using her maiden name, but to instead be known as "Nina Dorothy Albright."
She found work in the growing comic book industry of NYC. She did freelance work for several comic shops, such as the Majestic Studio, run by Adolph Barreaux, Funnies, Inc., run by Lloyd Jacquet, and the Iger Studio, run by Jerry Iger. Her work was published by Ace, Better, Fiction House, Harvey, Holyoke, Marvel, Novelty, St. John, and Ziff-Davis.
She was a friend of the artist Harry T. Fisk.
In 1949 she lived at 320 East 53rd Street.
During the 1950s she illustrated educational text books, such as "Manual for Second Year Readers," "This Is Chicago," and "Joyce Jackson's Guide To Dating."
In 1952 she illustrated stories in American Girl Magazine, published by the Girl Scouts of America.
In 1954 she began to illustrate a popular series of novels for young adults, "Polly French," written by Francine Lewis for the Whitman Publishing Company.
In 1958 she joined the Society of Illustrators of New York. The private social club produced a monthly newsletter that included a reference to her new membership.
In the 1960s she painted covers for paperbacks from the Signal Books Publishing Company.
In 1970 she lived at 110 East 59th Street.
Nina Dorothy Albright died at the age of eighty-nine in NYC on February 7, 1997, one week before her ninetieth birthday.
© David Saunders 2015