Lorence Ferdinand Bjorklund was born July 16, 1913 in St. Paul, Minnesota. His parents were August and Mabel Bjorklund. His younger siblings were Eleanor, Muriel, and Clifford. They lived at 455 East Jessamine Street. His father was a painting contractor who had immigrated from Sweden in 1904. His mother was born in Minnesota of Swedish ancestry. By 1928 the family had moved to 1122 Desoto Street.
In 1931 he graduated from Johnson High School and he moved to Brooklyn to study commercial art at the Pratt Institute on a scholarship. He met other young artists, including his future wife, Katherine Lieber, of Gary, Indiana. He also met the pulp artists Rudolph Belarski, Frederick Blakeslee, John Fleming Gould, and H. W. Scott, all of whom were employed at that time as Pratt art instructors.
Through these contacts Bjorklund began to support himself while still an art student as an artist in the pulp magazine industry. He drew pen & ink interior story illustrations for many of Martin Goodman's pulp magazines, such as All Star Adventure, All Star Fiction, Best Western, Complete Western Book, Gunsmoke Western, Ka-Zar, Quick-Trigger Western, Western Fiction, Western Novels & Short Stories, Wild Western Novels. Although his work appeared in detective, jungle, and adventure pulps, he is most renowned for his illustrations of the Old West.
In 1934 he graduated from Pratt. His yearbook entry affectionately reads, " Larry Bjorklund, our Swedish cow-puncher from the golden West who hasn't forgotten those ten-gallon hats. His toils are soon to be crowned with success."
Besides working for Martin Goodman, he also drew interior story illustrations for Street & Smith, Thrilling, and Blue Ribbon pulps, such as Western Story, Wild West Weekly, Popular Western, Complete Northwest, and Western Round-Up.
Nick Eggenhofer became his close friend and mentor during his prolific career as a pen & ink illustrator of the Old West for pulp magazines. Another friend was his former teacher from Pratt, H.W.Scott. Their friendship is commemorated in a remarkable photographic cover of Western Story from October 16, 1937, in which Scott is posed telling Bjorklund, "Stick 'em up!" To see a close-up detail click here.
He and Katherine married in 1938 and moved to a property on Crosby Road in Croton Falls, NY, where H.W.Scott was their next door neighbor. Bjorklund's art studio was decorated with Old West memorabilia. He lived and worked there for the rest of his life, where his daughter, Karna, was born and raised.
During WWII he was exempted from military service because of his responsibilties for a wife and an infant daughter, so he worked in a defense plant as a toolmaker at the Bard-Parker Company in Danbury, CT.
He went on to have a distinguished career illustrating books and historic novels on the Old West, including two books that he wrote, "Faces of the Frontier" and "The Bison."
Lorence Bjorklund died of heart failure at age sixty-five on May 7, 1978.
© David Saunders 2009