Walter Martin Baumhofer was born November 1, 1904 in Brooklyn. His parents were German immigrants, Marie and Henry Baumhofer. They had two sons, Richard and Walter. They lived at 92 Ralph Avenue. The father was a clerk at a local coffee company.
In 1918 his father lost his job and was hired as the janitor of an apartment building at 1498 Bushwick Avenue, where the family was able to live rent free. When tenants needed a plumber he would hire a local one, named George Gould, who lived two-doors away at 1502 Bushwick Avenue. That plumber's twelve-year-old son was John Fleming Gould, who became Walt's best friend. They went to school together.
In 1919 at the age of fourteen he accidentally blew three fingers off his left hand while handling a live round of ammunition, which was a relic of the Great War. The accident left him unfit for manual labor, so he began to seriously pursue a career as an artist. He graduated high school in 1922 and was given a scholarship to attend Pratt Institute. John Gould joined him there one year later. They both studied under Dean Cornwell and H. Winfield Scott.
In 1925, while still an art student, he began his career by drawing pen & ink story illustrations for Adventure magazine. His painting teacher, H. Winfield Scott, convinced him to think more ambitiously about working for the pulps, and to submit unsolicited cover paintings instead of waiting for more drawing assignments. Baumhofer followed his advice and in 1926 sold his first pulp cover to Clayton Publications for Danger Trail.
In 1930 he married his wife, Alureda, whose nickname was "Pete."
He quickly became the top cover artist. He created the first covers of Doc Savage, The Spider, and Pete Rice.
In 1937 he joined the American Artists agency and began to sell freelance illustrations to slick magazines, such as American Weekly, Colliers,Cosmopolitan, Country Gentleman, Esquire, Liberty, McCall's, Redbook, and Woman's Day.
During WWII he was thirty-nine years old and missing three fingers, so he was exempt from military service.
In 1945, the Baumhofers moved to 56 School Street in Northport New York, on Long Island, where they lived for the rest of their lives.
In the 1950s he worked for men's adventure magazines, such as Argosy,Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, and True.
After he retired from freelance magazine illustration he stayed very busy painting and exhibiting portraits, landscapes, and scenes of the Old West at fine art galleries nationwide.
In 1978 he was thrilled to be "re-discovered" by enthusiastic fans of pulp magazines. He was a guest speaker and the Guest of Honor at several conventions. He was also featured and interviewed in several fanzines.
Walter M. Baumhofer died at age eighty-two on September 23, 1987.
© David Saunders 2009