Raymond Albert Burley was born February 23, 1890 in Ainsworth, Nebraska. His father was Albert W. Burley of Canada. His mother was Mary A. Cornish of Indiana. His brother Nathan was two years younger and his brother Fred was ten years younger. His father was a Teamster. In 1891 the father was offered a job as a Foreman at a Driving Company in Everett, Washington, where the family lived at 3425 Rucker Avenue.
With a natural drawing ability Ray Burley finished schooling and in 1908 found a job as a sign painter in a local shop.
His interest in art may have been influenced by his mother's relative, Nellie Cornish (1876-1956), a Seattle music teacher who in 1914 founded the Cornish School (now Cornish College of the Arts), which was the largest music school on the West Coast. Her enlightened cirriculum based on the Montessori approach also included classes in dance, theater, and painting. Raymond Burley is likely to have studied painting at the school.
By 1916 he had moved to New York City to work as a self-employed artist. He lived at 60 West 66th Street.
On May 26, 1918 during WWI he reported for his draft registration, where he was recorded to be five-nine, medium build, with blue eyes, blonde hair, and no disabilities. He served in France as as a Corporal in Company C, 51st Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Isaac Newell, in 11th Infantry Brigade, 6th Division, 5th Army Corps, American Expeditionary Forces.
After the war he returned to New York City and resumed his fledgling career as an illustrator. He studied at the Art Students League from 1919 to 1923. School records show that he attended lectures with Wallace Morgan and the famous anatomy instructor, George Bridgman. His illustrations soon appeared regularly in Breezy Stories, Spicy Stories, Spicy Screen Stories, Stage & Screen Stories, Telling Tales, and The Twice-a-Month Love Book Magazine. He also drew interior story illustrations for pulp magazines, such as Saucy Romantic Adventures, Mystery Adventures, and War Stories.
On October 27, 1936 he and the artist Eleanor F. Crownfield rented an apartment in Greenwich Village at 200 West 16th Street. Crownfield had been an illustrator for The Ladies Home Journal and she had also been a pupil of Howard Pyle at his art school in Wilmington, Delaware.
From 1937 to 1938 he began to find freelance jobs drawing cartoons for comic book companies, such as Centaur and National (DC).
In January of 1939 at the age of forty-eight he took a two-week cruise to the West Indies on the S.S. Statendam.
By 1939 he had been working steadily for Harry Donenfeld's spicy pulp magazines when the company suddenly struck gold with the phenomenal success of Superman comics. Donenfeld and many other pulp publishers, such as Hugo Gernsbach, Martin Goodman, and Fiction House, quickly redirected much of their talent and attention to the production of comic books. Ray Burley was suddenly very busy drawing for Fight Comics, New Adventure Comics, Super Spy, Superworld Comics, Wings, and World's Finest Comics.
As required during WWII he registered with the selective service on April 27, 1942, even though he was fifty-two years old. He was recorded to be five-nine, 152 pounds, with blue eyes, gray balding hair, light complexion, and a small moustache.
He belonged to the American Legion and in 1956 he received a major mural commission to honor the famous "Lost Battalion" the 77th Infantry Division. The murals were designed to decorate the 77th Division Association Club, at 28 East 39th Street in Manhattan. In preparation for this project the artist revisited France and England during the Summer of 1956 to do research and preliminary sketches of the terrain. One year later on November 7, 1957 the New York Times published an article to announced the Veteran's Day unveiling of his mural paintings.
The artist never married and he had no children. In the 1960s he moved to San Diego, California, where he painted seascapes and joined the American Legion Service Post 537.
Raymond A. Burley died in San Diego on October 4, 1971 at the age of eighty-one.
© David Saunders 2009