Samuel Joseph Cherry was born October 16, 1903 in the Bronx. His father was Joseph Cherry, who immigrated from Nottingham, England. His mother was Theresa Sheehan, who came from County Cork, Ireland. His father owned a construction company that specialized in brick buildings. By 1910 the family had moved to Brooklyn, where they raised five children at 1788 West 5th Street.
In 1916, when Sam Cherry was thirteen years old, he entered a local art contest and won a prize of a brand new one dollar bill. When he was fourteen years old, he entered a drawing contest and won the silver medal. His prize-winning drawing was published in the popular children's magazine, St. Nicholas.
In 1920 at age sixteen he left high school at the end of his sophomore year to work at his father's construction company as a chimney brick layer. He attended evening art classes at the Art Students League.
In 1929 he painted the cover for Mohawk Magazine, which was a trade journal of the Mohawk Automobile Company.
During the 1930s he worked for an art service producing signs, window displays, and other point-of-sales graphic designs.
In 1937 he married Hattie Myers, a clerical secretary from Brooklyn. They moved to 33rd Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan.
His first freelance cover assignments were published by Hillman in 1939 for the large-format bedsheet magazines, Headline Detective and Crime Detective.
In 1941 his son, Steve, was born. After three years the family moved to 65th Street in Brooklyn, where he used one room as a home art studio.
During WWII he was not called for draft registration until 1944, by which time he was forty-one-years-old with two dependents, so he was not selected for military service. Nationwide mobilization created shortages in many industries, including the pulp industry, where most of the top artists had entered the military. Sam Cherry was among the few pulp artists who remained civilians during the war, and as a result experienced tremendous productivity, such as Rafael DeSoto, Ernest Chiriacka, and Gloria Stoll.
Sam Cherry painted pulp covers for many Popular Publication magazines, such as 10-Story Western, Detective Tales, and Rodeo Romances, but he did most of his work for Ned Pines' Thrilling Group on magazines like Blue Ribbon Western, Popular Detective, Super Sports, Thrilling Detective, Thrilling Ranch, Thrilling Western, West, Western Rodeo Romances, and many covers for Texas Rangers.
In 1948 his son, who was troubled with serious asthma, was diagnosed to need more fresh air, so the Cherry family moved out of the gritty city to Franklin Square, which is in the suburbs of Long Island, NY.
Although the Post-War pulp industry was generally in decline, he continued to produce a large number of pulp cover illustrations. His last pulp cover for Texas Rangers appeared in 1958.
The person who posed for many of his illustrations was a rugged body builder named John Hanley, whose distinctive features are recognizable on many of his paintings.
During the 1950s he painted many paperback covers for Popular Library, which was also published by Ned Pines. He also painted covers for Hillman's digest-sized books, such as Nero Wolf Mystery Magazine, Fighting Western, and The Western Novel Classic.
It became difficult for classic illustrators to find steady work after 1960. From 1959 to 1966 he worked as a staff artist at J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in NYC. He painted advertisements and produced story board illustrations for television commercials. He later worked for Dick Heinz Art Service, where he produced countless unsigned graphic assignments for clients, including a series of educational film projects.
He continued to work as a productive commercial artist without thought of retirement. When he was in his sixties he took a course in architectural drawing to be certified for work in that field.
According to the artist's son, "My father was a confident, hardworking, dedicated, all around nice guy!"
After suffering a stroke just before Christmas, Sam Cherry died at the age of seventy-one on January 7, 1975.
© David Saunders 2009