Reed Leonard Crandall was born February 22, 1917 in Winslow, Indiana. His grandfather, also named Reed Crandall (1856-1934), was a popular Judge and State Congressman of Kansas. His father, Rayburn Leonard Crandall, was born in 1890 in Kansas. His mother, Delia Louise Highwood, was born in 1891 in Indiana. His parents married in 1914 and had three children, Dillon Michael Crandall (b.1916), Reed Leonard Crandall (b.1917), and Ella Louise Crandall (b.1919). The family lived in Boone, Indiana, where the father was a farmer.
According to family history, in 1921, at the age of four, Reed Crandall picked up a pencil and started to draw. His parents were amazed at his skill, since he could "barely speak in full sentences, but he sure could draw!"
By 1930 the family lived in Bloomington, Indiana, where the father worked as a plumber. They lived at 610 West Third Street. Here is a photo of the parents. Here is a photo of the twelve-year-old Reed Crandall posing in the sunny backyard as an artist drawing at his easel.
In 1932 the family patriach, Grandfather Reed Crandall, suffered a fall and became seriously ill, after which the family left Indiana and moved to Newton, Kansas.
In 1932 Reed Crandall began to attend the local high school, where he became interested in a career in art. His art teacher was Marie Elizabeth Orr (1897-1965).
In 1933, during his sophomore year, Reed Crandall made a three-panel painting of Native Americans for a school decoration.
In 1934 the Grandfather, Congressman Reed Crandall, died at the age of seventy-eight in Newton, KS.
In June of 1935 Reed Crandall graduated from Newton High School. He was awarded a scholarship to attend art school the Cleveland School of Art, in Cleveland, Ohio.
In September 1935 he left Neweton and moved to Cleveland. This was the hometown of Jerry Siegel (1914-1996) and Joe Shuster (1914-1992), whose co-created comic strips first appeared in the October 1935 issue of New Fun Comics.
In the Spring of 1936, Reed Crandall's father, Rayburn Crandall, died at the age of forty-six in Newton, KS. After this tragic death, Reed Crandall left school in Ohio and returned to his family in Kansas.
In the fall of 1936 Reed Crandall left Kansas and returned to Ohio to resume his art school training.
In 1937, during his junior year at art school, Reed Crandall was joined by his widowed mother and unwed sister. They lived at 1911 East 90th Street in Cleveland, Ohio. His older brother remained in Newton, where he followed their grandfather's career as a Kansas politician.
While at art school, Reed Crandall earned his living by painting signs for local businesses.
In January of 1939 he completed studies at the Cleveland School of Art. He joined the workforce as a staff artist at the Newspaper Enterprise Association Syndicate of Cleveland.
In 1940 Reed Crandall illustrated the childrens book "Come Colors Come - A Story of the Coeur D'Alene Mines" by Lucille Fargo for Dodd, Mead Publishing House of NYC.
In the fall of 1940 Reed Crandall left Ohio and moved to New York City to seek his fortune as a book and magazine illustrator. His mother and unwed sister came to live with him. They lived on Monroe Street in Huntington Beach, on Long Island. He attended the Art Students League at 215 West 57th Street.
Reed Crandall soon found work with the Eisner and Iger Studio, which produced the contents of comic books for other publishers. His early work appeared in Quality Comics and Fiction House Comics.
In 1942 he produced his most memorable feature, "Blackhawk," about a heroic squad of WWII combat aviators.
In 1942 Reed Crandall married Martha Louise Hamilton. She was born February 7, 1917 in Ohio. They had two children, Cathy Crandall (b.1943), and Reed Crandall, Jr. (b.1945).
In 1941 his mother and sister left NYC and returned to Kansas to live near the eldest son, Dillon Michael Crandall, after which the sister, Ella Louise Crandall, married Jack Whitlock and moved to Wichita, KS.
On May 18, 1943, during WWII, Reed Crandall was drafted and served in the Army Air Force.
On February 9, 1946 he was discharged at the rank of Sergeant.
After his return to NYC he resumed his career as a comic book artist drawing Blackhawk.
In 1953 Reed Crandall began to draw horror features for EC Comics, such as Haunt of Fear, Tales From The Crypt, and Two-Fisted Tales.
In 1954 the comic book industry was devastated by the gamesmanship of opportunistic politicians, after which Reed Crandall began to draw for Classics Illustrated Comics. His work appeared in "Julius Caesar," "Oliver Twist," and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
In 1960 Reed Crandall began to illustrate educational Catholic comics for Treasure Chest Comics. He also drew Buster Brown Comics for the nationally-franchised children's shoe store.
By 1960 his children were adults and his marriage had grown unhappy and resulted in an amicable separation.
In 1961 Reed Crandall left NYC and moved to Wichita, Kansas, to care for his elderly widowed mother, Delia Crandall. They lived together at 315 South Sycamore Street in Wichita, KS. His older brother, Dillon Michael Crandall, was an elected State Congressman of Kansas, and was a member of the Socialist Party.
In 1964 he began to illustrate several books for Canaveral Press, such as "Tarzan" and "John Carter of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
In 1967 he began to draw Flash Gordon for King Features Syndicate.
He also drew for Creepy Comics and Eerie Comics.
Here is the artist's Christmas card from 1967, which shows his self-portrait surrounded by memorable past creations.
According to Robert Barrett, a foremost authority on Edgar Rice Burroughs and a neighbor of the artist, "Beginning in 1964 I began to spend Saturday afternoons with Reed and his mother on their four-plex apartment on Sycamore. Reed seemed to really enjoy my visits since if I didn't call to let him know that I would be visiting he would call me and ask if I was dropping by. His studio was in his bedroom and he would often be drawing some commissioned art while we visited, the radio tuned to the Metropolitan Opera - usually a glass of bourbon sitting on his drawing board. Sometimes he would be working on the latest story for Warren Magazines or an issue of Treasure Chest - or just something that he felt like doing. He would also do pen and ink or water color pieces for some Burroughs fanzine or something that I had asked him to do for me, or something that he thought I'd like and give it to me. I think that we both enjoyed these visits very much. I miss him. Reed Crandall was a soft spoken man. I never heard him say anything detrimental about anyone, although he might comment about a particular artists work."
In 1974 Reed Crandall suffered a debilitating stroke, which forced him to retire from illustration.
He found work in Wichita as a janitor and night watchman at the executive offices of Pizza Hut.
On September 1, 1975 his brother, Congressman Dillon Crandall, died at the age of seventy in Wichita, Kansas.
In 1976 Reed Crandall suffered a second stroke, after which he entered a nursing home.
On July 15, 1980 his estranged wife, Martha Crandall, died at the age of sixty-three.
Reed Crandall died of a heart attack at the age of sixty-five in a Wichita nursing home on September 13, 1982.
Two weeks later his mother, Delia Crandall, died at the age of ninety-one.
© David Saunders 2016