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EHLER DAHL

(1895-1945)

Truda Dahl was the pen name used by the artist Ehler Neilsen Dahl, Jr, who was born August 29, 1895 in Christiana, Oslo, Norway. His father, Ehler Neilsen Dahl, Sr, was born in 1861 in Norway. His mother, Antoine Marie Anderson, was born in 1869 in Norway. His parents married in Oslo on April 6, 1889. They had four children, of which he was the youngest. His older sisters Ronnang and Hjordis were born in 1889 and 1890. His older brother Gunner was born an invalid in 1893. The family attended Lutheran Church. His father was a seaman merchant marine and his mother was a dressmaker.

In 1900 his father died at sea at the age of thirty-nine.

In September of 1906 the widowed mother and children moved to the United States and settled in New York City. He was eleven years old at the time. At first they lived with an Aunt in Hell's Kitchen at 405 West 50th Street, but by 1908 they had moved to their own home at 347 Dean Street in Brooklyn, where he attended public school and his mother worked as a dressmaker. Her creative talents inspired his own interest in fashion design.

In June of 1913 he graduated public high school, after which he began to work as a "fashion artist" for the Wright Illustration Company, whose offices were at 229 Lexington Avenue.

In 1914 the family moved to Manhattan and lived at 540 West 145th Street in Harlem. Along with his earnings his mother also had a substantial income as a dressmaker.

On August 19, 1916 his older sister Hjordis married Bernhart Carlsrud and moved to their own apartment in Brooklyn.

On June 5, 1917 he reported for draft registration during the Great War. He was recorded at the time to be twenty-one, five-foot-six, slender, with brown hair and eyes. He requested exemption to provide support for his mother and invalid brother. He was not selected for military service.

In 1917 he joined two partners, Frances Forest and Herbert Meyer, to create a graphic art studio, the Formeda Company, which produced newspaper advertising. The company name is cleverly composed of the first syllable of each partner's family name. For-Me-Da. Their business office was at 373 Fifth Avenue.

On April 17, 1918 legal action was taken by the Eagle Engraving Company against the Formeda Company to settle unpaid bills, after which the partnership was dissolved. He proceeded to work as a free lance illustrator of glamorously fashionable women for the advertising industry.

In 1919 he was hired to work as a staff artist at a Chicago advertising company. He and his mother moved to Illinois and lived at 2053 Kinelworth Avenue in Oak Park. He worked full time, so he was not able to formally enroll in art school, however he is likely to have taken night classes at some Chicago art academy, because his artistic skills suddenly improved at this time.

In 1923 he began to paint flattering portraits of queens of the silver screen for Motion Picture Classic Magazine. He quickly became a top cover artist with his painted signature "E. Dahl" appearing on most monthly covers for the next several years.

Along with this impressive career as a magazine cover artist of movie stars he also developed a playful pen and ink drawing style to imitate the phenomenally popular cartoons by Nell Brinkely (1886-1944) of a Jazz Age flapper in the frizzy-haired style od silent film star Clara Bow. Brinkely's cartoons were featured in Hearst's nationwide syndicated newspapers. Ehler Dahl capitalized on this fad by producing his own knock-off version for a rival newspaper syndicate. He signed this work with a female pen name, Truda Dahl, to preserve his reputation as a magazine cover artist. His single panel cartoons were also circulated nationwide and remained popular for several years, which brought prosperity to him but much greater fame to "Truda Dahl."

In 1925 his industrious mother was fifty-five and still worked a dressmaker. Thanks to her talent and his movie studio connections, she moved to Hollywood to work as a dressmaker for the motion picture industry. She lived at 1831 New Hampshire Boulevard. He returned to New York City and lived at 200 West 85th Street.

In 1927 "Truda Dahl" illustrated The Piece Bag Book, a children's book about dressmaking, sewing and weaving by Anna Blauvelt for Macmillan Company.

"Truda Dahl" also drew pen and ink story illustrations for romantic pulp magazines, such as Cupid's Diary, Sweetheart Stories, All-Story Love Tales, and Love Novel of the Month.

On February 6, 1928 he married Alice Lillian Persan in a ceremony performed in Elkton, Maryland. His wife was born August 20, 1905 in Brooklyn and graduated from high school in June of 1923. The newlyweds moved to 160 West 73rd Street. They did not have any children.

In 1930 he became a devotee to the influential mystic philosopher Gurdjieff and in 1933 was involved with the publication and distribution of his book, The Herald of the Coming Good: First Appeal to Contemporary Humanity.

In 1934 he and his wife moved to Valley Stream, NY, on Long Island, where they lived at 521 West Valley Stream Boulevard.

He did not serve in the military during WWII.

In 1943 he and his wife moved to 187 Monroe Street in Valley Stream, NY.

According to The New York Daily News on October 21, 1944, while commuting from work on the Long Island Rail Road, Ehler Dahl waited for a connecting train at Jamaica Station in Queens, NY, where he fell asleep while his wallet was stolen by two light-fingered young men from Harlem. They were subsequently arrested by an observant patrolman, who awoke the startled victim and returned the stolen wallet.

Ehler Dahl died in Valley Stream, NY, at the age of fifty on November 21, 1945. His wife Alice Lillian Dahl died at the age of eighty-six on October 15, 1989.

                                  © David Saunders 2013

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