William Elliott Dold, Jr, was born October 3, 1889 in Astoria, Queens, New York City. His father, also named William Elliott Dold, was born 1856 in Harrisonburg, VA. His mother, Willy Timberlake Brown, was born 1866 in Charlottesville, VA. His parents married on April 27, 1887. His older brother Douglas Meriwether Dold was born in 1888.
His father was a prominent psychiatrist in charge of the River Crest Sanitarium of Astoria, Queens, NY, a mental institution that was located at the intersection of Ditmars Boulevard and Crescent Street. The family occupied private quarters within the sanitarium.
On July 2, 1902 his mother died after a brief illness at the age of 36. She had been an active supporter of the Southern Woman's Educational Alliance, so after her death his father became a devoted patron. He served on the Advisory Committee along with such historic notables as Mrs. Charles Dana Gibson and Eleanor Roosevelt.
During the summer of 1909, after having graduated high school, the Dold brothers traveled together on a grand tour of Europe.
In September 1909 Elliott Dold attended the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA, Class of '13. While at college he became interested in art and contributed cartoons to the school yearbooks and student newspapers.
In June 1913 after college graduation he returned to live with his widowed father and brother at the River Crest Sanitarium in Astoria, NY. That fall he began to take classes at the Art Students League, including one taught by the renowned draughtsman, George Bridgman.
Following his family profession, he also enrolled in the medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Class of '16. His older brother was already enrolled at the same school, Class of '15.
On July 28, 1914, one month after the assassination of Austria's Archduke Ferdinand, Austrio-Hungary declared war with Serbia. At that same time the Serbian Consul in NYC happened to also be a professor at Columbia University. He organized a volunteer unit of twenty students for the Sanitary Commission of the American Red Cross to eradicate an epidemic of Typhus in Serbia, which had killed almost one-third of the army. Funds were raised for travel, materials and expenses, including twenty-five automobiles for ambulance service.
In June 1915 the Dold brothers volunteered for the Serbian Relief Expedition. Douglas Dold had just graduated Columbia medical school. They sailed for Serbia in June, but by the time they arrived the country had fallen to the invading Bulgarian Army. In desperation they joined the Serbian Army to repulse the invaders. According an account in The NY Times, "Several times the boys narrowly escaped death in the retreat from the border, until they were finally taken prisoners in the fighting before the surrender of Nish to the invaders." After capture they performed medical relief work with the Bulgarian Army. They were stationed near Nish at Dobrun, where Dr. Douglas Dold was in charge of a medical clinic for Bosnian refugees.
In December 1915 the compound was attacked and Dr. Douglas Dold sustained injuries that blinded him. It is not known if he was blinded by shrapnel from an exploding shell or an attack of mustard gas. Whatever the cause, his blindness made him useless as a doctor, so he was released by the Bulgarians and evacuated for emergency medical treatment. Elliott Dold was also freed to escort his blinded brother on the homeward journey.
On December 22, 1915 the Dold brothers returned from the Great War on the S.S. Rotterdam. The ship's manifest listed "Dr. Douglas Dold - age 27 - Blind."
Since the Dold brothers were Red Cross volunteers they were not actual veterans of the World War. Two years after their return America finally entered WWI. As required by law, the Dold brothers registered with their local draft board. Elliott Dold, at the age of thirty-one, was not selected for military service. He was recorded to be five-foot-three, light weight, with hazel eyes and light brown hair. His occupation was listed as "art student with an art studio." His older brother was classified 5-G by the Selective Service for having "defective vision."
In March 1918 a British soldier stationed in NYC suffered a mental breakdown and was hospitalized at the River Crest Sanitarium. After six weeks under their father's care the "invalid" was sent back to England for further treatment. He made the homeward journey under the appointed supervision of Dr. Douglas Dold. This legal responsibility proves that Dold was not totally blind, because even during wartime, when able bodied men are scarce, a totally blind person could not perform the required tasks of a trustworthy guide for a hospitalized "invalid."
In 1920 Dr. Douglas Dold married Catherine Dold, who was born 1897 in NYC. They moved to 29-15 Thirty-Sixth Avenue in Queens, NY. She was a clothing buyer for a store.
During the 1920s Dr. Douglas Dold wrote fiction for Adventure, All-Story Weekly, Illustrated Novelets, and Argosy. He also worked as an editor for Harold Hersey at Clayton Publications, where he hired his brother to paint covers and draw pen and ink story illustrations for pulp magazines, such as Ace-High Magazine, Action Stories, Cowboy Stories, Danger Trail, Eagles of the Air, Front Page Stories, and Lariat Stories.
By 1930 Elliott Dold was forty-one years old, unmarried, and still living at home with his seventy-year-old widowed father in private quarters at a mental hospital in Astoria Queens.
On May 6, 1931 his brother, Dr. Douglas Dold, died at the age of forty-three. The cause of death is unknown. The fate of his wife Catherine is also unknown. After ten years of marriage they had no children.
According to pulp magazine editor Harold Hersey,"The adventure periodical Danger Trail is important to me because of its editor, the blind Douglas Dold, who had lost his sight in the World War. So far as I know, this was the one and only instance where a blind man edited a fiction periodical. Traveler, author, student, man of the world and a splendid friend, his death removed one of the few men gifted with knowledge, experience and bubbling energy required for this job. We hired an assistant to read manuscripts and proofs out loud to him. He gathered a clever group of contributors about him. His brother, Elliott Dold, the artist, and Charles Wrenn did most of the covers and illustrations as I recall. Mr. Clayton, the publisher, and I gave him rope enough to hang an ordinary editor - but not this extraordinary one. If anything, the magazine was a bit too well done for the curious newsstand public that supports pulp."
During the 1930s Elliott Dold concentrated on illustrating science fiction magazines, such as Astounding, Cosmic Science Fiction, Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories, and Zoom. He was recognized by savvy fans as one of the top sci-fi artists, along with Frank R. Paul, Howard V. Brown, H. Wesso, Virgil Finlay, and Leo Morey.
In 1933 he created forty-four full-page drawings and nineteen decorations for a book of eerie poetry by Harold Hersey entitled "Night" published by Personal Books of New York.
The October 1934 issue of Fantasy Magazine featured an interview with the artist.
In 1940 his venerable father, William Elliott Dold, at the age of eighty, retired from his long career as a prominent NYC psychiatrist. He returned to his wife's hometown, Charlottesville, VA, where he was welcomed by the University of Virginia to live for the remainder of his life on school property at 555 Seventeenth Street. The artist, William Elliott Dold, Jr., who never married and had always lived under his father's roof, accompanied his widowed father to Charlottesville as a loving caregiver.
During WWII Elliott Dold registered with his local draft board on April 27, 1942. He did not serve in the military because he was fifty-three years old, but he joined the U.S. Naval Reserve Forces, which performed coastal defense. He was listed as being five-two, 125 pounds, with hazel eyes, gray hair and light complexion. He listed his occupation only vaguely as "self-employed."
Six months later on November 9, 1942 his father died at home of a heart attack at the age of eighty-six.
Elliott Dold died in Charlottesville, VA, at the age of sixty-eight in 1957.
© David Saunders 2009