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1920 L'Oncle Sam en France
1928-01 How 7
1921-09 The Bookman
1928-02 How 7
1923-04 Boy's Life
1928-07 How 7
1928-01 How 7
1932-11 Blue Book
1928-01 How 7
1932-11 Blue Book
1928-01 How 7
1933-09 Blue Book















Joseph Walther Franke was born October 16, 1893 in Manhattan, New York City. His father, Joseph C. Franke, was born in 1867 in NYC of German ancestry. His mother, Anna L. Foley, was born in 1869 in NYC of Irish ancestry. His parents married in 1885 and had three children, Mabel Franke (b.1888), Anna Franke (b.1890) and Joseph Franke (b. 1893). The family lived at 22 Spencer Street in Brooklyn. His father was business manager of a Brooklyn piano company.

In June of 1911 Joseph Franke graduated from Brooklyn Commercial High School.

After high school he studied art at the National Academy of Design at 1083 Fifth Avenue and 89th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

In 1912 he began a five-year period of study with Thomas Fogarty at the Art Students League of NY at 215 West 57th Street.

By 1915 he was working as a free-lance commercial artist, illustrating books and advertisements for newspapers and magazines. He also illustrated several elementary school text books. At this time the artist began to sign his work with an additional acute accent on the final letter as an artistic affectation. This altered the pronunciation of his original Germanic name, "Fronk," to the Gallic name, "Fron-kay"

On July 2, 1917 during The Great War he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as Seaman First Class. He was stationed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he illustrated patriotic recruitment posters and murals in government buildings.

In September of 1918 NYC promoted the Fourth Liberty Loan Drive by erecting one dozen temporary stages along Fifth Avenue in front of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street. Each stage displayed a huge canvas, upon which a prominent artist, such as Joseph Franke, James Montgomery Flagg, William Glackens, Luis Mora, Charles Dana Gibson, and Robert Henri, was invited to paint a patriotic poster, while standing in front of thousands of fascinated citizens.

On November 11, 1918 Joseph Franke was honorably discharged from the armed forces.

On June 26, 1920 he married Catherine V. Allen in Manhattan Civil Court. She was born in NYC in 1895 of Irish ancestry. The newlyweds moved to 289 Sterling Street in Brooklyn. They had eight children, John (b.1921 and died in infancy), Mary (b.1923), Kathleen (b.1925), Margaret (b.1926), Joseph (b.1927), Natalie (b.1928), Richard (b.1930), and Robert (b.1932).

In September of 1920 Joseph Franke enrolled in the three-year full-time art training program at the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, School of Art. His most influential art teacher was Max Hermann, (1879-1929), who also taught Walter Baumhofer, H. Winfield Scott, and Frederick Blakeslee among others.

In 1921 Joseph Franke joined the Salmagundi Club, a private club of professional artists at 47 Fifth Avenue, between 11th and 12th Streets, in Greenwich Village.

In June of 1923 Joseph Franke graduated from the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn School of Art. At that time the school was not a college, so he did not earn a diploma, but instead received a certificate of course completion.

In 1924 he taught art classes as Director of the Art Department at St. Augustine's Academy in Flushing Queens. These evening school classes were organized by the Knights of Columbus for ex-servicemen and women.

During the 1920s his illustrations appeared in nationwide magazines, such as Red Book, Woman's World, Boy's Life and The American Boy.

His illustrations also appeared in pulp magazines, such as Blue Book and How 7, which was a short-lived magazine of inspiration essays and testimonials from successful personalities. How 7 was edited by Robert Collier (1885-1950), a visionary author and advocate of Positive Thinking with a background in advertising and long association with Joseph Franke, who illustrated several pamphlets and brochures that promoted Robert Collier's various publications.

In 1929 Robert Collier and Joseph Franke won a $1000 nationwide competition to design a poster to promote church attendance. The contest was organized by the Church Advertising Group of the International Advertising Association. Their winning design "Why Go To Church?" reflected the power of united effort in a common cause from the ancient parable of the combined strength of a bundle of sticks. "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them." (Matthew, xviii 19-20).

According to family history, Joseph Franke would sometimes leave early in the morning, with canvases under his arm, and return later in the day, after all of his paintings were sold, with a bag of candy for his children.

Joseph Franke died of pneumonia at the age of forty in Brooklyn on December 20, 1933. He was survived by his mother and father, his wife and seven children.

                              © David Saunders 2013

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