Albin Henning was born August 12, 1886 in Oberdorla, Germany. His father was Frederick Henning and his mother was Katrina Henning. They had nine children, but five of them died during infancy. He was the youngest of the four surviving children, and the only son.
In 1871 his father had served in the Prussian Army during the seige and occupation of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War. After the war he returned to his home town and married, but with the restless spirit of an adventurer, his father decided to immigrate to the United States.
On July 19, 1889 when he was almost three years old, his family came to America on the S.S. Trave. They settled in St. Paul, Minnesota, where they lived at 542 Ohio Street. His father and oldest sister found work as morticians in a funeral service business, but his father eventually became a woodworker at a cabinetmaker's shop.
Albin Henning was raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota. After finishing the eighth grade he worked as a shipping clerk for a local advertising agency, where he became fascinated with the art department. Although he had no formal art training he soon acquired enough skill to join the art staff, and create advertising posters for display in trolley cars, while he was still a teenager.
In 1911 he married eighteen-year-old Lila Violet LaRocque, a voice student from Waterloo, Iowa. Their first child, Ruth, was born one year later. Their second daughter, Marjorie, was born one year after that. In 1914 they moved to Chicago, where Lila found work in the chorus of the Chicago Grand Opera Company, and where Albin worked as a commercial illustrator. They lived in an apartment at 3909 Grand Boulevard.
During the Great War he was thirty-three years old and married with two children, so he did not serve in the military. In 1920 their son, Frederick "Fritz" Henning was born.
In 1924 Albin Henning moved to New York City to open a commercial art studio in Greenwich Village. After six months of initial success, he brought his wife and children. The Henning family moved to Darien, Connecticut. They lived in a house at 26 Rose Lane, which they rented for sixty dollars a month. He studied with Harvey Dunn at the Grand Central School of Art. The train from Darien arrived at Grand Central Station, and the art school was conveniently located on the sky-lighted seventh floor of the actual terminal building.
He opened his own art studio in New York City on 939 Eighth Avenue, which is on West 56th Street. This was the same building where Dean Cornwell also has a studio, and the artists soon became friends.
From 1924 onward, he routinely created many interior story illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post, Country Gentleman, Everybody's Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. From 1929 to 1938 he painted many covers for the magazine American Boy.
In 1927 at the age of forty-one he traveled alone to Germany on the S.S. Leviathan to visit family relatives and to retrace the battlefields of WWI, while making watercolor sketches as reference material. This voyage is a good indication of his growing prosperity and his popularity as a painter of battle scenes.
Unlike most illustrators, he only worked for pulp magazines after his career with the slick magazine industry was curtailed by the Great Depression. The collapse of American industry wiped out the advertising market, but it also stimulated the most prosperous decade for the pulp magazine industry, which sold cheap thrills to the idled masses.
In 1932 his first pulp magazine assignments were interior story illustrations for Battle Stories. Over the next ten years he painted covers for Battle Stories, Popular Detective, Adventure, 10-Story Western, 44-Western, Star Western, Railroad Magazine, Fifteen Western Tales, and Short Stories.
During WWII he was too old for military service, but his son "Fritz" served as a Ship's Officer in the Merchant Marines, and his youngest daughter Marjorie served as a Corporal in the Women's Army Corps (WAC). Her specialty was photographing wrecked aircraft at American airbases for instructional, forensic, and design research purposes.
1942 was one of his most productive years as a pulp magazine cover artist. He also worked regularly as a freelance artist during the war doing line art for The Philadelphia Record and black and white interior story illustrations for LIFE magazine.
Albin Henning died from cancer in Manhattan at the age of fifty-seven on June 8th, 1943.
© David Saunders 2009