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Alexander Leydenfrost was born Count Sandor Jozsef Von Leidenfrost on March 18, 1888 in Debreczen, Hungary. His father, Armin Von Leidenfrost, was born in 1862 in Hungary of noble heritage. His uncle was Count Charles Von Leidenfrost. His mother, Erzsebet Gacsari, was born in 1864 in Hungary. His parents married in 1884 and had four children, Gyula (b.1885), Erno (b.1886), Sandor (b.1888), and Tibor (b.1891). The father was an industrialist. At that time Hungary was a monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, under the Roman Catholic Church, to which the family attended.

Along with manufacturing, the father was also an inventor. In 1893 his father registered a patent for a "hat and clothes holder," which allowed users to safely hang up a hat without damaging the brim. Five years later, his father registered a patent for a machine to make a decaffeinated coffee-substitute from chicory.

In June of 1906 Sandor Von Leidenfrost graduated from high school in Budapest, after which he studied art at the Royal Academy of Fine & Applied Arts.

During the Great War he served with the Austro-Hungarian Army under the German Kaiser's command. After the declaration of armistice in 1918 he was honorably discharged and returned to a devastated Budapest.

In 1919 he was hired as an art teacher at Royal Joseph Polytechnic University, which was founded in 1782 as the world's first school to train engineers at the university level.

When the Treaty of Versailles attempted to negotiate a reconfigured Europe the Austro-Hungarian Empire was officially ended, at which point the nobility of Austria and Hungary could no longer use the title "Von" before their family names, so Count Von Leidenfrost suddenly became "Charles Leidenfrost."

On June 12, 1923 Sandor Leidenfrost married Clementine Bernard. She was born on January 18, 1900 in Budapest.

On June 26, 1923, the artist left Hungary and traveled to America on the Steam Ship Laconia, where he first began to use the Anglican version of his name, Alexander. He settled in New York City at 75 Fourth Avenue, near Third Street, on the Lower East Side. Six months later, on December 16, 1923, his son, Harold Bernard Leidenfrost, was born in Budapest.

The artist first found work as the studio assistant to William Andrew Pogany (1882-1955), illustrator of slick magazines and children's book, who was also of Hungarian ancestry.

After working in NYC for three years, the artist sent for his wife and son. They arrived on September 28, 1926. The family lived in an apartment at 22 West 77th Street, beside the Natural History Museum and Central Park.

In 1927 he joined the art staff of an industrial design firm headed by Norman Bel Geddes (1893-1958), a designer renowned for streamlined modernism.

On January 26, 1930 the artist's wife, Clementine Leidenfrost, died at the age of twenty-nine in a maternity hospital in Three Bridges, New Jersey. At that time the artist's son, Harry, was age six. after this tragic loss, the son was sent to live with the family of another Hungarian artist, Louis Kiss (b.June 8, 1890 - d.March 16, 1947). He painted decorations on silk for the fashion industry. He was married and had two children, Louis (b.1924) and Isabel (b.1927). The Kiss family lived at 70 Edgewood Avenue in Yonkers, NY, where the children all attended the same public school.

In March of 1930 the U.S. Census listed Alexander Leidenfrost as a widower, age forty-two, living in a mid-town hotel at 122 East 34th Street.

In 1932 he married his second wife, Elizabeth Anna Louise Gregg. She was born on September 16, 1896 in Staunton, Illinois, and was the divorced wife of Thomas Martin Backus (1888-1957), with whom she had one child, Robert Joseph Gregg Backus, who was born in 1924.

The newlyweds looked for a home in the same area of Yonkers where the Kiss family lived, so the artist's son could continue to attend his same grade school. They found an apartment at 116 East Mosholu Parkway in Yonkers, where he brought his son to live with his new step-mother and step-brother.

On December 9, 1933 syndicated newspapers carried an article about the future of streamlined automobiles, which featured "A. Leyden-Frost, famous designer and architect-engineer in his modern New York studio." Note this alternative spelling of his name.

On October 13, 1934 The New York Daily News published a human-interest story about a sensational motorized model boat of a streamlined ocean liner that was launched into the Central Park boat pond by Louis Kiss, Jr. The photo also shows Louis Kiss senior and Harry Leidenfrost. The hand-made toy was most likely designed and build by Alexander Leidenfrost, who shot the photograph and sent it to the newspaper.

In 1935 the entire nation was mesmerized by the trail of Richard Hauptmann, the accused kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby. Only two people were able to corroborate his alibi. One of them was Louis Kiss, who happened to meet Hauptmann in a drug store in the Bronx on the night the crime was committed in New Jersey. Regardless of his testimony, Hauptmann was convicted, and was executed on April 3, 1936.

In 1937 Alexander Leidenfrost designed the exhibition poster for the New York Motor Boat Show, which featured a "radically streamlined" motor boat.

On March 29, 1938 the artist followed in his father's footsteps by registering a patent for his own design of a mirrored cabinet for ladies, manufactured by the Peggy Sage Cosmetics Company.

In 1939 the artist assisted in the design of the Futurama exhibition at the New York World's Fair.

In 1941 the artist provided illustrations to the Special News Service, a nationwide newspaper syndicate of the Associated Press. He signed this work "Leydenfrost," instead of "Leidenfrost." The use of a "y" helped to emphasize his Hungarian ancestry, rather than his Germanic ancestry, which by that time was extremely unpopular.

The artist's first work for pulp magazines were pen-and-ink interior story illustrations from 1942 for Action Stories and Blue Book. He also painted two covers for Planet Stories.

He created illustration for slick magazines such as Liberty, Skyways, Look, Popular Science, and Life, which was a new and innovative periodical that emphasized photographs over written journalism of newsworthy events.

On April 26, 1942 Alexander Leidenfrost, age fifty-four, reported for draft registration, as required by law for all men under the age of sixty-five. He was recorded at the time to have been six-foot-one, 200 pounds, with brown eyes, gray hair, partly bald, pale complexion and mustache. Both of his sons, Harry and Robert, served in the military. Lt. Harry Leidenfrost served in the Army, and his younger step-brother, Tech. Sgt. Robert Leidenfrost, served as a bombardier on the Flying Fortress "Take It Easy."

During WWII Alexander Leidenfrost painted a series of "Pictorial Features" for Esquire Magazine that depicted inspiring images of American military prowess. He shared this task with John Falter.

The March 1944 issue of Argosy included the article "Nostradamus Looks Ahead" written and illustrated by "Alexander Leydenfrost."

In 1945 Alexander Leidenfrost painted an illustration of the atomic bomb for Life Magazine.

On October 28, 1945 nationwide newspapers carried the heartwarming story of "Kid Brother Advises Elder Brother," about a coincidental meeting at the Davis-Monthan Field separation base, where servicemen were instructed by trained counselors about the opportunities available under the G.I. Bill. Lt. Harry Leidenfrost had not seen his younger brother for three years, until he was introduced to his career counselor, Sgt. Robert Leidenfrost. The same article also mentioned that both brothers were freelance artists, their father was a famous artist, and their mother was a published author. She wrote several books and articles on practical advice for homemakers.

In 1946 he created interior story illustrations for Collier's Magazine.

In 1953 Fiction House re-used one of his covers for Planet Stories on their Spring issue of Tops In Science Fiction.

In 1954 the artist legally changed his name to "Alexander Leydenfrost".

In 1955 he drew interior story illustrations for Astounding.

In 1957 the artist lived at 50 Wilmot Road in New Rochelle, NY, an artist community whose residents once included Norman Rockwell, J.C. and Frank Leyendecker, and Coles Phillips (1880-1927). He also rented an art studio in NYC at 148 West 72nd Street. This was another popular neighborhood for artists. His neighbors included Norman Saunders. Rafael DeSoto, Allen Anderson, George Gross, Richard Lillis and Alex Redmond.

Alexander Leydenfrost died at the age of seventy-five on June 15, 1961.

His eldest son, Harry Leidenfrost, worked as a draftsman and moved to Bakersfield, California. His younger son, Robert Leidenfrost, worked at a designer for the N.Y. Port Authority and in his spare time created children's books.

                             © David Saunders 2019

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