Frederic Charles William Small was born August 17, 1881 in San Francisco, California. His father, Wilhelm Small, was a German immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1870. His mother, Minnie Small, was born 1847 in Scotland. She immigrated to the U.S. in 1861. His parents married in 1876. They had three children, of which only two survived infancy. His older sister was born in 1877. They lived at 1345 Sacramento Street.
In 1887 a fourth child was born, his little sister Minnie, but died eighteen months later in 1889.
His father died in 1896.
By 1898 his older sister had married and moved away, so he lived alone with his widowed mother.
He remained in San Francisco until after graduating from high school in 1900. He then studied at the San Francisco Art Institute.
In 1903 he began to draw newspaper illustrations for The San Francisco Chronicle.
In 1905 he illustrated stories for Sunset Magazine, a monthly periodical published by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company of San Francisco, which was exclusively distributed for the entertainment of their passengers.
In 1906 San Francisco was struck by an historic earthquake and a subsequent fire that destroyed much of the city.
By 1910 he and his mother had moved to New York City to seek his fortune as a newspaper and magazine illustrator. They lived together at 148 West 105th Street in Harlem.
Within two years he was illustrating stories for the pulp magazine The All-Story. He went on to illustrate and to paint pulp magazine covers for The Argosy, The Cavalier, and Munsey's Magazine.
On June 2, 1914 he married Maude L. Oswald in a Brooklyn Civil Court ceremony. His wife was born May 24, 1894 in New York. They moved to a rented apartment at 523 Seventy-ninth Street in Brooklyn.
On August 13, 1915 they had twin daughters, Drucilla and Dolores.
Most pulp artists worked freelance and were treated as hired guns, but Fred W. Small worked full-time to illustrate pulp magazines published exclusively by Frank A. Munsey. The company offices were located at 280 Broadway on Chambers Street across from the Tweed Courthouse and City Hall in Lower Manhattan.
On September 12, 1918 he registered for the draft during the Great War. He was recorded at the time to be of medium height, medium build, with brown eyes and brown hair. At the age of thirty-seven and the sole support of his widowed mother, wife and two young daughters he was not selected for military service.
By 1920 he and his wife and children had moved to a home they bought at 464 Seventy-fourth Street in Brooklyn.
His last pulp magazine illustrations appeared in 1921, because he accepted a full-time job to create artwork that publicized motion pictures.
In 1922 his son John was born. That same year the family moved to a magnificent home, purchased for $21,000, in Larchmont, NY, Mamaroneck Township of Westchester County. His daughters attended public school and graduated in June of 1933 from Mamaroneck High School.
By 1936 he spent most of his time in Burbank, California, where he was hired to work exclusively for Paramount Pictures Inc. According to Jack Kerness, Columbia Pictures Art Director, "Fred Small did a lot of work at Paramount, but we'd use him for freelance work occasionally."
During WWII he was too old to serve in the military although his son John was drafted and served as aprivate in the Army infantry.
By 1947 is daughter Drucilla married and became Mrs. MacConnell and moved to Sepulveda, California to raise a family.
His other daughter Dolores Small grew up to become a commercial freelance illustrator with an art studio at 204 Jensen Avenue in Mamaroneck, NY.
On May 30, 1947 she was on her way to visit her parents when the DC-4 commercial aircraft she had boarded at LaGuardia Air Field crashed and burned on the runway and killed her and thirty-eight other passengers and crew.
In 1948 at the age of sixty-seven he retired from commercial art. He moved to Danbury, Connecticut. He also bought a vacation property six miles away at Lake Zoar on Cedarhurst Trail near Kettletown State Park in Newtown, Connecticut.
In 1952 he moved to Tucson, Arizona, and lived at 1432 North Catalina.
His son John moved to Cuidad Guadalajara in Mexico.
Frederic C. W. Small died in the Tucson Medical Center, at the age of seventy-nine on September 10, 1960.
© David Saunders 2011