Ralph Crosby Smith was born September 8, 1907 in Sacramento, California. His father, Henry Martin Smith, was a fruit farmer born in Iowa in 1868. His mother, Floy Crosby, was born on a farm in Iowa in 1876. They married in 1902 and they had five sons. Ralph was the third born. They lived on a farm between Cross Road and Sunset Avenue in the Fair Oaks district of Sacramento.
In 1925 he graduated from Sacramento High School and he began to attend the University of California. He joined the Delta Epsilon Art Honor Society and he contributed to the student newspaper, The Daily Californian. He graduated in 1929.
In autumn of 1929 he moved to Wilmington, Delaware, to study advance training at the Wilmington Academy of Art, where he studied with Gayle Hoskins, who had been one of the founders of the school and had studied with Howard Pyle.
In 1930 he fell in love with Viretta "Vire" Hoskins, who was the niece of his teacher. She was born in Indiana in 1907. They were married on March 22, 1930, and their marriage was witnessed by Mr. & Mrs. Gayle Porter Hoskins. They moved to 1308 West 6th Street in Wilmington. They eventually had two children. Gayle Crosby Smith was born in 1932 and their second son, Glenn Hoskins Smith, was born four years later.
By 1933 he finished his graduate level art training and he moved to New Jersey, where he was better positioned to advance his career as a freelance artist with the many New York City magazine publishers.
His first published assignments were in advertising, but during the late 1930s and early 1940s he sold freelance cover illustrations to pulp magazines, such as Short Stories, Western Aces, Western Story, Western Trails, and Ten Detective Aces.
During the war years of WWII he illustrated several ongoing series of juvenile-reader books for Grosset & Dunlap, such as Red Randall: Fighter Pilot, Lucky Terrel: Jet Pilot, and Cherry Ames: Red Cross Nurse.
After the war he and his family moved to Westport Connecticut, where he became involved with the Boy Scouts and illustrated several BSA publications. During the 1950s he illustrated many hunting scenes for the men's adventure magazine, Outdoor Life. Several other pulp artists regularly contributed illustrations to this magazine, such as Walter Baumhofer, Rudy Belarski, Charles DeFeo, Charles Dye, John F. Gould, and William Reusswig. His work for Outdoor Life lead to a contract as a 1953 calendar artist for Brown & Bigelow .
In 1959 he suffered a complete nervous breakdown and was institutionalized at Fairfield State Mental Hospital in Westen, CT. Three years later Ralph Crosby Smith died at age 54, while still a patient at the hospital, on April 18, 1962.
© David Saunders 2009