Armstrong Wells Sperry was born on November 7, 1897 in New Haven, Connecticut. His father, Sereno Clark Sperry, was born in 1865 in New Haven, CT. His mother, Nettie Alling, was born in 1868 in CT. His parents married in 1890, and had three children, all sons, Sereno Jr. (b.1891), Paul (b.1895), and Armstrong (b.1897). They lived at 134 Whalley Avenue in New Haven. His father was a prosperous businessman. His grandfather was a retired sea captain, who told exciting tales of adventures in the South Pacific.
By 1906 the family had moved to 362 Fountain Street in New Haven, CT.
In 1908 he attended Stamford Preparatory School.
On May 3, 1914 The New York Sun reported "The annual performance of the Dramatic Club at Stamford Preparatory School featured Armstrong Sperry as the Bishop's sister in "The Bishop's Candlestick." He also wrote the farcical songs in "The Militant Suffragette." His dancing and singing brought forth a great deal of applause. A number of persons in the audience said the performance was one of the most artistic things they had ever seen done by school boys."
In June of 1915 he graduated in 1915 at the age of eighteen.
In September of that year he began to study at the Art Students League of New York at 215 West 57th Street in Manhattan. He studied with Francis Luis Mora (1874-1940) a popular Uruguayan-American art teacher, who illustrated stories for Harper's Weekly, Scribner's, The Century, and Ladies Home Journal.
In September of 1918 he was enrolled in his freshman year at the Yale School of Art. His classmates included Adolphe Barreaux, who shared his interest in theater, art, and commercial illustration. Both of these art students did not remain at Yale to graduate. Armstrong Sperry left after having completed his freshman year in May of 1919.
While at Yale he joined the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps and registered with the draft board and served in the navy during the Great War. He was honorably discharged in 1920 but remained in the Naval Reserve until 1921.
He returned from service to live with his parents in New Haven, CT, where he began to work as a commercial artist at a printing shop that produced advertisements for local newspapers.
In the fall of 1921 he traveled to the South Pacific to painted exotic locales. He spent the next four years traveling the world on ocean liners and continuing to study art.
In 1925, while traveling to Hawaii on an ocean liner, Armstrong Sperry met Margaret Robertson, who had just completed training at Stanford Medical School. She was born in 1899 in Redwood, California, where her father, Alexander M. Robertson, was a prosperous book publisher. She had graduated from Stanford University in the Class of '21, and then Stanford Medical School, Class of '25.
By the summer of 1925 he had moved to New York City, to work as a free-lance commercial artist. He lived at 319 West 18th Street in Manhattan. He drew illustrations for newspaper advertising. He also drew illustrations for over two hundred stories for Sunday supplement magazines in the United Feature Syndicated newspapers. All of this work received printed credit as, "illustrated by Armstrong Sperry."
His story illustrations appeared in nationwide magazines, such as American Girl, St. Nicholas, The Portal, McCall's, Child Life, Good Housekeeping, Church School, and Story Parade.
Along with these high-profile publications he also illustrated stories in pulp magazines, such as Street & Smith's Love Story Magazine and Munsey's All-Story Love Magazine. He drew over five hundred story illustrations for All-Story Love. Almost all of his work for pulp magazines was left unsigned.
On June 12, 1930 Armstrong Sperry married Dr. Margaret Robertson. The newlyweds moved to Wilton, CT, where they raised two children, John and Susan. The family eventually purchased a working farm in Thetford Center, Vermont.
During the 1930s, after ten years of illustrating stories, Armstrong Sperry began to write and illustrate his own stories. Almost all of this work is addressed to young readers and concerned with his adventurous experiences in the South Pacific. He eventually authored thirty-six books for juvenile readers, which were popular enough to receive various awards and honors. In response to such acclaim he said, "It has been my conviction that no one should ever write down to children. Writers should tell their story clearly in a simple prose that leaves the reader - young or old - wondering, 'What happens next?' Children have imagination enough to grasp almost any idea and respond to it, if it is presented to them honestly and without a patronizing pat on the head."
He continued to write and illustrate his own books for the rest of his life and enjoyed considerable recognition.
Although he was born to a wealthy family and his creative accomplishments brought additional prosperity, and he still continued to illustrate books that were written by other authors for the rest of his life. He did this out of a love for creatively challenging work.
In 1942 the family purchased a residential estate in Hanover, New Hampshire.
Armstrong Sperry died in Hanover, NH, at the age of seventy-eight on April 28, 1976.
© David Saunders 2013