William Dodge Stevens was born September 13, 1870 in Tidioute, Pennsylvania. His father, Captain William Stone Stevens, was born in 1839 in Boston, Massachusetts. His mother, Ellen Elizabeth "Nellie" Dodge, was also born in 1839 in Boston. His parents married on August 23, 1862 and had three children, Florence Stevens (b.1867), William Dodge Stevens (b.1870), and Edward Dalton Stevens (b.1878). The mother's unwed sister, Mary Francis "Fanny" Dodge (b.1848), lived with them. The father was a technician at an oil company. He supervised oil field production, so the family had to periodically relocate. Because of this nomadic employment, each child was born in a different state.
By 1880 the family lived in Olean, New York at 415 Sullivan Street, where they were prosperous enough to afford a cook and housekeeper.
In 1889, at the age of nineteen, William Dodge Stevens moved to Chicago to attend the Chicago Art Institute of Chicago. His two most influential art teachers were J. H. Vanderpoel and O. D. Grover. The young artist lived at the Colonial Hotel.
In 1892 He completed his art studies and began to work as a staff artist in busy advertising industry of Chicago.
In 1898 William Dodge Stevens' Aunt, Mary Francis "Fanny" Dodge (b.1843), married Martin Barney (b.1847), a traveling shoe salesmen. The bride and groom were fifty-five and fifty one. The newlyweds left Olean, NY, and moved to Chicago, where they lived at 7817 West Winneconna Parkway. They had no children. At that time the artist's younger brother, Edward Dalton Stevens, was twenty years old and eager to study art and follow his brother's career. The Aunt and Uncle invited him to join them, so he could also attend the Art Institute of Chicago.
The art careers of these two brothers were curiously similar to two other brothers living in Chicago at that same time, Joseph Christian Leyendecker and Francis Xavier Leyendecker.
By 1902 the two Stevens brothers left Chicago and moved to New York City to seek their fortunes as commercial artists. They lived and worked in a rickety six-story wooden building at 424 West 23rd Street on Eighth Avenue. This was the same building where Walter Baumhofer and Alureda Leech would rent their first art studio twenty-five years later.
The Stevens brothers were successful illustrators. William Dodge Stevens illustrated Cosmopolitan, Ladies' World, McClure's Magazine, Woman's Home Companion, The Saturday Evening Post, Harper's Bazaar and Harper's Monthly, while Edward Dalton Stevens illustrated books as well as Hearst's Magazine, The Youth's Companion, and Metropolitan Magazine.
In 1904 their parents were both sixty-five when the father retired to enjoy the prosperous lifestyle as a gentleman of leisure.
On February 16, 1907 The New York Times published a detailed article about the artist's studio and working methods.
On February 27, 1907 the artist's mother, Ellen Elizabeth "Nellie" Dodge Stevens, died at the age of sixty-eight. After her death the father and two sons traveled to Paris, France. They remained in Paris for eighteen months and returned to America in 1909.
The brothers resumed their art careers in NYC and continued to work together in a new shared art studio at 51 West 10th Street, in Greenwich Village, while the father bought a home in Metuchen, New Jersey at 153 East Chestnut Avenue, where his sons also lived.
The November 13, 1909 issue of The Saturday Evening Post included a brief profile on the artist.
In the 1910 U.S. Census, William Dodge Stevens (age thirty-nine) and his younger brother, Edward Dalton Stevens (age thirty-one), were both listed as professional free-lance commercial artists in Greenwich Village.
Illustrations by William Dodge Stevens were regularly published in The New York Tribune. Illustrations by Edward Dalton Stevens were published in books as well as Hearst's Magazine, Metropolitan Magazine, Pearson's Magazine, McClure's Magazine, and The Century.
In 1914 the elderly husband of their Aunt Mary Francis "Fanny" Dodge Barney died in Chicago. After this tragic death the widowed Aunt, age sixty-six, came to live with the artists and their father in Metuchen, NJ, where she helped to keep house and take care of her widowed brother-in-law, who was age seventy-five.
On September 23, 1916 the father, Captain William Stone Stevens, died at the age of seventy-seven in New Jersey.
In 1918 during the Great War, William Dodge Stevens was age forty-eight, which was too old for military service.
On May 29, 1919 his younger brother, Edward Dalton Stevens, married Elizabeth M. Keith in Brooklyn, NY. She was born in 1892 in Montana.
On January 11, 1922 The New York Evening Post reported, "The Quiet Hour Club of Metuchen celebrated its twenty-seventh anniversary by a performance of the Japanese play "The Weeping Willow" at the residence of club member Mrs. Edward Dalton Stevens, who also played the role of Ao-ya-gu. her husband, a well-known illustrator, painted the scenery."
Unfortunately their marriage grew unhappy and resulted in divorce. They had no children. On August 24, 1927 the Civil Court of Reno, Nevada, granted a divorce decree to Elizabeth Keith Stevens from Edward Dalton Stevens.
During the 1920s William Dodge Stevens illustrated McClure's Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, Liberty Magazine and Physical Culture. At that same time Dalton Stevens painted covers for several magazines produced by Bernarr Macfadden (1868-1955), such as True Confessions, True Detective, Physical Culture, and Ghost Stories.
By 1930 William Dodge Stevens, age fifty-nine, lived with his younger brother, Edward Dalton Stevens, who was fifty-two. They lived in their family home in Metuchen, NJ, where they were both listed as "Illustrator of Magazines."
During the Great Depression both artists remained equally successful illustrators of popular American magazines.
The May 1, 1937 issue of The Saturday Evening Post had a cover painted by William Dodge Stevens.
During the 1930s, the artist's younger brother, Edward Dalton Stevens, began to suffer a pronounced loss of vision in both eyes. His condition worsened until he became totally blind, at which point the despairing artist committed suicide at age sixty-one on August 14, 1939.
William Dodge Stevens painted the pulp magazine cover for the September 1940 issue of Street & Smith Mystery Magazine.
William Dodge Stevens died at age seventy-two on July 23, 1942.
© David Saunders 2016