Edgar Franklin Wittmack was born July 10, 1894 in New York City. His father was Charles A. Wittmack, a chemist born 1860 in NYC to German immigrants. His mother was Emma Balthazar, who was born in 1865 in NYC and was also the child of German immigrants. His parents married in 1887 and they had three children: Karl, Edgar, and Beatrice. They lived at 107 West 82nd Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.
After graduating high school in 1913 he began to spend the summers with a friend working as farmhands on the E. C. Potter pig farm of Clearwater, Montana.
As required by law, he reported for enlistment on June 5, 1917 at the nearest draft board, which at the time was in Missoula Montana. He admitted on record that his only prior military experience was "reject from artillery." Nevertheless, he served in the Army in France during the Great War.
By 1920 he had returned to NYC to work as a commercial illustrator from his small rented room at 420 West 116th Street. He began to take art classes at The Art Students League.
By 1924 he had moved to 58 West 57th Street, where the monthly rent was $15. This building, near the Art Students League, was filled with artist studios. His neighbors included several notable artists, such as Abe Hirschfield, Alexandre Archipenko, and Franklin Booth. He introduced his sister Beatrice (aged 21) to Franklin Booth (age 50). They fell in love and married. Booth(1874-1948) was renowned for his illustrations in nationwide magazines, such as Scribner's, Collier's, and Harper's. Booth was also one of the founders of the Phoenix Art Institute in NYC, where several pulp artists taught or took art classes, such as Laurence Herndon and Walter Popp.
In 1925 he worked as a secretary at the Arthur Balthazar Industrial Appliances Company Inc. at One Madison Avenue near 23rd Street. Balthazar was his mother's Uncle. By July of that same year he quit work and sailed to France on the S.S. Rochambeau, where he briefly studied at L'Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. He returned to NYC on November 12, 1925.
His illustrations were published in American Boy, Collier's Magazine, Everybody's Magazine, Liberty, Outdoor Life, The Saturday Evening Post, and Scientific American. He was the main cover artist cover for Popular Science.
He also painted covers for pulp magazines, such as Adventure, Clues Detective, Complete Stories, Frontier Stories, Short Stories, The Popular, West, and Western Story.
On April 27, 1942 he reported for draft registration in WWII, even though he was forty-seven years old and therefore too old to even volunteer for active duty service. At the time he was recorded to be 5'-9.5", 168 pounds, blue eyes, brown hair, light complexion with a mustache.
After WWII he married Maude A. Burris, who was born in NYC on July 23, 1896. They lived at 15 West 67th Street, where he also kept his art studio. They had no children.
After the war he had a regular assignment creating commemorative paintings of newly built oil tankers, which were a regular feature in Cities Service Magazine. He painted a mural of the oil tanker World Glory for the New York City office of the Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchros. His last assignments were posters for the National Drive to Employ the Handicapped, which were published posthumously.
Edgar Franklin Wittmack died of a heart ailment in his art studio at the age of sixty-one on April 25, 1956.
© David Saunders 2009