Rudolph Wilhelm Zirm was born May 13, 1894 in Union City, New Jersey. His parents were Robert and Alma Zirm, who married in Germany and immigrated in 1892. Rudolph was the oldest of their four children. He had a talent for drawing, and after high school he found work at a local Jersey City lithographic print shop.
In 1915 the father was hired as the superintendent of Bloomsburg Silk Mills in Pennsylvania, so the family moved to 877 Market Street, Bloomsburg, PA. Rudolph was twenty-one and he preferred to keep his job at the print shop, so he moved in with his Uncle's family in New Jersey, at 69 Hague Street, Jersey City.
In 1918 Rudolph Zirm reported for his draft registration for World War One. He was twenty-four years old at the time, so he was passed over by younger men for selection for military service.
In 1922 Rudolph married Thelma J. Zirm. They moved into 79 Beech Street in Belleville, New Jersey, where their one child, Rudolph R. Zirm, was born in 1924.
When the Great Depression came, he lost his job at the print shop. He began to look for freelance art assignments by taking the ferry boat across the Hudson River to Manhattan and showing his portfolio to publishers. He finally got a break and sold his first freelance pulp covers to Short Stories in 1933.
Rudolph Zirm went on to sell covers to Ace-High, Dime Mystery, Doctor Death (Zirm did the covers for all three issues), Horror Stories, Secret Agent X, Short Stories, Star Novels, Terror Tales, Thrilling Adventures, Thrilling Detective, Thrilling Spy Stories, and Western Story.
Although his pulp covers are distinctly memorable and are highly admired by today's collectors, Rudolph Zirm received only a few dozen pulp cover assignments after six years of freelance work.
By 1940 he was grateful to find steady employment working for the Michael Gross Lithography Company, on 386 Fourth Avenue, NYC.
In 1942 Zirm was forty-eight years old, which made him ineligible to serve in WW2, but his draft registration card describes him as 5'-11", 157 pounds, with gray eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion.
By 1949 the artist suffered ill health and retired from freelance illustration at the age of fifty-five.
In 1950 Rudolph, Thelma and their son, Rudolph R. Zirm, moved to Daytona Beach, Florida.
Rudolph W. Zirm died at the age of fifty-eight on August 6, 1952.
© David Saunders 2009