Monday, April 21, 2008

'Columbia has her eye on You': Haskell Coffin magazine cover illustration, 1920

"Don't Forget! Columbia has her eye on You and expects You to vote for the Good of the Nation."

Thus read the cover caption on this October 2nd, 1920 issue of
Leslie's Illustrated Weekly Newspaper. ▼

We don't hear much about Columbia anymore.

She was an early fictional personification of the U.S.A., pre-dating the role later assumed by Uncle Sam.

The name, as a poetic reference to the U.S., is derived from Christopher Columbus and goes back prior to the American Revolutionary War.

Columbia was an early candidate for the name of our country.
That's how it wound up as the 'C' in Washington, D.C.

In the female persona, Columbia was often depicted as something of a guardian (or mother figure), helping to guide good Americans to a better future. She represented high standards to live by, and was apparently someone you didn't want to disappoint.

During the United States presidential election of 1920 voters were faced with a choice between two dark horse candidates, an economy in recession and revolutions overseas, all in the aftermath of WWI.

Exiting president Woodrow Wilson was very unpopular.
The previous year had brought race riots, major strikes, and terrorist attacks on Wall Street.

Hugely popular conservative Republican Warren G. Harding won the election that year by a landslide.
He died of a heart attack while in office 3 years later.
Despite his popularity during his term, Harding is remembered as one of the least successful U.S. Presidents.

Early in his career, artist William Haskell Coffin (1878 - 1941) was a well known naval and sea illustrator.

He became known for illustrations that appeared on posters and signs during World War I, and later for those picturing the American Beauty and 'Coffin Girl' on calendars, magazine covers, advertisements, and soft drink trays.

For more examples of his artwork (including another rendition of Columbia),
BE SURE to click over to the beautiful
Haskell Coffin gallery at
American Art Archives.

In 1920, Coffin married popular stage actress Frances Starr.

They were married ten years before divorcing in Reno, Nevada in 1930.

Coffin continued work as an illustrator, figure and portrait painter in New York City, but in 1941 committed suicide in St. Petersburg, Florida.

It was attributed to "personal and financial problems".































































See also:
'A Demure Society Girl In Pastel' at
Grapefruit Moon Gallery

'The Winsome Lass' at Enchantment Ink

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