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Al Parker Collection

Identifier: MGHL-mghl-00002

Scope and Contents

The collection includes material relating to Al Parker's personal and professional development, photographs of artist models, original artwork, and artwork reproduced from magazines.


  • 1920-1985

Biographical or Historical Information

Alfred Charles Parker was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1906 and studied at Washington University’s School of Fine Arts from 1923 to 1928. After opening a fledgling advertising agency with fellow students and beginning to work for national magazines, Parker moved to New York City in 1935. A cover illustration for House Beautiful won a national competition and garnered Parker jobs producing illustrations and covers for Chatelaine, Collier’s, Women’s Home Companion, and Ladies’ Home Journal.

In December of 1938, Parker began a thirteen-year stint of illustrating a series of fifty hugely popular “Mother and Daughter” covers for the Ladies Home Journal: dressed alike and paired in an evocatively designed action scene, the first cover created an overnight fashion sensation. Successive covers enjoyed unrivaled appeal, chronicling the evolution of an idealized American family as it prepared for war, homecoming, and rebirth (i.e., the baby boom). Parker was soon illustrating for countless magazines including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, McCall’s, The Saturday Evening Post, Sports Illustrated, Pictorial Review, Town and County, and Vogue, constantly reinventing his endlessly snappy style and thematic approach, while experimenting with new media in order to keep his throngs of imitators stymied. In cooperation with the art director, he secretly illustrated an entire issue of Cosmopolitan employing different pseudonyms, styles, and media for each story.

Parker is one of the select few illustrators whose personal touch immediately jumps out at the viewer, through crisp rendering and compositions not only bold, but positively idiosyncratic. Known as the Dean of Illustrators, Parker was one of the founding faculty members for the Famous Artists School and was elected to the Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame in 1965.

For additional information see The Illustrator in America 1860-2000, by Walt Reed, New York: The Society of Illustrators, 2001.

Note written by Todd Hignite


40.00 Linear Feet

102 boxes

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

The collection is divided into eleven series as follows:

Series 1: Personal and Professional Development Series 2: Artist Model Photographs Series 3: Artist Model and Parker Family Negatives, Slides, and Transparencies Series 4: Personal and Professional Development Series 5: Famous Artist School Lesson Books Series 6: Artwork Reproduced from Magazines (Tear Sheets, Complete Issues, Proofs) Series 7: Original Works of Art on Board Series 8: Original Works of Art on Paper Series 9: Original Works of Art (Oversized) Series 10: Original Works of Art (Framed) Series 11: Original Works of Art by Other Artists

Method of Acquisition

The collection was donated to the University Archives by Kit Parker, Al Parker's son, in 2003. It was later transferred to the Modern Graphic History Library.

Related Materials

The Charles Craver Collection contains tear sheets of Al Parker's work. The Dowd Modern Graphic History Library Artwork Collection contains original artwork by Al Parker.

Related Publications

Auad, Manuel, Stephanie Haboush Plunkett, David Apatoff, Leif Peng, and Alfred Parker, eds. Al Parker: Illustrator, Innovator. San Francisco, Calif: Auad Publishing, 2014.

Ermoyan, Arpi. Famous American Illustrators. New York: Published for the Society of Illustrators by Rotovision, SA; Watson-Guptill Publications, 1997.

Miller, Arthur, and Alfred Parker. Jane’s Blanket. 1st Crowell-Collier Press ed. Modern Masters Books for Children. New York: Crowell-Collier Press, 1963.

Parker, Alfred. Ephemeral Beauty: Al Parker and the American Women’s Magazine 1940-1960. Stockbridge, Mass: Norman Rockwell Museum, 2007.

Parker, Alfred. How I Make a Picture. Westport, Conn: Institute of Commercial Art, 1949.

Rights Statement

Some restrictions, please contact the Modern Graphic History Library Curator at (314) 935-7741 or

Users of the collection must read and abide by the Materials Use Policies for Special Collections.

Users of the collections who wish to use items from this collection, in whole or in part, in any form of publication (as defined in the form) must sign and submit to the Washington University Department of Special Collections a hard copy of the Notification of intent to publish Modern Graphic History Library materials form.

All publication not covered by fair use restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Jay Kempen and revised by University Archives staff in September 2006 and June 2007. The original artwork in this collection was rehoused by Andrea Degener in March 2017.
Al Parker Collection
Special Collections Staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2012-07: This finding aid was entered into Archon by Jolie Braun in July 2012.
  • 2017-03: This finding aid was updated by Andrea Degener in March 2017.
  • 2018-05: This finding aid was updated by Andrea Degener in May 2018.
  • 2020-08-25: Data clean-up started by Andrea Degener.
  • 2020-11-09: Resource record updated in ArchivesSpace by Andrea Degener.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the D.B. Dowd Modern Graphic History Library Collecting Area

Skye Lacerte
West Campus Library
7425 Forsyth Blvd
Clayton MO 63105 US
(314) 935-5495