Forgotten Author of the Week

Wende and Harry Devlin (1918-2001)

Harry Devlin
The author of 21 children's books, three films, and countless cartoons for Collier's magazine, Harry has spent a lifetime illustrating and illuminating the world around him." - Taken from NJ Governor Thomas H. Kean's introductory speech of Harry as Chairman of the 1989 Book Awards Committee.
Harry was born on March 22, 1918 in Jersey City, NJ, the second of two sons of Amelia Crawford Devlin and Harry G. Devlin. Harry's artistic talent first came to light in the 3rd grade and continued to flourish through junior high school, where he became the sole illustrator for the school's main publication, The Marquis.

In high school, he worked part-time at Newark Airport painting insignia on US Army mail planes. This sparked his interest in building model airplanes and credits this hobby with teaching him patience, precision, structure and balance - skills which served him well during his long art career. Harry pursued a fine arts degree at Syracuse University, where he met his future wife, Dorothy Wende. They married on August 30, 1941. The Devlins moved to Elizabeth, NJ in 1946 with their two children - Harry Noel and Wende Elizabeth - in tow.

The following year, Harry was offered the opportunity to illustrate for Collier's Weekly, where he honed his draftsman and perspective skills. His ability to effectively capture the personalities of the figures he drew landed him the position of lead editorial cartoonist at Collier's. This led to numerous freelance assignments including Saturday Home Magazine and the book, Innocents at Home. The Devlins moved their growing family, which now included Jeffrey Anthony and Alexandra Gail, to a sprawling 1875 Colonial in Mountainside, NJ.

In a touch of irony, Harry was elected President of the National Cartoonists Society in 1956, just as the Golden Age of Illustration was ending. Television quickly replaced print media as the main source of advertising and both Collier's and Saturday Home Magazine folded. Harry then combined his illustrative skills with that of his wife, Wende - who was an accomplished painter and writer - and developed a comic strip entitled "Fullhouse" based on the antics of their seven children, which now included Brion Phillip, Nicholas Kirk and David Matthew. The popular strip was later named "Raggmopp" and became syndicated in newspapers throughout the country.
This successful collaboration spawned a series of children's literature, beginning with Old Black Witch in 1963. Old Black Witch and its two sequels have sold over one and a half million copies.
Among his greatest accomplishments are the stunning paintings of examples of American architectural styles such as Victorian, Greek Revival, and American streetscapes. Seventy-five of these paintings have been immortalized in his book, Portraits of American Architecture: Monuments to a Romantic Mood, 1830 - 1900.

Harry was a skilled painter, a highly talented illustrator and accomplished photographer. He gave back to the community through his service on the New Jersey State Council from 1970 to 1979, the New Jersey Committee for the Humanities from 1984 to 1990 and in the library he helped create in Mountainside, NJ. He was a loving father of seven and devoted husband to Wende. But the legacy that Harry will probably be best remembered for was his ability to never stop challenging the depths of his imagination and effectively capture it on paper and canvas for the world to view.

Wende Devlin
Dorothy Wende was born on April 27, 1918 in Buffalo, New York to Dr. Bernhardt Phillip Wende and Elizabeth May Buffington. She was known to her family and friends as "Wende". Wende was a frequent visitor to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and took private art lessons as a child. She became the art editor of the yearbook. Wende met Harry at the Crouse College of Art in Syracuse in 1938.
Harry graduated a year before Wende and his promising career took off. After being hired by Life Magazine to prepare Army manuals, along with other freelance work, Harry felt financially secure enough to propose to Wende. They were married on August 30, 1941.
The couple initially settled in Manhattan, but soon left the bustling city for a quiet thatched-roof home in the tiny town of Valley Cottage, NY, in Rockland County. There they developed friendships with well-known writers, artists, singers and painters such as Maxwell Anderson and Lotte Lenya. Their idyllic lifestyle was shattered by the entry of the United States into World War II. On October 30, 1942 as Harry prepared for his first day of military service, Wende gave birth to the first of the couple's seven children, Harry Noel (later known as "Herke").

Between feedings and diaper changes, Wende continued to paint extraordinary portraits and still lifes. In 1946, first daughter Wende Elizabeth arrived. The growing Devlin family relocated to Elizabeth, NJ. Harry went through a prosperous time with steady employment as the lead editorial cartoonist at Collier's, numerous freelance assignments including Saturday Home Magazine and the book, Innocents at Home. The Devlins summered on Cape Cod with their children, now numbering four with the addition of Jeffrey Anthony and Alexandra Gail.
In 1950, the family moved to a magical, three acre hilltop property in Mountainside, NJ with a large Victorian farmhouse and a carriage house they converted into an artist's studio. Harry and Wende collaborated on a cartoon strip called "Fullhouse" and later called "Raggmopp" based on the fun and chaos of their growing family.
The Golden Age of Illustration came to an end and in 1956, Wende started a humorous column for Good Housekeeping magazine using elegant lyricism and comedy to describe domestic ironies. She managed to find time to write two new comic strips - "Amy" and "Margie" while raising her seven young children.
In 1963, Wende and Harry combined their unique talents to produce their first children's book, Old Black Witch! Wende wrote the book and Harry illustrated. This led to other "Old Witch" books and in 1971, they started a new series with the publication of "Cranberry Thanksgiving".
Wende's gifted words will continue to enthall future generations as they get tucked under the covers and fall asleep listening to her delightful stories, just as her own children probably did when she first spun these tales. Her timeless words, brought alive by Harry's vivid illustrations, leave a amazing testimony to the talents of Wende Devlin.