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Henry C. Pitz papers

Identifier: Ax 392

Scope and Contents note

The Pitz Papers reflect the careers of Henry C. Pitz and include a wide range of materials including correspondence and illustrations. The collection reflects the arrangement of the collection as it was received.

The boxes are numbered discretely within each series.

Correspondence Series includes incoming letters which are organized alphabetically by the institution, company, or the author of the letter.

Biographical Information Series includes biographical notices, clippings, relating to Henry C. Pitz.

Newspaper Clippings Series contains information about Henry C. Pitz.

Manuscripts of Books Illustrated by Pitz Series includes The Cunning Fox and Giants and Witches manuscripts.

Manuscripts Series includes article materials, all of which is filed alphabetically by title.

Illustrations Series includes cover pages, tracings, unidentified book illustrations, and pencil sketches.

Oversize Illustrations Series includes cover pages, tracings, pieces for magazine covers, newspaper illustrations, advertisements, and unidentified books illustrations. The oversize items are sorted by size in separate boxes.

Etchings and Lithographs Series comprises largely works by Henry C. Pitz and one by Samson Feldman, Charles Locke, and Diana Thorne.


  • 1919-1973


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Henry Clarence Pitz’s career followed several distinct but closely related trajectories. Pitz is known foremost as the award-winning illustrator of over one hundred sixty books and dozens of magazine covers and articles. Additionally, Pitz was a prolific chronicler and historian of the field and practice of illustration, authoring historical texts such as 200 Years of American Illustration and The Brandywine Tradition as well as The Practice of Illustration and other guides for hopeful illustrators. However, Pitz’s prodigious achievements as an author and illustrator did not prevent him from maintaining continuous presence in the classroom. Pitz taught and lectured in painting and illustration for decades, and took as much pleasure in his students’ artistic achievements as in his own.

Pitz summarizes his busy career with the modesty, mild humor, and colorful yet economic prose so familiar to his friends and readers: “For a good many years I have spent part of my time teaching illustration at my old school, the Philadelphia Museum School of Art. I am proud that a great many of the younger book illustrators have been in my classes. In my spare time I have enjoyed writing articles and books about illustration and picture-making in general. In between there has been a little time for painting in water color and oil and for etching and lithography.”

Born on June 16, 1895, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he would maintain residence throughout his life, Pitz became interested early on in history and illustration. According to Pitz, his father assembled an eclectic collection of books for his children’s benefit. These books – especially those “crammed with pictures,” Pitz recalled – became mainstays of Pitz’s childhood. Likewise, with several painters in the Pitz family’s acquaintance, Pitz was immediately comfortable with the practice of painting and drawing, which became as much a form of play to the young Pitz as any other childhood diversion. Pitz’s interest in history, which would greatly influence his later work, was quite strong for the adolescent Pitz. Noticing his unusual talent and intellectual curiosity, Pitz’s art and history teachers at West Philadelphia High School both attempted to recruit him to their respective professions; Pitz did consider studying to become a history teacher, but, following his graduation from high school in 1914, a scholarship to the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art urged him to focus on his art. Pitz would never abandon this early interest in history, however, and would become an expert in producing well-researched and accurate illustrations for books on historical subjects. A quick glance at the list of books illustrated by Pitz – with titles such as Mayflower Heroes, Patriot Lad of Old Salem, Voyages of Columbus, Beowulf, The Vikings, That Lively Man Ben Franklin, and With LaSalle the Explorer– suggests the scope of Pitz’s historical interests.

When Pitz spent a year in France with the American Expeditionary Forces as an X-Ray technician during World War I following his 1917 enlistment, he brought along his sense of the war’s historical significance, which naturally found expression in his art. Pitz spent a considerable amount of his free time sketching allied soldiers – one of whom he recalled having paid “seven cigarettes and a pack of Bull Durham” to pose – and the war-torn landscapes and cityscapes of Europe. One of these sketches was published in a 1919 Philadelphia newspaper story on G.I. art from the war.

Although he had already received small commission for some of his illustrations, Pitz’s career as an illustrator began in earnest when, in his words, he “tucked [his] portfolio under [his] arm and made the rounds of the New York editors” upon his return from the war. Pitz met with some success with the magazine editors, placing illustrations in Boy’s Life and St. Nicholas magazines. Soon thereafter, in 1922, Pitz was asked to illustrate his first book, Master Skylark. From this point forward, Pitz’s growing reputation as an illustrator of meticulous yet often lush watercolors and oils and crisp, bold ink drawings and lithographs kept him quite busy. In 1929, following several years of continued magazine and children’s book illustration, Pitz was invited to co-author and illustrate Early American Costume, a book on whose subject matter Pitz was an acknowledged expert. Pitz was hired on as the head of the Department of Pictorial Expression at the Pennsylvania Museum College of Art in 1934; ironically, in assuming this position Pitz replaced a didactic art instructor who had sent Pitz away from art school in 1917. Pitz remained as the head of the department for twenty-eight years, after which he became professor emeritus. In 1935 Pitz married Molly Wheeler Wood, herself a painter, with whom he would have one son and one daughter.

Roughly a decade after his appointment as department head, Pitz began publishing carefully illustrated guidebooks for artists and illustrators. The year 1947 saw the publication of A Treasury of American Book Illustration and The Practice of Illustration. Pen, Brush and Ink, edited by Arthur Guptill, appeared two years later in 1949, followed by Watercolor Methods, with Norman Kent (1955); Drawing Trees (1956); Ink Drawing Techniques (1957); Sketching with the Felt-tip Pen: A New Artist’s Tool (1959); Illustrating Children’s Books: History, Technique, Production (1963); and in 1965 Drawing Outdoors, with Susan E. Meyer, and The Figure in Painting and Illustration. With the exception of Charcoal Drawing, which appeared in 1971, the remainder of Pitz’s books was more historical than technical, though his focus remained on illustration. Perhaps the most widely recognized of these books is The Brandywine Tradition (1968), which grew out of Pitz’s 1965 exhibition catalogue entitled N. C. Wyeth and the Brandywine Tradition. Remaining on the bestseller’s list for ten weeks, The Brandywine Tradition documents the history, art, and artists of eastern Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley. Pitz devotes the bulk of the book to the life and works of his lifelong influence Howard Pyle and to Pyle’s students, including N.C. and Andrew Wyeth. Pitz presented a second book on Pyle with the 1975 publication of Howard Pyle: Writer, Illustrator, Founder of the Brandywine School, but not before contributing to the design and editing of The Gibson Girl and Her America (1969) and Fredric Remington (1972). Pitz’s final book, 200 Years of American Illustration appeared in 1977.

The vast understatement contained in Pitz’s autobiographical career summary which appears above becomes evident when we recall that while writing and compiling the aforementioned books he continued to teach and to improve his own art. Not surprisingly, Pitz’s work did not go unnoticed by the art community: Pitz’s illustrations earned him dozens of awards throughout the years, and he was elected to several artists’ and illustrators’ societies. Pitz died on November 26, 1976, in Philadelphia.


30 linear feet (29 containers)

Language of Materials



Henry Clarence Pitz (1895-1976) is best known as the award-winning illustrator of over one hundred sixty books and dozens of magazine covers and articles. The Pitz Papers reflect the careers of Henry C. Pitz and cover a wide range of materials including correspondence and illustrations.

Arrangement note

Collection is organized into the following series: Series I. Correspondence; Series II. Biographical Information; Series III. Newspaper Clippings; Series IV. Manuscripts of Books Illustrated by Pitz; Series V. Manuscripts; Series VI. Illustrations; Series VII. Oversize Illustrations; and Series VIII. Etchings and Lithographs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Henry C. Pitz in 1967.

General Physical Description note

29 containers boxes 1-12: 10 manuscript boxes & 2 1/2 manuscript boxes

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Henry C. Pitz Papers
Revise Description
Finding aid prepared by Aika-Maria Kihunrwa and Dan Shea.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA