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Classic Covers: Maurice Bower’s Horse Power

In honor of the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby, the Post salutes the equine art of Maurice L. Bower (1889-1980). Several of Bower’s Post covers depicted horses doing everything from urgently pulling the fire engine to a blaze (January 12, 1935) or performing at a circus complete with pretty lady on top (April 6, 1935) to pulling the getaway stagecoach for fellows clearly up to no good (February 6, 1937). Quite striking is the cover of thoroughbred racing from August 8, 1934; the muscles of the powerful animals straining for one more ounce of speed.

The energy Bower brought to his art began at an early age when he attended the School of Industrial Art in Philadelphia. Magazine work quickly followed, and his art was published while he was still a student there. Later he became a medical illustrator in the U.S. Army during World War I.

It was only five years ago that an acquaintance, Jane Garrabrant, kindly sent us some biographical information on her substitute grandfather, “Morry,” as she called him, noting that he moved to Paris around 1926, although he still worked for Curtis Publishing. He periodically returned to the United States to fulfill illustration obligations for the Post while living a glorious life on the Left Bank of Paris with many artistic types, from choreographers to writers to artists like himself. Sadly, this charmed lifestyle ended with the stock market crash of 1929.

It became difficult for Bowers to find work at a time when photography was outpacing the demand for illustrators, and jobs turned to the not-as-lucrative world of portrait painting and illustrations for minor publications.

Garrabrant’s notes also detail the caring relationship he and his sister shared. Bower moved back to Collingswood, New Jersey in the early 1960s, and at age 87 he decided to buy a new lawn mower because he didn’t care for the way the neighborhood boys were cutting the grass. But he wasn’t strong enough to pull the cord. His sister, Trudi, “a youngster” at 75, would start the mower, and Morry would cut a little bit of grass each day, stretching it out so he would have something to do the next day. Maurice Lincoln Bower died at the age of 91 on October 4, 1980, one month to the day after the death of his beloved sister, Trudi.

Title: "Speeding Stagecoach"; Published: February 6, 1937; © 1937 SEPS;

Maurice Bower "Speeding Stagecoach" 1937

Title: "Harness Race" Published: August 8, 1935; © 1935 SEPS;

Maurice Bower "Harness Race" 1935

Title: "Racing to the Fire" Published: January 12, 1935; © 1935 SEPS;

Maurice Bower "Racing to the Fire" 1935

Title: "Polo Match" Published: April 6, 1935 © 1935 SEPS;

Maurice Bower "Circus Bareback Riders" 1935

Title: "Polo Match"; Published: June 9, 1934; © 1934 SEPS;

Maurice Bower "Polo Match" 1934

Title: "Thoroughbred Race "; Published: April 4, 1934; © 1934 SEPS;

Maurice Bower "Thoroughbred Race" 1934

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  • Conor Doyle

    I own the original Oil Painting of the 1934 Magazine Cover pictured above.
    How much do you feel this might be worth?

  • Jane Garrabrant

    Imagine my shock and joy when I found this article! Uncle Morry was my great-uncle and Trudi was my grandmother. Another item of note is that Uncle Morry was a mentor to Marguerite DeAngeli, an award-winning writer of children’s books, who was a great friend of the family, and whom we visited in her Philadelphia apartment when I was a young girl. Thank you for honoring Uncle Morry’s work. We are thrilled!