C.A. Seward

1884 - 1939

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Today anyone with computer skills, a camera, and access to a scanner can create images of their choosing on their home computer and then broadcast them throughout the world. It is thus perhaps difficult to appreciate the skills required of commercial illustrators and designers in the early years of the 20th Century. Success for a commercial illustrator required a chameleon-like ability. One client's needs might require a humorous cartoon-like character; another, a glorious depiction of an unfurling American flag; and another, a truer-than-life cowboy riding off into a sunset. In those early years, all these special needs could only be met by a highly skilled artist alone at his drafting board with the pencils, pens, and paints of his trade. C.A. Seward was such an artist. Possessed from his earliest days with a discerning eye and a keen urge to make a drawing of anything he saw, he steadily applied his above average skill as a draftsman and painter to any commercial project set before him.

C.A. Seward’s career as a commercial designer or illustrator began while he was just a teenager.  In an effort to contribute to his family’s income Seward took advantage of his innate skill as a draftsman to create advertising signs for business in his small hometown of Chase, Kansas.  His reputation for creating effective signs and small newspapers ads led him to open his own art studio at the age of 20.  The Chase Register published a souvenir edition on June 1, 1906, that included his illustrations and a biographical sketch:

"The cuts and pen drawings which appear in this little book were all designed and finished under the direction of Coy A. Seward, and no further comment is necessary, as they speak for themselves . . . while only a young man, it is plain to be seen that he has a bright future before him.” The article further noted that Seward “recently opened up a shop in the Dexter building, south of the Farmer's Telephone office, where he would be pleased to figure with anyone who needs his services as a painter or decorator."

In the summer of 1906, Seward decided to seek formal art training and moved to Topeka, Kansas, to study at Washburn College with sketch artist and cartoonist, Albert Turner Reid as well as  European trained painter, George Melville Stone.  To pay his expenses he obtained a job with Capper Engraving as a designer and illustrator. through the following 13 years, until 1919 Seward worked for the Capper Publishing Company in various positions.

Seward moved to the fast growing city of Wichita in 1907 when he was offered a job doing signage and custom lettering by Fred Wieland the owner of a tractor and farm implement company.  Wieland had also grown up in Chase and not only provided Seward with his first job but also underwrote the expenses of Seward’s first commercial studio in Wichita.  Through the years Seward saved the cancelled check for his first rent payment of $14. He chose a fortuitous time to settle in Wichita for in the early decades of the 20th Century it was rapidly transitioning from its beginning as a boomtown located on the Santa Fe Trail to a home base for the burgeoning gas and oil, milling and transportation  industries.  Seward became one of the chief illustrators for these businesses as well as the Wichita newspapers - The Eagle and The Beacon.  As Wichita grew his reputation and business expanded.  Throughout this time he made various attempts to combine his commercial design studio with an art school and exhibition gallery.  He had married in 1909 and the financial need of supporting his growing family caused his first Southwestern School of Art in 1910 to be relatively short lived.  In 1923 Seward closed  his Seward Studio and art school and gallery after he had successfully helped launch the art classes and exhibition program for the Wichita Art Association.

On January 1, 1923, he accepted the position of Director of the Advertising and Art Department, Western Lithograph Company in Wichita, a position he held for the rest of his life. Walter Vincent had started the company in 1893 with a press, a couple of printing stones, and a bicycle and he promoted his services throughout Kansas. By the late 1920s, it was one of the largest printing companies in the region. A sixteen-page brochure, with samples of his previous work, announced Seward’s appointment:

“Being A Collection of the Wood Cuts, Drawings and Paintings of C.A. Seward, Wichita, Kansas.” It includes 35 examples and comments on the works illustrated including Seward's advertising art, and a description of the new Commercial Art Department of The Western Lithograph and Office Supply Company, under the direction of Mr. Seward. “The excellence of Mr. Seward's work is not unknown to our clientele as much of the art service we have rendered our customers in the past has been from the versatile brush and pen of Mr. Seward."

In his new position at Western Lithograph, Seward and his staff produced a prodigious number of the signature promotional advertising campaigns for the many oil and gas, flour mills and railroad and aviation companies whose home base was Kansas. Seward’s previous commercial work as a free lance designer included the original promotional pieces for such companies as Coleman Lighting, Carey Salt, Mentholatum, and E.M. Laird’s Swallow Airplane Company. One of Seward’s longest standing designs was the logo for the Wichita based international company, Dye’s Chile. This unique design from 1908 was retained until 1967 when the company closed. Under Seward’s leadership, the Western Lithograph Company also printed fine art prints for artists like Birger Sandzen and Ken Adams.

As most of these early advertising pieces were paper not many have survived the some 100 years since their creation.  Wm. Dye’s grandson, the Carey Salt Museum, Hutchinson Kansas, the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum and many private collectors have provided the examples of Seward’s commercial illustrations and designs included on these pages. If you are the owner of other examples of Seward designed printed pieces it is hoped that you will share them. They are as much a part of C.A. Seward’s history as that of Wichita and Kansas during a particularly exciting moment in their history.

Below are samples of Seward signatures found on his commercial work.  These provide good clues however he did not sign all of his commercial illustrations and designs.

Seward - Illustrator & Commercial Designer

Click on Titles in italics to view additional information & images........

Professional Positions

1906 Free lance design studio, Chase, Kansas

Capper Publishing

designer & illustrator, Topeka, Kansas

1907 Fred Wieland Tractor Company, Wichita, Kansas

1907-10 Free lance commercial designer &

1909 Art Director of Kansas Magazine

1910 Director of Southwestern School of Art, Wichita

1910-1919 Capper Engraving Company, Manager of Art & Department, Wichita &

1919 Cappers Magazine, Manager of Publications, Topeka

1919-21 Southwestern Advertising Company, Art Director, Wichita

1921 Seward Studio, free lance commercial designer with art school, sales gallery & traveling art exhibitions, Wichita

1923-1938 Western Lithograph, Director of Art, Wichita

Images on this page (top to bottom, left to right): Seward logos -1906,abt 1910, 1923, Seward designs - front page, Wichita Eagle, political cartoon, frontispiece illustration for “Dodge City, Cowboy Capitol,” Charles Lindbergh commemorative edition of Wichita Eagle, advertisement for Mentholatum, Kansas Day postcard, political cartoon, Carey Salt Co. brochure, Mentholatum Co, brochure, Coleman Lantern & Laird Swallow newspaper advertisements, Western Lithograph advertising piece.

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