C.A. Seward

1884 - 1939

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Local history and writing were as much a part of Foltz’s creative life as printmaking and painting. Throughout his adult life he maintained a lively correspondence with family, friends, and the “letters to the editor” section of the Wichita Eagle. He often composed poems and rhymes as gifts to friends and to accompany his artworks. Foltz wrote and edited newsletters for several of the organizations to which he belonged, including the First Methodist Church, the American Hemerocallis Society, and his Riverside neighborhood association (The Riverside Booster).

Foltz became a serious writer of Kansas and railroad history as early as 1948. That year Trains magazine published his article titled “My Kansas short line in the plush seat days,” about the Leavenworth, Kansas & Western railway which operated in Northeast Kansas in the early 20th century. He followed that article with several essays on the railroads, an autobiography, and a book length manuscript, illustrated by original ink drawings, titled Smokey Days about the influence of the steam engine in early 20th century Kansas. Although most of this material remains unpublished it provides a historically valuable and entertaining account of life in Kansas in the first three decades of the 20th century.

Foltz’s subject matter encompassed many of the topics popularized by the Regionalists and American scene imagists, including picturesque small town views, Western mountain and prairie landscapes, vernacular architecture, locomotives and railroad yards.  His emotive exploration of these subjects also resounds with the overriding thematic preoccupations of the period: romantic nostalgia for the passing of the frontier experience, awe before the magnificence of Western American scenery, and proud excitement at the arrival of the dramatic new power of machines and industry. This artist was definitely a man of his time. However, unlike the Regionalists who left small towns to train and live in the academies and sophisticated artistic ambience of East Coast urban centers, Foltz carried his delight in nature and his passionate interest in trains almost directly from the farm into the making of his art.

Born on a farm in the Kansas until Flint Hills region in 1897, Foltz moved with his parents to a succession of small farming communities until the family finally settled in a village called Pleasant Hill, located about five miles north of Topeka.  Life in turn-of-the century rural Kansas was hard. The artist’s family suffered through numerous disasters including flooding, failed crops, rat infestation, and serious illness a long way from medical care. However, for a small boy these hardships were relieved by such wonders as a tent show demonstration of moving pictures, a ride in a “horseless carriage,” the sound of a scratchy tune played on a neighbor’s Gramophone, and listening on the telephone to the voice of a school chum who was “a half a mile away.”

Foltz’s exposure to formal schooling extended no farther than intermittent attendance in the era’s one-room school houses where a young female graduate of “normal school” taught all grades and all subjects. He left school in what would have been his freshman year of high school when he flunked algebra. Armed only with native talent Foltz launched himself as a free-lance illustrator in Topeka in 1917. He sold some political cartoons to the Topeka Daily Capital, but, as the artist put it, he didn’t earn enough to stop eating at his mother’s table.

When the armistice brought him a last minute reprieve from the draft, Foltz got a job as a technical draftsman for the Bell Telephone Company in Kansas City, Missouri. Although his four years of drawing wiring diagrams and pole line maps provided the young man with a modestly independent income the job failed to satisfy his imagination.

In the summer of 1922 Foltz quit the job, bought train fare to Chicago, and enrolled in a ten-week course of figure drawing at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.  The discipline and orderliness that would remain lifelong traits are revealed in an old pocket notebook from his files in which Foltz had recorded every cent that he spent.  Despite this financial caution, the young man opened his heart to the thrilling adventure of walking the big city, using his precious spare change to buy film in order to take photographs of its rail yards, teaming shopping districts, tall buildings, and famous landmarks.

Upon leaving Chicago Foltz returned to Topeka where he opened his own business as a free-lance illustrator with an office on the capital’s prestigious south side . His commissions proved diverse but too meager to pay his rent or to support his new ambition to marry a lovely young woman, Elsie Eberhart, of Topeka.  Foltz met Eberhart on a train ride when both were enroute to an Epworth League convention in Baldwin, Kansas.  Foltz, who had been obsessed by locomotive engines since childhood, was destined to conduct the courtship of his sweetheart by train when opportunity sent him to Wichita to accept a job with the Capper Engraving Company in 1924:

…it would seem appropriate to credit the Santa Fe Railroad with having contributed, in a practical way, to our romance. I had no car, so the Pullman sleeping car on the sidetrack near the Wichita passenger station seemed to have been placed there for my convenience. I could board it on a Saturday evening, go to sleep and awaken on the Topeka sidetrack Sunday Morning. The coach shuttled regularly on a nightly schedule between the two cities, enabling me to stroll from Pullman to art department on Monday morning. Of course, I was not so well fixed that I could afford such deluxe service every weekend.

At Capper Engraving, Foltz met Leo Courtney, then head of the art department at Capper’s Wichita branch, and another future charter member of the Prairie Print Makers.  When Capper’s suffered a business slump the company discharged Foltz, but directed him to seek employment at the printing firm of Western Lithograph.  As Foltz often recalled he had the great good fortune not only to get a job in Western Lithograph’s art department but to come under the tutelage of C.A. Seward from 1925 until Seward’s untimely death in 1939. At the same time Foltz moved into the orbit of the company’s owner and manager, Walter A. Vincent, who played a leadership role in the civic and cultural life of Wichita.  Vincent was himself a talented artist, a painter, and helped to found the Wichita Art Association, Wichita’s first fine arts school and exhibition venue. Foltz fell in love with Wichita as he had earlier fallen in love with railroads and Elsie Eberhart.  He was proud to live in a “booming town” full of ambition in business and art, graced by beautiful parks and gardens.   Lloyd Foltz embodied the spirit of his era. He possessed a singular innocence of heart, characterized by an enduring optimism in the face of misfortune, faith in the essential goodness of people, and belief in an inexhaustible prospect for invention and progress. 

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Sources: Images - from private collections, galleries and museums. Text - Interviews with Lloyd Foltz and his son, Warren. As well as newsclippings and personal papers (now archived at Wichita State University, Special Collections Library.Catalog of ......and “The Prairie Print Makers”, Barbara Thompson-O’Neill, George Foreman & Howard Ellington, 1981.

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Lloyd Foltz 1897 - 1990

To order a copy of the 2011 catalogue The Block Prints of Lloyd C. Foltz contact seward.prairieprintmaker@godaddy.com