Illustration Magazine #4
“Sam Savitt – Painter, Author,
Teacher and Horseman”
THE ILLUSTRATED PRESS, INC.
St. Louis, MO 63110
ILLUSTRATION is a beautiful, educational, and scholarly magazine devoted to the history of the American golden age of illustration from 1860 to 1960. It’s published by Daniel Zimmer. For those with an interest in popular culture, commercial art and design, publishing history, comic books, paperbacks, pulp magazines, or collecting original art, this magazine comes highly recommended.
My cover article on Sam Savitt was featured in issue #4 of 2002 and may also be accessed on the Sam Savitt Art site.
I have been recognized as an authority on the work of Sam Savitt whose gouache paintings graced the covers of Dell comic books produced by Western Printing in the fifties.
After seeing an article in Equus magazine #150 in 1990, titled “The Mustangs of the West,” with paintings by Sam Savitt, I suspected that he might have painted the covers for Roy Rogers’ Trigger, Gene Autry’s Champion and The Lone Ranger’s Famous Horse Hi-Yo Silver. I wrote Savitt in care of Equus asking about the Dell covers. A few weeks later a letter of conformation arrived. Bette Orkin, his wife, had kept records of his work. When I met them in 1995, I’d already accounted for more than double the covers on her list. Savitt was eventually able to conﬁrm even more for a variety of Dell titles that Robert W. Phillips and I discovered in the following years.
Sam Savitt viewed his covers for Western/Dell as merely means to an end, paying bills, etc. He never made an effort to regain possession. He eventually wised up after his wife Bette built a successful cottage industry from his gallery art and prints. By the time Savitt returned to Western Printing to retrieve his originals they were long gone. Of his 150 plus covers, he only saved three! This writer has only seen another dozen original Dell covers via various online sources.
In the 1950s when Sam Savitt was working for Western Printing, illustrators were not allowed to sign their work. It was a way for companies to maintain reproduction rights. My research was referenced in an affidavit drawn up by his lawyer and cousin Joseph J. Savitz to claim authorship of the work. The affidavit was notarized in the Common Wealth of Pennsylvania, County of Luzerne and signed by Sam Savitt in September 1995. It consists of seventeen claims including the following:
“The undersigned, Sam Savitt of North Salem, Westchester County, New York, being duly sworn according to law deposes and says that: 6. In 1950, he was doing comic book covers for Roy Rogers’ horse, Trigger, Gene Autry’s horse, Champion, and the Lone Ranger Hi-Yo Silver horse. 7. He did the above cover book pictures for approximately 5 years from 1950 to 1955, painting approximately 140 covers for Western Printing and Publishing Company, which he believes subsequently became Dell Publishing Company. 13. That a collector of comic book covers, namely Leo Pando of N. Richland Hills, Texas has apprised the deponent of Pando’s collection of comic book covers and has asked the deponent to authenticate the same, having listed many works of the deponent after extensive research accomplished by Mr. Pando.”