Who is magazine cover illustrator Alan Wilson ???

A mystery that has troubled me for many a year is the identity of magazine illustrator “A. Wilson”. His works primarily graced the covers of American screen-related magazines. He also landed some “smooth” magazines. However, he never appeared on the cover a genuine pulpwood magazine, though some may consider a handful of his smooth magazines to be pulp in nature, due to the fiction content. His covers focused on accentuating the beauty of the female: her face, hair, makeup, and clothing from the shoulders to upper chest region, but never her breasts. Naturally, his screen-related covers featured popular film and stage actresses of the era, in all their glory, while his non-screen magazines sometimes had such persons depicted. Others are a complete mystery. Were they based on real people or not? The mysterious identity of “A. Wilson” lessened when I discovered he executed covers in Canada under the name of “Alan Wilson.”

I wrote various art institutes and museums in the hopes that Alan Wilson had exhibited with them, in either the United States or Canada. Shockingly, I hit the proverbial wall in both instances. Searching various census databases, I came across possible matches, but nothing definite. Alan Wilson’s name is about as common as John Smith. I’ve tried Archive.org and FamilySearch.org and US Census records. I do not have access to Ancestry.com nor most Canadian historical databases (assuming he is Canadian). At the moment, I’m not sure where he was born!

One possible match appears in the form of Alan Walrond Wilson, born 12 December 1910 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. His father was William Herbert Wilson (1870) and his mother was Bessie St. George Olive (1878). Alan married Frances Margaret Fraser on 15 July 1941; she was born 29 April 1910 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The pair had two children; one for sure was Margaret Dianne Wilson (1949-1981) and she married someone with the surname possibly being Hayter. Alan’s marriage certificate states that he is a radio “wireless operator”. Given that our illustrator did illustrate some radio magazine covers, this could be a genuine match. His precise death is unclear, but it was prior to 1969. Unfortunately, 1931 Canadian census records won’t be made publicly available for a good long while. Granted, this could be meaningless if he is not the correct person.

Early in my research I had also come across Canadian commercial illustrator Alan Dent Wilson. However, he was rapidly nixed. Why? Well, he was born in the early 1920s, meaning he was an artist by the age of 5. Um, no dice, bub!

Alan Wilson should not be confused with American commercial illustrator Raymond Wilson Hammell, despite both doing covers for Radio Digest magazine in 1931. Raymond Wilson Hammell, a noted American artist born 12 June 1896; he died 23 February 1949. They both executed similar pieces, but the WILSON signatures are entirely different, every time. To be honest, I wish their signatures had either been identical or similar enough to warrant a closer look.

The earliest American cover I could trace appears on Screen Secrets magazine, February 1929, while the earliest Canadian cover I traced belongs to MacLean’s, 1 September 1933, a whole four-and-half years later! It hardly seems logical a man born, raised, and residing his whole live in Nova Scotia could possibly have been submitting paintings to New York, New Jersey, and Toronto publishers.

My love and interest in Alan Wilson began with the trio of covers he created for Mystic Magazine (1930-1931), signed as “A. Wilson”, of course. It seemed unusual that this had no profile page, no record in any historical books, etc. But of course, many such mysteries exist unsolved or go unnoticed. In America, he would go on to illustrate a minimum of 15 screen and radio related magazines, and 10 other assorted magazines, spanning 1929-1935. Many of his American radio and film covers are not signed by the artist on the cover, so that information often came from the Table of Contents page. If anyone collects those types of magazines, I’d love your input, as no doubt I’m missing many more entries. In Canada, I’ve confirmed he illustrated at least 25 covers for MacLean’s from 1933-1936 and one for Chatelaine in 1933. He may have done more for the latter, but that title is tough to locate.

So, in all, his 50+ works span 1929-1936, and then he abruptly vanishes. If anyone can fill in the blanks for me, I’d be deeply grateful to learn more about this illustrator.

Below is a partial list of his known American and Canadian appearances, as well as some bonus items at the bottom.

AMERICAN MAGAZINES:

1929 Feb – Screen Secrets
1929 Apr – Screen Secrets
1929 May – Screen Secrets
1929 May – True Confessions
1929 Jul – Screen Secrets
1929 Fall – Your Body
1929 Oct – Prize Story Magazine
1929 Oct – Screen Secrets
1929 Nov – Screen Secrets
1929 Dec – Screen Secrets
1929 Dec – True Confessions
1930 Nov – Mystic Magazine
1931 Jan – The Illustrated Love Magazine
1931 Jan – Mystic Magazine
1931 Mar – Mystic Magazine
1931 Apr – The Illustrated Love Magazine
1931 May – Radio Digest
1931 Jun – Radio Digest
1931 Nov – The New Movie Magazine
1931 Dec – Street & Smith’s Real Love Magazine
1932 Jul – Street & Smith’s Real Love Magazine
1933 Jun – Hollywood Movie Novels
1934 Jan – Street & Smith’s Picture Play
1934 Nov – Screen Play
1934 Nov – Radioland
1935 Apr – Screen Play

CANADIAN MAGAZINES:

1933 Sep 1 – Maclean’s
1933 Oct – Chatelaine
1933 Nov 15th – Maclean’s
1933 Dec 1st – Maclean’s
1933 Dec 15th – Maclean’s
1934 Feb 1st – Maclean’s
1934 Mar 1st – Maclean’s
1934 Mar 15th – Maclean’s
1934 Apr 1st – Maclean’s
1934 May 1st – Maclean’s
1934 Jun 15th – Maclean’s
1934 Jul 15th – Maclean’s
1934 Aug 1st – Maclean’s
1934 Sep 1st – Maclean’s
1934 Sep 15th – Maclean’s
1934 Oct 1st – Maclean’s
1934 Oct 15th – Maclean’s
1934 Nov 15th – Maclean’s
1934 Dec 1st – Maclean’s
1935 Mar 15th – Maclean’s
1935 Jun 15th – Maclean’s
1935 Sep 15th – Maclean’s
1936 Feb 1st – Maclean’s
1936 Mar 1st – Maclean’s
1936 Sep 15th – Maclean’s
1936 Nov 1st – Maclean’s

FOREIGN MAGAZINES:

1932 Apr – Hjemmet (Norway) original cover source unknown
1934 Dec – Suplemento (Argentina) cover from Street & Smith’s Picture Play (January 1934)

MISCELLANEOUS:

One lithograph and one “pin up” piece have also been discovered, both undated, sources unknown

Who is magazine cover illustrator Alan Wilson ???

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