Cream of the crop
This undated photos shows J.G. Scott painting in his office at Coaldale State General Hospital, where he served as superintendent from 1939 to 1956. COURTESY ROBERT STAUFFER
Nobody painted pictures of rosy-cheeked, cherub children quite like John G. Scott.
The Tamaqua commercial artist's talent was so well received during America's Golden Age of Illustration (1880s-1920s) that the Cream of Wheat Corporation selected four of his renderings for their advertising.
At the time, it was a very big deal.
The Cream of Wheat company was a pioneer in using warm, four-color illustrations to promote their product.
They carefully selected the nation's top illustrators to propel their wholesome image.
That move proved to be a suitable showcase for multitalented Scott.
He also produced over 2,500 spirited valentines for the Gibson Company, and others, from 1924 to 1953.
The delightful variations of children in creative settings even includes an I "Chews" You valentine that incorporates a real stick of Wrigley's gum. Others have fabric, feathers or perhaps some other type of unusual treatment.
Many of his valentines are die-cut. All are distinctly high-quality images with special attention paid to color and tones.
Scott didn't sign most of his work, and it must be noted that some of his later creations omitted rosy cheeks. Still, his style is distinctive, and even if a valentine doesn't carry the Gibson name, Scott's special hand is apparent.
He also wrote poetry and free verse greetings that graced the inside of his cards.
Today, J.G. Scott valentines are highly collectible.
Scott's clean-cut artwork is a reflection of his personal life.
"He was a religious man and was very active in the Presbyterian Church in Tamaqua," says Scott's grandson, Robert F. Stauffer, Roanoke, Va.
Scott sang in the choir, taught Sunday school and served on church boards.
"He neither smoked nor drank. His father, a hard-driving mine supervisor, had a serious drinking problem at times," noted Stauffer.
Alcohol abuse wasn't uncommon among those in the mining industry.
Still, Scott's dad was successful; he was the inventor type and held patents on mining equipment.
Scott likely inherited his dad's creativity.
Scott was born in Buck Mountain in 1887 and graduated from Girardville High School. As a young man, his talent emerged by accident, literally.
A hunting mishap crippled his left arm, deterring him from performing heavy lifting or accomplishing work which required great physical effort.
He decided to attend the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Arts, Philadelphia, from which he graduated in 1910.
Scott was employed as superintendent of Coaldale State General Hospital from 1939 to 1956 and served as Schuylkill County representative in the Pennsylvania General Assembly from 1925 until 1934.
"He had a tremendous work ethic and continued his commercial artwork during his political career and when he was superintendent," says Stauffer.
"He was generous with his earnings; he tithed, and helped his nephews through college. Three of his brother Wins' sons went on to earn Ph.Ds."
Artistically, Scott's accomplishments are still being discovered. His gift is appreciated more fully with the passing of time.
Scott's legacy has been examined in Katherine Kreider's book "One Hundred Years of Valentines," published by Schiffer, 1999, and in "Cream of Wheat Advertising Art" by Dave Stivers Collectors Showcase, 1986.
Another tribute, "John G. Scott and His 2,500 Valentines," was authored by Stauffer and appears in "The Paper and Advertising Collectors' Marketplace" magazine, Vol. 36, No. 2, Feb. 2014.
Long, active life
Like other folks in the Tamaqua area, Scott always was interested in sports.
He lived at 401 N. Lehigh St., where he followed local high school teams. He also was an avid Phillies and Athletics fan.
"He loved playing tennis and played well into his 60s and then took up golf," says Stauffer.
Scott and wife Nelle had three children, all of whom earned college degrees.
Daughter Jean Scott Stauffer graduated from Hood College in Frederick, Md. Son J.G. Scott Jr. received a medical degree from Duke University and practiced medicine in Reno, Nevada. Son Robert received an advanced degree in chemistry and worked for Dupont.
In later years, Scott suffered health issues. He died at home in 1975 due to emphysema. He was 87.
Toward the end, he relied on nurses, a housekeeper and help from his son, Robert, and daughter-in-law, Mary, of the Wilmington area.
As for wife Nelle, she preceded Scott in death by only five months.
"He was devoted to her, particularly in her later years when she lost her eyesight," says Stauffer.
Both are buried in Pottsville's Baber Cemetery.
Scott gave away much of his artwork over the years. Still, it continues to touch local residents on a daily basis.
For instance, several of his oversized paintings, donated by Floyd Zimmerman, are on display in Tamaqua Borough Hall. And when you walk into Heisler's Dairy Bar, Lewistown Valley, for an ice cream cone, you pass a large wall mural depicting cows grazing in a pasture.
If you look closely at the lower right side, you'll see the signature "J.G. Scott 1964."
Despite a prolific career, Scott didn't amass a large collection of his own work. Today, Scott creations are in the hands of collectors. Much is preserved in scrapbooks, and perhaps some still stored in attics and other locations.
Stauffer is interested in locating, cataloging and acquiring paintings done by his grandfather.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to Dale Freudenberger, president, Tamaqua Historical Society, a display and tribute to J.G. Scott will be featured when the Tamaqua museum reopens.
In the meantime, many samples of his inspiring work can be viewed on the Internet by searching the name J.G. Scott or at http://www.vintagevalentinemuseum.com/2010/07/j-g-scott-gibson-cards-artist.html.