Passion of the heart: Tamaqua museum features hometown illustrator’s work
Rows of glass showcases such as this one identify the wide variety of valentine artwork of Tamaqua artist John G. Scott. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Among 18 descendants of artist J.G. Scott are, from left: Vicky and Dr. Robert Stauffer, Kelsey Littell, John Green Scott III and Kate Scott. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Visitors examine the works of Tamaqua illustrator John G. Scott on Nov. 11 at the opening of the new Tamaqua Historical Society Museum Annex, 114 W. Broad St.
J.G. Scott’s innocent, cherub children were typically painted with rosy cheeks.
John G. Scott
They say still waters run deep.
Late artist John G. Scott was a prime example of that adage.
Those who remember Tamaqua’s most famous commercial illustrator say he was a quiet, humble man who touched hearts, not through bravado, but quiet brush strokes.
Descendants of Scott from Oregon, California, Delaware and other states gathered in Tamaqua Nov. 11 to unveil an extensive collection of Scott’s creativity, the inaugural exhibit at the newly opened Tamaqua Historical Society Annex, 114 W. Broad St.
Scott was a creative genius behind the warm artwork of Gibson valentines and renderings promoting products of the Nabisco Corporation, such as classic Cream of Wheat.
Some 200 turned out to meet Scott family descendants and to honor a legacy.
“Back then, we took this for granted,” said Scott’s granddaughter Nancy Van Sant of Woodland, California.
“He was a lovely and kind person,” she added. “He put three children through college during the Depression.”
Van Sant said she’s delighted to see a celebration of Scott’s gift of expression.
“To have it gathered together and recognized makes us appreciate it more.”
Career shaped by injury
Scott was born in Buck Mountain in 1887 and graduated from Girardville High School before relocating to Tamaqua.
As a young man, his talent emerged by accident, literally.
A hunting mishap crippled his left arm, preventing him from performing heavy lifting or accomplishing work requiring great physical effort.
He decided to attend the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Arts in Philadelphia, finishing in 1910 and launching a prolific career.
His claim to fame? He became well-known for painting images of children with rosy cheeks.
At the time, the Cream of Wheat company began using warm, four-color illustrations to promote their product. As one of the nation’s top illustrators, Scott helped to propel the company’s wholesome image.
He also produced over 2,500 innovative valentines for the Gibson Company and others from 1924 to 1953. Today, he is regarded as a pioneer in the medium during America’s Golden Age of Illustration, 1880s-1920s.
“We have hundreds on loan,” said Dale Freudenberger, society president.
Scott’s valentines have a way of touching everyday folks who recall simple, innocent days when young school students rejoiced in receiving a valentine greeting card from an admirer.
“I remember exchanging these valentines,” said Ruthie O’Dell of Plains Township.
“My favorite is the football player with the little dog,” said Don Campbell of Hazleton. “I think it’s the cutest one; it stands out.”
Another said she remembers the Scott family at a personal level.
“We grew up with the nephews in Hometown,” said Marilyn Felsoci of Rush Township.
Yet another, Phyllis Carter, 93, of Tamaqua, remembers Scott and his brick home in Tamaqua’s North Ward section.
“He’d be playing tennis at the house,” said Carter, suggesting the exercise may have been therapeutic for his injured arm.
Dr. Robert Stauffer, Scott’s grandson, said he’s impressed by the Tamaqua museum’s presentation.
“It reinforces how much he did, the sheer volume,” said Stauffer, on hand with wife Vicki.
Stauffer said 18 family members arrived for exhibit. Among them were grandsons John Green Scott III and wife Sharla, of Regrale, California; George Stauffer and wife Libby of Frederick, Maryland; great-niece Kate Scott of Clinton, New York, and youngest visitor, Kelsey Littell, 21, of Portland, Oregon, Scott’s great-great-granddaughter.
Scott was well-known during his lifetime. He 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.
Yet his artistic genius is something he seemed to hold close to the vest, often painting privately in space reserved in his house at 401 North Lehigh St.
And that’s how it is with many artists. Still waters run deep. The passion of the heart can be private and personal.
Scott died at home in 1975 after suffering from emphysema and eventual blindness. He was 87.
Fittingly, his extensive output of art is becoming more acclaimed and appreciated with the passing of time.
The extra-large, gallery display will remain in Tamaqua until late January, after which a room-sized, permanent display will remain.