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Alfred Anton Muenchen

T/4 in Signal Co, Special : Radio C

Military occupational specialty: 740 (radio operator, intermediate speed)


Born 1917 in OH, Died 1975


County of residence at enlistment: Allegheny County, PA
Other residence(s): Pittsburgh, PA; Chicago, IL; Wilton, CT; Norwalk, CT; New Canaan, CT; Darien, CT; New York, NY
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
College education before the war: Chicago Art Institute 1 year; Carnegie Tech
College education after the war: Bauhaus School of Design
Notes: A/K/A Munchen
Source: Unit Shipment 10143-D, 23d HQ, from la Havre 23 June 1945;

Al Muenchen was born on November 23, 1917 in Norwood, Ohio, an enclave of the larger city of Cincinnati. His father, a baker, had been born in Germany and his mother in Alsace-Lorraine. Some time in his childhood the family moved to the Pittsburgh area, and Al graduated from Dormont High School in Pittsburgh in 1935. He moved to Chicago that year to study at the Chicago Art Institute, and was still in Chicago in 1940, working as an illustrator there. His younger brother Herman, at that time a photographer, also moved into his rooming house; the 1940 census captures them both living there. (Herman enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 and served as an airplane mechanic until 1948. He then returned to Chicago, earned a bachelor's degree and an MBA, and went to work in marketing/market research.)

Later in 1940 Al came back to Pittsburgh, and was working at/for Stuart Heiss when he filled out his draft registration on October 16 of that year. Since he also studied at Carnegie Institute of Technology, those studies may have occurred at this time. He also did some work for Pittsburgh Studios, starting in 1937.

He married Juliet Ferry on July 19, 1941; they had nearly two years together before he enlisted on June 30, 1943.

He was released from the Army on October 15, 1945, with the rank of T/4.

Shortly thereafter, the couple and their daughter Juliet made their way to the East Coast. They lived in several Connecticut communities—Wilton, Norwalk, New Canaan, and Darien. They had a second daughter, Anita.

Al worked as an artist and commercial illustrator in New York. He appeared to have maintained a studio there and for some, or perhaps most, of that time he was part of a stable of artists at Rahl Studios on West 45th Street in Manhattan. This was a group of 16-20 artists who maintained individual studio space and shared staff such as salespeople, a costume researcher/fashion coordinator/props person, secretarial/bookkeeping support, junior artists, and apprentices. Anita Virgil, who was the costume researcher there during Muenchen's tenure, reported in a 2007 blog post: "It seemed to me as an outsider that, generally speaking, these people each had their own illustration niche and hence were not in close competition with one another. Once in a while, though, if an artist was chosen by a client but was too booked up with other work, a salesman might in those early years offer as a substitute someone like Dorothy to fill in for Andy [Andy Virgil, Anita's husband]. Or Siebel who originated "Mr. Clean" right there at Rahl in the ’50s, or possibly Muenchen could fill in for Dink Siegel’s semi-cartoon animated figures. That sort of thing. . . . Muenchen, an incredible talent whom Andy liked a great deal, was the car man. In a pinch, if Muench was unavailable, Roy Cragnolin might fill in for him."

Saturday Evening Post illustration for "Rain in Laredo" by Paul Horgan, July 13, 1963

Al did quite a bit of advertising illustration, including ads for GE and Conoco, as well as pursuing his major career effort—illustrating works of fiction that appeared in national magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, Collier's, American, Good Housekeeping, Argosy, and True. He illustrated works by Elmore Leonard, Ben Ames Williams, Paul Horgan, Ed McBain, and Stephen Marlowe (among others).

He also did illustrations for Reader's Digest condensed books, and at least one children's book.

At one point he traveled to Antartica for the US Air Force to record the life and work of personnel based there. He painted a picture of the aftermath of a dramatic Air Force C-130 plane landing during a "whiteout" at McMurdo's Williams Field. Blinded by a blizzard, the plane was guided down into soft snow. After the storm, the Seabees welded together a special sled which was dragged to the plane and managed to tow it back to its runway. The painting is part of the Air Force Permanent Art Collection.

Courtesy Air Force Permanent Art Collection

In addition to his studies at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon) and the Art Institute of Chicago, he also studied at the Bauhaus School of Design. He was an active member of the Society of Illustrators, serving on the Exhibition committee and the Joint Ethics Committee for the Graphic Arts.

At some point in the late 1960s, Al and Juliet got divorced, and in 1970 he married Prude Hatcher, a widow from Wilton, CT. They were divorced less than three years later.

Al died on October 4, 1975; he was living in Wilton at the time. He had left a note for his family asking that his picture collection be donated to the Westport (CT) Library. According to the library, their picture file is considered to be one of the best in the country.


High school yearbook, 1935

Newspaper photo, 1951


1940 census

1940 draft card

1941 marriage record

1941 article in Pittsburgh Press re the marriage

1942 enlistment record (NOTE: birthdate is wrong in this version)

1951 Norwalk CT city directory (listed as artist)

1964 Darien directory

1970 marriage record (2nd wife)

1970 article in Stamford Daily Advocate re 2nd marriage

1971 Norwalk CT city directory (listed as artist)

1972 Westport city directory

1973 divorce record (2nd wife)

1975 Social Security death index

1975 VA death record

1977 New York Times article re donation of his collection

Artprice website; info about his art career

Blog with examples of his illustrations

He illustrated this book

Another artwork

Illustration from a Reader's Digest Condensed Book

Saturday Evening Post illustration

An ad for General Electric

blog post describing Rahl Studios

Rahl studios image; includes address for the studio and Al Muenchen’s name among the artists

Biography appearing in The Illustrator in America 1880-1980 by Walt and Roger Reed, 1984.

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