Gale Biography In Context adds only slightly more personal information. Born October, 10, 1908 in San Francisco, California to Charles O'Malley and Margaret (Mahoney) Cosgrave. Reached the rank of staff sergeant in the United States Army, Office of Strategic Services during his wartime service, 1942-1945. Married Mary Silva, a children's book illustrator, November 21, 1952. Died May 9, 1968 in Pocasset, Massachussets.
This entry neglects to mention that Mary Silva was Cosgrave's second wife. His first wife, the portrait painter Esther Flack Cosgrave died June 26, 1952 at home in New Hampshire.
Even his obituary in The New York Times is scant on information. It highlights several of the books he illustrated: Bouquets and Bitters: A Gardner's Medley (1940) by Julian Meade, Pardon My Harvard Accent (1941) by William G. Morse, There Were Two Pirates (1946) by James Branch Cabell, and several others. But why these books were chosen as a representation of his work is unclear, as The Times chose to omit Gnomobile (1936) by Upton Sinclair, Wind, Sand, and Stars (1939) by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, and Come In and Other Poems (1943) by Robert Frost, all of which might have proven more interesting. It even leaves out Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (1955) by Jean Lee Latham, which won the Newbery Medal.
There is one thing that almost all sources mention, however, and that is that Cosgrave was the nephew of John O'Hara Cosgrave, who was the editor of The New York World's Sunday Magazine for fifteen years.
And that's about it. For a man who was so prolific, often in highly visible projects, it is surprisingly (and depressingly) little information. At the library, I retrieved books illustrated by Cosgrave from the Children's Department, the Humanities Department, the Social Science and History Department, and the Visual Arts Department. And every single one poured dust out on my scanner as I scanned from them. How could someone who left so many traces as an artist, leave so few traces as a man?
From Come In, and Other Poems (1943) by Robert Frost
Cosgrave's first job in book illustration was for Sailer, Beware! (1933), published by Farrar and Rinehart. John C. Farrar of Farrar and Rhinehart was married to one of the inventors of the crossword puzzle, Margaret Petherbridge who had been secretary to John O'Hara Cosgrave I at The New York World. Perhaps then, it was through a favor to his uncle (who also published books with Farrar and Rhinehart) by his uncle's former secretary that Cosgrave II got his first illustration job.
Three years later, Farrar and Rhinehart published The Gnomobile with Cosgrave's illustrations. He would do many other books for the publisher over the years, so perhaps it was simply through the publisher that Cosgrave got involved with Sinclair's book. However, the first edition of The Gnomobile actually appeared earlier in 1936 in an edition published by Sinclair himself with the Cosgrave illustrations already in place. So perhaps it had nothing to do with Farrar and Rhinehart.
After all, Cosgrave I had published articles by Upton Sinclair in The World and other magazines he worked on, so perhaps it was again through the younger Cosgrave's uncle that Cosgrave II illustrated Sinclair's book.
Or maybe it was for some other reason entirely.
From Clipper Ship (1963) by John O'Hara Cosgrave II
One other thing that comes out in the various sources, but most obviously in the work he actually did was Cosgrave's love of boats and boating. For awhile, it seems, Cosgrave was one of the go to artists for boats and other maritime subjects. He authored several books on the subject as well.
The Cosgrave illustrations used throughout this post are from the following books, all of which link to the corresponding set on my Flickr account where a wider selection is available:
Wind, Sand and Stars (1939) by Antoine de Saint Exupéry
Come In, and Other Poems (1943) by Robert Frost
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (1955) by Jean Lee Latham
Clipper Ship (1963) by John O'Hara Cosgrave II
If anyone has further information on John O'Hara Cosgrave II, please let me know, and I will add it to this post.
From Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (1955) by Jean Lee Latham
STILL COMING SOON: WALT DISNEY PRESENTS THE GNOME-MOBILE
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