Friday, April 07, 2006

Out of the funny papers and onto the front page of The New York Times

Madison blogger Ann Althouse reads The New York Times in the morning and starts blogging. I'm far more dilatory about catching up with "All the News That's Fit to Print." Sometimes I don't even have time to look at The New York Times until the next day. I'm not certain when Madison Guy read Thursday's edition of The New York Times, but I do know it was long before I did, because he managed to scoop me on the Don Trachte story and post a report on his blog, "Letter from Here," before the 6 o'clock evening news. So congratulations, Madison Guy!

Because I've been doing lots of research about Madison Central High School, I can add some more information about this illustrious member Central alumnus whose artistic ruse earned him post-mortem headlines. Donald Trachte graduated in 1933, a year after Martin Wolman, who served as business manager and editor of The Madison Mirror, which published both the school newspaper and the yearbook during the 1930s. Trachte left his artistic tracks in the yearbook for several years, contributing stories and drawings, but you'd never know it from the yearbook entry accompanying his senior photo (shown on the left). The only activities he lists are "Track 9, 10, 11, 12."

Wolman went on to become the publisher of the Wisconsin State Journal. While still in high school, Trachte met comic creator Carl Anderson, who was working as a carpenter in Madison and teaching night school. Trachte became his assistant on the "Henry" series, thus beginning a long career as an illustrator. When Anderson died in 1948, Trachte took over the Sunday page of the series.

In the 1950s, Trachte moved to Vermont, where he lived until his death in 2005. While working (and raising a family) in Vermont, Trachte sometimes posed for his friend and fellow artist, Norman Rockwell. Trachte is featured in one of Rockwell's most famous paintings, "Outside the Principal's Office."

If you haven't already done so, click over to "Letter from Here" and read what Madison guy has to say about The New York Times story about Don Trachte. I'm usually writing about history and biography. Madison Guy is writing about art, but that's probably because he is an artist. While you're visiting his blog, have a look at the original drawings and photographs that often accompany his posts. He also has a link to information about Don Trachte's father's business. And, oh yeah, Madison Guy has even blogged about Althouse.

Note: Even if you have a copy of Thursday's New York Times, it's worth your time to check out the online version because the some of the photos that appear in black and white when the story jumps from page one to page 15 in the newspaper are shown online in color and can be enlarged in your browser window. This is particularly valuable if you want to see the detail in Trachte's self-portrait. And if you've never visited the online version of The New York Times, you may have to register. It's worth it.

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