<font color="#808080">WEBER, Walter A.</font>

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1906 - 1979)

Chicago must be very proud of Walter A. Weber. He was born there, the son of Jacob and Antoinette Kreml Weber, on May 23, 1906; received all his formal education in the same city-, and worked there several years after college.

It is said that in the Chicago of those days, when Walter Weber was about 10 years old, children were allowed to go into neighborhood taverns to buy soda pop. Walter was right in there with the other children, but he didn't always have to buy his shots of strawberry, orange, or grape-, he would sometimes pay for them with a drawing, or sell a sketch of an animal or bird to a more affluent or less sober patron of the bar. These were his first commissions, ranging from 10 cents to 50 cents, and the money would buy not only soda pop, but art supplies as well.

During his early years in school there were three teachers in particular who recognized Walter Weber's talent and encouraged him to study art - he still remembers them with gratitude. One was Miss Miller, who taught him in the fifth grade- another was Mrs. Jesse Thompson, his seventh grade teacher; the third was Dr. Clarence Holzman at Waller High School, who later introduced him to Dr. Wilfred H. Osgood, then head of the Zoology Department at the Field Museum where Mr. Weber was eventually to be a staff member.

Mr. Weber has always had an insatiable curiosity about plant and animal life, and as a child he had a prophetically varied collection of whatever living things he could catch and keep: beetles, squirrels, crows, ants, mice, raccoons, and turtles, for instance; together with plants from their natural habitat.

Naturally he studied zoology and botany when he went to the University of Chicago; he graduated from there as a Phi Beta Kappa with a B.S. degree in 1927. He received his art education at the Church School of Art, the American Academy of Art, and the Chicago Art Institute.

Though only 22 years old, Mr. Weber was now well trained as a scientific illustrator and as such he joined the staff of the Chicago Field Museum (now the Chicago Museum of Natural History) in 1928. His travels for the museum led him to every continent except Antarctica: he was artist and ornithologist for the Crane Expedition to the South Pacific in 1928-29; made an expedition to Bermuda in the winter of 1930 to paint fish for Mr. Cornelius Crane-, in the summer of the same year he went to British Columbia to study under the late Major Allan Brooks, the well known bird artist who did many series for the National Geographic magazine. The two men worked together for four months, much of the time in the field; this was invaluable experience for the young man who was then developing his own style.

From 1931 to 1933, Mr. Weber was biologist and artist for the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, and after that became a free-lance artist for two years, specializing mainly in commercial illustration and advertising art.

(Author's note: Advertising art agencies, although deplored by purists, have been an important influence on art in this country since the 1920's, by providing a whole new area for the growth of artists. Many fine artists of note today have matured their talents in Advertising illustration.)

Mr. Weber organized and painted backgrounds for the biological exhibits at the Texas State Memorial Museum in 1936, and after that work was done he went to Washington as a wildlife technician with the National Park Service. In 1941 he transferred to the staff of the U. S. National Museum and in 1942 was sent to southern Mexico (Tabasco and Vera Cruz) as ornithologist on a Smithsonian Institution-National Geographic Society Expedition.

In March of 1943, Mr. Weber began free-lancing again, and late in that year he did the watercolor painting that was chosen for the 1944-45 duck stamp.

From 1943 to 1949, Mr. Weber remained a free lance, but in a style quite different from that of the boy in Chicago who sold 100 drawings for a bottle of soda pop. In 1949 he accepted the position he now holds as staff artist and naturalist for the National Geographic Society. He spends many months each year in the field, doing research, painting, and undoubtedly adding to the priceless collection of over 2,000 bird specimens that he started years ago.

He says his favorite subject for painting is the animal, bird, or plant with which he has had his most recent experience, and that the average length of time for doing a painting, including research, is about a month. This can vary somewhat, of course, depending upon the complexity of the work.

Many people ask the National Geographic Society how they may obtain Weber originals, and the Society must answer that they are unavailable. However, millions of people can enjoy his work in the pages of the Society's books and magazine. The increasing perfection of color photography does not relieve a scientific illustrator at all, since however beautiful a color photograph may be, it seldom can show every characteristic of a given subject that might be desired.

On April 18, 1967, Mr. Weber received the highest civilian honor the U. S. Department of the Interior can bestow: the Conservation Service Award. Department's Assistant Secretary Stanley A. Cain, Mr. Weber's friend of many years, made the presentation.

Secretary Cain said, "As staff artist for the National Geographic Society, you are truly one of the outstanding wildlife and nature artists in the nation today. You acquaint persons in all walks of life with the conservation goals of this Department and inspire them to a wider interest in our native wildlife.

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