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Artist John Held, Jr. Created Cultural Icons, 1920s
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UTAH aND THE COLD WAR

World War I and Utah
Utah's Capitols
Herbert S. Auerbach, Renaissance Man
Utah's "Ugly Duckling" Salt Flats
Publicizing Bryce Canyon
The Last Indian Uprising
Home Industry 20th Century Style
Some 80 Utah Nurses Served in World War I
World War I Heroine Maud Fitch Lived in Eureka, Utah
Mexican Families and the Sugar Industry in Garland
The Development of Zion National Park
The Twenties
Artist John Held, Jr. Created Cultural Icons, 1920's
Media Development in Weber County
Silent Films Intrigued & Occasionally Offended
Coal Production Amid the Wars
Sheep Fueled 1920's Economy
Military Installations
Boxcars and Section Houses
Jack Dempsey Loved Fighting, Mining, and Cowboying
Radio in Utah Began in May 1922 on Station KZN
The Cigarette Ban of the 19020's Caused an Uproar
Prohibition Failed to Stop the Liquor Flow in Utah
Lawyer Ran For President on the Farmer-Labor Ticket
George Sutherland Served on the U.S. Supreme Court
Alice Stratton Feared and Made Fun of "Kaiser Bill"
Klansmen at a Funeral and a Terrible Lynching
President Harding's 1923 Visit to Utah
Growing Crops For the Cannery
Dinosaur National Monument
The Fathers of Capitol Reef National Park
Ogden's the Bigelow-Preserves a Historic Area
Philo T. Farnsworth's Invention
The Beginnings of Commerical Aviation
The White Book Road Guide
The Great Depression
Depression Memories
"Even Grasshoppers Were Starving" During Drought
New Deal Agencies Built 233 Buildings in Utah
"Alphabet" Agencies in Utah County
The Civilian Conservation Corps Was a Boon to Utah
The Civilian Conservation Corps
Marriner S. Eccles Helped Design FDR's New Deal
Reed Smoot and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, 1930
Reed Smoot & America's Natural Resources, 1903-33
Children in the 1930's Hoped to Become Nurses & Pilots
Arches National Monument
A Labor Inspector During the Great Depression
Clean Clothes Blowing in the Breeze
Utah's Rosies in the War
Garfield County Airport Has Unusual Hangar
Marie Ogden Led Spiritual Group in San Juan County
Uinta Basin Group Trekked to the 1933 World's Fair
Helen Hofmann Bertagnole-"Utah's Queen of Swing"
World War II in Utah
How Trains Helped Win a War
The War Effort at Home
Topaz Relocation Center
Topaz: Japanese American Interned in UT During WWII
Japanese Agricultural Colony at Keetley
Utahn Survives the Attack at Pearl Harbor
The USS Salt Lake City Made History
Utah Naval Officer Died a Hero's Death at Pearl Harbor
Rhymes Filled Children's Autograph Books
Utah's Rosies Upshot
Women Workers and Housing Issues
World War II Claimed the Lives of Four Utah Brothers

History Blazer, July 1995

In American Cultural mythology the 1920s conjure up images of bathtub gin, raccoon coats, and tall, impossibly thin, short-skirted "flappers." F. Scott Fitzgerald nicknamed the period "the Jazz Age" and wrote novels that chronicled the lifestyles of the young and fun-loving. Many of the period's most enduring visual images were created by one of Utah's most famous artists, John Held, Jr.

His father, John Held, Sr., was born in Geneva, Switzerland, and showed early promise as an artist. Mormon educator John R. Park discovered Held while searching for talented individuals in Europe. As he had with other gifted youngsters, Park brought Held to Salt Lake City, legally adopted him, and began training him as a future art instructor at Deseret University. He was not to become an educator; instead, he enjoyed a successful career as an engraver, draftsman, and leader of a popular band. John Jr.'s maternal grandfather, James Evans, an English convert to Mormonism and a handcart pioneer, helped design sets for the theater, and his daughter Annie frequently acted in local productions. John Held, Jr., was born to John and Annie Evans Held on January 10, 1889.

John Jr. received no formal art training and always claimed that his father and sculptor Mahonri M. Young, a grandson of Brigham Young, were his only teachers. By age three John Jr. was drawing animals. A family legend maintains that when the child became lost in the mountains his frantic parents found him happily modeling figures out of some clay soil. The two John Helds became a familiar sight in downtown Salt Lake City. Eight-year-old John Jr. drove a horse-drawn cart with advertising panels, behind which John Sr. played his cornet to attract attention.

John attended West High School and then joined the staff of the Salt Lake Tribune as a cartoonist with his classmate, Harold Ross. Held left Utah in 1910 to seek his fortune in New York City; Ross and Mahonri Young did likewise. Ross went on to found The New Yorker magazine, which often featured Held's drawings; Young achieved success as a sculptor and remained lifelong friends with his fellow expatriate Utahns.

In addition to The New Yorker, Held sold cartoons to Judge, Puck, Vanity Fair, and Life--some of the most popular magazines of the era--and a number of other publications. His gentle satires and witty caricatures became enormously popular in the 1920s. He created Betty Coed, "the flapper," along with her escort, Joe College. The characters both borrowed from and contributed to the real-life image of the 1920s "Flaming Youth." The artistic versatility and restless energy that marked Held's life were already evident; although he quickly became a commercial success, he also engaged in "serious" art--including watercolor and sculpture, designed Broadway sets, wrote a comic ballet, illustrated other authors' books, and wrote children's stories.

Held made a fortune in the 1920s and traveled in the high-society circles that his art ever so gently satirized. He served briefly as constable of Weston, Connecticut, and even ran unsuccessfully for Congress, noting that he had never made an arrest and promising to redesign the Congressional Record and to do the covers himself. Like so many others, Held lost most of his wealth in the stock market crash of 1929. By 1931 most of his art markets had dried up, and he suffered a severe nervous breakdown. He gave up his Connecticut home, and his first marriage ended in divorce. He began painting somber works and writing novels and short stories.

Although Held never recovered his commercial success, he continued to create during the succeeding decades. Critics praised his painting and sculpture, and his Jazz Age cartoons never lost their appeal. The Carnegie Corporation sponsored him as artist-in-residence at Harvard and the University of Georgia. Held eventually settled on a farm in Belmar, New Jersey, with a new family and his beloved animals. He died of throat cancer in 1958.

 

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