Howard Vachel Brown was born July 5, 1878 on Howard S. Parker's farm in the Dog Fennel District just northeast of the city limits of Lexington, Kentucky, where his mother, Nancy Ashby Parker, had been born and raised. His father, Edgar T. Brown of Baltimore, Maryland, taught math at the local high school. His parents married in 1877 and he was their first child.
In 1881 the family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where the father worked as a bookkeeper in a wholesale meat company. They lived at 703 Warren Avenue, where they raised four children.
From 1899 until 1902 he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he met another art student, Alice Pearl Phelps, who was his same age and had come to Chicago from Saugatuck, Michigan. They were married on November 3, 1902.
In 1906 they moved to New York City, where he started to work as a freelance illustrator. He and his wife lived at his art studio at 131 West 23rd Street. He took classes at the Art Students League. He sold interior story illustrations to Broadway Magazine, Pearson's Magazine, Munsey's Magazine, People's Home Journal, St. Nicholas magazine, and Scientific American.
In 1910 he was hired to teach at the Fawcett School of Industrial Arts in Newark, New Jersey, the same town where his wife taught a Design Class at the Newark Public School System. They moved to 178 Plane Street in Newark.
He spent the Summer of 1911 in Georgetown, Demerara-Mahaica, Guyana in the British West Indies, where he sailed on the S.S. Korona and was listed on the ship's manifest as an artist and the only American citizen. The trip may well have been an incredible adventure. He returned home at the end of the summer, and four months later, on December 17, 1911, his daughter Margaret D. Brown was born.
During the Great War he was employed as a camouflage artist by the United States Shipping Board at 345 East 33rd Street in Manhattan. He registered for the draft on September 12, 1918 and was recorded to be medium built, 165 lbs, medium height, 5'-7", with dark hair, brown eyes, and a hearing disability that disqualified him from military service.
He sold his first freelance pulp covers to Munsey Publication's Argosy All-Story Weekly, as well as Street & Smith's The Popular Magazine, Excitement, and High Spot Magazine. He sold covers to Science and Invention, Astounding Stories, Startling Stories, and Thrilling Wonder Stories.
By 1928 he was prosperous enough to buy his own family home for $20,000 at 36 Custer Avenue in Newark City, NJ.
According to the 1939 editor of Thrilling Wonder, Mort Weisinger, "Howard V. Brown traveled extensively in South America, Venezuela, British and French Guiana, Martinique, and the small spots of the Windward islands. Travel helps him to relax, also familiarizes him with exotic local color. Howard Brown's two hobbies are microscopy and petrology."
During World War II he lived with Mary T. Brown at Stony Brook Road, Montville, New Jersey. They had no telephone and their mailing address was a post office box in Towaco, NJ. He still rented his New York City art studio at 131 West 23rd Street in Manhattan, which was only a few doors down from the art studios of Walter Baumhofer, John Gould, Jerome and George Rozen.
Howard V. Brown died in New Jersey at the age of sixty-seven on November 22, 1945.
© David Saunders 2009