Donald Charles Hewitt was born August 12, 1904 in the town of Rushden, which is in the Northamptonshire district of England. His father was Charles W. Hewitt, a working class carpenter. His mother was May Hewitt. His parents married in 1898. His older sister, Constance, was born in 1899.
In 1907, when he was only three years old, his family faced financial hardships that forced his father to immigrate to the United States to look for work. At the same time he and his sister and mother moved to live with her parents in Liverpool.
By 1909 his father had found a steady job as a carpenter with a building contractor in Chicago and was able to bring the family to the United States. They sailed on the S.S. Carmania. The family lived in Chicago at 914 Oakdale Avenue, where the children attended local schools.
After graduating high school in 1922 he worked with his father in construction, while attending night school classes at the American Academy in Chicago for two years. His sister married and moved out, while he lived with his parents at their home on 2754 Mildred Avenue, which they had purchased for $5,500.
In 1924 he began to study at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he met another young art student, Lyman Anderson, who was also to become a pulp artist as well as a lifelong friend.
In 1927 he applied for U.S. citizenship.
In 1928 he and Lyman both completed their studies at the Art Institute of Chicago. According to the artist, "Chicago was a good commercial art town, but I wanted to be a magazine illustrator. Most of the magazines were published in New York, so I headed East." According to Lyman Anderson,"Don Hewitt is the friend who told me that my education would not be complete unless I studied with Harvey Dunn." The two friends moved together to New York City to pursue their careers as freelance illustrators. They lived together in a rooming house and shared a studio at 42 West 72nd Street. At first they were not admitted to Dunn's advanced painting class at The Grand central School of Art, so they continued their studies at the Art Students League, while earning their livings as commercial artists.
By 1929 he was getting enough work to afford to open his own professional art studio at 145 East 26th Street in New York City and he could also afford to get married to his
On July 12, 1930 he returned to Chicago to marry to his fiancee, Adeline Patricia Miller. "Pat and I took an apartment in Greenwich Village for ninety-dollars a month. I started doing pulp illustrations then. I was doing mostly western and detective illustrations, which didn't pay much, but we didn't starve. We got awfully tired of beans and cheese sandwiches, but we were better off than most! Sometimes I was given an assignment at 5pm that was due at 9am the next morning. I didn't dare miss a 9am deadline, so I would stay up all night in the studio, and my wife would deliver the finished product the next morning!"
In 1934 he was granted U.S. citizenship. His official documents describe him as five-foot-seven, one-hundred-and-forty-five pounds, medium complexion with brown hair and blue eyes. His affidavit was witnessed by Lyman Anderson.
In 1935 he and Lyman Anderson were both finally admitted to study with Harvey Dunn at the Grand Central School of Art, which was located on the sky-lighted seventh floor of the actual Grand Central Terminal Building on 42nd Street and Park Avenue. To enter the school students rode a special elevator located on Track 23.
He painted pulp magazine covers for Ace-High, Battle Aces, Complete Stories, Lariat Story, The Popular, 10-Story Western, and Top-Noth. But he is best remembered for his pen & ink drawings for interior story illustrations in Ace-High, Argosy, Battle Stories, Bull's-Eye Western, Clues, Dime Western, Mavericks, Rangeland Love Stories, and Star Western.
By 1938 he began to find freelance work with several advertising agencies, where he continued to work throughout the 1940s.
In 1944 he was contacted for military registration during WWII but at the age of forty he was not selected for service.
In 1951 the Hewitts moved to Flemington, New Jersey, which is a rural area twenty-seven miles north of Trenton, where they raised a family, while he commuted to his art studio in NYC.
His post-war illustration career was devoted to a few advertising clients, such as The Boy Scouts of America. He also created a permanent display of his paintings at Flag Plaza of Pittsburgh, PA. He remained an active member of the New York Society of Illustrators for the rest of his life.
Don Hewitt died in Flemington, NJ, at age ninety-four on December 11, 1998.
© David Saunders 2009