Sarah Stilwell Weber

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Sarah Stilwell Weber
Sarah Stilwell Weber, Photograph, circa 1902.jpg
Sarah Stilwell Weber, photograph, circa 1902
Sarah S. Stilwell

DiedApril 6, 1939[b]
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
EducationDrexel Institute
Known forIllustrator
Spouse(s)Herbert Weber
Sarah Stilwell Weber, By the Evening Fire, 1904

Sarah Stilwell Weber (1878[a] – April 6, 1939[b]) was an American illustrator who studied at Drexel Institute under Howard Pyle. She illustrated books and national magazines, like The Saturday Evening Post, Vogue, and The Century Magazine.

Early life[edit]

Sarah S. Stilwell was born in Concordville, Pennsylvania.[2] She was described affectionately by her nephews and nieces for her love of children and her positive, "self-effacing" and imaginative personality.[2]


In 1897, Weber attended Drexel Institute, where illustrator Howard Pyle was an innovative and popular teacher. Pyle, as a result, could be selective about the students that he admitted to his classes. He wrote Edward Penfield, who was his friend and the art director at Harper's Bazaar that he required his students to have strong abilities in color and drawing, artistic ability, and imagination. If they did not excel in each of these areas, he would not accept them as a student.[2]

Drexel Institute established a scholarship fund for Pyle's most accomplished students to attend an art program at Chadd’s Ford on the Brandywine. In 1899, Weber won a scholarship for a summer residential art program in a non-competitive, relaxed environment.[2] Of that summer's program, Pyle said that his students benefited from the natural, relaxed setting that allowed them to progress more as artists in a couple of months than they would have in a year of classroom study.[2] The Saturday Evening Post stated that "[m]any of the Brandywine School artists had a flair for capturing grace and detail of the Victorian Era yet not letting decoration and detail overwhelm the subject matter."[2]

Weber was one of Pyle's favorite students. She was among the first artists to live at his studio in Wilmington, Delaware in 1900. Others included Stanley Arthurs, Ethel Franklin Betts, Frank Schoonover, and Dorothy Warren. Pyle recommended that Weber focus on her life as an artist, rather than marry. Pyle helped her market her work in New York, as he did with other of his top students.[2]


She was a member of The Plastic Club,[3] which was founded in 1897 by Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, and Jessie Willcox Smith and was initially formed a women's art association for the promotion and exhibition of visual (plastic) arts.[4] Weber illustrated Josephine Daskin's article "A Christmas Hymn for Children", which was printed in the December 1902 issue of The Century Magazine.[5]

Sarah Stilwell Weber, "Girl with Schoolbooks Walking in Rain with Umbrella", The Saturday Evening Post, October 9, 1909

In 1904, The Saturday Evening Post began hiring women to illustrate the covers of their magazine.[2] Weber illustrated 60[2] of the magazine's covers starting with New Year’s Number, 1904 on December 31, 1904 and ending with Swinging in the Apple Tree on the August 15, 1925 issue.[6] Although she had been offered the ability to contract for scheduled covers, Weber preferred to complete her works to her satisfaction, rather than being constrained by deadlines.[2] She created illustrations of young children, capturing their enthusiastic and delighted faces while playing. The Saturday Evening Post stated that she was "particularly adept at creating movement and flow that gave the impression of coming and going... [and] that the subject would dance off the page in the next moment."[2] The images of young girls were often depicted like little women, engaged in charming scenes, like flying kites, watering roses, or cuddling cats.[7] Weber was one of several talented illustrators—like J. C. Leyendecker, Neysa McMein, Anita Parkhurst, C. Coles Phillips and Cushman Parker—created illustrations of the weekly magazine, which in the early 20th century was limited to a two-color printing process.[8]

Weber also created covers for The Country Gentleman[2] and Vogue magazine.[9] She also illustrated articles and covers for Harper's Bazaar, Collier's, and St. Nicholas Magazines.[10]

Sarah Stilwell Weber, Kiddie Kar, 1919 magazine illustration

Weber illustrated advertisements for Rit Dyes, Scranton Lace Company, Wamsutta Mills and H-O Oats.[11] Weber collaborated with Herbert, her husband, on The Musical Tree. Herbert wrote the poems and music and Sara created the illustrations for the children's book.[2] By 1921, she had created a series of illustrations called Kiddie Kars, which at that time were owned by H. C. White Company.[12] Her full-page color illustrations were published in The Kiddie-Kar Book, in which the verses were written by Richard J. Walsh.[13]

In 1910, The New York Times published an article "A Latter-Day Industry and Its Rewards: How a Group of Illustrators is Making Fortunes by Drawing Pictures of the 'Modern Woman'" in which Weber was estimated to be tied for the second highest paid woman illustrator with Elizabeth Shippen Green, each estimated to make US$10,000 per year (estimated equivalent to $268,893 in 2018).[14][c] Jessie Willcox Smith was said to be the highest paid women illustrator, making $15,000 in 1910.[14] One magazine editor stated that the women's income was on the same level as a Supreme Court Justice. They had their own distinctive style and portrayed children from a woman's perspective.[14]

Along with Ethel Franklin Betts and Jessie Willcox Smith, Weber was one of the best known magazine and book illustrators in the early 20th century.[15] She, Anita Parkhurst, and Jessie Willcox Smith were among a group of woman artists—with Lucile Patterson Marsh and Ruth Eastman—to have had distinctive careers as illustrators.[16]


Sarah Stilwell Weber died at her Philadelphia home in April 1939.[2][b]

In 1975 her works were included in a 90 painting exhibition entitled "Women Illustrators in the Howard Pyle Tradition" held at the Brandywine River Museum from September through November. Other artists included Violet Oakley, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Jessie Willcox Smith, Alice Barber Stephens, Elenore Plaisted Abbott, Anna Whelan Betts, Ethel Franklin Betts, Elizabeth F. Bonsall, Charlotte Harding, Olive Rush, and Katharine Pyle.[17]

From January 27-February 21, 2014, an exhibition of her work and nine other artists were exhibited at "Women Illustrators in the Golden Age of Illustration, 1880-1920" at the Barrett Art Gallery in Utica College, New York.[18] The original works exhibited were from the Jay Williams American Print Collection. The other illustrators were Jessie Willcox Smith, Alice Barber Stephens, May Wilson Preston, Violet Oakley, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Mary Hallock Foote, Maginel Wright Enright, Florence Scovel Shinn, and Anna Whelan Betts.[18]


Sarah Stilwell Weber, "Woman with Leopards", Collier's, March 17, 1906, cover

Published works[edit]

  • Ellen Olney Kirk (1898). Dorothy Deane: A Children's Story. Sarah Stilwell Weber (illustrator). Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. OCLC 1814432.
  • Mary Mapes Dodge (1904). Rhymes and Jingles. Sarah Stilwell Weber (illustrator). American Art Archives, Smithsonian Institution. OCLC 2928342.
  • Edward Sandford Martin (1904). Luxury of Children & Some Other Luxuries. Sarah Stilwell Weber (illustrator). New York, London: Harper & Brothers. OCLC 2687688.
  • Georgia Alexander (1909). Child Classics: The First Reader. Sarah Stilwell Weber (illustrator). Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company. OCLC 51484847., primary school book
  • Georgia Alexander (1909). Child Classics: The Second Reader. Alice Barber Stephens, Sarah Stilwell Weber, Sarah K Smith (illustrators). Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company. OCLC 759398387., primary school book
  • Ethel C. Dow (1910). Mother’s Hero. Sarah Stilwell Weber, Isabel Lyndall (illustrators). Philadelphia: Edward Stern. OCLC 859872407.
  • Richard J. Walsh (1920). The Kiddie-Kar Book. Sarah Stilwell Weber (illustrator). Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott. OCLC 179260547.
  • Herbert Weber (1925). The Musical Tree. Sarah Stilwell Weber (illustrator). OCLC 20680109., illustrated children's song book



  1. ^ a b Her year of birth is consistently published as 1878, but her death certificate (Sarah S. Stilwell Weber, died April 4, 1939 in Philadelphia, wife of Herbert S. Weber) and travel documents show that she was born on September 15, 1877. Also from the death certificate, her parents were William and Isabel Ford Stilwell, both born in Pennsylvania.[1]
  2. ^ a b c Her Saturday Evening Post biography states that she died on April 6, 1939.[2] Her death certificate, however, states that she died on April 4, 1939 and that she was buried in Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 6, 1939.[1]
  3. ^ The {{inflation}} calculation is only an estimate and is only capable of inflating Consumer Price Index values: staples, workers' rent, small service bills (doctor's costs, train tickets). This template is incapable of inflating capital expenses, government expenses, or the personal wealth and expenditure of the rich.


  1. ^ a b Sarah S Stilwell Weber, died April 6, 1939, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Sarah Stilwell Weber (Cover Artists)". The Saturday Evening Post. January 7, 2015. Retrieved April 11, 2015.
  3. ^ "Noted Past Members". The Plastic Club. Retrieved April 11, 2015.
  4. ^ "The Plastic Club, Art Club and Gallery". The Plastic Club. Retrieved April 11, 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Unknown (Illus. for "A Christmas Hymn for Children," by Josephine Daskin, Century Mag., December 1902, P.280), (painting)". Art Inventories, Smithsonian Institution. December 1902. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  6. ^ "Sarah Stilwell Weber (Classic Covers from the Post)". The Saturday Evening Post. Retrieved April 11, 2015.
  7. ^ Jan Cohn (July 25, 1990). Creating America: George Horace Lorimer and The Saturday Evening Post. University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-8229-5438-5.
  8. ^ Charles Matlack Price (1922). Poster Design: A Critical Study of the Development of the Poster in Continental Europe, England and America. G.W. Bricka. p. 346.
  9. ^ a b "Cover Design for Vogue, (painting)". Art Inventories, Smithsonian Institution. December 1902. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  10. ^ "Sarah Stillwell Weber". The Kelly Collection. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  11. ^ Juliann Sivulka (2009). Ad Women: How They Impact What We Need, Want, and Buy. Prometheus Books, Publishers. p. 78. ISBN 978-1-61592-068-6.
  12. ^ Annual of Advertising, Editorial, Television Art & Design. Art Directors Club. 1921. p. 27.
  13. ^ Rebecca Deming Moore, ed. (1920). "The Children's Pages". The Publishers Weekly. F. Leypoldt. p. 1199.
  14. ^ a b c "A Latter-Day Industry and Its Rewards: How a Group of Illustrators is Making Fortunes by Drawing Pictures of the 'Modern Woman'" (PDF). The New York Times. February 6, 1910. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  15. ^ Deborah Philips (January 19, 2012). Fairground Attractions: A Genealogy of the Pleasure Ground. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-84966-666-4.
  16. ^ Charles Matlack Price (1922). Poster Design: A Critical Study of the Development of the Poster in Continental Europe, England and America. G.W. Bricka. p. 344.
  17. ^ "Women Artists Featured in Fall Brandywine Exhibition". Morning Herald. Hagerstown, Maryland. September 5, 1975. p. 10.
  18. ^ a b Jay G. Williams; Barrett Art Gallery (2014). Women Illustrators in the Golden Age of Illustration, 1880-1920: Original Publication Prints and Covers, Jay Williams American Print Collection: January 27-February 21, 2014, Barrett Art Gallery, Utica College, New York.
  19. ^ "The Fairy Godmother, (painting)". Art Inventories, Smithsonian Institution. 1907. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  20. ^ "A New Day, (painting)". Art Inventories, Smithsonian Institution. 1905. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  21. ^ "Lady with Leopards (painting)". Art Inventories, Smithsonian Institution. December 1902. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  22. ^ "Artists: The Stars on our Flag". National Museum of American Illustration. Retrieved April 14, 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • Walt Reed; Society of Illustrators (New York, N.Y.) (2001). The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000. The Society of Illustrators. pp. 86, 127, 128. ISBN 978-0-8230-2523-7.

External links[edit]

Media related to Sarah Stilwell Weber at Wikimedia Commons

External images
Photograph of Sarah Stilwell Weber, year unknown
Sarah Stilwell Weber's Saturday Evening Post magazine covers