Al Parker at Washington University

Al Parker (1906-1985) was one of the most famous magazine illustrators of his age. He was also an alumnus of Washington University.

It is hard now to imagine what the University was like in the 1920’s- almost a century ago. Parker writes:

At that time there were no credits, degrees or a graduation at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts of Washington University. Students simply quit when they had enough. The tuition was approximately $37.50 a semester. After four years we had enough.

The students of that time were certainly enviable from a financial standpoint. $37.50 in 1925 amounts to approximately $516.11 a semester and $1032.22 a year in 2016 dollars. (See the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator.) Compare that to the $48,950 tuition Washington University charged for the 2016-2017 school year!

Words and mathematical calculations alone cannot paint a full picture of student life, but, fortunately, some of Parker’s illustrations from his Washington University days have survived. A selection of those works is depicted below.

What aspects of Parker’s work remain relevant? And what has changed since his time?

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Items discussed in this post are from the Al Parker Collection at the Dowd Modern Graphic History Library.

About the author

Maria Dorfman is a student in the Olin Business School.