Donald Benson Blanding (b. 11/7/1894, d. 6/9/1957) was born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. He later grew up alongside Lucille “Billie” Cassin (later known as Joan Crawford), later assisting her after she cut her foot on a broken milk bottle. Blanding would later make this incident the focus of a poem he wrote when the two met years later. He trained between 1913 and 1915 at the Art Institute of Chicago.
He enlisted (for a year, or the duration of World War I plus up to six months) in the Canadian Army’s 97th (“American Legion”) Battalion. He then trained with them for trench warfare for eight months in 1916, but left under unknown circumstances a few days before the unit shipped out for Europe. Blanding would omit reference to that service and training a year later when joining the U.S. military.
Blanding became fascinated by Hawaii and moved there in 1915, staying until his enlistment in the U.S. Army in December, 1917. Entering as an infantry private, he underwent officer training and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant before being discharged in December, 1918, soon after the Armistice.
Blanding pursued further art studies in 1920, in Paris and London, traveled in Central America and the Yucatan, and returned to Honolulu in 1921. Finding work as an artist in an advertising agency, he happened into two years of writing poems published daily in the Honolulu Star Bulletin for an advertiser. These featured local people and events, and became well-known and popular – whether because of or in spite of always mentioning the Aji-No-Moto brand of MSG.
Blanding was strongly affected by U.S. entry into World War II, including the knowledge of his island paradise as a military target, the reactions of those he met on his lecture tours, and the fall of Bataan. Bataan surrendered April 9, 1942, while he was on tour, and he wrote “Bataan Falls”, 16 emotional lines in response. On April 25, he enlisted as a private at the age of 47. He served eleven months in the 1208th Service Corps Unit, Infantry, and was discharged as a corporal.
He divorced in June 1947, leaving no descendants. Blanding died of a heart attack at his home in Los Angeles on June 9, 1957 at the age of 62.
For being such a popular and multi-talented man, Mr. Blanding’s artwork and illustrations are notably hard to find, with most of them being hidden in Pinterest accounts that will not be shared. He was part of the explosion of graphical art that happened in the U.S. in the early 20th century, but with much of his work sequestered in walled gardens, I can provide little but the pictures themselves- most of them not as hi-res as I would like. Nonetheless, here’s a selection of his sketches of women…