Curator’s Choice

Columbia Magazine Covers Submitted by Illustrator William E. Luberoff

William E.Luberoff, 1910-2002

William E.Luberoff, 1910-2002

Clockwise: Columbus/Astronaut-Oct. 1965;
Baseball-July 1947; Prayer at Crèche-Dec. 1980; Minuteman
Costume, July, 1975

Columbia magazine, formerly known as The Columbiad, was established in 1893. Today, as the largest Catholic publication on the North American continent, Columbia records the Order's outstanding programs of outreach and activities. At the same time, it holds up positive solutions to present-day social problems, while promoting the ideals of service to Church, community and society. Dedication to such ideals has brought many awards to Columbia over the years, and numerous recognitions from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.

Many of the early covers employed photographs. Illustration cover art for Columbia first came on the scene around 1920 and continued until 1988, when photographic supplements appeared once again – only this time, in color.Early issues also carried short story drawings by prominent American illustrators such as Charles Livingston Bull and Morgan Dennis. In all, more than seventy different illustrators have contributed over the years, helping to define and shape the pages of this prominent Catholic publication. Many of the illustrations reveal a different time in American life and culture, with a different set of values and material standards from today’s hurried and complicated life-style. As a 1960 advertisement for Columbia once stated: “Sociologists, researching in 2460 A.D. will be grateful for such Columbia covers. Meanwhile, we’ll just try to get a quiet smile into our covers now, letting 2460 take care if itself.”

One such noted American illustrator and Columbia cover artist was William E. Luberoff, who was born in Philadelphia in 1910. His father’s parents were Russian Jews from Odessa and his mother’s parents were German Catholics.“Bill” was the oldest of their three children.

The family later moved to New York and William entered the New York School of Fine and Applied Art in 1929 on a scholarship from Jamaica High School, Long Island. He was then awarded another scholarship to the school’s Paris and Italian branches, 1931, 1932 (today, Parsons, the New School for Design). Later, in 1932 he began freelancing.

He managed to maintain his artistic career while serving in the U.S. Air Force in World War II.

In 1950, Luberoff began a relationship with Reproducta Company, Inc., a leading manufacturer and distributor of elegant, religious stationary, where he created thousands of paintings for their library. Many critics today still consider his art to be the defining style for the Catholic market.

Marrying in 1963, he moved to Rye, N.Y., to spend his remaining years and enjoy world travel. He died at age ninety-one on March 7, 2002.

Now, part of the permanent collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, his July 1947 Columbia cover was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus editorial department. It was one of the first magazine cover paintings to be added to the Cooperstown collection (1948) and was donated by the artist.

Luberoff’s Columbus & Astronaut cover was selected to be included in a book cover distribution program in the 1970s. The Knights of Columbus printed millions of book covers to give to councils throughout the United States and Canada for Catholic school students. Some councils also offered the covers to all children of members in places where no Catholic schools existed.

During William Luberoff’s illustrious career, he created more than 58 covers for Columbia magazine, from 1933 to 1987 and was one its most prolific illustrators of all time.