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Harold von Schmidt


He was born 19th May 1893 in Almeda, California, USA, the son of Edward Alexander Von Schmidt and Isabella (nee Hill), a former dancer and ballet star. His mother was his fatherís second wife and had previously been his parents adopted daughter. They had 4 sons and 1 daughter

His grandfather was the Californian Surveyor, Colonel Alexis Waldemar Von Schmidt who was born in Riga, Latvia. He is most famous for marking out the California/Nevada State Line.

Above his grandfather Alexis Waldemar Von Schmidt

Above the Von Schmidt Monument at the intersection of the states of California, Nevada and Oregon

Harold was orphaned at the age of five when his father killed his mother and then committed suicide on 9th April 1899 in Almeda. This followed a messy divorce case. All five of the Von Schmidt children witnessed the killing.

After a year in an orphanage, he went to live with his grandfather, Alexis, who had been a forty-niner. As a youth von Schmidt worked as a cowhand and a construction worker. His fascination with the west and cowboys became a predominant theme in his paintings and drawings later in life.

Harold was educated at California School of Arts and Crafts. In 1924 he moved to New York City and entered the Grand Central School of Art.

He was in the 1920 USA Olympic rugby squad but didnít play in the final against France.











Above the 1920 US Olympic Team (L-R) Back Row: Wallace, Patrick, OíNeil, Fish, J Muldoon, Fitzpatrick, Slater, Righter.  Middle Row: Meehan, Hazeltine, Maloney (trainer), Tilden (c), Carroll (pl/coach), W Muldoon, von Schmidt, Scholz. Front Row: Wrenn, Doe, Hunter, Davis, Winston. Missing: Templeton, Kirksey


He played rugby once for the USA in the 10th October 1920 match against France.

Above the USA side that played a French XV on 10th October 1920. The correct players are Back Row (L-R): Templeton, Muldoon, Wrenn, Winston, Kirksey, Scholz, Davis, Carroll, Righter, Fish, Patrick, Tilden (captain), Hazeltine, C.Slater, Fitzpatrick, Wallace. Front Row: Doe, Hunter, Von Schmidt, Mehan, OíNeil. (players names in bold played in match). Vidal missing.


Above Harold in 1920


Above a self-portrait of Harold from 1921

He was hoping to be in the 1924 US Olympic rugby squad but was side-lined with an injury.

He became famous as a magazine illustrator and painter.

Towards the end of 1944, von Schmidt became a war correspondent for the United States Air Force. He flew on bombing runs in B-24's and B-25's and went on to see the first days of occupation in Japan.

Above Harold in another cowboy pose

Above Harold in 1954 as a founding member of the Famous Artists School

Above the 1960 USA stamp designed by Harold


Harold's son Eric Von Schmidt was a well-known singer-songwriter associated with Bob Dylan.

Above the album cover of his sonís 1963, and third album

Harold died on 3rd June 1982 Westport, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA



© Patrick Casey, 2011
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