Ithaca’s artist, Robert Childress had a close relationship with Cornell and GLF (Grange League Federation which later became Agway). He and his wife lived outside Ithaca in the early ‘40’s and were friends with Howard Babcock (Chairman of Cornell Board of Trustees), Roy Park, and Duncan Hines. He painted Duncan Hines’s portrait which appeared in Look Magazine ads to promote his ice cream and it later led to cake mixes. The portrait also appeared on the back cover of the DH cookbook and the back of the red boxes of DH cake mixes. Another NY food corporation, Birds Eye, approached him for his idea on marketing frozen foods, a new venture in food preservation.


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Childress was particularly talented in creating beautiful landscapes, story illustrations, and oil portraits of other notables such as the Deans of Cornell that still hang in the Mann Library at Cornell, and a portrait of James Byrnes, U.S. Justice of the Supreme Court. Childress was also known for his commercial work from 1948-58 for Coca-Cola, Wonder Bread, Campbell Soup, Westinghouse and more.

His work graced the covers of Sat. Eve. Post, Yankee magazine, Reader’s Digest, and other national periodicals. From 1958-68, Childress was chosen by Scott Foresman to illustrate the Sally, Dick and Jane reading books. The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge MA has a permanent exhibit of his works. For more on his life, go to:

His daughter is selling 8 original oil illustrations and 1 original pencil illustration and a number of published agricultural drawings. The 8 original oils are on boards and were done for Agricultural Research calendar in 1948. They have an empty text box in the center so they can be used again for marketing. The original 1948 published calendar will be included.

The original pencil, “Chicks Hatching” was done for GLF (Grange League Federation) for their calendar. The original published calendar for this drawing will be included.
Lastly, there are a large number of printed agricultural works created for the Farm Bureau, Agriculturalist, 4-H, and GLF that are a wonderful testimony to by-gone days!

The artist’s daughter was the model for “Sally” in the reading books. Her father’s works are rare and hard to find since most of his works were done as “works for hire” for which the companies kept the originals. “They will only keep increasing in value and it’s a great investment” said Childress, a lawyer and educator who came across these when she recently moved. “What a great opportunity for someone to acquire this historical collection of works. It represents an important era in Cornell’s history and in our country’s agricultural development. It was a time when Bird’s Eye just started experimenting with frozen food and Duncan Hines was selling ice cream which later led to cake mixes. The ads also helped to promote war gardens during WWII and encourage the youth to be involved in farming.”

To inquire about this collection, call 603-630-6812.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.