Monday, March 11, 2019


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Brandford

Edward Joscelyn Brandford was born on August 17, 1905 in Richmond, Saint Mary, Jamaica according to the Jamaica Civil Registration Birth Record at His parents were Luther Brandford and Edith Young. Brandford filed a Petition for Naturalization, on May 14, 1940, and said he was born at Highgate.

On April 10, 1924, Brandford was a passenger on the steamship Tivives when it departed Kingston, Jamaica. He arrived in the port of New York City on April 15. The passenger list said his occupation was clerk. His final destination was New Rochelle, New York where his aunt, Miss E. Milbourne, resided at 170 Elm Street.

Brandford was profiled in the April–June 1947 issue of Opportunity which said “In Jamaica he had been apprenticed to a British academician, with whom he studied painting. He had also taken a correspondence course from an American art school…..”

Brandford was also profiled in The Crisis, January 1947.

After completing the course, he felt he was ready to apply for a job, so he approached the firm that was then Doubleday, Doran & Co., in the hope of getting employment as a commercial artist. “As I look back now,” he said, “I still can’t understand why they didn’t throw me out bodily along with my very amateurish drawings. Instead, they were most kind and told me I should study some more and work very hard.”
On January 31, 1929, Brandford and “Thelma O'Conahan” obtained a marriage license in Manhattan, New York City as recorded at the New York, New York, Marriage License Index at The New York, New York, Extracted Marriage Index said Brandford and “Thelma L Conohan” married on February 3, 1929 in Manhattan.

The 1930 census said the couple lived in Manhattan at 258 West 117th Street. Brandford was employed as a shipping clerk.

Opportunity said Brandford worked as an elevator operator, messenger and factory hand to earn enough money for tuition at Cooper Union where he graduated in 1930.

Brandford’s work was included in the Harmon Foundation’s An Exhibition of Work by Negro Artists, at the Art Center, February 20 to March 4, 1933.

Edward Joscelyn Brandford, New York—Born 1905 in Jamaica, B. W. I., and came here in 1924. Worked in lampshade factory; financed his study at the Barile School and Cooper Union as elevator operator. Had one man show at 135th Street Branch of New York Public Library. Work shown in Harmon Exhibit of 1931.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (New York), February 15, 1931, said the judges for the Harmon Award and exhibition, at the Art Center, awarded an honorable mention to Brandford, 1031 E. 217th St., New York, for his “Broken Toys” painting. This painting, according to the Pittsburgh Courier, December 18, 1931, was included in the Harmon Foundation’s traveling exhibition of Black artists at the Spooner-Thayer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas. The next stop was the Milwaukee Art Institute as reported by the Milwaukee Journal, January 10, 1932.

In 1932 Brandford wrote about the Black artists for the newspaper, New York Age. On June 25, 1932 the paper announced the following.

The New York Age is pleased to announce the addition of Edward J. Brandford to its staff as cartoonist and artist, and will present in the near future an original comic strip by Mr. Brandford. Mr. Brandford will head the newly established art department.
A graduate of Cooper Union, Mr. Brandford has also studied under Xavier J. Barile, well known artist. Last year, this rising young artist presented an independent showing of his works at the West 135th Street Public Library and received favorable comment by critics.

Competing for the Harmon Award, his exhibition at the Art Center, 65 East 56th Street, won honorable mention for him with his study of “Broken Toys” and his work has been on tour since with the exhibition for the past year.
Versatile in his work, Mr. Brandford has done commercial work—in label designs, layouts and advertising—and his work in color is just as fascinating as his black and white illustrations and cartoons.
Brandford drew editorial cartoons from July 9, 1932 to May 5, 1934. On July 16, 1932 Brandford’s comic strip Sam debuted and ended on May 19, 1934.

Brandford was included in the Harmon Foundation publication Negro Artists: An Illustrated Review of Their Achievements (1935).

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Brandford created two series for the International Negro Press. With writer Rosie Nelson, Brandford drew Food for Thought from June 30 to August 26, 1936. His second feature was The Jones Family which ran from August 4 to 26, 1936.

In The Crisis, Brandford said “Since the city was full of unemployed artists I thought I’d try my hand as a freelance cartoonist. I soon discovered that being a cartoonist involves more than originating a funny situation and thinking up a gag line to go with it. Besides, every other artist out of a job was tryig [sic] the same thing. So, I had to give up that idea.”

Brandford was hired at the Burland Printing Company which handled the printing and advertising accounts of several New York business firms. The exposure to commercial art influenced his decision to pursue a career in this field. Brandford went on to learn lithography at Lutz and Sheinkman Corporation.

The 1940 census recorded commercial artist Brandford, his wife, nine-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son in the Bronx, New York at 2700 Bronx Park East. 

On May 5, 1941 Brandford became a naturalized citizen.

Brandford’s freelance work grew steadily which included brochures, posters, publication design, book jacket, illustration and packaging design.

Brandford’s most well-known achievement was co-founding a Black modeling agency on July 30, 1946. A 1946 issue of Printers’ Ink published the following.

New Negro Model Agency to Appeal to All Markets
New York:—An all-Negro modeling agency that aims to appeal to both the Negro and the White markets has been formed here. Known as Brandford Models, Inc., the agency’s first step will be to supply models for products going solely to the Negro trade but will “eventually lead to the use of them in all markets,” according to Barbara Watson, one of the founders of the company.

The agency claims to have the first all-inclusive modeling school for Negroes Edward Brandford, commercial artist and president of the group, says, “All models are students, artists and writers, many of them working their way through school. I have been dreaming for years of a project like this where national advertisers can get copy befitting the Negro trade. Negroes represent vast spending power in America (according to latest figures, population-wise, the Negro market represents 10% of the entire American market) and yet never have had their wants or tastes consulted. Negro women, in their buying, never have had proper guidance, always have been neglected.”

Miss Watson explains that in the past famous Negro personalities and sketches have been used to illustrate ads with a Negro appeal. “But now our advertising can be brought to greater advantage by a full-time use of live models,” she stated.

Before the models can be used in a white market, “a subtle and non-flambuoyant [sic] promotion campaign must be pursued to point up the marketing advantages of a Negro model to sell merchandise to all color groups,” Miss Watson believes.

The third incorporator of the new modeling agency, which expects to get underway in “three or four weeks,” is Mary Louise Yabro, fashion editor of Our World. Offices are temporarily located at 55 W. 42 St.

A 1948 issue of Advertising & Selling noted Brandford’s agency expansion.
An outgrowth of his Negro model service, “Brandford Models,” Edward Brandford has established a new advertising agency at 107 West 43 St., New York, specializing in the $16 billion Negro market. The new agency offers complete facilities, including merchandising and public relations, art and production and model services.
New York Age, May 13, 1950, reported changes at Brandford Models, Inc.
Miss Barbara Watson, executive director of the Brandford Models, Inc., last week announced extensive plans for the well known agency following completion, of its reorganization. A stepped-up program of activities will include concentration on developing wider opportunity for Negro models in photographic and fashion work, she said.

Some consideration is also being given to changing the name of the agency in view of the withdrawal from the concern of Edward Brandford who, with Miss Watson, founded the corporation in 1946.

Fashioning Models: Image, Text and Industry (2012) said “By 1953, Brandford Models changed ownership and name to Barbara Watson Models, although the nomenclature 'Brandford Girls' continued to be used for pioneering African American models….”

New York Age, June 2, 1951, published an advertisement for “The Ed Brandford Mannequins”, “distinctively styled Negro Mannequins”.

The New York Amsterdam News, September 21, 1963, said Brandford was treasurer of the newly formed Kingston Technical Alumni Association in New York City.

The New York Amsterdam News, August 30, 1969, said Brandford conceived the production “Colorama USA”, a musical and fashion narrative “about the experiences of a young black girl in her quest for identity.” The goal was to raise funds for West Indian scholars. “Colorama USA” premiered September 6 at Town Hall, in New York City, and was scheduled to tour the Caribbean and Latin America.

Brandford passed away May 1980 in New York City.

Further Reading
Afro-American Artists: A Bio-bibliographical Directory
Madison Avenue and the Color Line: African Americans in the Advertising Industry

—Alex Jay


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