Paint by numbers: The most hard-working pulp artists

Who were the most prolific pulp artists? By which i mean, the artists who painted the highest number of pulp covers under tough conditions.

Typical working conditions for pulp artists

Norman Saunders’ oeuvre consists of 865 covers, meticulously documented here by his son. Has anyone come close, or even surpassed this?

Using the Fictionmags Index, I tried to do a count of covers, not counting reprints. I’ve probably missed a few names that I should have remembered. Leave a comment pointing out my sins of omission. Also keep in mind many covers in the FictionMags Index are unidentified, so the counts for these artists are underestimates.

A few names came to mind immediately as prolific artists.First to mind was Earle Bergey, who worked, unlike most artists, over a wide range of genres – love, detective, adventure, sports, aviation, westerns, science fiction/fantasy and girlie pulps. This gave him the opportunity to do a large number of covers. According to the FictionMags Index, he’s responsible for more than 500 covers. Hard to tell if he’d come close to Saunders’s record if unidentified covers were taken into account. Probably not.

Sam Cherry, on the other hand, specialized in westerns but also did work on detective, sports and love pulps. Rather restricted, you might think. Working within those limitations, he managed to execute more than 500 covers.

I thought of Rudolph Belarski, and aviation is the first genre that came to mind. But he also worked on detective, adventure and sports; within which scope he too managed more than 500 covers.

With a little prodding of my memory, I thought of Rafael de Soto(around 400), Modest Stein(around 400), Walter Baumhofer(more than 300), Paul Stahr (around 300). Not even half of Saunders’ output.

Paul Stahr brought to mind those artists who did work for a single magazine; maybe we’ll find something there. He did more than 170 covers for Argosy.

Herbert Morton Stoops did 160 covers for Blue Book, and only a few more in the pulp field altogether.

H. W. Scott, western artist, did over 330 covers for Street & Smith’s Wild West Weekly and Western Story magazines, the majority of his work; and probably close to 400 covers overall.

Sam Cherry did more than 120 covers for Texas Rangers alone.

And then, as my overheated brain was about to shut down, I remembered John A. Coughlin. Who worked on Detective Story Magazine’s covers for a solid twenty years, doing almost every one of them. Though the FictionMags Index only attributes around 300 covers to him, he most likely did more than 900 covers for that magazine alone. In addition to which he did nearly another hundred covers for other magazines, bringing the total to an incredible thousand. A cover every week for twenty years. A sure winner, right?

Among the also rans were H. J. Ward (nearly 300 covers), Frederick Blakeslee (around 250), William Reusswig (also around 250), Sidney Riesenberg (over 200), Remington Schuyler(around 200), John Newton Howitt (around 200, of which very few are known to survive).

Coming to the digests, Ed Emshwiller did around 300 covers. This is closer to the real number, as is Frank Kelly Freas’ 200 odd covers for the digests. The digest numbers are more accurate since the artists were usually credited.

Where did we end up? First was John A. Coughlin, then Norman Saunders, Earle Bergey. Given an estimated forty to fifty thousand pulp issues were published, those three alone account for around five percent of all pulp covers ever published.

What a record.

To know more about these artists, head on over to David Saunders’ fantastic Pulp Artists site.


  1. I collect pulp art and I’ve often wondered who painted the most covers. Thanks for providing some answers. David Saunders website is an excellent source of information.

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