Skip to main content

Elmer Jacobs papers

Identifier: Wing-Modern-MS-Jacobs

Scope and Content of the Collection

Original advertising and magazine art, correspondence, speech texts, tax records, photographs, and printed ephemera. There are also two sound discs of a radio interview (1951). The largest part of the collection concerns Jacobs’s work as a freelance illustrator, and especially the work he did for the Phoenix Flame. There is relatively little correspondence, but there are significant exchanges with Chicago artist Dale Nichols and designer Hal Higdon.


  • Creation: 1925-1982



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Elmer Jacobs papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have been digitized and are available online. Access to the original audiovisual items is restricted.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Elmer Jacobs papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Elmer Jacobs

Chicago illustrator and graphic designer active from the late 1920s through the1960s.

Born in Streator, Illinois, in 1901 or 1902, he was largely self-taught. From the late 1930’s onward he was much influenced by the New Bauhaus, also known as the School of Design in Chicago. A free-lance artist, Jacobs’ most visible clients were John Morrell & Co., Chicago Tribune, R.R. Donnelly & Sons, and Rand McNally & Co. From 1940-1952, he illustrated the award winning Phoenix Flame, a house organ turned promotional magazine for the Phoenix Metal Cap Co. Other clients included the American Bible Society, Caterpillar Tractor, and Encyclopaedia Britannica. His memberships included 27 Chicago Designers (1936-1982), Nine Illustrators (ca. 1948-1970?), and the Society of Typographic Arts (1936-1981). He won over forty awards, including the Carey-Thomas Award for creative publishing in 1950, the Direct Mail Advertising Bronze Award, and the 1953 Christmas Seal competition. Jacobs was an active public speaker and contest judge.


11 Linear Feet (9 boxes, 3 oversize boxes)

2 items (1 CD, 1 phonographic record)


Original advertising and magazine art, correspondence, speech texts, tax records, photographs, printed ephemera, and a radio interview by Chicago freelance designer and illustrator Elmer Jacobs.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Biographical materials, 1930-1982
Boxes 1-2
Series 2: Design Projects, 1925-1967
Boxes 2-12
Series 3: Artifacts, undated
Box 12

Collection Stack Location

4a 28 8, 4a 29 7


Gift, Margaret Jacobs, Aug. 22, 1992.

Processed by

Margaret Kulis, April 1993.

Inventory of the Elmer Jacobs papers, 1925-1982
Margaret Kulis
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023-01-17: Audiovisual materials have been permanently removed from the collection for preservation. Access to the original audiovisual items is restricted.

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States