As I said in THIS previous post, I recently received a package of notebooks, photos, and documents from the estate of former DC Comics employee Ray Perry that had been among the papers of Bernard Kashdan, former DC accountant and business manager. The Kashdans and I don’t know how the papers came to be there, but since I’d already written several articles about Perry, he sent them to me. Everything related to Perry’s comics career is in the previous article, this one includes photos and documents that connect only to his fine art career and personal life, ones I thought interesting enough to show. Ray was born in 1876 in Sterling Illinois. He came to New York City around 1905, where he did all kinds of art, from book and magazine illustrations to paintings to stained glass window designs. Ray would have been about 44 years old in the photo above, but he looks younger, a handsome man with a flamboyant tie.
He and his first wife Emilie, who was a singer and musician, traveled in art and society circles at least until the Great Depression hit in 1930, probably less so later. This is the only photo I have of Emilie, her name in some places is spelled Emilia or Emily, but on the passport it’s Emilie, so I’m going with that.
Ray joined several organizations in Manhattan relating to art, including the Salmagundi Club, which must have happened before 1920, as he’s seen here in an elaborate costume for one of their parties.
This organization was about history, not art related. The Sons of the Revolution accepted members whose ancestors could be proven to have served the U.S. in the American Revolution in some way. This application includes proof that Ray’s ancestor Tristram Moore did so, and includes a line of ancestors from the 1700s to Ray. The group owns and operates Fraunces Tavern, touted as the oldest building in Manhattan, where meetings and parties were held.
Perry painted in both oils and watercolors, and was a member of the American Watercolor Society from at least the mid 1920s. This battered exhibition program from 1929 was among his documents, and he saved it because a painting of his was shown inside.
The painting is titled “Guilt Primeval,” and features a robed figure with a sword in the background, and male and female figures in the foreground. Probably these are Adam and Eve, and the background figure is the angel that cast them out of Eden. Ray wrote here: I think it was this picture that influenced George Pearce Ennis to mention me briefly in his article in Ency. Britannica Vol XXIII p 412.
This document is an Honorable Discharge from the New York National Guard. Perry enlisted with them in 1927 at the age of 41 it says here, but he must have shaved a decade off his age, he was actually 51 then. He served for three years, qualified as a Marksman, and his character is described as Excellent. He would have served at the 107th Infantry Armory on Park Avenue between 66th and 67th Streets. Perhaps Ray felt this was something he wanted to do for his country, though America was not at war. The change of residence might have been to New Jersey, but that’s a guess.
Also among the papers is a cancelled passport issued in 1927 that covers both Ray and his wife Emilie. Their address is 150 East 34th St, New York City. The pages show travel stamps from Italy and France. This must have been the trip described in the New York Post, April 13, 1927, as found by Alex Jay:
Raymond Perry, an artist with the Ethridge Company, sails today to visit fifteen Italian cities on behalf of one of the company’s clients, who is seeking a series of first-hand pen drawings of certain architectural landmarks in Benito Mussolini’s reborn empire. Mr. Perry will make the drawings on tour, sending them back several at a time. From Italy he will go through the chateau country of France, thence to Paris and London, where he will make a study for the company of England’s poster mediums.
This trip of several months sounds like a wonderful experience. Their home address is given in other places as 159 East 34th Street, so either the number changed, or they moved.
On Friday, January 26, 1945, Emilie Perry died suddenly while attending a concert at Carnegie Hall. She was 71. This must have been a sad day for Ray, it’s not clear if he was with her at the concert. In a newspaper report, their home address is given as 145 East 34th Street, so perhaps they had moved again. Despite this shock, Ray remarried in December 1945, his second wife was Louise Marion Wilde. She was a music teacher who gave piano lessons, and it was also her second marriage. She was living in northeast New Jersey, not far from New York City. Several towns are mentioned including Montclair. Louise was born in 1888, so about seven years younger than Ray, who was 69 at the time.
This photo was taken in Perry’s 34th Street apartment on April 21, 1948 at a party for Ray’s brother Dr. William H. Perry. I’ve added closer views of the two Perry paintings, and his wife Louise is labeled in the second one. The smaller painting seems symbolic, like the Adam and Eve one, but I can’t say what the subject is. The large painting is of a Native American leader, but I don’t know if it’s a real person.
In the 1950 census, Louise and Ray are listed as living in an apartment in East Orange, NJ, no other family members with them. Louise had children from her previous marriage, but they were all grown and on their own. I suspect Ray kept the New York apartment as his painting studio, and perhaps he also stayed there during the week, as it was an easy walk to the National Comics offices at 480 Lexington Avenue (near 47th Street). The East Orange apartment may have been Louise’s and where she gave piano lessons, so it made sense for her to keep it. This is all guesswork on my part.
The back of this photo says “Sis at Brookhaven Station about 1945.” I think this is Ray’s sister Lynda. It suggests that Ray still had the Brookhaven cottage in the 1940s, though it was later sold. Lynda was born in 1882, making her 63 that year, but she looks remarkably young for that. Perhaps the picture is from years earlier, or it’s another person. Or maybe she also inherited youthful looks.
The Perry cottage at Brookhaven, perhaps the 1940s.
Here’s a photo of Ray’s brother Dr. William H. Perry from 1948 looking all of his 70 years, he was about two years younger than Ray.
This is a fine photo of Ray looking a bit older, perhaps from the early 1950s.
And this is Ray working on a large painting in his New York apartment, perhaps adding details with an oil pastel, or this may all be pastels. Behind him you can see the same painting by Ray shown earlier. The large painting seems to have a huge bird in it, but I can’t identify the figures or subject. I think this is also from the early to mid 1950s.
This photo was not among those sent to me by Bennett Kashdan, but taken by Ray’s fellow DC production department staffer Jack Adler. It’s of Ray playing his cello, showing musical talent that hasn’t been discussed previously, but perhaps something that attracted his two musical wives. In the diary and scrapbook, Ray writes in 1955: I played on my cello, especially enjoying it. In my early years on staff at DC, Jack was my boss, and I remember him saying that he visited Ray in a nursing home, where he probably took this picture. Ray’s New York Times obituary of Nov 16, 1960, found by Alex Jay, reads:
Raymond Perry, art editor of comic books, painter, designer and book illustrator, died Tuesday night in Dresden Madison Nursing Home at 36 East Sixty-seventh Street. He was 84 years old. Mr. Perry, who formerly lived at 145 East Thirty-fourth Street, had been art editor of the National Comics Publications, Inc., of 575 Lexington Avenue, for the last twenty years. He also had designed windows for Churches and libraries in Pennsylvania. Portraits by him are in the Seventh Regiment Armory and Fraunces Tavern in New York, and the Poe Cottage in Philadelphia.
Jack Adler’s description of Ray at the end of his life was that he was alone, and had no family, but his second wife Louise lived another fifteen years, and Ray’s brother William was alive. Ray was also in touch with nephews and nieces as late as early 1960, as shown by letters and postcards pasted into his diary. I find it a bit odd that there are no “survivors” listed in that obituary. Another one from the Patchogue Advance of Long Island, near where the Brookhaven cottage was, says: Surviving are his widow, the former Mary MacLennan; a daughter, Miss Nancy Farrell; and a brother, Dr. William Perry of Sacramento, Calif.
Other than his brother, this seems completely wrong, and those wife and daughter names don’t show up anywhere else. Jack Adler’s impression that Ray was alone may have been wrong, but I wonder where Louise was when he was in the nursing home? A letter from the wife of Ray’s nephew Lowell Stone dated July 15th 1969 begins: Dear Louise and Ray, We were greatly pleased to receive your letter announcing your visit to the far west. We will be at airport to pick you up. They were together then, it seems.
As for his paintings, as seen in some of the photos above, Bernard Kashdan wrote to someone asking about that in 1961: Mr. Perry, in contemplation of the few years remaining to him, had given away all his paintings and other property of any value. Perhaps Ray and Louise had had a falling out, and that’s why Bernard was handling his affairs and had his personal documents. This is a mystery I can’t unravel.
Meanwhile, I’ve located a Perry family member that would like to have his papers and photos, and I will be sending them soon. I hope you’ve enjoyed this exploration of Ray Perry’s life as much as I have. Thanks again to Alex Jay and Bennett Kashdan for research help and images.