Through the end of the year, the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center
is exhibiting layered posters by Landy R. Hales, a well-known graphic designer in New York City during the 1920s and 30s. Included in the show are nostalgic images of toys, nursery rhymes, household interiors, and Christmas moments. The whimsical works displayed are from the Hales family collection.
Hales began his career with no formal art training and apprenticed as a sign painter in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1908, Hales formed the Brilliant Sign Company in Baltimore to design displays for area businesses. During World War I, Hales designed posters for the Liberty Bond Program, created by then Secretary of the Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo (1863-1941). This poster campaign was intended to popularize the bonds, and Hales created posters using his "layer technique," which was a method of making a poster by placing cut-out pieces of materials such as composition board or wood on a background, then building layers to form three dimensions in the finished product. Mr. Hales made each poster by hand using coping saws, chisels and wood files.
Hales manufactured and installed mechanical displays in Macy's Christmas windows at 34th Street and worked as an independent contractor for other department stores such as Gimbel Brothers and Saks & Company. In 1924 Landy R. Hales designed Hales Layer Poster artwork for all 32 windows of the new Saks Fifth Avenue store. They remained in the windows from May until September 15, 1924, when the new store opened. His wooden toy soldiers, created for the Russian theatrical production of Le Chauve Sourvis led to these wooden soldiers being placed along New York City streets. He founded Landy R. Hales, Inc. and Hales Layer Poster Corporation in 1925.
Later in life, from age 60 to 82, he used his design experience and patented techniques to create an extensive, colorful body of work based on personal themes. The Customs House Museum is displaying twenty-six of Hales posters through December 31 in the exhibition Landy R. Hales: American Master of the Layered Poster.