Referred to today as the “real Don Draper,” McCauley “Mac'” Conner was one of the most important illustrators working during America’s golden age of advertising. Conner, now 101 years old, came to New York in 1950 and flourished in the city’s publishing industry, bringing an era of deep red lipstick, unabashed chain smoking and lunch-time martinis to the pages of America’s most popular magazines. With crisp lines and carefully chosen colors, Conner’s vibrant works not only captured a pivotal point in American history, but he also helped shape the image of a postwar nation. Ahead are some of his most notable—and provocative, for the time—images created for magazines such as Cosmo, Good Housekeeping, Collier’s, Woman’s Day, and many more.
Hold On Tight, published in Redbook, 1958
The Trouble With Love, in Good Housekeeping, 1952.
Conner was raised in Newport, New Jersey, and loved to draw since he was a child. Even back then, he was fascinated with drawing people and they were the primary focus of his creations. As a teenager he signed up for an illustration course by mail, and after college found himself in the Navy working as a sign painter. When he was discharged, he joined Harvey Dunn’s legendary drawing class atop Grand Central, which proved to be a turning point for him, pushing him to draw images that embodied a clear narrative. His break, however, came when he took an agent–and his career took off. In addition to providing images to magazines, like the characters of “Mad Men” Conner also designed ads for some America’s top companies, including Ford, United Airlines and AT&T.
“The Girl Who Was Crazy About Jimmy Durante” in Woman’s Day, 1953
There’s Death For Remembrance, for This Week magazine, 1953
Killer in the Club Car in This Week Magazine, 1954
Interestingly, the illustrator doesn’t consider himself an artist but a designer. In an interview with The Telegraph earlier this month, he told a reporter: “I think the aim [as a designer] is to tell the story. You don’t give a damn whether it’s hanging on the wall or is put into the trash afterwards. The painter is painting something emotional. It’s a point of view, you know? And they rub shoulders once in a while, the artist and the designer.”
Other fun facts: He’s watched and enjoyed “Mad Men,” and he lives on 5th Avenue in the Upper East Side. And those martinis? “Well I got into that, I got into the martinis!”
Check out even more images in our gallery below.
- Pepsodent, Camel, and Yashica: The Ads and Architecture of Old Times Square
- VIDEO: Walk Through Manhattan in 1968, Across the Brooklyn Bridge up to Central Park
- The High and Low: Two ‘Mad’ Pads Offer Modernist Details, Timeless Appeal
Images courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York