Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Harold S. De Lay (1876-1950)

Aka Harold S. DeLay
Fine Artist, Illustrator, Advertising Artist, Comic Book Artist
Born May 13, 1876, South Charleston, Ohio
Died August 14, 1950, New York

Harold Saylor De Lay was born on May 13, 1876, in the west central Ohio town of South Charleston and attended the Art Institute of Chicago with Ada and Adolph Schultz, Karl Albert Buehr, Henry Hutt, J.C. Leyendecker, and other artists who went on to their own successful careers. De Lay exhibited student works in 1895 with some of them. By the first decade of the twentieth century, he had embarked on a career as a fine artist and commercial artist, initially illustrating books and magazine covers. Some early credits include illustrations for Technical World Magazine10 Story BookThirty-One Years on the Plains and the Mountains by William F. Drannan (1900), Life in the Mines by C. H. Simpson (1908), With Lyon in Missouri by Byron A. Dunn (1910), The Quest of the Silver Fleece by W.E.B. Du Bois (1911), The Short-Stop by Zane Grey (1914), and "646" and the Troubleman by Charles H. Oliver (1916). De Lay also contributed five illustrations to the novel Daughters of Destiny (1906) by Schuyler Staunton, a pseudonym of L. Frank Baum, creator of the Wizard of Oz series.

De Lay created several illustrations for Elgin Watches in the 1920s. He also did illustrations of Biblical scenes in a series of prints. During the 1930s, he worked for pulp magazines, providing several covers for Golden Fleece and Weird Tales. He also drew black-and-white illustrations for the interior of Weird Tales from 1936 to 1939. According to Jaffery and Cook's Collector's Index to Weird Tales, his first interior illustration was for "Black Canaan" by Robert E. Howard, a story that appeared in the magazine in the month Howard killed himself, June 1936. Comic book fans will be glad to know that Harold De Lay also wrote, pencilled, and inked comic book covers and stories while working for Funnies, Inc., from 1939 to 1947. Titles included Blue BoltFantomanFunny PagesThe Human TorchMystic ComicsTarget Comics, and True Comics. De Lay also adapted Treasure Island to the comics.

De Lay settled in Winnetka, Illinois, early in the twentieth century and appears to have lived there for several decades with his wife, Austria Reath (or Roath) De Lay, and their many children. His granddaughter reports that he left his family in the early 1930s and moved to Astoria, Queens, New York. See her comment below. Harold De Lay died on August 14, 1950. His work has been reprinted in several books in recent years.

Harold S. De Lay's Illustrations for Weird Tales
Cover Illustrations
"The Hollow Moon" by Everil Worrell (May 1939)
An illustration of an alchemist (Oct. 1939)
"Dragon Moon" by Henry Kuttner (Jan. 1941)
"Bon Voyage, Michele" by Seabury Quinn (Jan. 1944)
Reprinting of the illustration from Jan. 1944 (July 1954)

Interior Illustrations
"Black Canaan" by Robert E. Howard (June 1936)
"Red Nails" by Robert E. Howard (July, Aug./Sept., Oct. 1936)
"When the World Slept" by Edmond Hamilton (July 1936)
"The Unborn" by Ronal Kayser (July 1936)
"Werewolf of the Sahara" by G.G. Pendarves (Aug./Sept. 1936)
"Doom of the House of Duryea" by Earl Peirce, Jr. (Oct. 1936)
"Black Hound of Death" by Robert E. Howard (Nov. 1936)
"The Dark Demon" by Robert Bloch (Nov. 1936)
"Midas" by Bassett Morgan (Nov. 1936)
"Mice" by Robert Barbour Johnson (Nov. 1936)
"Portrait of a Murderer" by John Russell Fearn (Dec. 1936)
"The Cyclops of Xoatl" by Otis Adelbert Kline and E. Hoffman Price (Dec. 1936)
"Fate Weaves a Web" by Alfred I. Tooke (Jan. 1937)
"The Vaunsburg Plague" by Julius Long (Feb. 1937)
"At the Time Appointed" by Loretta Burrough (Feb. 1937)
"Strange Orchids" by Dorothy Quick (Mar. 1937)
"The Brood of Bubastis" by Robert Bloch (Mar. 1937)
"The Execution of Lucarno" by Julius Long (Apr. 1937)
"The Death Mask" by Earl Peirce, Jr. (Apr. 1937)
"Fangs of Vengeance" by Nathan Hinden (Apr. 1937)
"The Mark of the Monster" by Jack Williamson (May 1937)
"The Wind from the River" by August W. Derleth (May 1937)
"The Carnal God" by John R. Speer and Carlisle Schnitzer (June 1937)
"Thing of Darkness" by G.G. Pendarves (Aug. 1937)
"The Will of the Dead" by Loretta Burrough (Aug. 1937)
"The Double Shadow" by Clark Ashton Smith (Feb. 1939)
"Fearful Rock" by Manly Wade Wellman (Feb., Mar., Apr. 1939)
"The Drifting Snow" by August W. Derleth (Feb. 1939)
"The Stratosphere Menace" by Ralph Milne Farley (Mar. 1939)
"Smoke Fantasy" by Thomas R. Jordan (Mar. 1939)
"Armies from the Past" by Edmond Hamilton (Apr. 1939)
"The Hollow Moon" by Everil Worrell (May 1939)
"Washington Nocturne" by Seabury Quinn (May 1939)
"The Face at Death Corner" by Paul Ernst (May 1939)
" 'Not Both!' " by Frances Garfield (May 1939)
"Far Below" by Robert Barbour Johnson (June/July 1939)
"The Totem-Pole" by Robert Bloch (Aug. 1939)
"The Haunted Car" by David Bernard (Nov. 1939)

An early magazine cover from Harold S. De Lay.
It looks like De Lay used the same model for this advertisement for Elgin Watches from the 1920s.
Three covers for Golden Fleece showing that De Lay was equally adept at illustrating stories of the Orient, the high seas, and ancient Rome. Most of the authors listed on these covers--E. Hoffman Price, Frederic Arnold Kummer, Jr., H. Bedford-Jones, Robert E. Howard, and Anthony M. Rud--also wrote for Weird Tales.
De Lay was also one of the first artists to draw Robert E. Howard's Conan of Cimmeria. Here is an interior drawing from Weird Tales illustrating "Red Nails" from 1936.
Harold De Lay created four cover illustrations for "The Unique Magazine." His last appeared on the front of two issues, January 1944 and the penultimate issue, July 1954. This painting was also used for the cover of the hardbound collection Weird Vampire Tales (1992).

Thanks to Randal A. Everts, Judy Pharo, and the commenters below for additional information.
Text and captions copyright 2012, 2023 Terence E. Hanley


  1. TerHan: Here's what I found quickly. I have a large file on DeLay from his family, and will try to look for it. -RAE

    Harold Saylor DeLay
    DOB: May 13, 1876

    During the 1890s until at least the mid-late 1930s, DeLay was a commercial artist operating out of the Chicago area. He is listed in the Who's Who in American Art (1910). He worked for Funnies, Inc. in NYC from 1939 to 1947, through which he did his Marvel comics work.

    Died September 1950.

  2. Also: married Austria Roath in Chicago on 13 August 1902.-RAE

  3. Harold is my grandfather. Would love to communicate with anyone interested in his works. Thanks for your well done bio. Additional info: He left his family in the early 1930s and moved to Astoria Queens, NY where he lived and worked until his death on 14 August 1950. He did not see any of his family in those years and his 8 grandchildren never knew him.

    He was prolific in his art and produced many sketches, drawings, illustrations and paintings, and comic covers.

    1. Hi Susie in Maine,
      Thank you much for your kind offer! If you don't mind, I have quite a few questions about your grandfather. For one, do you happen to know anything about his working relationship with W.E.B. Du Bois or Marah Ellis Ryan? I'm intrigued by his work on Du Bois's _The Quest of the Silver Fleece_ and would love to know more about how he came to work with Du Bois, if Du Bois had any say on the content or style of your grandfather's illustrations for his book, if he had read any of Du Bois's political/sociological works, and where he stood politically, especially regarding race relations in the United States (and the world). Was he an activist of any kind? Was he for the war in the Philippines in 1898? Was he known for backing one particular presidential candidate or another at any time?

      Any information you have on any of these topics would be most helpful.
      Please feel free to contact me here or at

      Many thanks!

    2. Katherine,

      Do you still have an interest in H. S.DeLay? Almost five years have passed since you posted these questions. I didn't answer probably because I did not have an answer. Now I am really interested in knowing. His family knew so little about him. I have no reason to think he was particularly liberal. Did you ever find out anything? If I do learn something new. I'll get back to you.

  4. Hi, Susie in Maine,

    And thanks for clearing up the mystery surrounding Harold de Lay's later career. I'm very interested in hearing more about your grandfather. Being an artist myself, I have a special interest in the artists of Weird Tales, and I have a project in mind along those lines. Please feel free to contact me by email at

    By the way, do you have a photograph of your grandfather? Also, do you know the correct spelling of Austria Reath or Roath's last name?



  5. So sorry that I never replied (five years ago!). If you do still have an interest in these questions, let me know. I do have photos.

    1. Yes, Susie, I'm still interested (despite my late reply to your comment). Please write when you can, either as a comment here or directly to me at my email address Thank you.

    2. Terrence,

      Let me know if you still want to communicate about my grandfather HS DeLay. Maybe it would be best to email me at as we seem to miss each other's posts---by several years.

  6. According to his gravestone, De Lay died in 1947, and his wife's name was Austria ROATH De Lay. Source: (click on "See 1 more" to see the final image, of the gravestone). De Lay collaborated with eccentric Chicago mystery novelist and editor Harry Stephen Keeler, producing illustrations for Keeler's "10 Story Book" magazine and his novels "The Marceau Case" and "X. Jones of Scotland Yard."