[Originial Illustrations for The Red Napoleon.]. Harold Von Schmidt, John William Thomason Jr., illustrators C P. C.
[Originial Illustrations for The Red Napoleon.]
[Originial Illustrations for The Red Napoleon.]
[Originial Illustrations for The Red Napoleon.]
[Originial Illustrations for The Red Napoleon.]
[Originial Illustrations for The Red Napoleon.]
[Originial Illustrations for The Red Napoleon.]
[Originial Illustrations for The Red Napoleon.]
[Originial Illustrations for The Red Napoleon.]
[Originial Illustrations for The Red Napoleon.]
[Originial Illustrations for The Red Napoleon.]
[Originial Illustrations for The Red Napoleon.]

[Originial Illustrations for The Red Napoleon.]

[New York, 1920s.]. 6 illustrations in ink, wash, and gouache, (39 x 37.5 cm to 41 x 62.5 cm, plus margins; 3 signed “Von”; 1 signed “Harold von Schmidt”; 1 signed “C.P.C.”; 1 signed “John W. Thomason Jr.” Some ms. production notes, captions, etc. on versos and rectos, some indicating the pages and sections of the serialized novel to which the illustrations relate. 1 small reproduction of a larger illus. pasted on its recto (7.5 x 10.5 cm).

Six original illustrations for Liberty magazine’s serialized publication of the novel The Red Napoleon (1929), an early fictional account of a full-scale Soviet invasion and attempted conquest of the world.

The acclaimed war correspondent, journalist and novelist Floyd Gibbons (1887–1939) first published The Red Napoleon in Liberty magazine, which commissioned Harold von Schmidt (1893–1982), among others, to illustrate the serialized publication. The first installment appeared in Liberty on 6 April 1929. In The Red Napoleon, the Red Army attempts to usher in a world of racial equality and usurp the supremacy of the white race. Novelist John Gardner (1933–1982) has described The Red Napoleon as an “ironic satire of capitalist America’s greed and foolhardy racism”:

What Gibbons is saying from behind the fortress-wall of his trash-writer gimmicks, is serious and convincing: white superiority on this planet is finished, and, worse, if we refuse to meet the Third World halfway—refuse to shuck off the racial prejudice that has been a standard feature of our character from the beginning—we face virtual extermination … Gibbons found himself in a curious position …Everything he believed most profoundly—and believed to be a matter of life and death—would be anathema to his readers. Not only would the vast majority of his readership find his visionary slogan ridiculous—“We recognize but one race—the HUMAN RACE”—they would find it grossly evil.

Gibbons’ novel centers on Karakhan of Kazan—the ‘Red Napoleon’—who serves as chief military commander of the USSR under Stalin until the dictator is assassinated in 1932. In turn, Karakhan becomes the new Soviet leader and uses his military influence to take control of the country, and then attempts to conquer the world. Karakhan espouses a policy of “Conquer and Breed.” Believing the antidote to Caucasian hegemony to be miscegenation, Karakhan marries and has a child with an American radical leftist. Gibbons writes on p. 1: “[Karakhan’s] defiant pride in his coloured skin, struggling against an instinctive inferiority complex originating from impacts with white dominance, fired him with the ambition to fuse all races—white, yellow, black, brown and red—into one human race, the only one he acknowledged.” Before the novel’s dramatic climax in which Karakhan’s army is defeated by American forces, the Red Army ravages Europe—slaying Mussolini, preempting Hitler’s rise, bringing Winston Churchill and Britain to their knees, etc.—and conquers Australia, where he massacres six million whites.

The most remarkable of the six illustrations offered here, initialed at the lower left “C.P.C.”, depicts a domestic scene showing Karakhan smoking a cigarette and gazing at his white wife, who holds their mixed-race offspring in her arms. A caption appears on the verso—“He’s gone completely crazy on the idea of having children with white women.” The most notable illustration by von Schmidt features a menacing Soviet (perhaps Karakhan again) wearing an ushanka hat and fur, with binoculars hanging around his neck. This, too, has a caption on the verso: “Short cut black hair that fitted his head like a skull cap. His thin body, high shoulders yellow face, close cropped head.” Two other illustrations show the Soviet Army marching past a pagoda in Peking, and through a Mexican village. In the latter, a slain Mexican lies in the streets amidst the Red Army and vanquished local Mexicans. Vultures perch and hover above, and in the background a Soviet flag hangs from a building. This illustration is by John W. Thomason Jr. (1893–1944), an author and illustrator of several books and magazine stories who served as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps.

At the novel’s end the narrator—a journalist who resembles Gibbons himself— interviews the imprisoned Red Napoleon after the Red Army’s defeat. Karakhan defends his policy of intermixing the world’s races to the journalist, claiming it must be the way of the future—which has become true in the novel: white people now face a thoroughly miscegenated world. Karakhan is punished by being sent to exile not in Siberia but Bermuda. 

Von Schmidt’s illustrations also appeared in magazines such as Collier’s Weekly, Cosmopolitan, and Saturday Evening Post; he would also contribute sixty illustrations for a deluxe edition of Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop.

A striking group of illustrations for the serial publication of Red Napoleon.

REFERENCES: Gallicchio, Marc. The African American Encounter with Japan and China (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), Chapter 2; Gibbons, Floyd. The Red Napoleon (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1929); Harold von Schmidt at illustrationhistory.org.

CONDITION: Moderate damp-staining along edges of two illustrations; other with some foxing and toning but generally good with minor wear.

Item #5233

Price: $3,500.00