Ed Vebell Tells War Stories, Sells Uniforms

At 95 years old, Ed Vebell could be ready to slow down.

The Westport artist has had quite a life. Here’s a quick summary:

During World War II he was an illustrator/reporter for Stars and Stripes newspaper. He’d be dropped off at a battle scene, told to find a story, then picked up 3 days later.

Ed Vebell, in Norman Rockwell-esque style, illustrates his own illustration.

Ed Vebell, in Norman Rockwell-esque style, illustrates his own illustration. The print sits atop many others in Ed’s studio.

After the war, he worked for French magazines (and covered the Nuremberg war trials). When she was 18, Grace Kelly posed for Ed. His first girlfriend was a star of the the Folies Bergère.

Two of Ed's sketches from the Nuremberg trials.

Two of Ed’s sketches from the Nuremberg trials.

Back in the States, he contributed to Time, Reader’s Digest and other publications. Specializing in military art, he drew uniforms from around the world for encyclopedias and paperback publishers. He worked for MBI too, illustrating the history of America from Leif Erikson through the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, and every war up to Vietnam.

Ed designed US stamps — some with military themes, some not.

One of Ed's US postage stamps.

One of Ed’s US postage stamps.

Oh yeah: He reached the semifinals of the 1952 Olympics, representing our country in fencing.

As I said, 95-year-old Ed Vebell could be slowing down.

He’s not. His latest project is selling his vast collection of uniforms.

They sprawl throughout the wonderful studio in his Compo Beach home, and in several other rooms. There are Revolutionary and Civil War uniforms, German helmets and Franco-Prussian gear. Buffalo Bill Cody’s hat is there too, in a bathtub surrounded by tons of other stuff.

He would have even more. But Hurricane Sandy wiped out his basement.

Two of Ed's many uniforms hang on a file cabinet.

Two of Ed’s many uniforms hang on a file cabinet.

Ed’s collection began years ago. He could rent a uniform for $15. But for just $10 more, he could buy it. That made sense; he had so much work, he needed plenty of uniforms.

So why is he selling?

“I’m 95,” he says simply. “I can’t keep them forever.”

Two auctions have already been held. He’s talking to more auction houses, and individual buyers too.

He knows each item. He points with pride to his Native American collection of bonnets, saddles and war shirts. He knows the differences between every tribe.

For years, he was hired for illustrations by editors out West. Why not use an artist closer by? he asked.

“We trust you,” they said.

Ed Vebell, in his Compo Beach studio.

Ed Vebell, in his Compo Beach studio.

The Civil War holds a special place in Ed’s heart. Years ago, he staged entire battle scenes in a Weston field. Models wore Yankee and rebel uniforms. Ed took photos, and worked from them.

He did the same with cowboys and Indians. “Those were great shows,” he recalls. “We had horses, riders, muskets and tomahawks. We entertained the whole neighborhood.”

It may be time to sell all those uniforms. But that’s not Ed’s only project.

At 95, he’s just finished two more picture books.

So now he’s looking around for his next one.

Ed drew this in 1944.

Ed Vebell drew this in 1944, in Italy.

8 responses to “Ed Vebell Tells War Stories, Sells Uniforms

  1. Charlie Taylor

    Great work

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Michael Friedman

    I’ve known Ed for about 40 years. He is one of the most knowledgeable, interesting and nicest people I know.

  3. Bill O'Brien

    I’ve visited with Ed a number of times over the years and can truly say I’ve never met anyone with a background that’s so interesting and brimming with such a variety of interesting experiences. A most colorful life, well lived! Congratulations and happy 95th birthday, Ed!

  4. What an interesting and valuable life. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Mike Tingley

    In1967, Ed Vebell hired me and Staples track teammate, Jim D’Arezzo, to model for illustrations for a Popular Science article about submarine rescue. You can see the illos of us on ladders, etc. in the Jan. 1968 issue at: https://books.google.com/books?id=ldMDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA124&lpg=PA124&dq=ed+vebell+submarine+rescue+illustrations&source=bl&ots=lirrb2ZdJH&sig=bs_XhxCktaZOHSOGElawU3_tP8g&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiV_uGv59zNAhXKKiYKHcDYAdkQ6AEIMTAL#v=onepage&q&f=false.
    I remember being impressed with his studio, his professional manner, and his great art!

  6. Great illustration! Even more interesting is another story in the magazine: about the amazing new uses for that wondrous invention, the “tape cassette.”

    • Mike Tingley

      Yes, interesting story! And, obviously, Popular MECHANICS, not Popular Science.

  7. Clinton Herniman

    I was trying to also get some information from him if possible. It may also be something he may like or find interesting. My grandfather Ralph R Herniman purchased a 1957 Porsche Speedster from Mr Vebell on March 4th 1961 in Fairfield CT . I am trying to track down and find out what happened to the car or if it still even exists. I wanted to see if he had any information on where the car came from or where he purchased it, photos or drawings, etc. I have framed the bill of sale from Mr Vebell when my grandfather purchased it from him along with the original service booklet and several photos of the car. I received from my grandfather when he passed away. So any information he could provide would be much appreciated. I tried to attached a photo of the car and documents. Maybe Mr Vebell would like to see it as well. I would be willing to compensate for his/your time.

    Thank you in advance,
    Clinton Herniman