COOPERMADE: Harold and the Purple Crayon


David Johnson Leisk (1906-1975), a native of Elmhurst, Queens who arrived at Cooper in 1924, is better known as Crockett Johnson, the acclaimed author and illustrator of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Commuting from his parents’ home, Johnson studied art, drawing, and typography at The Cooper Union when his father’s sudden death forced him to leave school and take work. He was an art director at Macy’s before moving on to McGraw-Hill, and later the magazine, New Masses. In the 1940s Leisk had huge success with his comic strip Barnaby, which counted among its fans Duke Ellington and Dorothy Parker, who once wrote that the strip’s characters were “the most important additions to American Arts and Letters in Lord knows how many years." In 1955, Leisk published Harold and the Purple Crayon, a deceptively simple story about a boy who creates his reality through imagination. It has spoken to generations of children including the young Prince, who adopted the color purple as his signature hue as a result of his admiration for the book.

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