The Versatile (and Unknown) Lou Peters

GHK: Summertime 5 
 Matt, of Scrubbles fame reminded me recently of an artist that I had planned on writing about several years ago but completely forgot, thanks to the many gaps in my aging brain. Back when I was just starting to collect vintage cookbooks and booklets for all the fun and whimsical artwork that filled their pages, I noticed that I'd find some of the same books over and over again. And the Good Housekeeping Cookbook series was a big repeat offender. Like Ray Conniff albums at a thrift store, you'd see them everywhere. I began to wonder about these cookbooks: were they incredibly popular or complete duds? Surpisingly, they possessed some of the more engaging illustrations you could find within this sub-culture of art. They must've offered some mighty good money back then to the artists because each volume (there's over 20) is covered from front to back in wonderful two-color illustrations, all completely different, and -- here's the kicker for me -- all with artist credit! Unbelievable. GHK: Summertime 1As I began to collect this particular series, I noticed that a few had similar styles and, upon further investigating, found out that three were illustrated by the same guy: Lou Peters. These three GHK volumes have always been high on my list of favorites in this series, mainly for the sophistication that Lou put into each cookbook. And what's even more interesting for me is that each were done in a style wildly different from the other. There were some similarities as to how he posed the characters, the way that he would draw the female figure (in your typical glamorous atomic housewife way), that were unmistakable to my eye. But for the most part, the overall feel and style of each of these cookbooks were unique and original unto themselves. So who was this Lou Peters? I wish I could tell you. No one knows. Doing a Google search on the man will bring up nada. Was he a member of any illustrator society or organization? If so, there's a good chance that there'll be a bio on him. But finding this out requires time and energy -- both of which is in short supply for me. If anyone out there could help me out here, that'd be great. I'd love to know more about the guy. In the meantime, enjoy Lou's artwork for the Good Housekeeping Cookbook series in my Lou Peters Illustrations Flickr set. Here's a glance at the three Good Housekeeping cookbooks he illustrated: Click on each image to view larger. The Summertime Cook Book was the more fun of the three. The characters are more cartoony and stylized, but still infused with Lou's sophistication: GHK: Summertime 2 GHK: Summertime 4 GHK: Summertime 6
Quick 'N' Easy was the more outlandish one, with bold black used against bold colors. The lines were bigger and more harsh, in an attempt to have a more "modern" feel to the cookbook. If you notice, there's a definite attitude being expressed in the look of the women. In fact, that's Lou's stronghold -- the way he depicts the female figure in all these illustrations. There's a possible chance that he did some fashion illustration at one point?
  GHK: Quick 'N' Easy 2 GHK: Quick 'N' Easy 3 GHK: Quick 'N' Easy 5 GHK: Quick 'N' Easy 6 
 Last, but not least, is the Appetizer Book, with Lou taking a more elegant and polished approach here. His brush strokes are simple, yet refined. The colors are not as harsh in this cookbook, softened by being sponged on and set against a light gray. And every single woman looks as if they stepped out of a swank fashion magazine. The guys can't compare to the glitzy housewives in this cookbook!
  GHK: Appetizer Book 2 GHK: Appetizer Book 5 GHK: Appetizer Book 4 GHK: Appetizer Book 6
There's more that I scanned, so check out the entire set. Check out Matt's Flickr set of The New England Cookbook that Lou illustrated. Here's a great example of how Lou expertly utilized the entire page -- great composition and excellent use of the two-color press. Also, be sure to check out fellow mid-century illustration lover Carol's Flickr -- there's more from Lou's GHK cookbooks in her Illustration/Advertising set. And please, if anyone has more information about Lou Peters, let me know. You would make me a very happy man. UPDATE: Nothing on the guy, yet. But my own mother has done some detective work, even going so far as to calling Good Housekeeping in New York. (They said that anyone who worked at GHK during the 50's and 60's wouldn't be here anymore. Umm, duh.) She also contacted the Society of Illustrators, and they don't have anything on the guy. (Thanks for the sleuth work, Mama!) There are a few more venues to try out. Does anyone have a copy of Walt Reed's Illustrator in America? If so, let me know if Lou Peters is listed. (Probably not, at this rate.) Another option: does anyone have a copy of the latest Who's Who of American Art? See if he's in that volume as well. (Again, probably not, but worth a shot.) Thanks!


  1. Sooooo Goooood!!!!
    God - I LOVE it!! :)

  2. These are great, Ward. Please post again if you ever hear anything about who this Lou Peters guy was.

    The use of spot color in those summertime illustrations is absolutely lovely, and those Quick and Easy ladies have an unsettling stepford wives look. Thanks!

  3. Mr. Jenkins your right there is almost nothing to find on Lou Peters. I look for an hour on several research databases and found nothing.

  4. you're practically a public service, baby! Swingin' post, and God, I wish there was that sort of attention to detail in what passes for today's advertising "illustration."

  5. Ward - I did a wee bit of research on my own and there is pretty much nothing out there. I did find that he contributed to the Childcraft Book Vol. 5 - Life in Many Lands, 1954, and there is some of his work in The Goodman Collection (www.goodmancollection.com) - not that you can see; he's just listed as an illustrator. He's the mystery man! - love you - Mom

  6. Thanks, Ward, to introduce us "new" artists.
    Congratulations for your excellent blog.

    Regards from Barcelona

  7. Darn it, Ward! You always gotta go an' do a kick-ass post that sucks me away from my responsibilities at work! You KNOW I love this stuff. It's funny what a white-washed world it was back then... but the design! I wish more illustrations these days were more design and fashion inspired like these. Hey, speakin' of fashion, go check out my post on my new squeeze. He's super cool and I want you to meet him. You might dig his drawings too. Have a good one!

  8. Hey Ward. Thanks for the push. Maybe you will see me on Project Runway. I just have to improve my sewing skills for the show. I usually hire people to do all the sewing.
    You have such a beautiful family no wonder your work is so sharp you have all the inspiration you need at home.

  9. I recognize the artwork for Planetary Frankfurters. I have a card with this image, only the recipe is for "Blue Balls," I believe. They may have reprinted it in black and blue, too, instead of these colors. I'll have to dig it out.

  10. Ah, I was sent a link to this entry and hoped you had solved the mystery! The funny thing is, I always just assumed "Lou" was a woman, since so many of those series cookbooks (Not just the GH series but the other series that place in Chicago did at the same time...er...I'm blanking on the name of it) were illustrated by women. And "Lou" being a woman's nickname as well as a man's.

    I never looked Lou up, but I did find other work by a couple other artists that worked on those books, IIRC all I found were out of print little elf books and things like that. And no information on any of them. I'll be hoping you can dig up more info!!

  11. I really like your work !I will come back to see the news on your site.

  12. Hey thanks for the mention - it's so neat to 'meet' others who share appreciation for this stuff....

  13. My wife collects classic cookbooks but I've never had the chance to see these illustrations. Great stuff, man!

  14. Oh, I love a good mystery! I'm going to have to check back for the answer to this one!

  15. Are you sure that "Lou" is a guy?

  16. Not entirely, but it doesn't seem to matter. Obviously, "Lou" was this person's official moniker, and there doesn't seem to be much on that particular name, illustration-wise.

  17. Thanks Google! Finally I've found what I was looking for! :D

    I was searching for 50's-60's cartoon, and it was so hard!

    I'm a cartoonist and I'd like to make some vintage illustrations, your blog's been a great help.

    Do you know who was the cartoonist of 60's Bewitched opening?


  18. Hello again

    Dude, I like so much your blog! I think I'm gonna put you into my favourite links, if you don't mind...

    That's all. Regards

  19. Have you asked Amid over at Cartoon Brew? He might know where to dig up info on 50's illustrators.

    amid [at] cartoonbrew.com

  20. I'm with "cg" on Lou maybe being a woman. Then she got married and spent the rest of her life, even up until this very moment as we speak, MAKING all those recipes in the books she illustrated...

  21. Darn, I guess we'll never know.

  22. Hi Ward - -

    I found your post after stumbling onto more Lou Peters illustrations from 1955's 'The Lunchbox Cookbook'. They're more on the 'cartoony' end of the Peters spectrum.

    I can offer no answers on Peters, but I've posted images (and a link to your post) at my blog, 'I'm Learning To Share'...


    Likewise there's more at a flickr set that goes with...


    Hope you enjoy.

    Love your blog - - I need to check in on it more often!

    Cheers, thanks for what you do, and keep it up!

  23. Ward: I put out some feelers with the editorial board at Good Housekeeping to see what I could find out about Lou Peters. He or she would have most likely been a staff artist working in the food editors department at the time. Like Heinz of the same time period they had their own artist department who used to paint (who paints type but they did) for the labels and other items that needed to be printed. I figure I would go right to the source and talk to the present food editors over there and see if they can dig up anything on the artist. Doesn't hurt to try, we will see what they come up with. Love the artwork.

  24. Hi-I own the ORIGINAL illustrations from most of the cookbooks Lou Peters illustrated.
    They were published in Chicago. By Consolidated Publishers...Culinary Arts Institute was a division.They closed in the mid 70s'.
    No amount of research can glean information about him...I don't think that was his name...he may have been a WOMAN for all anyone knows.
    Good Houskeeping farmed out the job, so they would have no records of the artists for the series. As did McCall's Better Homes and Gardens and others. (I have that art too)
    I recently met up with the daughter of the owner/editor of Consolidated and hopefully she might remember some of the artists and be able to help identify them.

  25. Maureen - Thank you for posting here! I would love to keep in touch with you about your findings in regards to Lou Peters. AND I'd love to check out the original illustrations, if at all possible. Please email me via my profile page here on my blog.