Bill Bunce was an American illustrator, known for drawing a series of nine educational comic books for the Association of American Railroads (1955-1960). He was most likely the same person as William H. Bunce, the author of several educational fiction books about American history and archeology.

William. H. Bunce
William Harvey Bunce was born in 1903 in Stillwater, an upstate New York village on the Hudson River above Albany, and grew up there. He got his education at Columbia University and the New York School of Design. From the mid 1930s on he wrote several books about North-American history and Native Americans, starting with 'Trails, a Book of Animal Stories' (Broadman Press, 1935) and 'Son of the Iroquois' (MacRae Smith, 1936), with illustrations by Paul Quinn. He was supervising draftsman and artist on the TVA-WPA archaeological survey of the Chickamauga Basin by the Works Progress Administration's Tennessee Valley Authority, and was a participant in the National Writers Program that produced the publications 'Tennessee, A Guide to the Volunteer State' (1939) and 'Alabama, A Guide to the Deep South' (1941). During World War II, he served as staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Historical fiction books
His collaboration with the New York-based publishing house E.P. Dutton and Company began in the early 1940s with the fiction books 'Chula, Son of the Mound Builders' (1942) and 'War Belts of Pontiac' (1943), which both had illustrations by I.B. Hazelton. These were followed after the war by 'Horned Snake Medicine; a Story of the Mound Builders' (1945), with drawings by James McDonald. Harcourt Brace subsequently published the books 'Dragon Prows Westward' (1946, illustrations Lorence Bjorklund) and 'Treasure Was Their Quest' (1947) with the publishing house Harcourt.

Books about trains
Coming from a family of of railroad men he always had a strong interest in railroads and for many years he held the position of Public Relations Representative for the Association of American Railroads. This connection and the two books of the 1950s might link him to the Bill Bunce who designed the railroad comics. First of all, William Bunce published the semi-fictional book 'Here Comes the School Train' (Dutton, 1953), about a group of Canadian kids who go to school by rail. The book was illustrated with photographs and black-and-white illustrations by the author. The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (November 1953) from the University of Chicago Library offered the following comment: "The photographs are not all of the same children, which serves further to destroy the illusion that this is a story; the drawings are static and without appeal." For his next work, the picture book 'Freight Train' (Putnam, 1954), Bunce worked together with illustrator Lemuel B. Line. The comments on Bunce's artwork and the consideration that the 'School Train' book is the only known work with art by Bunce himself, might shed some doubt on the assumption that William Bunce is also the Bill Bunce who drew nine full comic books later that decade.

Association of American Railroads
The nine 16-page promotional booklets for the Association of American Railroads were produced through School & College Services. They were 7x10 inches, and featured an educational comic story about the U.S. railroads and their history. The titles are 'Rails Across America' (1954), 'Ride the High Iron' (1955), 'Clear the Track!' (1956), 'The Wheel of Progress' (1957), 'Railroads Deliver the Goods' (1959), 'All Aboard, Mr. Lincoln!' (1959), 'Special Agent' (1959), 'The Iron Horse Goes to War' (1960) and 'Salute to the Boy Scouts' (1960). The signature of Bill Bunce appears on the frontcover illustrations.

William Bunce, the graphic designer
No definitive information is available about William H. Bunce's further life, except that he passed away on 29 May 2001. During the 1950s and 1960s there was also a William Bunce active as graphic designer and art director in the entertainment industry. Also referred to as "Bill Bunce", this artist designed record sleeves for RCA Camden, Urania Records and Davis Records in the second half of the 1950s, and title cards for CBS television in the early 1960s. Wether this was the same William/Bill Bunce is unknown.

Series and books by Bill Bunce in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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