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 Forrest C. Crooks  (1893 - 1982)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/Indiana      Known for: stained-glass design, weaving, painting, murals

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Forrest C. Crooks (1893-1982)

He was born in Goshen, Indiana in 1893.  His family moved to southern Michigan when he was 6 months old, and he lived in Michigan until he graduated from High School.  

Forrest Crooks moved to Pittsburgh to pursue a career in art.  At the art school of Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon), he earned his way with commercial art assignments and completed the four-year course in three years – in 1917.  He then moved to New York City to seek work as a magazine illustrator.  Over the years he illustrated stories for such eminent authors as Irving S. Cobb, Rudyard Kipling and Sir Winston Churchill.  His illustrations appeared in Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, American Legion Monthly, Saturday Evening Post, and others.

In 1918 he married Irene Phelps and they lived on 125th Street on the West Side of Manhattan until 1923, when they moved to Bucks County.  They rented a converted schoolhouse in Cottageville (near Carversville) for two years.  In 1925 they bought a 70-acre farm near Solebury Village.

In addition to his magazine illustrations, he painted murals, designed stained glass windows, made manikins and dioramas for use as magazine covers.  Among his largest works is a mural of the stations of the cross, commissioned through his friend and fellow artist George Sotter.  The 140-foot long mural still adorns the walls of St. Gregory’s Church in Los Angeles.  Crooks also painted eight life-size murals on “holly through the ages” for the YMCA in Millville, NJ, commissioned by the Holly Society of America, of which he was a member, and completed in 1954.

Crooks planted a holly orchard on his Solebury farm, where he also raised Christmas trees.  These endeavors led to his inventing a method of fabricating wire containers used by nurseries for growing and holding trees and shrubs.  For several years he manufactured these “Baskits” in the 18th century stone barn on his farm.  In addition he published his own Nurseryman’s newsletter, which served as promotion for his product.  Crooks also designed a small weaving loom – he the Hobby-Loom – and sold the plans.

In the 1930s Crooks joined his neighbors in the “Honey Hollow Watershed” in establishing the nation’s first watershed managed to conserve soil, water and wildlife.  Agricultural experts from all over the nation came to see the Honey Hollow Watershed and its contour plowing, shrubs for hedgerows and wildlife and other conservation measures.  The Honey Hollow Watershed was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1969 in recognition of this achievement.  In the 1980s Forrest and his family gave the farm, along with the house and barn to the Bucks County Conservancy (now Heritage Conservancy) to create a permanent home for the Honey Hollow Environmental Education Center, which still actively provides environmental education programs.

Information provided by Elaine M. Crooks, the artist's daughter-in-law.

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