Biography of Henry Alonzo (Lon) Keller
1907 - 1995
Born in Lititz, PA in 1907, Henry Alonzo (Lon) Keller developed his artistic talent in the 1920's, graduating Cum Laude from Syracuse University with a fine art major in 1929. The economic conditions at the time made the normally difficult start of a career in art and illustration virtually impossible. Henry Alonzo, as he was known then, took a job managing the store at the School of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.  During that time, he produced his first commercial work illustrating the house newspaper for Sun Oil. He then did some covers for the Keystone Automobile Club magazine.

In 1932, the editor of the football programs at Penn, having seen some of his work, engaged Lon to produce the cover for the Cornell - Penn Thanksgiving Day game, which featured a female football fan.

In those days, because of cost, quality sports programs with four-color covers were out of reach for all but the Ivy League and Big Ten. Most of these were custom produced for each school by national advertisers including Chesterfield, Lucky Strike and Camel. The production was handled by a California printing company, LS&Z. As a result of a visit by the salesman of LS&Z to Penn where he saw the Cornell-Penn cover, they began to use Lon in 1933. It was here that Lon met Don Spencer

Shortly thereafter, Don Spencer left to start his own company. He recognized that the cost of production could be drastically reduced if all programs for a season were produced centrally at one time. This would enable the expansion of the college market to many smaller schools.
The secret to this success was that few colleges could possible afford to produce covers and centerfolds with the quality of art work and printing in the early days before 4-color letter presses -- the setup cost was enormous plus the cost of quality paper in low quantities. Spencer's price to the college in 1946 was $28 per thousand 8-page forms printed on one side with 4-color cover, centerfold and back cover -- (comparable cost for local production according to Spencer was $775 per thousand). A college would then take it locally for printing local ads, team information and to overprint the cover with game info --usually in black & white

Keller began his long career with the Don Spencer Company and moved to New York in 1937.  He married Esther Beyerle in 1938 and they raised three children.

Largely because of the quality of the art on the covers Spencer programs were considered souvenirs.
The most popular were those depicting women as spectators or cheerleaders, one of Lon's favorite subjects. Rarely, as in the past, would there be many left on the stadium seats following a game. Colleges found they could sell many more programs at each game, significantly adding to the revenue. As a result, Spencer quickly became successful in syndication of football programs for close to 95% of the colleges with football or basketball contests.

In addition, in 1940, Spencer contracted with Coca-Cola to produce programs that were supplied to high schools by local bottlers throughout the country.

In 1936, Spencer had a press run of thousands of college programs per year, which grew to millions per year by 1946. Similarly, Coca-cola distributed over 60 million programs between 1940 and 1948 to over 5,000 high schools. At its peak, the combined annual total was 36 million per year.

By count, Keller was responsible for over 250 of these
college covers and over 200 for Coke producing about 15 per year on average - usually in oil on canvas about 36" by 24". 

In addition to producing art for Spencer, he created
custom designed program covers for the three service academies (the Air Force Academy Falcon logo is his), Fordham, Princeton, Penn, and others; for the NFL, The US Olympic Committee, the Yankees and Mets (he developed the logo for each) and the Dodgers and Giants when they were in NY; heavy weight boxing matches, roller derby, horse racing, hockey, the Harlem Globetrotters and more.

It is safe to say that there are hardly any sports fans in the US over the age of 40 that have not been exposed to Keller's covers during what was called "The Golden Era of Sports".

As technological progress gradually lowered the costs, more and more schools began producing their own programs, using photography for covers. This coordinated nicely with Lon's desire to continue painting, but at his own pace, selecting
subject matter that might interest him at any given time.

He moved to DeLand, Florida in 1984 and was still painting when he passed away on June 28, 1995.

 (Click HERE for a Microsoft Word version of this biography with picture.)