John Wolcott Adams was born on  November 7, 1874, in Worcester, Massachusetts, son of John Francis  and Ellen Wilson Adams and descendant of an established New England  family which had produced two United States presidents. He first  studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and,  in 1898, he went to New York, where he attended the Art Students  League classes. Soon his work began to appear in well-known magazines  of the day, and he would become a frequent contributor to such  periodicals as Everybody's, Success, Youth's Companion, Saturday  Evening Post, Delineator, Collier's, and others. Then Adams  came to Wilmington to study with Howard  Pyle as an established professional illustrator. He attended  the 1904 Monday night lectures where Pyle sometimes commented  on his drawings of New England scenes, as recorded in the Rush-Leach  notebooks. For part of 1904 Adams shared a studio with Henry  Peck, while Clifford Ashley was away. After his sojourn in  Wilmington, Adams settled in New York permanently. In 1903 he  married Francis Pendleton Sheldon, who divorced him in 1920;  they had one daughter, Frances.

Under Pyle's instruction Adams  undoubtedly advanced to what was to become his characteristic pen-and-ink manner - a lively, detailed, finely-wrought depiction  of people and events in vignette or small scenario settings.  Here also Adam's interest in portraying American historical incidents would have found informed encouragement. He liked to illustrate  old songs and poetry as well as stories and novels, such as A  Hoosier Romance by James Whitcomb Riley, 1910 and Steamboat Days by Fred Erving Dayton, 1925.

Adams was interested in the theatre  and designed at least one stage setting that was executed for  a 1923 Walter Hampden production. He was a member of the Players,  the Dutch Treat Club, and the Society of Illustrators. He died  in New York on June 24, 1925, of acute appendicitis.

References: A Century of American  Illustration, Brooklyn Museum, 1972; Fielding; Gorman; Pitz,  200 Years; Reed, Illustrators; New York Times obit,  June 25, 1925; DAM files; Lykes correspondence.

Pyle Students