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FERRING, Cyril. (Dubuque, IA, Mar. 13, 1900--Marfil, Mexico, Sept. 1, 1984).
The son of Frank D. and Ida Ferring, Cyril had one sibling, Rose B. His father was born in Iowa while his mother came from Germany. (1) As an elementary student, Ferring showed an interest in debate. In the graduating class of PRESCOTT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL in 1914 he was one of the people who took the negative position on the topic: "Resolved, that the army and navy of the United States be increased." (2) His interest in art replaced debate. As a high school student in Dubuque, Ferring drew a cartoon showing the crowded conditions in CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL. His drawing, published in Dubuque newspapers, was credited with having considerable influence in the successful bond issue campaign that led to the building of DUBUQUE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL.
Ferring began his art studies at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. He later studied at the Chicago Art Institute and painted privately under Karl Kraft, Frederic Grant, Angarola, W. J. Reynolds, and Leon Kroll. He served as an illustrator with the army and worked as an artist in advertising before becoming an advertising illustrator. He then opened his own studio and taught at the Art Institute and Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago, Illinois.
In 1929 Ferring designed the cover for Dubuque Business, the official publication of the DUBUQUE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. (3) In 1930 three paintings of his paintings were displayed in the CARNEGIE-STOUT PUBLIC LIBRARY by the Iowa Artist Club and Dubuque artists. (4) In 1932 Ferring completed the original drawings used by the WOODART COMPANY in creating several wood carvings. (5)
By 1933 Ferring's artistic talents established him as a prominent commercial artist, illustrator and mural painter. These skills were employed that year in his role as the head of decorations and appointments of the recently remodeled S. S. Isle Royale of the Isle Royale Line. He completed a series of decorative murals in the club room and painted the interior of the ship's finest suite. (6) In May, 1934, Ferring traveled to England to make sketches of King George's Jubilee. Royal events, then and later, were celebrated with advertising depicting the likeness of the royal family on tea sets, silk banners, and badges. He also illustrated children's books such as How Life Begins (Chicago Book House for Children, 1935). (7)
It was in his spare time during the period just described that Ferring designed and finished his first mural for Dubuque Senior High. Once the design were accepted by the school, Ferring and a student assistant from Chicago completed the mural during one of the high school's summer vacations and into the early fall. He did not charge for his time and the expenses for materials were paid out of the student activity fund. The finished work, forty-four feet ten inches long and fifteen feet two inches wide, led Ferring to choose as its topic--transportation. The mural was first displayed on the east wall of the auditorium in 1935.
In an article in the Telegraph-Herald on November 17, 1935 Ferring described the difficulties of completing the work.
In September, 1936 Ferring's master sketches for two new MURALS, "Early Agriculture" and "Early Industry," were approved by the mural committee of Dubuque Senior High. These continued the theme of the mural then located in the auditorium and were placed on each side of the stage after being transported to Dubuque in sections and assembled on the wall. Ferring was paid from donatiions and the student activity fund for his services and expenses involved in these murals. (9)
The two smaller murals were first displayed in 1938. The mural to the left of the stage represents the clearing of the land for the plowman who is shown in the distance. LEAD MINING smelters can be seen on the distant hills.
The industrial mural on the right of the stage features the SHOT TOWER, construction of a lumber mill, and both river and rail transportation.
For the Iowa Centennial Year of 1946, the Carr, Adams & Collier Company, recognized the deep history of Dubuque and they prepared and published an illustrated story of Dubuque's history in their monthly employee publication, the Bilt-Well Bulletin. The booklet was written by Robert Burlingame and illustrated by Cy Ferring. The booklet itself is 8 1/2" wide x 11 " high. My grandfather, Lester G. Wendt, would have been working for this company at that time. I'm not sure what his role was in 1946. Robert Burlingame, the author, was Lester's nephew and Lester was best man in Cy Ferring's marriage to his 2nd wife, Marion. (10) In 1948 the material was republished in booklet form to be distributed in the schools and institutions of Dubuque according to company officials. Included in the material were nine, full-page charcoal sketches of early life in Dubuque by Ferring. (11) [Note: These sketches are shown below this entry.]
In 1964 Ferring was commissioned by the FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF DUBUQUE to assist in the production of a booklet. The completed work was entitled 1864-1964 Journey Through a Century of Service and Growth. The six panels Ferring produced are shown below.
In the 1970s controversy arose among some students about the manner in which AFRICAN AMERICANS were depicted in the murals. Historical research, however, would show that river commerce gave African Americans as well as others opportunities to find work in the 1800s. Ferring was simply showing life along the MISSISSIPPI RIVER as it existed both before and after the CIVIL WAR.
The murals were restored by Gary Germaine who had been commissioned by the family of Dr. Darryl and Terry Mozena.
Christmas cards sent by the Ferrings (Courtesy: Rachel Harpham) http://www.encyclopediadubuque.org/images/Cy%20and%20Marion%20Ferring%20Greetings.pdf
(Photo Courtesy: Gary Olsen, Dubuque Community Schools, www.dubuque.k12.ia.us/Senior/ferringmural)
1. Census Record, 1920, Dubuque Ward 2 Dubuque County
2. "Debate at Prescott School," Telegraph Herald, December 19, 1914, p. 8
3. "'Dubuque Business' Replaces Bulletin." Telegraph Herald, October 15, 1929, p. 5
4. "Works of Local Artists on View," Telegraph Herald, March 9, 1930, p. 5
5. "Alumnus Paints Two Murals for School," Telegraph Herald, November 15, 1936, p. 11
6. "Former Artist Here Paints 'Isle Royale,'" Telegraph Herald, June 25, 1933, p. 8
7. Olsen, Gary "Senior High School's Cy Ferring," Online: http://www.garyolsen.com/CyFerringMurals.htm
8. "Public Shows Great Interest in Dubuque Art," Telegraph Herald, March 24, 1932, p. 9
10. Rachel Harpham, email, September 10, 2020
11. "History of Dubuque is Being Distributed," Telegraph Herald, October 4, 1948, p. 3 X