Skip to main content

Beloit College Franklin Boggs collection

Identifier: MC 21

Scope and Contents

This collection contains articles, exhibition programs, biographical information, printed versions and photographs of artwork, and photographs of Franklin Boggs. There is also a VHS copy of the PBS documentary They Drew Fire, about WWII combat artists.


  • 1945-2000

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Franklin Boggs was a professor and Chairman of the Department of Art and also Artist-in-Residence at Beloit College. A member of the Beloit faculty from 1945-1977, he has gained wide recognition as one of America's outstanding young artists and teachers.

Named one of America's leading young artists by LIFE magazine while at Beloit, Professor Boggs won nationwide recognition for imaginative works varying from a 112 foot mural depicting the history of New Orleans medicine to a unique metal and glass scriptural mural in the Marquette Memorial Union. A graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, his murals hang in public buildings, medical centers and educational institutions in various parts of the country and also abroad. Other works have been exhibited by many of the nation's leading galleries.

During World War II, Mr. Boggs was one of twelve artists commissioned by the Abbott Laboratories to paint the story of army medicine. He was among major winners in several Gimbel art competitions in Wisconsin and has executed works for leading Wisconsin industries. Nine paintings by Mr. Boggs -- all depicting the tanning industry and commemorating the centennial of the Albert Trostel and Sons firm in Milwaukee -- were exhibited at the 1958 Brussells Fair. The Beloit artist also designed a unique cement screen wall with stained glass and a large mural depicting architectural forms for the Maynard Meyer and Associates Architectural Firm in Milwaukee, and a mosaic mural for the Merchants Savings Bank in Janesville, Wis.

During the 1958-59 academic year, Professor Boggs was in Finland and other parts of Europe on a Fulbright study grant to conduct research into the use of ceramics in architecture. The Beloit artist also gave a series of lectures on contemporary art and modern architecture in several European countries and exhibited two collections of American art work -- a special American children's art exhibit and a collection of American Indian art and artifacts from Beloit College's Logan Museum of Anthropology.

Franklin Boggs, a professor of art at Beloit for more than 32 years, died Nov. 7, 2009, at the age of 95. A prolific artist and internationally known muralist, he was also a highly influential teacher who started Beloit's studio art program.

Boggs' works of art have been exhibited across the United States and throughout the world. He gained a national reputation relatively early in his career. Life Magazine named him one of the best young American painters in 1947. His art has been displayed in many of America's leading museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Corcoran, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

The 1998 PBS documentary They Drew Fire featured him as one of World War II's last living combat artists who served as war correspondents, documenting what they witnessed with paints and brushes in the South Pacific. Many of his paintings from that period remain in the Pentagon's permanent collection.

Born in Warsaw, Ind., in 1914 as William Franklin Boggs, he later studied at the Fort Wayne School of Art in Indiana and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. In 1945, he was invited to Beloit to be an artist-in-residence. The next year, he accepted a permanent teaching position and soon started the College's studio art department. His tenure spanned from 1945 to 1977.

"When pre-cast concrete, epoxy, foam, vacuform or any other new material appeared, Franklin Boggs was not far behind, inventing ways to incorporate and bend it into his art," says O.V. Shaffer'50, an accomplished artist in his own right and former student of Boggs. Shaffer recalls what it was like at Beloit when Boggs arrived on the scene.

"The College was about to expand from pre-war enrollment of 500 to over 1,000 by August. Boggs was to create a studio art program where none had existed before. Looking around, he took what little space and equipment was available at the time and created a department of 'ideas.'

He was a problem solver and taught his students to think in terms of ideas, then find a way to give form to those ideas using whatever material was at hand. There was always excitement when Boggs was around."

Among his relatives are Boggs' wife, Sondra Spongberg Boggs'61, a sister, six children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Three of the Boggs children are Beloiters: Nathan'86, Timothy'93, and the late Clayton "Andy" Boggs'87.

(biography adapted from "Biographical Data on Franklin Boggs, Beloit College," Sept. 1959, and Beloit College Magazine, Spring 2010)


0.63 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection contains articles, exhibition programs, biographical information, printed versions and photographs of artwork, and photographs of Franklin Boggs, 32-year professor of art and artist-in-residence at Beloit College from 1945-1977. Boggs' art included subjects like WWII in the South Pacific, military medicine, tanneries, and architecture, among others. He worked in many art formats but particularly in murals.

Beloit College Franklin Boggs collection
Michelle Tom
January, 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Beloit College Archives and Special Collections Repository

700 College St.
Beloit WI 53511 USA