The History Press has released the cover art for Samuel Smedley, Connecticut Privateer.
The illustrations composing the cover were all made by William D. Lee, an institution in Fairfield’s history and Connecticut’s art history.
A WW2 veteran who graduated Yale on the GI Bill with a degree in fine arts, he was responsible (along with many other things) for renovating the Sun Tavern on the town green and organizing the 1989 commemoration of the British attack on Fairfield, which involved hundreds of re-enactors and even a mock naval engagement off the beach.
Late in writing the book, I contacted Bill to ask permission to use several images inside, including a photo of a scale model of the Defence he had built. Serendipitously, Bill had been at work completing a painting of the Defence when I called. Not only did he offer use of the painting, but he went ahead and painted a portrait of Smedley specially for the book. The portrait is based on the single surviving image of Smedley known to us, a tiny cameo he had painted allegedly while in Amsterdam.
Bill amazes me with his boundless talent and creativity — he can seemingly call new things into existence simply by laying his fingertips on wood and canvas and metal. His house is like a combined art gallery and toy store. He once made sailboats for a living; has created architectural facades and murals for buildings throughout southern Connecticut; fashions model ships and trains and even built a remote-controlled model of a Sikorsky S-39. I cannot overemphasize his generosity and I feel very fortunate that he participated in the project.
Also, the book’s website is live. I’ve kept the design simple, but it includes a description and a brief excerpt. It will be available for pre-order at Amazon and bn.com in a few weeks and should be in stores by late June.