Biography: Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, John Wolcott Adams was a descendant of the New England family of two American Presidents. He studied initially at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In 1898 he moved to New York, where he attended the Art Students League. He became especially known as an illustrator of American history subjects, especially in popular magazines such as Harper's Monthly, Scribner's Magazine, The Ladies' Home Journal, and The Saturday Evening Post. His primary medium was ink; he often used the vignette style. He was married to Frances Pendleton Sheldon from 1903 until their divorce in 1920.
In 1904, Howard Pyle invited Adams to join his illustration classes and critiques at his studio in Wilmington, Delaware. Adams' interest in American history scenes may have been influenced by Pyle's fame for those subjects. He became especially known as an illustrator of American history subjects, especially in popular magazines such as Harper's Monthly, Scribner's Magazine, The Ladies' Home Journal, and The Saturday Evening Post.
Adams' career thrived after his experience with Pyle. He received numerous commissions from Century Company and forged a relationship with Everybody's magazine, where his illustrations appeared frequently from 1909 to 1906 and occasionally thereafter until 1920. His skill in rendering period costumes and environments won him many commissions from women's home and fashion magazines. His memberships in The Players, The Dutch Treat Club, and the Society of Illustrators allowed Adams to connect with numerous authors and editors in the competitive fields of illustration and publishing.
Adams worked in marine camouflage during World War I and volunteered as a teacher at the federally-supported School for Disabled Veterans operated by the Society of Illustrators. He provided set designs that were used in Society of Illustrators presentations and by the Shubert Theatrical Company.
At the time of his death at 50, Adams' illustrations were widely and favorably reviewed.
John Wolcott Adams, American Life and History, by Christine L. Oaklander (1998: Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford PA)