It would be impossible to overestimate the influence that Harry Kane exerted upon those who based their conception then - as they still continue to do some 40 years later - on his interpretation of Jupiter, Pete, Bob and their surrounding casts of characters. Indeed, what Sydney Paget did for Sherlock Holmes, Harry Kane did for The Three Investigators. It was Kane's pictures which gave The Three Investigators visual reality for all, illustrations which are as immortal as The Three Investigators stories themselves.
Right: Detail from Kane's original 1968 painting for The Mystery of the Screaming Clock.
Prior to the summer of 2003, little was known about Harry Kane who seems to have lived and worked in relative obscurity in New York City. On-line and library research conducted over the years had elicited little biographical information about Mr. Kane or the breadth of his work - only that he illustrated several dozen books for youths and that he had produced a lot of commercial advertising for a variety of companies. But it was an on-line posting made by the owners of a large collection of Kane artwork spanning his entire career which led to some exciting discoveries about the mysterious Mr. Harry Kane and his Three Investigators artwork. Subsequent to this announcement, I traveled to New York City in October, 2003 and in September, 2004 to examine Harry Kane's Three Investigators artwork, view some of the other artwork produced by Mr. Kane over the course of his life and to learn something about the man himself.
Today, thanks to Three Investigators enthusiasts, Harry Kane is most well-known for his contributions to The Three Investigators series of books from 1964 - 1971. He painted the cover art for Random House hardbound titles #3 through #16 in the series and he created seven full-page black and white internal illustrations for titles #1 through #16. Harry Kane also designed the famous blue graveyard endpapers (click to see the evolution of these endpapers from concept to finish). Several other artists followed in Kane's footsteps, illustrating books #17 through #28, and each brought a slightly different perspective to the characters. Kane's own work shows some disparity through the series. The first eight books have very clean, detailed and well-defined internal illustrations while some of the illustrations from later titles are a little more sketch-like and rough in appearance as though he didn't spend as much time on them. The illustration below, left, is from book #1 Terror Castle and the one to the right is from book #9 Screaming Clock.
The collection of Harry Kane artwork that I had the opportunity to peruse easily consisted of over 1,000 pieces, perhaps 2,000 or more, and dated from the late 1920's through the mid-1980's. Most of my time was spent examining the approximately 115 pieces of Three Investigators artwork but I did get a chance to briefly look at a few other things created by Mr. Kane. There was a lot of advertising artwork for various companies: pen and ink sketches, full-blown paintings, and ads designed for magazines and billboards. There were sheafs of modeling photos and the resulting artwork used on pulp magazines and book covers. There were dozens of illustrations for various books and magazines which have yet to be identified.
There were some unfinished portrait paintings in the collection and it was evident that Mr. Kane had created the artwork for many movie posters. A number of envelopes contained correspondence/artwork between Kane/Kirchner and various agencies through which he found work - agencies such as Medola and Marco Associates. Clues within the collection suggest that he changed his name from Kirchner to Kane around 1930 and it may have been a name he used only on his artwork.
Harry Kane at work. Circa 1960.
Interestingly, the collection contained some flyers and auction catalogs from companies who specialized in the sale of comic art, book art, posters and the like. These dated from the early 1980's and it is possible that Mr. Kane sold some of his artwork through these venues which may account for The Three Investigators art which is missing.
Discover more about Harry Kane and his artwork on the following pages:
Of special interest to series book enthusiasts and historians, Harry Kane painted at least two covers for a couple of other well-known series books for boys published by Grosset & Dunlap: the Rick Brant series and the Tom Swift Jr. series. Only a handful of original paintings are known to exist from either of these two series and, because G&D didn't credit them, the names of the cover artists are largely unknown. The information found with these two paintings indicates that Kane painted at least nine covers in total for G&D. The two pictured at left and the cover for Red Skelton's Favorite Ghost Stories were discovered together. Where are the other six and what books are they for? It's likely that Kane painted only the one cover for the Rick Brant series but it's possible that he created a few more for the Tom Swift Jr. series.
Original 1968 cover art for Rick Brant #23 Danger Below! Now residing in a private collection.
Original 1969 cover art for Tom Swift Jr. #31 Dyna-4 Capsule.
Collection of James D. Keeline
Note: In January of 2006 I was contacted by Harry Kane's daughters, Hadiya and Janice, who were eager to provide accurate biographical information and to correct some errors which previously appeared on this page. In addition, they were able to share many personal insights and stories about their father which can be found by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.