The Nation’s Nightmare Shooter Boy

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Fifties, Spoken word

Less rare than the Night Beat ep box, yet still pretty rare is this other 1950’s spoken word album with radio broadcasts and Warhol cover design: The Nation’s Nightmare. According to the archives of the American Institute of Graphic Arts only 2.936 copies were pressed.

The album was released in 1951 or 1952, and contains two CBS radio documentaries from a series about crime in America, that were aired in the Summer of 1951: Traffic in Narcotics and Crime on The Waterfront.

In 1951 the show was promoted by CBS Radio with a full page newspaper ad. Andy Warhol won his first award as a professional artist for his illustration of this ad. The Art Directors Club of New York awarded Warhol (and art director Lou Dorfsman) with the Art Directors Club Medal in the category ‘Newspaper advertising art, General illustration’ for the impressive blotted line drawing of a boy shooting drugs with a syringe. The ad was published in the New York Times on September 13th, 1951, the day the Traffic in Narcotics show was aired for the second time. It is not known to me if there were similar ads for the other shows.

The same drawing also illustrates the cover and one of the labels of the Nation’s Nightmare LP. A second drawing of two men fighting in the harbor illustrates the other documentary about Crime on The Waterfront.

It is well known that Warhol’s drawings in that era were usually based on existing photographs, usually from his boyfriend Ed Wallowitch or pictures taken from LIFE Magazine. The illustration of the Nation’s Nightmare drugs story shows how incredibly creative he was in this matter: the boy on the original picture was a shooter alright, but not with a syringe, he was a gunman.  A fragment of the original photograph can be found in the amazing book Andy Warhol – The Life Years 1949 – 1959. Photographer Frank Cushing of The Boston Herald in 1948 won a Pulitzer Prize for his picture “Boy Gunman and Hostage”, of a 15-year-old boy who had committed a robbery, shot a police officer and held another 15-year-old hostage at gunpoint.


The Nation’s Nightmare: front cover.


The Nation’s Nightmare: back cover. The award winning New York Times newspaper ad is shown at the left.



The drawing printed in the ’31st Annual of National Advertising and Editorial Art’, Art Directors Club of New York, 1952. Warhol and Dorfsman were awarded a medal in the category Newspaper Advertising Art.


An alternative full body drawing of the drugs shooter as printed in ‘Andy Warhol – The LIFE Years 1949-1959’, Hirmer Publishers


(Fragment of) Frank Cushing’s picture ‘Boy Gunman and Hostage’, source of the Warhol Nation’s Nightmare drawing, as printed in ‘Andy Warhol – The LIFE Years 1949-1959’, Hirmer Publishers.

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