As I started researching some of the key personalities behind Jeep, a fortuitous search for “Go-Devil” led me down a rabbit hole from which I have yet to fully emerge.

I stumbled upon a beautifully-illustrated Willys ad in Life Magazine, and started browsing for more. I noticed that the style on the ones I found were similar, and that the style changed after the war.

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James Milton Sessions, Morning, Gloucester harbor
James Milton Sessions, Morning, Gloucester harbor
Graphic: James Sessions

When I looked more closely at the wartime ads, I found a signature on the artwork: Sessions. That led me to discover the artist, James Sessions.

Sessions was widely recognized for his maritime work (he worked as a wheelsman on the Great Lakes before WWI and served in the Illinois Naval Reserve) and military scenes from WWII.


As this piece describes, Willys’ ads transitioned early in the war from “We make Jeep so you should buy our Americar” to a more indirect sales pitch focused on what Jeeps were doing overseas to help our boys (and the Russians, too).

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Two particularly noteworthy aspects to this ad: notice the pre-Ford-reworked grille, and where have we seen “The People’s Car” before?
Two particularly noteworthy aspects to this ad: notice the pre-Ford-reworked grille, and where have we seen “The People’s Car” before?

A happy side effect to this change in focus was the introduction of Sessions’ art.

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Sessions’ work for Willys was gorgeous.

I don’t know nearly enough about art to make any observations about the brushwork or colors, but look at the brushwork and colors!

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Cropped view of Sessions’ artwork for “Signal Corps Unit Beats Ring of Death”
Cropped view of Sessions’ artwork for “Signal Corps Unit Beats Ring of Death”
Illustration: James Milton Sessions

I’m going to have to spend more time down this rabbit hole, but in the meantime, enjoy what I’ve found so far.

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Illustration for article titled Willys Ads, WWII
Illustration for article titled Willys Ads, WWII
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Illustration for article titled Willys Ads, WWII
Illustration for article titled Willys Ads, WWII
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Illustration for article titled Willys Ads, WWII
Illustration for article titled Willys Ads, WWII
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Illustration for article titled Willys Ads, WWII
Illustration for article titled Willys Ads, WWII
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Illustration for article titled Willys Ads, WWII
Illustration for article titled Willys Ads, WWII
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Illustration for article titled Willys Ads, WWII
Sessions channeling Rockwell here. I suspect this is the last ad Sessions did for Willys.
Sessions channeling Rockwell here. I suspect this is the last ad Sessions did for Willys.
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Notice the new art style: I would wager this was the first post-Sessions ad.
Notice the new art style: I would wager this was the first post-Sessions ad.

If you’re interested in diving into your own rabbit hole, here are a couple of places to start. As tempting as it is to buy a copy of every Sessions/Willys ad I can find on eBay, I would like to not go entirely broke...

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