One of the potentially greatest illustrators of college football programs gave us a brief glimpse of his genius and then went on to pursue other interests.
Thomas Byrd Epps was born in Dayton Ohio on November 9, 1896. He attended the University of Pennsylvania from 1915 through 1920. While at Penn, Epps was a member of the Varsity Club, was the track manager in 1918 and won the Beaux-Arts Medals in 1919 and 1920. He was also member of the Sphinx Senior Society. The only hint of his genius was that he was the arts editor of Punch Bowl magazine, Penn’s humorous and satirical student magazine.
The one pure genius piece of work Epps did is the Cornell v. Penn Football program from 1919 for a game played at Franklin Field Philadelphia. The cover illustration is one of the greatest of all time. It shows an angel standing atop the earth with a scale. On either side of the scale is a player from Cornell and Penn, as if the angel is trying to decide who will win. The use of color is brilliant, as is the tinge of humor in the scene. It is not surprising that Epps has a point of view; the Penn player is higher, and the Cornell player below is protesting. How imaginative Epps was.
Another Epps gem is below, the Pennsylvania Punch Bowl from 1917, which shows a young lass dancing in an enticing fashion in front of a very old man:
Epps graduated with a degree in architecture and went on the live in Boston. He was a partner in several firms including Graves and Epps and Thomas Byrd Epps, Inc. He lived a long life, dying in 1980.
We will never know how much more pleasure Epps could have given us if he had chosen to pursue the field of art.
We have a great selection of Penn programs on our website: