Ben Austrian

(American, 1870 - 1921)

Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Ben Austrian attended school in his hometown until he started working as a traveling representative for his father’s business, a job that allowed him to visit museums in New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and St. Louis. When his father died in 1897, he took over the family business but soon sold it, gave the profits to his mother, and pursued a career as an artist. Austrian became very successful, and one of his first paintings of a chick named Coal Black Lady was acquired by the Philadelphia department store magnate John Wanamaker. In 1902 Austrian went to Europe and opened a studio in Paris. After returning to the United States he settled in Reading, and spent winters in Palm Beach, Florida. He also had a summer home in the mountains near Kempton in northern Berks County, Pennsylvania. One of Austrian’s best known ventures was his series of advertisements for the Bon Ami Company, many of which represented chicks accompanied by his wife Molly posing as a housewife who always used the cleanser "Hasn't Scratched Yet". The trademark chicks are still used by the company. Austrian's remarkable career ended prematurely with his sudden death at the age of fifty-one. A retrospective exhibition of his work was mounted by the Historical Society of Berks County in 1982.