In part one of our blog series on Jewel Flowers, we explored how the model rose from teenaged North Carolina beauty queen to become muse and adored friend to illustrator and Father of American Pin-Up, Rolf Armstrong as well as how the pair’s keen eye for fashion translated into the gorgeous costumes seen in Armstrong’s pastels. The pairing of artist and model launched the duo to a level of success and recognition that neither could have predicted.
Rolf Armstrong’s work featuring Jewel Flowers granted them both fame and an almost celebrity status. Along with her image appearing as airplane nose art, Flowers also became a potent symbol of the idealized girl-back-home that soldiers were fighting to protect. Flowers’ popularity among soldiers became so great that letters simply addressed to “Jewel Flowers, New York City” or “Jewel Flowers, Lumberton” were successfully delivered to her, and treasured by Flowers for the remainder of her life. These letters inundated her with requests for pictures, declarations of love, and soldiers simply writing about their struggles abroad and wanting to hear about how it was going in the civilian world.
Grapefruit Moon Gallery has been fortunate enough to come into a collection of items from Jewel Flowers’ personal estate and included in this historical treasure trove is a bundle of these letters from soldiers that Jewel had saved.
The intimacy and familiarity these soldiers display with Jewel in these letters stands out. They write to her as if they are close friends or as if Jewel were the girl they left at home. Jewel was not just a celebrity or model who was unattainable to the common masses. She stood in for wives, lovers, even mothers, and her approachable beaming smile evoked the wholesome pleasures of a nostalgically remembered home.
The letters, with their passionate appeals and simple reminiscences, offer a unique window into the wartime mentality of the soldiers and the significance of the pin up as World War II morale booster, above and beyond the beauty the image of a curvaceous beauty could bring to a barracks.