New Book – The Merchant of Venus: The Life of Walter Thornton – A Pioneer’s Odyssey through Beauty, Modeling, and Advertising in America

 The untold story of the man in the iconic 1929 Stock Market Crash photo, now a cultural phenomenon.

Walter Thornton, a prominent presence in the New York City beauty and modeling scene during the 1920s and beyond, retreated from public view following a damaging trial. This forthcoming book unveils his significant contributions and subsequent downfall.

Two sisters stumbled upon their father’s impactful history through an unanticipated discovery: an iconic image appearing in the 2003 film “Seabiscuit,” now widely recognized, as the 1929 Bankrupt Investor image shattering the notion of his family that he was an ordinary businessman.

Walter Thornton was no ordinary man; he was a trailblazer in the worlds of modeling, beauty, and advertising, leaving an indelible mark on American society.

He was a prominent male model during the Jazz age and later made history by founding the first agency exclusively for photographic advertising models in 1930. Notably, during World War II, he played a pivotal role in sparking the patriotic Pin-Up Girl movement.

His influence extended to Hollywood, where he discovered and represented future movie icons such as Lauren Bacall, Susan Hayward, Joseph Cotten, and the legendary Grace Kelly.

Bestowed with the moniker “The Merchant of Venus” by columnist Walter Winchell, Thornton displayed a keen talent for shaping cultural tides until a tragic event in 1954 tarnished his reputation. Fueled by their deep affection for their father, the sisters embarked on a journey to unravel his downfall, revealing connections to the era’s HUAC/McCarthy persecutions.

“The Merchant of Venus” unearths a previously overlooked chapter of history through the chronicles Walter Thornton’s life odyssey, showcasing his triumphs, courage, and resilience. 

A Trailblazer in Modeling, Advertising, WWII Pin-Up Girls, and Shaping Future Stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age
A Trailblazer in Modeling, Advertising, WWII Pin-Up Girls, and Shaping Future Stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age

Authored by Nancy Thornton Navarro and Adriana Thornton-Cornejo, his daughters with Philip Mershon (writer/historian). The daughters dedicated over two decades piecing together his story through their own father’s archives, interviews, and extensive research, including records from the Library of Congress. The sisters working diligently behind the scenes aspire to safeguard and enrich history by uncovering its missing elements. To support their cause, they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish their historical discoveries. If you’re interested in supporting their efforts, please sign up here for more information:

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