William James Aylward studied art at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Students League in New York City, and with the famous illustrator and teacher, Howard Pyle. Aylward began his professional career by writing and illustrating 18th century marine history for magazines such as Harper’s and Scribner’s.
Aylward’s artwork also appeared in illustrated editions of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Jack London’s Sea Wolf. He combined his interest in the sea and his abilities as an illustrator to produce advertisements featuring nautical themes. In addition to his proficiency as an illustrator, W.J. Aylward was an award-winning artist and received a number of prestigious prizes, such as the Salmagundi Club’s Shaw Prize and the Philadelphia Color Club’s Beck Prize for his work before the war.