A sketch by Gene Boshko

The costume designer Gene or Gene Boshko

Gene or Gene Boshko

A while ago I acquired a few delightful costume sketches sighed ‘Gene’ and dating from the 1920s. Further research has revealed that the artist was named Gene Boshko – but who was Gene or Gene Boshko?

The drawings came from a batch of about 30 or so costume designs some signed ‘Gene’ and others with a different signature but seemingly ‘Gene Boshko’.  On first glance there were similarities: the Gene part of the signature was very similar on both; the eyes had slanted upper lashes and the hands were similar in style.

The seller told me that they thought that the drawings were all created by the same person and said the name of the designer was ‘Gene Boshko’.  I presume that the idea was that the signature had changed over time from one to the other perhaps indicating a change in marital status.

Costume design by 'Gene' (taken from the internet) on left and Costume design by 'Gene Boshko' (taken from the internet)
Costume design by ‘Gene’ (taken from the internet) on left and Costume design by ‘Gene Boshko’ (taken from the internet)

When I first wrote my original post in 2012, I could not find much online with only one listing for ‘Gene Boshko.’ However, now in 2022, and thanks to Paul Hartis for his encouragement, I have now made some considerable progress.

It would appear that ‘Gene’ was in fact born 22nd September 1898 in Duquesne, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and her name was Imogene. Her father was Lincoln A. Smith and her mother Gertrude M. Larimer (born 1872) who married after her birth in June 1901. Seemingly the marriage did not last long. Her surname appeared to have been variously Larimer Smith or just Larimer. Oddly, no listing can be found for her in the US census for 1900, 1910 or 1920.  Presumably, at some point she migrated to the East Coast.

Costume design by 'Gene'
Costume design by ‘Gene’ (in the author’s collection)

One of her drawings was annotated ‘used at the opening of Crandall’s Tivoli Theatre, Washington DC.’ It was matched with a small photograph of the finished costume in situ. This shows that a stage show was presented as part of the programme. Harry M Crandall owned theaters in Washington DC and opened the Tivoli Theater as a movie palace, at 3215 14th Street on 5th April 1924.

It is clear that ‘Gene’ was active in 1924 as a costume designer and was supplying sketches for theatrical costumes. I hasten to guess that she was working for a costume house perhaps based in New York but sadly there are no listings or reports of her activities online.

A costume design by 'Gene' seen at the opening of the Tivoli Theatre, Washington DC, 1924

A costume design by ‘Gene’ seen at the opening of the Tivoli Theatre, Washington DC, 1924


A costume by 'Gene' seen at the Tivoli Theatre, Washington DC 1924
A costume by ‘Gene’ seen at the Tivoli Theatre, Washington DC 1924

Crandall continued to present stage shows in support of a movie and during the week of 4th May 1924, the Exhibitor’s Trade Review noted that Crandall capitalised on the title of the movie ‘Three O’Clock in the Morning’ with an all-jazz program produced by S Barret tMcCormack with a prologue of ‘The Palace of Jazz’ and “Jazz Heaven’ with 40 performers. Given Gene’s involvement in the launch of the stage presentation she may well have been involved in this and subsequent shows. 

Costume design by 'Gene'
Costume design by ‘Gene’ (in the author’s collection)

The next that is known about ‘Gene’ is the inferred date of her marriage in 1928 to George K. Boshko (born 1895 in New York) from the 1930 US census, where it was detailed that she had been married for 2 years. In 1930 she was living with her husband at Apt 51, 1725 Bayview Apartments, Brooklyn and she was at the time a sales lady in a department store.  Her husband was a musician and, earlier in April 1919, he had joined a band playing aboard the SS Vestris sailing for South America returning to New York in June 1919.

Costume design by 'Gene'
Costume design by ‘Gene’ (in the author’s collection)

Sometime in the 1930s ‘Gene’ had moved to Jackson Heights, Queens and in 1940 her address was 92nd Street Jackson Heights, Queens. By 1939 she was President of the student union at Queensboro Art Centre, Flushing and Chairman of the local Arts Club and remained very much involved in the local arts scene well into the 1960s.

For example, in the summer of 1939 she was photographed in a story with the caption ‘Gene Boshko of Elmhurst, president of the student union (at Queensboro Art Centre, Flushing), demonstrates how a few odds and ends picked up in the corner of the pantry can be converted into an object d’art.’  (Long Island Star and Journal June 1939)

A costume design by 'Gene' 1920s
A costume design by ‘Gene’ 1920s

Another story in August 1939 reported about an exhibition at the Queensboro Community Art Center, Flushing that depicted the range, character and influence of design and ornament in home life of 17th and 18th century America. Mrs Imogene Boshko was noted again as president of the Student Art Council and had been giving instruction in sculpture at the exhibition. (Long Island Star Journal 16/8/39).Sometime in 1940 Gene Boshko announced a sketch hour at the Bronx zoo and she also exhibited with many others in a window display at Josephson’s 136-76 Rossevelt Ave, Flushing.

In April and May 1941 ‘Gene’ was one of 11 Flushing artists exhibiting paintings, drawings and sculpture in the Ben Wilson Studio at 38 West 22nd Street, in New York.

By 1942 the Boshko’s were living at 89th Street, Jackson Heights, Queens and George K. Boshko was working as a musician at Parkside Restaurant, 208 Parkside Ave, Brooklyn.

Costume design by 'Gene Boshko'
Costume design by ‘Gene Boshko’ (ten from the internet)

In the summer of 1943 ‘Gene’ was involved in a charity tea event given by the Jackson Heights American Women’s Voluntary Services, with musical entertainment and an art exhibit that she had arranged. In June 1960 ‘Gene’ was one of many artists exhibiting at

4th annual outdoor art exhibit of the Women’s Art Alliance in Flushing and in November 1963, described as Imogene Boshko, she gave a demonstration about enamel painting and talked about her work at a meeting for the same organisation.

Nothing more is known about her until her death in February 1979.

It would be helpful if anyone knows anything about ‘Gene’ or ‘Gene Boshko’ and has any further information about her activities as a costume designer in the 1920s or 1930s.

Costume Designs by ‘Gene’

Costume Designs by ‘Gene Boshko’

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