P. W. Costello and Family Art Collection

Joseph W. Costello (1901-1957) - Engrosser

Biographical notes provided by Thomas W. Costello, 2016


Joseph W. Costello was born on February 20, 1901 in the Bellevue section of West Scranton, Pennsylvania, the youngest son of renowned engrosser Patrick W. (P. W.) Costello and Mary Agnes Mahon.

He was trained as an engrosser by his father and in 1924 joined P. W. Costello's Scranton engrossing business. The Costellos worked from a studio in the Scranton Real Estate Building on North Washington Avenue.

Costello attended St. Thomas College (now the University of Scranton), where he was a talented basketball player. After graduating in 1925, he served as the College's first graduate manager of athletics (until 1929) and became a leader in alumni activities, such as the Purple Club. He was also active in community organizations, particularly the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, for which he served as president in 1947. For many years he was a referee for local high school and college basketball games.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Costello created colorful, beautifully-engrossed resolutions honoring Edward J. Lynett, Patrick J. Casey, Bishop William J. Hafey, Isaac E. Oppenheim, Rev. Dr. Henry H. Crane, and many others. He also lettered diplomas for area high schools and colleges, and created certificates and charters for veterans' groups and fraternal organizations.

Unfortunately, Costello had entered the engrossing profession at a time when commercial demand for hand-rendered 'recognition artwork' was beginning to wane. Following World War II, it became popular to use medals, plaques and trophies to recognize personal accomplishment.

After serving with the Army Corps of Engineers during the War, Costello continued to engross resolutions and letter diplomas, but found it necessary to supplement his income by working as a sales representative for Alfa Portland Cement Co., Easton (Pa.), and later for the Bell Telephone Co.

Joseph Costello died on November 12, 1957, following a short illness. He was only 56 years old. He is buried with his father and sister, Agnes, in St. Catherine's Cemetery in Moscow, Pennsylvania.