Julius Bloch (1888 - 1966) was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in the early 1920s, at the same time his friend Ethel Ashton was attending the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design). Both artists shared a passion for the Graphic Sketch Club (now the Fleisher Art Memorial) and may have first become acquainted while taking classes there on Sunday afternoons in the 1920s and 1930s.
Ashton came to know Bloch well and admire his work in the 1950s-70s through her roles as librarian and manager of the Fellowship program at the Academy, where he had become an instructor. Both were dedicated to creating images of city life and the integration of African Americans into urban culture, thus reinterpreting the great Philadelphia traditions in social realism and the illustration arts. Empathetic towards the working class, Bloch would depict workingmen with a dignity often reserved for commissioned portraits. This was likely due to Bloch's German Jewish family (coming to Philadelphia in 1893) having their own financial troubles, giving him a large window through which to view the Depression's emotional weight.