Walter Harrison Cady
“Cady is, fundamentally, a humorist. He is at his illustrative best when there is a twinkle in his eye and nonsensical fantasies are taking shape on his board. It was his zoological extravaganzas that brought him fame… Cady’s cartoons, all his drawings indeed, have been characterized by the most meticulous execution, elaborate scenes being filled with infinite detail – something going on all over the place. He loved to represent an entire town or countryside alive with insects garbed and acting as foolish as their human prototypes.”**
Harrison Cady, dubbed by the Boston Daily Globe as “the man who dreams bugs,” was an American illustrator and author best known for his Peter Rabbit comic strip, which he wrote and drew for 28 years.
Born in Gardner, Massachusetts, he moved to New York City at the age of 19 to work as an illustrator for the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper and as a freelance to several other publications. In 1900, he became a staff artist and cartoonist for Life Magazine. During a career that spanned 70 years, Cady worked for the nation’s most popular publications, including St. Nicholas Magazine, Boys' Life, Saturday Evening Post, Ladies' Home Journal, Good Housekeeping and Country Gentleman.
Harrison Cady is best known for his collaboration with writer Thornton W. Burgess, producing dozens of books and hundreds of comics featuring both fantastic and realistic animal illustrations. In 1910, they published their first book, Old Mother West Wind, in which Cady illustrated “the adventures of the animals in the Green Forest.” Their partnership would continue for five decades, with Cady’s animated illustrations of the very popular animal characters, including Peter Rabbit, Jimmy Skunk, Chippy Chipmunk, Reddy Fox and many others. During this time Harrison Cady also authored and illustrated several books, including his Butternut Hill series, Johnny Funny-Bunny's Picnic Party and Spring Moving Day.
He was a regular Rockport, Massachusetts summer visitor. In 1920, he bought Rockport’s “The Headlands” harbor-front estate and made this his permanent home. Not far away he built a round studio known as “The Silo” and began to devote more time to etchings and oil paintings of landscapes and marine subjects, longing to be what he described as a "regular" artist.
In 1921, Cady was one of the founders of the Rockport Art Association. He exhibited at the National Academy of Design, held membership with the American Society of Etchers and with the American Watercolor Society, and participated in the New York World’s Fair in 1938.
Harrison Cady died in 1970 in his home in New York City.
**Quote from Forty Illustrators and How They Work, by Ernest W. Watson. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, Inc., 1947, pgs. 51-58