Coolidge was born in the town of Philadelphia, New York in 1847. As an adult, he moved to the city of Antwerp, New York, where he worked a wide variety of jobs, often at the same time. He created Philadelphia's first bank, first newspaper, painted street signs, and pursued his interest in art.
After a trip to Europe in 1873, where he studied the work of the masters (including Georges de La Tour), Coolidge took up residence in Rochester, New York, where he became interested in photography. During this time, he was credited with the invention of "photographic caricatures". These became popular in Coney Island and numerous other beaches and amusement parks worldwide, where lifesized amusement park displays depicted musclemen, mermaids, and the like. Millions of tourists were soon sticking their face through the holes in these displays and having their picture taken.
Shortly after his return from Europe, Coolidge started creating the works of art for which he is famous. His first sales were to cigar companies that printed copies of his paintings, but he later established a lucrative relationship with Brown and Bigelow, the printmakers responsible for establishing the careers of Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish, amongst others. Soon, Coolidge was outselling both Rockwell and Parrish, becoming arguably the most reproduced American artist ever.
So, what works of Coolidge have you seen before? Probably this one...
Interesting note: while I was researching this, I noticed a post from someone looking for information about Cassius Coolidge, and clued them in... only to discover that they were the person who created RETRO, which used to be one of my favorite webzines several years back. RETRO was a damn kickass webzine on all that is retro, and it peaked at over a half million readers a month... unfortunately, it fell on hard times during the whole dotcom shakeup. Apparently it is in the process of redesign, however (I found a link to what their redesign looks like... just add content!), and will be relaunched shortly, which is great news.
She liked my little post about Coolidge, and will be using it, gratis. I might also try submitting the occasional article to them, too. Very cool... lo-ooove that site. I'll have to post something in my journal when Retro goes live again.