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Born in Rock Island, Illinois, in 1852, Charles Graham was a self-taught painter, draftsman, and cartographer. As a young man he worked as a mapmaker for the Northern Pacific Railroad in Montana and Idaho. By 1874 he had embarked on a career as a scenery painter in Chicago and New York City. He joined the staff of "Harper's Weekly" magazine in 1877 and contributed illustrations to the magazine until 1892. On assignments for "Harper's", Graham traveled the American West, and in 1886 he toured the post-civil War South with his fellow-artist Horace Bradley, creating drawings that were published in a series of articles on the "New South." Graham left "Harper's" in 1893 and was a freelance illustrator for the "New York Herald", "Collier's" magazine, and the "American Lithograph Company". He was the official artist of the Chicago World Columbian Exposition of 1893.
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