Biography: Palmer Cox (1840-1924) was born in Quebec, Canada. He began his career as a railroad contractor, and spent some time working in Panama. In 1863, he moved to San Francisco, where he remained until 1875. In 1874, he undertook formal art studies at School of Design (San Francisco State University) and was active with the Graphic Club.
During his years in California, he contributed cartoons and caricatures to magazines such as Golden Era and Alta California. He also published the book Squibs of California (1865), a compilation of humorous prose and poetry illustrated with caricatures.
Cox moved to New York in 1875, where he illustrated for major magazines. He also traveled to Europe and kept a studio in London. The Brownies that gained him permanent and wide-spread fame - cheerful sprites based on such characters in English and Scottish folklore - appeared in 1881, although he had drawn similar elves earlier. The first Brownie story debuted in St. Nicholas in February 1883.
The Brownies were the first American characters to be copyrighted and licensed, setting an example followed by Rose O'Neill's Kewpies, among others including Walt Disney. Sixteen of Cox's 25 books featured the Brownies. The figures populated advertisements and packaging for everything from medical remedies to paperweights. In 1900, Eastman Kodak Company named its inexpensive (one dollar) camera the Brownie, and used a figure almost identical to Cox's in its promotions. However, Kodak did not compensate Cox for the usage. The Brownies appeared in two plays by Cox. One toured nationally for five years after its New York run, furthering Cox's reputation.
By 1905 Cox returned to Quebec and built Brownie Castle, a large ornate home. He continued working, contributing to St. Nicholas, creating advertising campaigns, and publishing an elementary school primer, among other projects. He died there in 1924.
He never married or had children.