Biography: Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1822-1888) is often credited with the founding of American illustration. He was born to a theatrical family in Philadelphia. He was self-taught artist, honing his drawing skills while a teen-aged apprenctice for a local railroad line. His early sketches won the attention of Edgar Allen Poe, an editor of the periodical The Saturday Museum; Poe published a group of Darley's caricatures. By mid-1841, Darely was hired as a staff artist for Graham's Lady's and Gentleman's Magazine. He then published Scenes in Indian Life: A Series of Original Designs Etched on Stone (Philadelphia: J. R. Colon) in 1843, to great acclaim.
During the late 1840s, he began a series of prints illustrating popular stories including some by Washington Irving. These were issued as prints, not book illustrations, in conjunction with the American Art Union; they were acquired by subscription by many middle-class households. During his lengthy career, his illustrations appeared in books by authors such as Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Fennimore Cooper, Clement Clarke Moore, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Darley was also known as a bank note designer. In addition, his work appeared in the New York Mercury, a forerunner of the dime novel, itself a predecessor of pulp magazines.
For his 1856 commission to illustrate the complete works of James Fennimore Cooper, Darley's images were reproduced photographically onto steel, essentially eliminating the artistic license of the engraver.
According to his entry in the Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame, "without (Darley's) influence...this profession...wouldn't exist in America."
Source: Society of Illustrators, New York