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Casper Emerson, Jr.
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Oslo, Norway
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
Casper Emerson, Jr. was an illustrator and commercial artist whose works appeared in newspapers, magazines, books, trading cards, comic books and World War I propaganda posters. Emerson was born in Oslo, Norway in 1878. His family moved to Switzerland in 1886, then immigrated to the United States in 1889. They lived in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where Emerson attended local schools but left school in 1893 after his freshman year of high school to work as an artist for a local newspaper. Later in that decade he lived in Philadelphia and worked for a daily newspaper, the Philadelphia North American as a fashion artist. Emerson became an American citizen in 1897. Around 1898 he met and fell in love with the fashion model and Wellesley College graduate Kathryn Hadley (1879-1934), the daughter of a Yale University professor. One of her obituaries describes Emerson as a wealthy member of a socially-prominent Philadelphia family. The couple eloped to Brooklyn where they were married in 1899 and established their home in New York City. During the first decade of the new century Emerson created illustrations for a variety of magazines and newspapers, including the The Hampton Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, Recreation Magazine, the New York Journal and the New York Herald Tribune. Within a few years Emerson and his wife were participants in one of the most notorious marriage scandals of the time and the subject of extensive newspaper coverage. Around 1907 Mrs. Emerson fell in love with the Hungarian Gypsy violinist Jancsi Rigó (1858-1927), known as “Prince Rigo,” who was then married to her cousin Clara Ward (1873-1916), the Princess Chimay (from her previous marriage to a Belgian prince). Clara Ward divorced Rigo, permitting her cousin Kathryn to marry Rigo in 1910 after her divorce from Emerson earlier that year. The 1910 Federal census recorded Emerson as a single man living in Brooklyn, working as an illustrator. One of his projects that year was the creation (along with fellow artist Leon D’Emo) of eight full-page illustrations for an edition of “The Arabian Nights,” part of the series of “Golden Books for Children” published in New York by Baker & Taylor Co. Also that year Emerson married his second wife, Elizabeth (1888-1927). They had two children, a son Casper Emerson III (1911-2001) and a daughter Andria (b. 1916). The Emersons moved to Hackensack, New Jersey in 1916, while he continued to work in Manhattan. In addition to his work as a commercial artist, Emerson designed posters to support the war effort after America’s entry into World War I. He won honorable mention for his entry to the poster division of the 1918 War Savings Stamp Competition, an art contest sponsored by the New York War Savings Committee and the American Institute of Graphic Arts, with entries for advertisements and cartoons and for car and window cards in addition to posters. In Emerson’s poster, War Savings Stamps morph into ammunition for a Browning machine gun manned by a group of soldiers. Another poster with the same image but revised text is in the collection of the Fine Arts Museums. Emerson’s illustration work continued to flourish during the 1920s. At some point he moved back to New York City, perhaps after his wife Elizabeth died in 1927, and by 1930 was living with his children in an apartment in the Bronx. One account (Saunders) suggests that Emerson was forced to take less remunerative work during the Depression. By 1935 his children had apparently left his home and he was a boarder in an apartment in Manhattan. The 1940 Federal census reported that he worked for only six weeks during 1939. During the early 1940s he found work illustrating several of Dell Publishing’s nine Fairy Tale Parade comic book issues, a series led by cartoonist Walt Kelly (1913-1973), an issue of Power Comics featuring “Dr. Mephisto” and various detective pulp fiction magazines. In 1945 Emerson retired to live with his sister in Picture Rocks, Pennsylvania; he died in 1948. (TNB 4/2018) Selected bibliography: Saunders, David. “C. Emerson (1878-1948).