|Real estate and insurance man A. Vedder Magee circles the planet in Just For Fun. From collections of Grems-Doolittle Library.|
Some time around 1908 or 1909, a cartoonist created scores of caricatures of men prominent in the local community. Those depicted were businessmen and merchants, doctors and dentists, lawyers and judges, political figures, police officers and sheriffs, artists and musicians. The heads of the men are all rendered realistically, as in a photograph, while the men's bodies and surroundings are drawn in a more cartoonish style. The artist also inserted little jokes into the the drawings -- men's clothing store owner Henry Stern is shown being approached by a man wearing a barrel, the general manager of the Schenectady Railway Company skis along on trolleys, and the sun mutters "I am jealous of him" as as it shines behind L. O. Ripley, manager of the Schenectady Illuminating Company. Many of the men in the book are shown with symbols of their hobbies -- such as bowling, fishing, or singing -- in addition to symbols of their vocations. In the excitement of the early age of automobiles, the cars of a select few men are also depicted in loving detail.
The drawings were reproduced and printed in the format of a book, bound between leather covers embossed with the words "Just For Fun." The book's origins are somewhat mysterious. According to a 1953 Union-Star article, the men were all drawn by an itinerant caricaturist: "the name of the artist and his whereabouts are not known. In the book he bound nothing but the caricatures and the names of the men he drew." Although the drawings all appear to be in the same hand, in flipping through the book, we came across two drawings that appear to be signed. One bears the name "Berryman," while another is signed "Thomson." Given the approximate year and the focus on the professional, business, and civic leaders of the city, it's possible that the drawings could have been produced for the Schenectady's Board of Trade's week-long "Skedaddle to Schenectady" fair in 1909. Or perhaps it was indeed produced "just for fun." A few of the images from the book are included below.
|Builder William F. Hanrahan overlooks his Schenectady building empire in Just For Fun. Hanrahan was one of many builders depicted in the books, as Schenectady grew in leaps and bounds during the era. From collections of Grems-Doolittle Library.|
|Caricature of Dr. George W. Bates from Just For Fun. From collections of Grems-Doolittle Library.|
|Alderman Harry G. Ellis outlines his plans for public baths in Just For Fun. From collections of Grems-Doolittle Library.|
|Bad guys tremble before Sheriff William H. Hathaway in Just For Fun. From collections of Grems-Doolittle Library.|