An itinerant, self-taught sketch artist for Harper & Brothers, Charles Graham was born in Rock Island, Illinois, and his drawings were in nearly every issue of Harper’s from 1880 to 1992. His most favored subject was town views.
Before working for Harper’s, Graham was a painter of theater backdrops in Chicago and then hired out as a topographer for the Northern Pacific Railroad survey. He was present when the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1883, and covered the subject of railroads extensively for Harper’s.
In the fall of 1884, he traveled to New Orleans with John Durkin and made a sketch of the city as an illustration of the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Expo.