William de la Montagne Cary
Born: Rockland (Lake Tappan), NY 1840
Died: Boston, Massachusetts 1922

Important Western genre painter, illustrator

An established illustrator for Harper’s and Leslie’s when he was 20, Cary with two other youths left NYC in 1860 to start a storybook trip west with no particular destination in mind. They took the river boat Spread Eagle from St. Louis in May 1861, transferring to the Chippewa at Fort Union in mid-June to see the upper Missouri. On the way to Fort Benton, the boat caught fire and the entire party returned on a handmade flatboat. The young New Yorkers remained at Fort Union for six weeks, exploring with the neighboring Indians. In August, they joined a wagon train for Fort Benton that was captured by Crow Indians, than freed because of the presence of an official of the fur company. From Benton in September, the three youths started west again with only a guide and a cook, until by chance after 300 miles on their own, they met with a railway survey team that took them toward Portland, Oregon. Cary left for home via San Francisco and the Isthmus, arriving at the outbreak of the Civil War and loaded with sketches of the forts along the upper Missouri just before the forts were abandoned.

Cary then spent the rest of his life painting the West from his sketches and his memory, beginning about 1866 and continuing for at least 30 years. His illustrations appeared in Leslie’s Weekly, Harper’s Weekly, Scribner’s, etc. He also illustrated the account of his 1860 trip written in 1895 by one of his companions. He made at least one other trip west, in the summer of 1874 when he was invited to accompany the US Government’s survey of the Northern Boundary.

Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing