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Fred Harmon (1902-1982)
August 30, 2023 2 min read
Fred Harman (February 9, 1902 - January 2, 1982) was an American cartoonist, best known for his popular Red Ryder comic strip, which he drew for 25 years, reaching 40 million readers through 750 newspapers. The Red Ryder Round-up is an annual July 4 weekend event in Pagosa Springs. Harman sometimes used the pseudonym Ted Horn.
Fred Harman was the finest brush and ink artist of the Western genre. He was self-taught and his eye for dramatic perspective, the authentic details he put into all of his work, is unmatched.
Born Leslie Fred Harman, he worked as a pressman’s helper at The Kansas City Star, he came in contact with the newspaper’s art staff. When he was 20 years old, he was employed at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, working with Walt Disney as an animator.
Harman and Disney partnered to form their own company but went broke within a year. Harman then went back to Colorado. Harman’s brother, Hugh Harman, was also an animator at Disney’s Kansas City studio.
Among other honors, Harman was one of only 75 white men in history to be adopted into the Navajo Nation. In 1958, he received the Sertoma Award as Colorado’s Outstanding Citizen.
Harman was one of the original 1965 members of the Cowboy Artists of America, along with Joe Beeler, Charlie Dye, John Hampton, and George Phippen; and Harman’s paintings were included in the first annual exhibition of the Cowboy Artists of America on September 9, 1966, at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.
Harman met publisher, writer and comic syndicator Stephen Slesinger in 1938. Slesinger was seeking an outstanding Western artist with knowledge of the authentic period details for a new comic strip he had scripted, called Red Ryder. Harman had a natural gift for drawing scenes from dramatic perspectives. He was a genuine cowboy and was the ideal spokesperson for the Red Ryder Character franchise.
Slesinger brought Harman to New York and worked with him for a year before Red Ryder was ready to be launched through a carefully planned rollout from comic pages, to movies and radio shows, contests, merchandising tie-ins and personal appearances by Fred Harman at charity benefits, schools, and civic and Red Ryder youth enrichment events.