The Light Brahma breed was originated by American poultry farmers between 1845 and 1860 from fowls imported from India. By the 1910s, it had grown in popularity and there was a national organization dedicated to the breed, the American Light Brahma Club. Megargee was apparently involved in raising purebred chickens as well as drawing them: in 1916 he ran an ad offering Light Brahmas for sale from the farm his family owned in Cranford, New Jersey. The American Light Brahma Club commissioned 45 illustrations for its 1914 yearbook, an 88-page monograph on the breed which the club claimed was “the most complete and authoritative treatise on any one variety of poultry published in years.” A 1919 article notes Megargee had judged Light Brahmas at the club’s annual meeting and at a poultry show in Madison Square Garden. Later he would become similarly involved in breeding purebred dogs and taking leadership roles in dog organizations.
Edwin Megargee (born Sylvester Edwin Megargee, Jr.) was an American painter, illustrator, printmaker and sculptor, known for his sporting subjects and animal paintings, especially of fine purebred dogs, horses, fowl and livestock. Based in New York, he worked out of a studio in Union Square for most of his career. Megargee was raised in a large, affluent Pennsylvania family, who had a country home outside Philadelphia. After a year at Georgetown University, he transferred to Drexel University to study art, graduating in 1904. Upon graduating he began working as a newspaper and children’s book illustrator. In 1912, he illustrated a textbook on domestic fowl, which launched his career as an animal artist. By 1915 he had established a studio in New York, where he studied under Kenyon Cox and others at the Art Students League. During the 1920s, Megargee began breeding Scottish terriers in collaboration with the dog artist Marguerite Kirmse, and began serving in various official roles in the Scottish Terrier Club of America and the American Kennel Club.
Megargee’s work was grounded in close observation of animals and study of the underlying anatomy. He was also a keen observer of the distinctive characteristics that define an individual animal. Since he worked only from on-site sketches and not from photographs, his contemporaries noted how he had a striking ability to establish a rapport with the animals he painted to keep them calm and responsive. Nevertheless, he adamantly avoided sentimentalizing his subjects. From the 1920s until his death in 1958, Megargee was in demand for private animal portrait commissions and for illustrations for advertising agencies; sporting magazines such as Country Life, Hunting and Fishing and Field and Stream. He also illustrated over 20 books on dogs, horses, and other domestic animals. These include Thomas McGrew’s Book of Poultry (1912 and 1921), Charles Beebe’s A Monograph of Pheasants, Julie Campbell Tatham’s World Book of Dogs and his own reference book The Dog Dictionary. In addition, he created the Greyhound Bus logo, an enduring icon of American popular culture since 1934.
Advertisements in The Field Illustrated: A Journal of Advanced Agriculture. Vol., 26, December 1916. p. 1005. Online at Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=PUoSAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA1005 (29 June 2015).
Chilvers, Brooke. “Edwin Megargee: Portrayer of America’s Finest Bovines, Equines, and Canines.” Brooke’s Sporting Art Gallery. February 2015.
http://www.brookessportingartgallery.com/MEGARGEE/megargee.html (29 June 2015).
“Clubs and Associations.” American Poultry Advocate. Vol. 27, November 1919. p.585. Online at Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=h0A6AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA585 (29 June 2015).
Fernandez, Amy. “Artist Edwin Megargee.” The Canine Chronicle. 14 May 2012. http://caninechronicle.com/?p=3040 (29 June 2015).
“The American Light Brahma Club Year Book.” The Poultry Item. Vol. 17, June 1914. p. 35. Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=68FJAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA7-PA35 (29 June 2015).
The Book of Poultry. 2nd ed. New York: Macmillan, 1921. pp. 306 and 308. Online at: http://archive.org/stream/bookofpoultry00mcgr#page/306/mode/2up/search/light+brahma (29 June 2015).