Robert Arthur Cameron was born March 5, 1885 in Warren, Massachusetts. His father, Robert C. Cameron, was born 1858 in Scotland, and in 1864, at the age of six, came to America and settled in Connecticut. His mother, Mary Ann Bonner, was born 1860 in England, and in 1880, at the age of nineteen, came to America and also moved to CT. His parents married in 1882 and had four children. His older brother James was born in 1883. His younger sisters Jessie and Grace were born in 1886 and 1888. His father was a weaver at a textile mill.
In 1884 his father became manager of a textile mill in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, so the family moved to Rhode Island.
Robert A. Cameron finished school in 1897 and worked as an errand boy in the same textile mill, where his father worked, and where his older brother also worked as a weaver.
In 1904 he enrolled full-time as a "Day Student" at the Rhode island School of Design. His art teacher was Isaac Brewster Hazelton (1875-1943), who later become a top pen-and-ink artist at Blue Book and Adventure Magazine.
In 1905 Robert A. Cameron was awarded a scholarship and Honorable Mention from the Providence Art Club.
In 1906 he switched his enrollment status from day classes to night classes. Night school is typically designed to permit students with jobs to continue to study in the evening hours after a day of work, so this move suggests he had begun to work at some local job to support the cost of his education. At that time he was age twenty-one.
In June of 1908 he graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in Life, Sketch, and Illustration.
In 1909 he moved to Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where he was a lodger at 49 Blossom Street. He was able to find only occasional odd jobs as a freelance illustrator.
In 1915 he moved to New York City and lived at 520 West 188th Street, in the Washington Heights area of Upper Manhattan. In those years the area had begun to replace Greenwich Village as New York's most popular "artist colony." Some of the other artists that lived in this neighborhood were Paul Stahr, John Coughlin and Harry T. Fisk.
Robert A. Cameron worked as a staff artist at Blackman Ross Advertising Company at 95 Madison Avenue, near East 29th Street. Here is an example of the work he produced for this advertising company.
On June 6, 1917 he married Laura Marie MacLeod in Manhattan Civil Court. She was born 1893 in Canada of Scottish ancestry, and in 1899, at the age of six, had come to America.
On March 5, 1918 their daughter Dorothy was born. She and her father share the same birthday.
On September 2, 1918, during the Great War. Robert A. Cameron registered with the selective service. He was recorded to be thirty-three years old, of medium height, slender build, with brown eyes and black hair. He did not serve in the military because of his age and his dependent family.
In 1919 he left his steady job in the advertising company and opened a private art studio at 110 West 40th Street in Midtown Manhattan, where he began a freelance career in commercial illustration. His work soon appeared in Boy's Life and The American Legion Weekly.
Each morning he walked to the 181st Street subway stop on Broadway and rode forty minutes downtown to the stop at 42nd Street and Times Square. It was only one block to his art studio between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. Two doors further at 80 West 40th Street was the Beaux-Arts Building, also known as Bryant Park Studios, where many of the top illustrators had studios, most notably Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874-1951).
In 1924 his second daughter Evelyn was born.
From 1924 to 1926 his professional listing appeared in the Lee & Kirby National Directory of Graphic Artists.
The majority of his work in the 1920s were illustrations for magazines published by Bernarr MacFadden, a famous health fanatic. Robert A. Cameron's work appeared in Physical Culture, National Pictorial Brain Power Weekly, Fiction-Lovers Magazine, Movie Weekly, True Romances, and Liberty Magazine.
His work also appeared in pulp magazines that were produced by MacFadden, such as Red Blooded Stories, Tales of Daring and Danger, Wild West Stories and Complete Novelettes, and Fighting Romances From the West and East.
The magnificent George Washington Bridge opened in 1931, which straddled the Hudson River to connect Upper Manhattan with New Jersey. The Cameron family took advantage of this new opportunity and moved to New Jersey, where comfortable properties were suddenly available for NYC commuters. They lived at 259 Leonia Avenue. Along with his wife and two kids, his elderly mother and father also came to live with them.
The suburban town of Leonia New Jersey was close enough to NYC for professionals to commute daily by bus to the 181st Street subway station just across the bridge. Leonia had become popular with artists when the influential teacher Harvey Dunn had opened his renowned Summer art school in Leonia, which attracted many artists, such as Dean Cornwell, Arthur R. Mitchell, and Don Hewitt. Jack Binder and George Rozen also commuted across the George Washington Bridge to their NYC art studios every day.
On September 29, 1933 Robert A. Cameron and his wife sailed on the S.S. Monarch of Bermuda for a pleasure trip to the Bahamas. This extravagance during the Great Depression suggests the family remained prosperous despite the general hardships of most citizens.
During the 1930s his work appeared in pulp magazines published by other publishers, such as Ace-High Western, Rangeland Love Stories, Rangeland Romances, and Big Book Western.
In 1940 he illustrated the book On the Long Road by Nila Banton Smith for Silver Burdett Publishing Company.
On April 25, 1942, during WWII, he again registered with Selective Service. He was recorded at the time to be fifty-seven, five-foot-four, 132 pounds, with brown eyes, gray hair, and a scar on his right index finger. He was again not selected for military service.
After the war he retired from freelance illustration and worked as an art director in advertising.
Robert A. Cameron died in Leonia, NJ, at the age of eighty-three on March 1, 1969.
© David Saunders 2012