James William Farrah was born on April 6, 1881 in Pueblo, Colorado. His father, William Wells Farrah, was born in 1858 in Ohio. His mother, Isabella Amelia Hauser, was born in 1854 in Indiana. His parents married in 1880. They had three children, James (born in 1881), George (born in 1883), and Grace (born in 1885). His father was a printer and compositor in the newspaper printing industry.
In 1883 when he was two years old, his father was hired to work at The Kansas City Star, so the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where they lived at 1512 East 10th Street.
He attended public school in Kansas City and in 1894 finished schooling after having completed the eighth grade.
He worked as an apprentice inker in the press room at The Kansas City Star. He was a talented young artist and the older staff artists encouraged him to seek professional art training.
In 1899 at the age of eighteen he went to Chicago, where he worked as a commercial artist and studied art training in his spare time. He worked as an engraver for a commercial art service that supplied illustrations for newspaper advertisers. He was one of thirty staff artists employed by the company.
In 1901 he married his first wife, Harriet E. Farrah. She was born in 1883 in Chicago. They lived at 319 Eighth Street in Chicago.
By 1904 he was the head of his own advertising art agency. According to a 1905 editorial review in the trade journal Ad Sense, "J. W. Farrah & Co., commercial artists of Chicago, are making rapid strides in their line, and a number among their patrons, some of the leading mercantile concerns of the West, such as Belfield, Hirsch & Kline, Samuel Kohn & Co., Benjamin, Allen, John M. Smyth & Co., and others. J. W. Farrah is the leading spirit of this firm and is an artist of marked ability, fashion and illustrative figure work being his specialty. With a competent corps os assistants this concern is equipped for large or small orders, promptness being a special feature and satisfied customers its best reference."
In 1911 his first marriage ended in divorce. They had no children.
In 1916 he married the model in his art classes. Her name was Caroline Madge Stoll. She was born in 1895 in Beatrice, Nebraska. They had no children. They moved to New York City, where they lived at 59 East 34th Street in Manhattan.
On September 12, 1918 he reported for draft registration during the Great War. He was recorded at the time to be thirty-seven, tall, medium build, with blue eyes and brown hair.
He worked for an advertising agency that produced newspaper ads and promotional materials. Among their clients were Hollywood movie studios, such as RKO and Paramount. One of his fellow artists at this company was Jack Greiner, who earned a secondary income by selling freelance illustrations to pulp magazines.
In 1928 James W. Farrah and his wife left Manhattan and moved to Malverne, Long Island, NY, where they lived at 282 Hempstead Avenue.
During the Great Depression many artists were out of work as hard times devastated publishing companies that depended on advertising income. Oddly enough the pulp magazine industry experienced its most prosperous years in the 1930s by selling cheap thrills for pocket change to the common man at corner newsstands.
By 1935 James Farrah was out of work. His friend Jack Greiner encouraged him to sell freelance illustrations to pulp magazines, so Farrah began to paint covers for Western Aces and Romance Round-Up. These were both published by A. A. Wyn of Ace Magazines.
He was grateful for these low-paying assignments, but he left the pulps as soon as he found higher-paying work in advertising, which had begun to revive towards the end of the decade.
He joined the Underwood & Underwood Art Agency and received numerous portrait commissions, including senators, congressman and businessmen.
On October 31, 1941 Farrah was profiled in a biographical article published in the Long Island newspaper, Newsday. According to their reporter, Sally Lambert, "The fastness of the forest and the sun-flecked streams of the woods are the settings in which James William Farrah would like to live. But living, he has found, requires work, so he lives in an attractive home at Hempstead and Lexington Aves., surrounded by wandering hedges and the high, thick trees he loves so well. Here he spends his days painting in his favorite medium of oils, using his pretty wife as a model fro many of his portraits, away from the commercial affiliations which he always found irksome. Farrah was a boy prodigy, preferring his brush and palette to outdoor sports, and attracting the attention of art connoisseurs. In his late forties Farrah decided to give up work in the city. For three years he has confined his efforts to hi home, where he paintings when and as he pleases, sometimes doing a local portrait, but more often wandering about in his automobile until he sees a landscape that brings out his brush. He likes especially to roam through the New England states and has done many pictures of the New Hampshire hills and the little streams of Vermont."
"Like most artists, Farrah has a passion for fine foods and good wine, and considers himself quite a cook. His favorite dish is lobster and he is an expert with tasty wine and brandy sauces. Unconsciously, he makes pictures when he serves, placing the food so that it forms a perfect color scheme.
"His hobbies are swimming and astronomy, on both of which he spends many of his spare hours."
"Mrs. Farrah, who was a model in one of his classes before he married her, is the only person who can drag him from his easel. She says he would never remember to vote unless she reminded him and pushed him to the polls. She is as active as he is retiring and does much Red Cross work. She is a former chairman of the Malverne chapter and a past chairman of the Malverne unit of the Home Bureau."
After years of failing health, James W. Farrah died at the age of seventy-three on January 17, 1955 at Meadowbrook Hospital in Malverne, NY. His wife Caroline Madge (Stoll) Farrah died on September 19, 1972 and they are both buried in the Stoll family plot in Beatrice, Nebraska.
© David Saunders 2013