116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Gazette hired Cyrus Fosmire to produce cartoons and drawings for publication with Gazette stories. His first day on the job, and the first day his name was included in the masthead as “Illustrator,” was Jan. 1, 1896, when he was 20 years old.
Fosmire came to Cedar Rapids from Meadville, Mo., where his father, John Fosmire, was a rural mail carrier, and where Fosmire was a “printer’s devil,” an apprentice, at the Meadville Messenger.
At The Gazette, Fosmire made use of a fairly new and fast method of creating illustrations that involved engraving chalk plates. Artists drew a picture on a metal plate covered with a layer of chalk. The plate was transferred to a casting box where liquid metal was poured onto the stereotype plate, which was put on the press.
A June 1896 Fosmire engraving showed four men the city marshal had asked him to sketch. Assuming they had recently been arrested, Fosmire was surprised when the marshal pinned stars on each of the “crooks” and announced they were special police.
Fosmire’s illustrations soon became a regular feature of The Gazette.
One of his contributions as a new Cedar Rapidian was his musical talent. He often played the mandolin alongside fellow Gazette employee Charles Hunt’s guitar at social gatherings.
When the first Cedar Rapids Carnival was held in October 1897, Fosmire designed and drew the carnival badge. It showed a French columbine with the words — Cedar Rapids Carnival, October 13, 14 and 15 — forming a circle around the flower.
The next year’s carnival featured the renowned “See Der Rabbits” theme created by the Franchere department store owners.
The Gazette published a special Carnival Edition on Sept. 29, 1900, to promote that year’s carnival in October. It showcased Fosmire’s work on most of the edition’s 24 pages.
Most of the cartoons Fosmire created were his own ideas. One example:
Fosmire married Anna Wells on Jan. 23,1900, and had been assigned to draw a cartoon on the labor movement to be published the next day. The illustration that appeared instead showed a newlywed couple walking away from a freshly paid pastor with the captions, “Union Made.”
In October 1899, Bert Griswold, Will Prickett and Harry Larimer joined The Gazette as staff artists, and Fosmire was named chief artist.
The Gazette stated the “commercial part of the artistic business has so greatly increased that one artist could not attend to all the work. The Gazette proposes to make more of a specialty of cartoons, portraits and general illustrations, hence the increased force.”
Fosmire and 10 other artists met in The Gazette’s editorial department May 1, 1900, to form the Cedar Rapids Art League. The club’s rules banned females and gambling. Fosmire was elected to the club’s executive committee.
A few months later, Gazette Editors C.W. Miller and F.W. Faulkes included Fosmire in a party of 22 men interested in the Tykoon gold mine in Keystone, S.D. Fosmire’s painted watercolors of the mine and the South Dakota countryside to include in a souvenir book for the investors.
A talented artist didn’t often stay in one spot for a long time. When Fosmire was offered a job in the art department of a Minneapolis magazine, the Housekeeper, in 1903, he accepted, leaving Cedar Rapids on Feb. 18.
“We congratulate him most sincerely upon his good fortune, fortune which, however, he has earned because of his industry and fine talent, and we wish him every possible success in life,” a Gazette article stated.
The story went on to say, “It was quite a number of years ago that ‘Cy’ came to The Gazette from a little Missouri town and wanted something to do. … His salary for the first few weeks, which he set himself, was but $5 per week. Of course, that did not last long, because it was soon found that his work entitled him to continually increased remuneration.
“While he has devoted his entire time during each day to The Gazette, he has been industrious of evenings in making illustrations for various magazines.”
In 1904, the Press Club of Minneapolis issued a souvenir book full of original fiction, poetry and essays by its members. Fosmire’s drawings helped illustrate it.
After 12 years in Minneapolis, Fosmire moved to New York in 1915 to take another job as a commercial artist.
He died in 1917, of diabetes, at age 40.