Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in New Jersey, Will Crawford was among the most prolific American illustrators of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Entirely self-taught, he began his career while still in his teens, as a newspaper artist and cartoonist. Crawford eventually became a successful freelance book and magazine illustrator, his work appearing in most of the country’s leading periodicals, including Puck, Life, Redbook, and Everybody’s Magazine.
An enthusiast of the American West, in 1902, Crawford visited Montana. There he met the cowboy artist Charles M. Russell, whom he persuaded to go to New York. When Russell did head east, he stayed with Crawford, from whom he learned more refined drawing techniques, which ultimately enabled him to him become a commercially successful illustrator.