Fred Harman is one of the best known American western artists, famous for his comic series 'Red Ryder and Little Beaver' as well as his many paintings of the Wild West. He was born in St. Joseph, Missouri and raised on a ranch in Pagosa Springs in Colorado, near the New Mexican border. The family moved to Kansas City in 1920, where Fred Harman took on a short-lived cartooning career at the Star.
In 1921, he got a job at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, working alongside Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, and he also joined Disney in the creation of the Laugh-O-Gram Studio. From 1924 he had several occupations in California, Minnesota and Iowa, before creating his first first comic strip called 'Bronc Peeler' in 1934. Harman syndicated this western strip himself until 1938.
Harman then went to New York, where he briefly succeeded Allen Dean on 'King of the Royal Mounted'. This didn't work out and the discouraged Harman was about to leave when he met Fred Ferguson, the president of the Newspaper Enterprise Association. Ferguson assigend Harman to do a western strip of his own for the Association, which resulted in the creation of Harman's famous strip 'Red Ryder' in 1938. The scripts were originally by Stephen Slesinger.
Harman returned to Pagosa Springs in 1940, where he founded the Red Ryder Ranch. He became a painter of western scenes and one of the founders of the Cowboy Artists of America. Throughout the years, he regularly handed over art duties on his strip to ghost artists like Jim Gary, John Wade Hampton and Edmond Good. Harman continued to work on 'Red Ryder' until 1960, when he handed the strip over to Bob MacLeod. Harman then focused on painting, which he continued to do until his death in 1980.