James Harrison Donahey was an illustrator with strong connections to Cleveland. Donahey was born in West Chester, Tuscarawas County, Ohio, April 8, 1875. He lived in Cleveland from 1896-1926, while initially coming to Cleveland for art school. James Donahey, nicknamed Hal, attended Cleveland School of the Art (now known as Cleveland Institute of Art); he came from a family involved with the arts including two other well-known brothers who also attended art school in Cleveland. His brother William Donahey was also a cartoonist and creator of The Teenie Weenies, a comic strip about two-inch tall people living under a rose bush. Hal’s older brother was Alvin Victor Donahey, who also graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and was the fiftieth governor of Ohio from 1922 through 1929.
Donahey remained involved with Cleveland while he worked at the Plain Dealer for 49 years. From 1909-18, Donahey joined the faculty at Cleveland School of Art as the head of the Department of Cartooning. During the years he worked for the Plain Dealer, he traveled extensively and documented his adventures. In 1914, he traveled to Egypt; in 1925-26, vacationed in Arizona, and in 1935 traveled to Alaska. Donahey provided the newspaper with his illustrations and articles regarding his accounts of his various destinations. At the age of 74 in 1949, he died on his farm in Aurora, Ohio and was buried in New Philadelphia.
Cleveland Public Library Special Collections has wonderful examples of James Harrison Donahey’s original works and illustrations. While his illustrations portray political significance to the time; many of his themes are as relevant now as when they were created. Viewing the collection of Donahey’s illustrations leads to a sense of nostalgia, a simpler time, the arrival of change…. whether the introduction of the automobile, development of prohibition, or frontier life. His use of line is powerful and purposeful; with many original creations reflecting the initial sketch on the back of the final creations. James Harrison Donahey’s illustrations are whimsical and poignant recordings of the early twentieth century.