Closer Than We Think

Radebaugh had several occasional syndicated features during his tenure as a Detroit advertising illustrator. His eccentric but clever imagineering made for good copy, and his renderings, such as this bus from 1949, were appealing even in newsprint.

According to his illustrator colleagues, Radebaugh was constantly churning out inventions that seemed both pragmatic and other-worldly. Some illustrations were used as promotional material, others were syndicated, and some ended up used in ads.

In 1957, Radebaugh brought samples of an an ambitious cartoon about the future to a major news syndicate.

In early 1958, Radebaugh’s most ambitious syndicated column, Closer Than We Think, was launched to an audience of over 19,000,000 metropolitan newspaper readers.

“Halfway between science fiction and designs for modern living” said Radebaugh of his cartoon.

Radebaugh had an English Ford van which he converted into a mobile studio, and he often worked on his cartoons while travelling around the country for sources and inspiration. With its quasi-futuristic accessories, it completed the spectacle of Radebaugh as eccentric avatar of the future.

Closer Than We Think ran for four years. In 1962, faced with failing health, Radebaugh retired from the illustrating business. His health had forced him to sell off his cars, a vacation house, and many personal belongings. For several years, we lose track of him entirely, and then he shows up, living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and decorating furniture for a sign painter named Albert Heemstra, who provided him with companionship and care in his last years.

Arthur Radebaugh, 1906-1974

In the years before his death, Radebaugh slowly faded into obscurity. After he passed away, he was forgotten by all but a few curious individuals who saw his old ads or magazine covers.
In 2001, 25 negatives of Radebaugh's work surfaced in the collection of historian Todd Kimmell...