Ralph Eugene Cahoon Jr. (1910-1982) was descended from 17th-century Scottish immigrants who settled in the Cape Cod town of Chatham in the seventeenth century. Many of his ancestors were whalers and fishermen, men who made their living off the sea. His maternal grandfather was an oysterman. But Ralph always showed a bent for drawing. As a high school student he'd enjoyed taking a correspondence course in cartooning. His only other formal art training consisted of two years at the School of Practical Art in Boston, a course of study interrupted by the Depression. But his career took an unexpected path when, in 1930, he met Martha Farham (1905-1999) at a dance in Chatham.
The daughter of Swedish immigrants, Martha was born in the Roslindale section of Boston, then spent her early years growing up in Hyde Park. Her family moved to Harwich on the Cape when she was ten. Her mother had a green thumb and raised many crops for the family's use. Her father, Axel Farham, was a talented furniture decorator who had learned the art back in Sweden. Although Martha's teachers encouraged her to go to college, she chose to apprentice to her father. Over the next ten years, she learned to sand, scrape and stencil furniture and became very adept at decorating with flowers.
Ralph and Martha Cahoon are the most famous folk artists the Cape has ever produced, and Ralph the best-known of any native Cape Cod artist.