Kenneth Chamberlain, the son of a small jeweler, was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1891. After graduating from high school in 1909 he attended Columbus Art School (1911-1913). Some of his drawings were published in Columbus Citizen and this encouraged him to move to New York where he secured work with American Art News.
While in New York City Chamberlain studied under Robert Henri where he met Maurice Becker and George Bellows. Both men were committed socialists and it was not long before Chamberlain shared these views: "I went to New York not even knowing what socialism was. I had some rough idea that it was dividing up the wealth. But when I got down with these fellows whose drawings and art I admired so greatly, why, if they'd been cannibals I probably would have turned cannibal."
Maurice Becker and George Bellows introduced Chamberlain to John Sloan, the art editor of The Masses and by 1913 the journal began publishing his cartoons. During the First World War he also began contributing to other papers such as the New York Evening Sun.
Although fellow radicals, such as Art Young and Robert Minor, who resigned from lucrative posts with leading newspapers when ordered to draw pro-war cartoons, Chamberlain willingly produced this type of material for the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph and Harper's Weekly. Chamberlain later explained: "I just went along after we were in the war. I wanted to hold my job as a cartoonist although I wasn't for the war."
After the Armistice Chamberlain worked for the Cleveland Press. He continued to contribute to radical journals such as The Liberator. This upset his editor at the newspaper who told him that "either you'll have to quit working for us or not sign your name." Chamberlain agreed to use the pseudonym, Russell and later described his actions as "an unhappy subterfuge" but was necessary in order to support his family.
In the 1920s Chamberlain worked for the New York Herald-Tribune. His last radical cartoon appeared in The Liberator in August 1923. He later admitted: "As you get older you lose that flash of youthful enthusiasm. I used to get so mad at some of the things I'd want to scream about it, but I wasn't the courageous type to go down and get beaten up by a cop... As you get older you lose that and you see both sides a little more."
In 1933 he went to work for Topics Publishing Company and as a result his cartoons appeared in 120 different newspapers. After losing his job in 1949 he worked for ten years for the National Association of Manufacturers.
Kenneth Chamberlain died in 1984.