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Calder worked for several years after graduation at various jobs, including as a hydraulics and automotive engineer, timekeeper in a logging camp, and fireman in a ship's boiler room.
While serving in the latter occupation, on a ship from New York bound for San Francisco, Calder awoke on the deck to see both a brilliant sunrise and a scintillating full moon; each was visible on opposite horizons (the ship then lay off the Guatemalan coast).
He also took a job illustrating for the , which sent him to the Ringling Bros.
He recalled later in life that this experience "shocked" him toward total abstraction.Alexander Calder was born in 1898, the second child of artist parents—his father was a sculptor and his mother a painter.Because his father, Alexander Stirling Calder, received public commissions, the family traversed the country throughout Calder's childhood.He met Louisa James (a grandniece of writer Henry James) on one of these steamer journeys and the two were married in January 1931.He also became friendly with many prominent artists and intellectuals of the early twentieth century at this time, including Joan Miró, Fernand Léger, James Johnson Sweeney, and Marcel Duchamp.