Political Illustrations – Cartoon America | Exhibitions

Art Wood, an award-winning political
cartoonist himself, collected more than 16,000 political cartoons by hundreds of the leading creators of the ‘ungentlemanly art,’ a phrase that is commonly used to describe this type of graphic satire. He used the word “illustration” to describe the enormous talent and craft that went into a work of art produced to capture a moment in time. From the nineteenth century’s Gilded Age to recent times, political illustrations have appeared in magazines, editorial pages, opinion pages, and even on the front pages of American newspapers. These visual editorials reflect multiple viewpoints conveyed by a wide variety of artistic approaches, including the classic cross hatching techniques of Harper’s Weekly cartoonist Thomas Nast, the sweeping brush work of Ding Darling, the rich crayon line work of Rube Goldberg and Bill Mauldin, and the painterly styles of contemporary cartoonists Paul Conrad and Patrick Oliphant. The broad spectrum of political perspectives informs our understanding not only of the past but also of the present.

The Crown Covers a Multitude of Shortcomings

Thomas Nast

Senator James G. Blaine was an extremely popular Republican
politician in the nineteenth century. He might have been elected president
if he had not been continually dogged by charges of corruption. In 1888, when
Blaine returned from a lengthy European trip, he refused to run for president,
and instead supported Benjamin Harrison’s campaign. However, Blaine’s enormous
popularity caused cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840–1902) to characterize him as
the “uncrowned king” of the Republican Party. Nast defined American
political cartooning in the nineteenth century. Through his work for Harper’s
, he popularized such American political symbols as the Republican
elephant and the Democratic donkey.

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“Is this what you mean?”

Herb Block

Herb Block created this anti-isolationist cartoon just before
the United States entered World War II. Through this image, Block argued that
Americans, by turning their backs on the world, permitted global occupation
by forces from both the political left and right. This cartoon was most likely
produced in 1939, when the Soviet Union, briefly allied with the Axis powers
joined Germany in attacking and conquering Poland. Block (1909-2001) had a
cartooning career that spanned seven decades. For more information about his
career, see Enduring Outrage: Editorial Cartoons by Herblock, Herblock’s Gift,
and Herblock’s History.

Herb Block. “Is this what you mean?” ca.
Published by the Newspaper Enterprise Association.
Ink, crayon, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing with overlay.
Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-07910 © Herb Block Foundation (2)

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To Avoid Hitting the Brick in the Road

Ding Darling

Jay N. “Ding” Darling (1876–1962) uses the metaphor
of a careening taxi in this cartoon to critique delayed legislative controls
on inflation of farm prices and wages during World War II. A cab, with passengers
labeled “Farm Prices” and “Wages” being driven by a man
labeled “Congress,” avoids a brick in the road by swerving into a
crowd, hitting men, women and children on “Cost of Living Ave.,” and
inflicting “Everybody’s Injury.” Darling’s sweeping brushwork and
expansive, dynamic composition suits this scene of collision. A two-time Pulitzer
Prize winner, he worked many years for the Des Moines Register and the New
York Herald-Tribune

Jay N. “Ding” Darling. To Avoid Hitting the Brick in the Road, 1942.
Published in the Des Moines Register, September 29, 1942.
Ink brush over graphite underdrawing.
Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-09121 (3). Courtesy of J.N. “Ding” Darling Foundation. © J. N. “Ding” Darling Foundation

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From Ever Darkening Clouds

Edmund Duffy

A giant skeletal arm reaches down from dark clouds labeled “Air
War” to clutch the prone form of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in this World
War II cartoon by Edmund Duffy (1899–1962). Not showing Hitler as brutally
invincible, Duffy depicts the stricken tyrant peering upward, fearful of deadly
air attacks. In the background, bombs fall from the turbulent sky and a building
flying the swastika lies in ruins. Duffy employs his signature style of heavily
outlined forms as a means of boldly and graphically sounding the death knell
for Hitler.

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“It’s from the I.R.S.”

Etta Hulme

Etta Hulme, one of the few female practitioners of the craft
of editorial cartooning, twists the well known plot of men stranded on a desert
island unearthing buried treasure, into an ironic reminder that income taxes
are due. Etta Hulme earned her fine arts degree at the University of Texas
at Austin and immediately headed for Disney Studios in California, where she
worked in the animation division for two years before returning to Texas. She
began her cartooning career in 1954 at Austin’s Texas Observer and has
been with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1972.

Etta Hulme. “It’s from the I.R.S.—it says,
‘all income, from whatever source derived . . .
,” 1975.
Published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 10, 1975.
Crayon, ink, and opaque white over blue pencil and graphite underdrawing.
Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-04613 (5). ©Etta Hulme, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 1975

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World of Creepers

Art Young

Art Young (1866–1943) published this drawing in Life magazine
with the title “This World of Creepers; Afraid of Themselves and of
Others, Afraid of the Almighty, of Life and of Death.”
He later identified
it as one of his best, describing the image as, “the crawling, cringing
horde of human beings afraid to stand up and call their souls their own.” Young
drew for a wide variety of publications that included the Saturday Evening
as well as the socialist periodical The Masses. His left wing
views were featured in the humor magazine Life, which, for a time, embraced
support for socialism.

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Turkey Hunting in the Old Dominion

Clifford K. Berryman

In this cartoon, Teddy Roosevelt caresses rather than shoots
these domesticated turkeys at his hunting lodge, Pine Knot, near Charlottesville,
Virginia, while the Clifford Berryman’s (1869–1949) trademark “teddy bear” presses
his paw against the flap of his game bag. On November 1, 1906, Roosevelt’s
neighbors played a joke on him, turning a flock of domestic turkeys loose into
the area, but the president discovered the trick. Although Roosevelt may not
have killed domesticated turkeys, he did shoot a wild turkey that week at Pine
Knot. Berryman was renowned for his lighthearted likenesses of politicians
and for popularizing the teddy bear, which became an iconic toy for American

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The Mysterious Stranger

John T. McCutcheon

This best known cartoon by John T. McCutcheon (1870–1949), graced
the front page of the Chicago Tribune on November 10, 1904, and gave
a humorous, visual explanation of the presidential election results. Depicting
telltale footprints leading from the Democratic to the Republican column of
delegates, McCutcheon pictures Missouri’s historic act of breaking ranks with
the southern states for the first time since Reconstruction, voting Republican,
and thus carrying the state for Theodore Roosevelt. A world famous traveler,
war correspondent, and Pulitzer prize-winning editorial cartoonist, McCutcheon
drew for the Chicago Tribune from 1903 to 1946.

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“Ah’m makin’ way fer Bobby K”

John Jensen

British cartoonist John Jensen (b. 1930) portrays a somber President
Lyndon Johnson sitting in an undersized rocking chair. The artist vividly caricatures
Johnson as a morose, demoralized leader, with a sunken mouth, deeply wrinkled
face, and a tangle of elongated, misshapen arms and legs. The president’s lapel
button reads “Ah’m Makin’ Way Fer Bobby K,” a reminder that his main
rival, Robert Kennedy, brother of President John F. Kennedy, announced his
candidacy for the presidency on March 16, 1968. Faced with this challenge and
worsening news on the Vietnam War, Johnson informed the country on March 31,
1968, that he would not run for re-election.

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“Barry’s the Captain …”

John Fischetti

Cheerful members of the Republican Party look overboard as Republican
presidential candidate Barry Goldwater mans the rudder of a boat in a shallow
stream. Despite Goldwater’s victory in the California primary, cartoonist John
Fischetti (1916–1980) satirized the campaign as going nowhere. Nelson Rockefeller,
a Republican moderate, issued a parting shot that if Goldwater were in the
mainstream, “we’ve got a meandering stream.” Goldwater carried only
six states in his race against President Lyndon Johnson. Fischetti’s mature
artistic style showed his roots in animation. His use of horizontal space and
spare pen and ink style influenced a generation of cartoonists.

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Rubbing It In

Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg (1883–1970), best known for his crazy inventions,
created forceful editorial cartoons while working at the New York Sun.
This anti-Japanese World War II cartoon shows General Jonathan Wainwright slamming
the face of a Japanese soldier into the Filipino province of Bataan. While
Wainwright did not participate in the recapture of Bataan due to his incarceration
in a labor camp in Formosa, Goldberg suggests that the moral victory over the
Japanese would be his. Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Reuben Lucius “Rube” Goldberg
used his intelligence, humor and gift as an artist in creating serious editorial

Rube Goldberg. Rubbing It In, 1944.
Published in the New York Sun, August 20, 1944.
Crayon, India ink, opaque white, and graphite with scraping out.
Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-03646 (11)

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Fat Man with Telescope Standing on a Mound of Skulls

William Gropper

An overfed man wearing a formal black jacket and black silk
hat stands atop a mound of human skulls pierced by protruding guns and bayonets
in this editorial cartoon by William Gropper (1897–1977). With chilling disregard
for the human remains beneath him, the man peers into the distance through
a telescope. The ample figure with a grotesque profile represents a type of
capitalist/politician. Like much of Gropper’s work, this drawing underscores
the horrifying human costs of war during World War I.

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But How to Let Go—Gracefully

Vaughn Shoemaker

President Lyndon Johnson clings grimly to the tail of a
giant tiger (labeled “Vietnam”), that lunges wildly through
a nocturnal universe in this cartoon by Vaughn Shoemaker (1902–1991).
This drawing of 1965 addresses how America would extricate itself from
the war in Vietnam. U.S. troops did pull out in 1973. A two-time Pulitzer
Prize winner, Shoemaker studied at the Chicago Academy for Fine Arts,
drew editorial cartoons at the Chicago Daily News for nearly thirty
years, and taught at his alma mater. His artful, gestural style became
looser and more painterly in the 1960s.

Vaughn Shoemaker. But How to Let Go—Gracefully,
Published in the Chicago American, 1965.
Ink brush, crayon, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing with overlays
and paste-ons.
Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-09125 (13)

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“You’ve been acting like civilians!”

Bill Mauldin

With easy crayon and ink brush strokes, Bill Mauldin (1921-2003)
portrays an angry Nikita Khruschchev berating writers, artists and musicians,
who stand at attention as if they were soldiers for the Communist Party propaganda
machine. Khrushchev compelled creators to use Social Realism, a style that
the Party argued was most accessible to the masses. Mauldin portrayed the hardline
approach as militaristic and portrays himself as the artist with the pen, second
from the right. The Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist began his career in the
army and had a long career with the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch and the Chicago
. For more information about his career and work, see Bill
Mauldin: Beyond Willie and Joe

Bill Mauldin. “You’ve been acting like civilians!” 1963.
Published in the Chicago Sun-Times, April 17, 1963.
Crayon, ink and opaque white with scratching out and paste-on over graphite
Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-07893 (14). © 1963 by Bill Mauldin. Courtesy of the Mauldin Estate

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“My disarmament plan is better than your disarmament plan!”

Paul Conrad

Paul Conrad (b. 1924) with his even crayon strokes and exceptional
attention to detail, captures the anger and posturing as Cold War tensions
mounted over the fate of East and West Germany and nuclear disarmament. On
September 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy in his speech to the United Nations
Assembly stood up to the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and demanded that
he join a “peace race.” Meanwhile, both nations had resumed nuclear
testing, as Conrad points out, belying their advocacy for disarmament. The
three-time Pulitzer Prize winner spent fourteen years at the Denver Post before
becoming chief cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times in 1964. Today,
he continues to draw cartoons and makes sculptures.

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“I want to make it perfectly clear that national defense requires
18-cent oil”

Ed Valtman

President Richard M. Nixon gives a speech against a backdrop
of oil derricks, pipes, and two smiling figures who are probably oil executives.
Edmund Valtman (1914-2005) questioned Nixon’s motives for rejecting oil import
quotas under the guise of ensuring sufficient oil for defense. By depicting
drops of liquid as oil money, dripping into a storage tank labeled “Political
Contributions,” he strongly signaled the president’s interest in bolstering
financial support for Republicans in the upcoming Congressional elections.
Conservative in outlook, Pulitzer prize winner Valtman proved that he spared
no U.S. president, including Nixon, hard scrutiny in his work. For more information
about his career and work, please see Edmund Valtman: The Cartoonist Who
Came in from the Cold

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First Woman Astronaut

Art Wood

Food prices skyrocketed in the mid–1970s as presidents Richard
Nixon and Gerald Ford dealt with inflation. In 1974 alone food prices rose
by almost 15 percent. Women, who did the most of the grocery shopping, boycotted
such staples as meat and grains in protest. In this cartoon produced for television,
Art Wood depicts an American housewife shot into outer space, by the shock
over food costs. Wood labels her the “First Woman Astronaut,” (although
the first American woman went into space in 1983). Wood served as president
and spokesman of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists in 1974.

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“Where do we go from here?”

Art Wood

In this Art Wood cartoon, the blazing sun beats down on a ramshackle
farmhouse, tilting silo, and dying crops in a field of cracked, scorched earth.
A sign on the buildings reads “Fifty Years of Federal Farm Programs.” This
image strongly suggests that federal farm programs enacted since the beginning
of the New Deal in the 1930s have failed, making the time honored institution
of the American farm a major casualty. In the late 1980s, American farmers
faced extremely harsh drought conditions, which precipitated unusually urgent
appeals for federal aid.

Art Wood. “Where do we go from here?” 1983.
Published in the Farm Bureau News, August 29, 1983.
Porous point pen and opaque white over graphite underdrawing.
Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-09113 (18). © Art Wood

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Washington Money Machine

Art Wood

In this cartoon Art Wood captures the sentiments felt by many
taxpayers. By the late 1950s, increases in local, state and federal taxes as
well as social security meant that the average family spent more on those than
they did on food. Paying for national defense during the Cold War accounted
for much of the increase. A prize-winning political cartoonist, Wood worked
at the Richmond News Leader before moving to Pittsburgh, where he was
the chief editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Press from 1956 to

Art Wood. Washington Money Machine, between
1956 and 1965.
Published in the Pittsburgh Press.
Crayon, ink brush and opaque white over graphite underdrawing.
Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-09426 (19). © Art Wood

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MIG Fighter

Art Wood

In February 1963, four Soviet-built MiG fighter planes based
in Cuba, fired on an American shrimp boat in international waters. Though the
boat was not hit, the incident heightened tensions between the U.S., Cuba,
and the Soviet Union. President John F. Kennedy ordered retaliation in case
of recurrence. Art Wood’s depiction of Uncle Sam with painful injuries captured
the nation’s dismay. Wood drew this cartoon while chief editorial cartoonist
at the Pittsburgh Press from 1956–1965.

Art Wood. MIG Fighter, 1963.
Published in the Pittsburgh Press, February 24, 1963.
Crayon, ink brush and opaque white over graphite underdrawing.
Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-09427 (20). © Art Wood

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The Shadow

Art Wood

In 1955 both Democrats and Republicans in Congress voted overwhelmingly
in favor of a $10,000 pay raise—from $15,000 to $25,000—at a time when most
Americans earned less than $3,900 a year. Art Wood implies that the dramatic
pay raise not only contributed to the federal debt, but also brought Congressional
leadership into question.

Art Wood. The Shadow, 1955.
Published in the Richmond News Leader, 1955.
Ink brush and opaque white over graphite underdrawing.
Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-09114 (21). © Art Wood

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Von der Goltz Pacha et le bec-de-gaz d’Erzeroem

Louis Raemaekers

During World War I, Freiherr Colmar Von de Goltz, known in Turkey
as “Goltz Pasha,”
ruthlessly pursued German aims against the British. However he and his Ottoman
allies could not resist advancing Russian forces. Dutch cartoonist Louis Raemaekers
(1869–1956) portrays the battle of Erzurum as a literal confrontation between
Goltz and the Russian army. Raemaekers produced fiercely anti-German cartoons
during World War I for De Talegraaf and faced trial for compromising
Dutch neutrality. Although acquitted, the Germans put a bounty on his head,
and he had to flee to England.

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Waiting for Reagan

Pat Oliphant

Pat Oliphant (b. 1935) captures President Ronald Reagan’s political
plight in the summer of 1982 in this dramatic cartoon. The Moral Majority and
other rightist groups publicly criticized Reagan for what they perceived as
his neglect of social issues important to conservatives. Inspired by Thomas
Nast’s depiction of the infamous Boss Tweed and his Tammany Hall cronies as
vultures, Oliphant pictures Reagan’s critics, “The New Right,” as
five menacing, vulture-like creatures, out on a limb. One of the great draftsmen
in the field, Oliphant combines boldly rendered forms and dramatic perspective
in this witty allusion to his artistic predecessor. For more information about
his career and work, see Oliphant’s Anthem.

Pat Oliphant. Waiting for Reagan, 1982.
Published by Universal Press Syndicate August 11, 1982.
Ink with opaque white out graphite underdrawing.
Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-10609 (23).
Image reproduced courtesy of Patrick Oliphant and Susan Conway

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Vandal in Victory, Vandal in Defeat

Rollin Kirby

Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Rollin Kirby (1875–1952)
drew a World War I German soldier looting and pillaging a European village.
The war left communities such as Amiens, Verdun, and Lille devastated by occupation,
the relative stagnation of trench warfare along the front, and powerful weapons
on both sides. Kirby wrote, “what art there is in cartooning is the art
of driving the message home,” a skill at which he excelled. Kirby, one
of the top editorial cartoonists after World War I, worked for both the New
York World
and the New York Post. His strong use of crayon influenced
a generation of cartoonists.

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“I can’t stand any more of this, I think I’ll go out and face the

Raymond Allen Jackson

British cartoonist JAK (Raymond Allen Jackson, 1927–1997) shows
Roy Jenkins, Chancellor of the Exchequer, making a speech to the House of Commons
in 1969. Members of the House respond grimly to disclosure of tough budgetary
measures including higher taxes and governmental measures to curb unions’ wildcat
strikes. On the ministers’ bench, Labour Party Prime Minister Harold Wilson
tells Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart he cannot stand any more and may leave
to face the unions. Among England’s leading political cartoonists, JAK reportedly
became the most highly paid while under contract with the London Evening

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