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Caroline and Erwin Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon

Cartoon-related Research at the Library of Congress

by Harry L. Katz and Sara W. Duke

For well over a century the Library of Congress has maintained a strong collecting interest in pictorial humor and satire. As the Library's general collections have grown over time, so too have the cartoon-related collections become remarkably rich and comprehensive. Spanning four centuries, they range from seventeenth-century Dutch political prints to contemporary caricatures by David Levine, and include drawings for cartoons and comic strips, printed satires and caricatures, comic books, illustrated satirical journals, and comic ephemera. The Library acquired these materials through a variety of sources, including artist's gifts, donations by private collectors, selective purchases, and copyright registration. These cartoon-related collections support scholarly research in the field, and form a vital component of the Library's vast holdings of drawings, prints, and books on all subjects, from all parts of the world. Thus, while the Library is an excellent resource for the study of cartoon and caricature, researchers can also explore the development of the genre within a broader context of graphic art, books, and journals reflecting a broad range of cultural and historical themes and issues.

Cartoon-related research at the Library can prove to be a challenge because cartoons and cartoon-related collections and bibliographic resources are dispersed among the institution's several Capitol Hill buildings and multiple divisions. Furthermore, within divisions patrons face an array of finding aids and bibliographic sources related to their topic, even though a limited number of collections and individual items are listed in the Library-wide online catalog system. This article is intended to serve as an introductory guide to the Library's cartoon-related holdings and resources, with particular attention given to original cartoon-related prints and drawings preserved in the Prints and Photographs Division. Please note that access to some uncataloged or physically fragile collections cited in this article may be limited to patrons engaged in advanced scholarly research.

Among its extensive holdings of visual materials, the Prints and Photographs Division has custody of the largest collection of American political prints and drawings in existence; one of the finest assemblages of British satires in North America; more than twenty thousand original cartoon drawings by several generations of America's best cartoonists and illustrators; and extensive runs of rare satirical and comic journals from Europe and the United States. As several cartoon-related pictorial collections, along with most books and magazines, are stored elsewhere in the Library, the materials cited in this article have been organized by type or format, including American political prints, European satires, illustrated periodicals, political cartoon drawings, comic strips and comic books, and humorous cartoons and social satires.

Political prints and satires have, quite appropriately, long been a collecting interest for the congressional library. A particularly large goup of such works from the late eighteenth century relates to the Revolutionary War period, including historical prints, satires and allegories by American artists such as Paul Revere and Amos Doolittle, as well as British publishers from across the political spectrum. Notable among these are impressions of Revere's elegantly etched rendering of the illuminated obelisk designed by John Singleton Copley and erected on Boston Common in celebration of the repeal of the Stamp Act (1765), as well as Revere's more crude and sensational portrayal of The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King Street Boston (1770).

The Bloody Massacre For a larger image, click on the picture.

Paul Revere, The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th 1770 by a party of the 29th Regt. Engraving with watercolor on laid paper. 25.8 x 33.4 cm. (plate). Boston, 1770. LC-USZC4-4913 (color film copy transparency) LC-USZ62-35522 (b&w film copy neg.)

The wealth of Revolutionary War era graphic material preserved in numerous collections has been brought together in Donald H. Cresswell's book, The American Revolution in Drawings and Prints. (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1975).

As controversy grew in the United States over the proper form to be given the new government, cartoons and satires became an increasingly vital and ubiquitous component of the national public discourse in the formative years of the young republic. Two of the finest graphic satirists from this period, James Akin and William Charles, are well represented at the Library. For example, a rare impression of Akin's virulent attack on President Thomas Jefferson for conducting secret negotiations with Spain toward the purchase of West Florida is significant not only as an early presidential satire, but also as the earliest-known signed satire by Akin.

The prairie dog sickenedFor a larger image, click on the picture.

James Akin, The prairie dog sickened at the sting of the hornet or a diplomatic puppet exhibiting his deceptions. Etching with watercolor on pale blue-grey laid paper. 28.5 x 40.6 cm. (sheet, trimmed to within plate). 1804. LC-USZC4-4544 (color film copy transparency) LC-USZ62-28114 (b&w film copy neg.)

The Library's holdings of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century woodcuts and engravings are dwarfed by the large numbers of lithographic satires and cartoons which proliferated during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, and after. These collections of nineteenth-century social and political satires, trade cards, advertising labels, and comic ephemera are unsurpassed due in large part ot the American copyright law of 1870 which mandated that material registrated for copyright protection henceforth be deposited at the Library of Congress. Under this law, impressions of printed materials published after 1870 began to be routinely sent to the Library. Additionally, the Library acquired sporadic holdings of works published prior to 1870 that had been submitted to regional courthouses. As a result, the Library has acquired unparalleled numbers of social and political cartoons dating back to the 1830s. For example, the Library amassed the largest existing colleciton of prints by Currier & Ives through copyright registration. Among the more than 3,600 lithographs by this firm available in the Prints and Photographs Division are numerous satires both for and against President Abraham Lincoln and racist images from the Darktown series of cartoons. There are two excellent published sources for these collections: Currier & Ives: A Catalogue Raisonne. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1984) and Bernard F. Reilly, Jr., American Political Prints, 1766-1876: A Catalog of the Collections in the Library of Congress. (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1991). Complementing these holdings is the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana. Given to the Library in 1953 and housed in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, it includes pictorial satire and caricature of the Civil War and Reconstruction periods.

The Library's holdings of non-American political prints and satires are also noteworthy. In fact, the ten thousand British satires acquired from the Royal Library at Windsor Castle in 1921 represent the crown jewel in the Library's political cartoon collections.

Very slippy weatherFor larger image, click on picture.

James Gillray. Very slippy weather, 1808. Hand-colored etching. LC-USZC4-5779 (color film copy transparency)

The Windsor Castle caricatures are the nucleus of the British satire holdings, which are thought to be the finest outside Great Britain. They form a collection of unsurpassing research value and historical interest not only for the breadth and quality of the impressions, but also for their close association with the British royal family. The Prince of Wales (later George IV) created the collection, with occasional help from his father, George III. The two monarchs shared a passion for satires and acquired contemporary works, as well as those from earlier periods. On occasion, when confronted by a particularly offensive royal caricature, they attempted to suppress distribution of the offending cartoon by purchasing the entire edition and the plate from which it was printed. This practice is evidenced by several Windsor caricatures which bear the inscription "suppressed" within the margin below the image.

The Windsor caricatures date largely from the period 1780 to 1830, years dominated by the prodigious talents and prolific efforts of James Gillray and George Cruikshank. There are 702 Gillray cartoons in the collection, and 538 by Cruikshank. Other cartoonists amply represented include Matthew Darley (500), Henry W. Bunbury (281), and Isaac Cruikshank (261). Smaller groups of works by John Nixon, Richard Newton, G.M. Woodward, and Robert Dighton, and others are also included. While there are gaps in the collections (Windsor Castle retained the works by William Hogarth, Thomas Rowlandson, James Sayers, Robert Seymour, and John Doyle), the Library has acquired works by these artists from other sources over the years.

An annotated copy of Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum serves as a finding aid for the majority of the collection. More than two thousand Windsor caricatures are, however, not listed in that catalog. Indices of these prints, by date, or title when undated, are available in the Prints and Photographs Division Reading Room. Most of the caricatures were purchased shortly after they were printed, and have only rarely been handled or exposed to light. To maintain their often pristine condition, the Library serves patrons microfilmed images in order to balance research needs with the preservation needs of the objects themselves.

Acquisition of the Windsor Castle collection of caricatures enriched the Library's collections of satires from other European nations as well. A small group of Dutch satires attacking the policies of King James II of England came with the collection, as did 125 French political prints. The latter are now housed with more than 200 other French satires acquired from various sources, most of which date from 1785 to 1840 and document that nation's bloody struggle through the Revolution and ensuing years of the Napoleonic empire. The Windsor acquisition also brought to the Library a group of German lithographic cartoons related to the Revolution of 1848, which complement other German materials preserved in the Prints and Photographs Division, including several bound volumes of satires from the Franco-Prussian War (1871-72).

The Library's collections of historical and contemporary periodicals in which cartoons and caricatures were published support the American and European graphic satire collections. These magazines and journals are located in several different areas. Primarily, however, they will be found in the Case Collection of the Prints and Photographs Division, the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, or the general collections.

The Case Collection houses Harper's Weekly, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Magazine, L'Assiette au Beurre, Le Rire, Gil Blas illustre, Judge, Puck, the old Life, The Verdict, and The Masses, among others. Unfortunately, due to damage done to these journals through handling over time, some magazines have been withdrawn from service and may be seen only on microfilm. Patrons wishing to see Americana, La Caricature, and L'Eclipse will find them in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Popular magazines such as The New Yorker, Punch, and Vanity Fair are available on a limited basis through the Main Reading Room. Again, access to many of these illustrated magazines has been restricted to preserve and protect fragile or damaged issues, although microfilm copies of most of them are available in the Library's Microform Reading Room.

Historically, many of the most spectacular additions to the Library's cartoon drawings collections have been acquired thorugh artist's gifts. The Library rarely seeks to acquire the entire output of an artist, but rather to establish a representative selection of work by the leading cartoonists from each generation. Toward this end, generations of notable American artists and cartoonists and their heirs have donated their work to the nation's library, with the result that nearly twenty thousand original drawings will be found in the Cartoon Drawings, the Cabinet of American Illustration, The New Yorker Cartoon Collection, and related holdings in the Prints and Photographs Division.

The Cartoon Drawing filing series contains nearly eight thousand original drawings for cartoons published by a a distinguished roster of American cartoonists. The collection spans more than a hundred and fifty years, from the satires of early nineteenth-century artist David Claypoole Johnston to recent caricatures by Edward Sorel and political cartoons by Patrick Oliphant and Paul Conrad. The vast majority of works in the collection were given to the Library by the artists themselves. Large gifts comprised of several hundred editorial cartoon drawings represent Homer Davenport, Felix Mahoney, Clifford Berryman, Herbert Johnson, Rollin Kirby, Edwin Marcus, and Bill Mauldin. These are complemented by smaller groups of works by Daniel Fitzpatrick, Rube Goldberg, Reg Manning, Lute Pease, John Fischetti, Ollie Harrington, Oscar Cesare and Al Frueh among others. To date, more than five hundred American cartoonists are represented in the collection. Large groups of works by American political cartoonists---Thomas Nast and John McCutcheon--are in the Cabinet of American Illustration.

Works by foreign cartoonists complement the concentration of drawings by artists from the United States. Mexican-born caricaturist Miguel Covarrubias, for example, is represented by several hundred drawings. Thirty-nine drawings by Iranian political cartoonist Ardeshir Mohasses, produced in exile during the late 1970s, take a devastatingly ironic look at life for the common people in Iran during the final, bloody years of the repressive reign of Shah Reza Pahlavi. This entire series has been reproduced in Life in Iran: The Library of Congress Drawings by Ardeshir Mohasses (Washington, DC: Mage Publishers, 1994).

The twentieth-century European satires also include a unique collection of cartoons originally held in a German propaganda archive. Following the defeat of the Nazi regime during World War II, materials deemed militaristic or propagandistic were confiscated by American military authorities from official Nazi archives and publicity agencies. The bulk of this material was once housed in Munich at the Rehse-Archiv fur Zeitgeschichte und Publizistik, and is now available in the Prints and Photographs Division. Included are anti-American, anti-English, anti-French, anti-Russian, and anti-Semitic cartoons published in various sources, as well as a large group of original drawings by leading Nazi cartoonist Josef Plank, known as "Seppla". These items, along with many other cartoon-related collections listed in this article, are described in Special Collections in the Library of Congress: A Selective Guide compiled by Annette Melville. (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1980).

The acquisition of several major private collections has also greatly expanded the Library's coverage of pictorial satire. In 1974, the Library received the Caroline and Erwin Swann Collection of Caricature and Cartoon. During the 1960s and early 1970s, New York advertising executive Erwin Swann developed what was then one of the finest collections of cartoons, caricatures, and illustrations in private hands. The Swann collection contains more than 2,000 drawings, prints, and paintings spanning the years 1780 to 1975, and includes works by a variety of American and European artists and illustrators. For an in-depth description of the Swann Collection and related programs see INKS: Cartoon and Comic Art Studies, 1:2 (May 1994).

In fall 1993, the Library of Congress acquired the Ben and Beatrice Goldstein Foundation Collection of twentieth-century prints and drawings. The Goldstein Collection is particularly strong in images related to themes of social and economic injustice, war, poverty, and politics. Among the two thousand items in the collection are a number of original drawings by artists who worked for the radical leftists journal The Masses just prior to World War I. Also included in the Goldstein Collection are numerous political cartoons drawn for the Daily World by Oliver Harrington and Fred Wright. Currently, access to the Goldstein Collection is restricted to those engaged in advanced research. An exhibition, Life of the People: Realist Prints & Drawings from the Ben & Beatrice Goldstein Collection, selected images from the Goldstein Collection is currently available online.

PittsburghFor a larger image, click on the picture.

Robert Minor, Pittsburgh, 1916. Lithographic crayon and india ink. Published in The Masses, 8 (August 1916). Ben and Beatrice Goldstein Collection. LC-USZC4-4903 (color film copy transparency) LC-USZ62-111306 (b&w film copy neg.)

The Jack Kapp Collection of cartoons and comic strips is housed in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division (several objects are framed and on exhibit in the Recorded Sound Reading Room). The Kapp Collection contains about seventy-five drawings, most for editorial cartoons, assembled in the 1940s by Jack Kapp, president of Decca Records, and donated to the Library upon his death by his widow. The cartoons deal with the sound recording industry, spanning several decades of the phonograph industry and American social life as it relates to recorded sound. Cartoonists represented include Rube Goldberg, H.T. Webster, Gluyas Williams, L.M. Glackens, Burt Thomas, Fred Packer, Clifford Berryman, Jack Markow, and David Breger.

In addition to political caricatures and cartoons, the Library has amassed a particularly fine collection of original drawings for comic strips. Most were acquired with the Caroline and Erwin Swann Collection of Caricature and Cartoon, which amply records the early history and later development of the American newspaper comic strip. In summer 1992, the Library acquired the George Sturman Collection of cartoon art, which contains more than 250 original comic strips from 1896 through 1980. Addition of the Sturman Collection has added depth and quality to the Library's cartoon holdings. Drawings from the Sturman Collection are available through the Cartoon Drawing filing series. Artist's gifts have also enhanced the comic strip collections. For example, in 1954, Pogo creator Walt Kelly donated one hundred and thirty original strips and panels to the Library, while Garry B. Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury, periodically adds to the body of his work housed in the Prints and Photographs Division.

The Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room is home to the Library's extensive Comic Book Collection, which includes more than four thousand comic titles and contains almost one hundred thousand individual issues. The earliest comic book in the collection is a 1938 issue of Action Comics. Other notable titles are: Adventure Comics, Batman, Archie, Dennis the Menace, Doctor Strange, The Flash, Superman, and Tarzan. The Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room holdings contain underground titles as well, such as Robert Crumb's Best Buy Comics, Blab, Middle Class Fantasies, and Trailer Trash. Comic books from Chile, Italy, Sweden, the Philippines, Germany, Turkey, Senegal and Mexico are also in the collection.

Most of the Comic Book Collection comes to the Library through copyright deposit, with occasional gifts supplementing this source. Given the volume of production of this kind of work, the Library does not keep every comic book which comes through the Copyright Office, especially single issues. The Reading Room maintains a card catalog listing holdings alphabetically by date and the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room has been active in making online records available as well. Due to the fragility of the collection, patrons are not permitted to browse through the material. For those patrons who do not receive permission to view the comic books, color microfiche issues are available in the Microform Reading Room of the Jefferson Building for such DC titles as Action Comics, Adventure Comics, All Star Comics, Batman, and Superman for the Golden Age of Comics, 1939-1949.

The Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room also houses microfilm collections of historical and contemporary American and European newspapers. Patrons researching the history of comic strips, political cartoons and newspaper illustration will find the microfilm an invaluable tool, since many original newspapers have been destroyed or have deteriorated. Microfilm editions of the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, and Washington Star are kept in open files, while other newspapers on microfilm can be retrieved twelve reels at a time. The Library keeps published copies of its newspaper holdings until microfilm reels arrive and are cataloged, so that patrons have access to current newspapers as well.

Original drawings for humorous cartoons and social satires are found in the Swann Collection, Cabinet of American Illustration, and The New Yorker Cartoon Collection, all of which are housed in the Prints and Photographs Division. American cartoonists and illustrators of the 1920s and 1930s are particularly well represented in the Swann Collection, through works by John Held Jr., Ralph Barton, Rea Irvin, Anne Harriet Fish, Russell Patterson, and Peggy Bacon. The collection also includes a fine group of watercolor and gouache covers for Vanity Fair and cartoon drawings for The New Yorker by Peter Arno, Whitney Darrow, and others.

The Cabinet of American Illustration was the brainchild of William Patten, a former art editor for Harper's Magazine during the 1880s and 1890s. Patten's idea was to create a national collection of original works of art documenting what he and others considered the golden age of American illustration that took place from the 1880s until the outbreak of World War I. In summer 1932, Patten and Librarian of Congress Dr. Herbert Putnam agreed that such a collection would be a great asset to the nation, and that the Library would be an appropriate repository. In return for travel expenses and a modest daily allowance, Patten solicited donations to the Library from selected American illustrators or their heirs. The Cabinet proved a success, and over the course of four years, until Patten's deteriorating health slowed the project, the Library amassed a collection of four thousand drawings by the nation's finest illustrators. Preserved in the Cabinet are representative works by Arthur Burdett Frost, Alice Barber Stephens, Charles Dana Gibson, Charlotte Harding, Edwin Abbey, and Jessie Wilcox Smith, among others.

Although the Cabinet is devoted to the full range of the illustrator's art, cartoon and comic sketches abound. For instance, A. B. Frost's son John gave 125 examples of his father's work, including characteristically comic drawings portraying city and country bumpkins and their animal counterparts in varying stages of alarm, amusement and befuddlement. Rose O'Neill, creator of the comic strip Kewpies, is represented in the Cabinet by a number of her gentle and genteel social cartoons poking fun at American family life and the wealthy. Her stylish Art Noveau drawings complement the seventy-five works given by Charles Dana Gibson, whose turn-of-the century "Gibson girl" defined the ideal image of femine beauty for a generation of American men and women. Other cartoonist-illustrators represented in the Cabinet include Edward Kemble, Frederick Church, John Held, Thomas Worth, and Frederick Opper.

In 1960 the Prints and Photographs Division requested original cartoons from artists who regularly submitted their work to The New Yorker in order to build up its collection of images of "social significance." Thirty artists responded by submitting their work for deposit or gift between 1960 and 1970. Interpretations of social significance varied, but many of the cartoons deal with such events as the Depression, World War II, politics, and space travel. Other images deal with more general issues, such as relations between married couples or children and adults. In an attempt to donate images of social signficance, some artists did not limit their cartoons to those published in The New Yorker, but submitted illustrations published in Saturday Review, Collier's, and PM, as well as syndicated images.

Most artists donated a small sampling of their work (fifteen to fifty images) while others enthusiastically donated hundreds of cartoons, often over several years. The collection is rich in the works of Peter Arno, Perry Barlow, Whitney Darrow, Chon Day, Dana Fradon, Charles E. Martin, George Price, Mischa Richter, and Charles Saxon. Roberta MacDonald and Doris Matthews are also represented in The New Yorker Cartoon Collection. Artists and their heirs have continued to add to the collection, and at present it comprises more than three thousand cartoons. Most of The New Yorker Cartoon Collection is currently available only to those engaged in advanced scholarly research.

As suggested at the outset of this article, the Library's cartoon-related collections are extensive and diverse. They are also physically scattered throughout the institution's various divisions, and listed on a wide variety of electronic and printed finding aids and bibliographic databases. Some collections, including the Ben and Beatrice Goldstein Foundation Collection and The New Yorker Cartoon collections in the Prints and Photographs Division, contain materials that are currently available only to qualified scholars. Anyone wishing to research a particular collection, item, or subject is encouraged to contact the appropriate division(s) for specific information on access and availability, and, when necessary, an appointment. Prior planning, and using this essay as a preliminary guide, should ensure that researchers will successfully pursue their cartoon-related studies at the Library of Congress.

A version of this article appeared in Inks: Cartoon and Comic Art Studies, vol. 1, no. 3 (November 1994). It has been updated with current information.
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