The Primary Source Librarian

Dedicated to Excellence in Teaching with Primary Sources

Running for Office

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has a great new online exhibit called Running for Office: Candidates, Campaigns, and the Cartoons of Clifford Berryman. Given the interest of young people in the current presidential campaigns, this exhibit comes at just the right time.

Fifty-two early 20th century political cartoons drawn by Clifford Berryman have been selected by NARA to illustrate the campaign process from beginning to end. Each cartoon is accompanied by a simple explanation of how it relates to political campaigns. Teachers or students can click on each cartoon to enlarge it or to download and print it. One especially fun feature is the option to right click and set bonus background desktop images of the cartoons. Honestly, I think that from beginning to end, this is a beautifully designed Web site.

Political cartoons are unlike any other form of political commentary. Visual in nature, cartoons show altered physical traits and highlight minute details to make a specific point. With simple pen strokes, they foreshadow the future, poke fun at the past, and imply hidden motives in ways that elude written or spoken reporting. The result of this creative license is a unique historical perspective—entertaining, clever, and insightful.

For many years, educators have used the NARA Cartoon Analysis Worksheet, and it could also be used to analyze the cartoons in this exhibit.

Cartoonist Berryman is credited with drawing the first Teddy Bear image to represent Teddy Roosevelt. Just think, if it weren’t for Berryman, The Hungry Bear Restaurant in Woodland Park, Colorado, would have to find a whole new theme. There would be no Build-a-Bear stores in shopping malls. Other plush critters would have to fill our children’s bedrooms.

Berryman, like all cartoonists, used symbols to convey common concepts. According to the exhibit Web site, “Personification and symbolism are two of the strongest tools available to the political cartoonist.” For Berryman, these symbols included the Democratic donkey, the Republican elephant, the bee (“representing political aspirations as the ‘buzz’ in a potential candidate‘s ear”), Uncle Sam, John Q. Public, and Miss Democracy.

Clifford Berryman Clifford Berryman Self Portrait


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