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Over 6,500 Editorial Cartoons in USM Libraries

"A picture shows-A cartoon shows and thinks."-Ranan R. Lurie, former editorial cartoonist for the New York Times speaking at USM in 1973.

by Toby Graham,
Head of Special Collections

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      In the 1860s and 1870s, Harper's Weekly set out to expose the corruption of William Macy Tweed, leader of New York's Tammany Hall political machine. Thomas Nast's political cartoons were particularly effective in their criticism, and "Boss" Tweed was claimed to have railed in response: "I don't care what the newspapers print about me. Most of my constituents can't read anyway . . . But stop them damn pictures!"
      Since the mid-1700s, editorial cartoons, using simple text and a single image, have been vehicles for public criticism and political commentary. Their combination of visual imagery, journalism, and satire is intellectually accessible to the public, and at their best, the cartoons respond powerfully and vividly to current events.
      For researchers and students, editorial cartoons provide a caricature of social and political thought in the past. Cartoons survive as an art form and as journalism. They present educators with engaging and effective instructional resources.
      As a part of its Editorial Cartoon Collection, the University Libraries hold more than 6,500 examples of this format. Originally prepared for newspapers, magazines, and in some cases television, the cartoons address a spectrum of topics ranging from presidential elections to high school sports. The collection presents artistic commentary on the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate, and the Vietnam War.
    Some of the artwork reflects changes in American social and political attitudes. A pro-segregation cartoon from the early 1960s, for example, depicts a civil rights worker peering from behind bars that spell out "white power." Other cartoons seem almost timeless, lampooning government bureaucracy, taxes, and political corruption.

 
Ricky Nobile Cartoon
by cartoonist Ricky Nobile, 1976

       
The collection consists of original editorial artworks by more than 300 artists from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The cartoons date from 1782 to 1980, though the bulk of the collection was created since 1960. In addition to the cartoons, the collection contains biographical files on contributing artists.
      The University of Southern Mississippi acquired the Editorial Cartoon Collection from the member artists of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists. These individuals donated their artwork for a series of traveling exhibits of editorial cartoons that the University sponsored between 1972 and 1979. During that time, more than 200 university libraries and schools of journalism throughout the United States hosted the exhibits.
      Patrons may view items from this collection at the Cleanth Brooks Reading Room at the McCain Library & Archives. Hours of operation are 9 until 4, Monday through Friday.



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