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Candidates, Campaigns, and the Cartoons of Clifford Berryman

Self-Portrait Clifford Berryman, 1904
Self-Portrait Clifford Berryman, 1904

Among the official papers of the U.S. Senate housed in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives is a collection of 2, 400 original cartoons by Pulitzer prize-winning political cartoonist Clifford Berryman. Berryman was born in Kentucky in 1869 and began his career in Washington at age 17 as a draftsman for the U.S. Patent Office. In 1891 he became a cartoonist's understudy at the Washington Post , and within five years he had risen to become the paper's chief political cartoonist. For more than 50 years, from 1896 to 1949, Berryman's cartoons appeared almost daily on the front page of the Washington Post and then the Washington Evening Star.

Washington political circles embraced Berryman's cartooning. Berryman rarely drew mean-spirited cartoons and was balanced in his commentary of partisan politics. He was a talented portraitist and his cartoons are renowned for their accurate portrayal of well-known gurus. Berryman often gave away his original cartoons and examples of his artwork can be found in collections across the country.

The U.S. Senate's collection, salvaged from the estate of Berryman's daughter Florence Berryman, constitutes the largest known collection of Clifford Berryman cartoons. After Florence Berryman's death in 1992, thousands of Clifford Berryman's original pen-and-ink drawings were discovered in garbage bags in the basement of the family house in Northwest Washington, D.C. Through a series of fortunate events, the Charles Engelhard Foundation purchased the entire collection and donated it to the U.S. Senate with the stipulation that the cartoons be housed in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives and made available for study and exhibition. The donation was made in honor of former Majority Leader Mike Mansfield.

Forty-four of Berryman's original drawings from the Senate collection are currently on display at the National Archives in the new exhibit Running for Office: Candidates, Campaigns, and the Cartoons of Clifford Berryman. Time to coincide with the 2008 campaign season, the cartoons in the exhibit illustrate various aspects of the American campaign and election process. Although the personalities and some of the issues have changed, Berryman's cartoons are timeless in the way they reflect America's system of democracy. Each section of the exhibit highlights an important part of the election cycle--from candidates entering the race, narrowing the field of candidates, organizing the campaign, wooing the voters, entering the homestretch, and finally the tallying of the election results.

*"Running for Office" runs in the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery at the National Archives through August 17, 2008. Hours are 10am-7pm March 15 through Labor Day, 10am-5:30pm the day after Labor Day through March 14, and closed Thanksgiving Day and December 25. Admission is free and open to the public. The National Archives is located on Constitution Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets, N.W. An online version of the exhibit is at www.archives.gov/exhibits/running-for-office

 


byJessie Kratz, Archives Specialist with the Center for Legislative Archives/National Archives.

 
  

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