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Stars of Political Cartooning – John McCutcheon

Each day this month I will be profiling a notable political cartoonist. Since the choices are vast, I’ve decided to slim the numbers down a bit and eliminate living cartoonists. Perhaps I will do a current political cartoon stars in the future.

Here‘s an archive of the artists mentioned already.

Today we look at a political cartoonist whose work resonates today as well as it did in the early 20th Century.


John McCutcheon was born in 1870, and began working as a political cartoonist in 1889, after graduating from Purdue University.

McCutcheon began at the Chicago Morning News (later renamed the Chicago Record), and quickly established himself as a popular satirical force.

See him mock William Jennings Bryan’s willingness to modify his principles in seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1896…

McCutcheon was not just a political satirist, check out this brilliant social commentary which McCutcheon produced on one of the earliest “Decoration Days” (which is now called Memorial Day)…

“You bet I’m goin’ to be a soldier, too, like my Uncle David, when I grow up.”

Bee-rutal, and works just as well in 2008 as it did in 1900.

McCutcheon would move to the Chicago Tribune in 1903, which is where he worked until his retirement in 1946. McCutcheon was treated like an institution there, which is what made him such a large inspiration to other cartoonists of the 20th Century, as McCutcheon had reached a level that all of them wanted to be – the star cartoonist.

In his front page cartoon, McCutcheon touched on stuff like mocking the public’s fascination with Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice…

To this somber piece about a tragic fire in a theater whose exit was blocked, leading to many deaths and this family dinner shy four family members…

McCutcheon was not shy about his liberal politics, as seen in this absolute blasting he gives Mississippi over their terrible civil rights reputation. Here they are at the 1904 World’s Fair, showing off their charms…

Here’s an amusing political cartoon depicting Missouri’s move away from the Democratic South to the strong Republican political machine of the North…

McCutcheon would also do straight news cartoon, like this one on the sinking of the Titanic (he traveled during World War I and filed reports)…

McCutcheon traveled a lot, and spent a lot of time big game hunting in Africa. He would later put out a book of his trips, including cartoons of the journeys.

He would also work as an illustrator (as his cartoons have a really nice, loose, accessible style to them), including an especially popular turn illustrating a modern book of fables, written by an old college friend of his, George Ade.

In 1932, late in his career, McCutcheon won the Pulitzer Prize for the following brilliant (and brutal and, frankly, quite topical now) cartoon, titled “A Wise Economist Asks a Question”….

McCutcheon died in 1949. At the time, he was known as the “Dean of American Cartoonists.”


Wow. Although they’re all great, the one with the children at the soldier’s grave is amazing. Unfortunately, the “Sunday Dinner” cartoon will probably stick with me all day. It’s among the saddest things I’ve ever seen.

[…] » Comic Book Resources continues its daily look at historical editorial cartoonist. Latest cartoonist: John Mccutcheon […]

He was great.

Also, the Missouri State Historical Society here in Columbia has a political cartoon exhibit up right now, and the original of that “Missouri moves away from the South” cartoon is there. You know, if anyone happens to be in the area.

I note that in McCutcheon’s day, his cartoons were whatever size and shape he wanted to make them. They did not have to conform to an editor’s peccadillo. The Mississippi cartoon could not have been smaller and been as effective. The Lovers need not have been larger. Trina Robbins has lobbied for more creativity in the cartoon arts. I think it’s time we took a step back in order to move newspaper cartoons into the future.

[…] won the Pulitzer Prize for a commentary on the situation back home. In the winning cartoon (“A Wise Economist Asks a Question”), published in The Chicago Tribune in 1932, a squirrel asks a man smoking on a park bench why he […]

An informative article but were you aware that in 1905 he created postcards which were the primary means of communication during that time. Originals are still available to own since they were prized posessions and not discarded by the public They are a reasonable prices below $30. He did a series of 32 reflecting the seasons of a boys life. so if you want to own an original McCutcheon look for these.

Gail Johns Neal

April 14, 2011 at 11:06 am

I have a book approx. 13″ X 10″ entitled John McCutcheons Book. The book is dedicated to John Merryweather for his untiring efforts in bringing to successful completion the fifieth anniversary publicationof the Caxton Club December 11, 1948. It has approximatly 80 signatures of well known artists and writers who belonged to the Caxton Club. Any information on this books value would be welcome. I also have other items from John Merryweathe, John McMutcheon, William Bell and others. If you might be interested, please email or reply. Thanks

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