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Running for Office:  Candidates, Campaigns, and the Cartoons of Clifford Berryman

Biography

Clifford Kennedy Berryman was born in 1869 in the village of Clifton near Versailles, Kentucky. As a child, drawing was one of Berryman’s favorite pastimes and he regularly sketched friends, animals and even local politicians. Berryman’s work attracted the interest of Kentucky Senator Joseph C.S. Blackburn, who saw one of Berryman’s sketches displayed in a local office building. Recognizing Berryman’s talent, Blackburn helped secure Berryman a position as a draftsman at the U.S. Patent Office. In 1886, at the age of 17, Berryman moved from Kentucky to Washington, DC where he used his self-taught talents to draw patent illustrations. He left the Patent Office in 1891 to become a cartoonist’s understudy for The Washington Post. Within five years, Berryman had risen to chief cartoonist, a position he held until 1907 when he became the front-page cartoonist at the Washington Evening Star–– the most widely read newspaper in Washington at that time. Berryman drew political cartoons for the Star until his death in 1949 at the age of 80.

Washington political circles embraced Berryman’s cartooning. Throughout his extraordinary career he drew every Presidential administration from Grover Cleveland to Harry Truman. He satirized both Democratic and Republican political figures but never used outlandish caricature, which won him great respect from many politicians. With brilliantly simple pen strokes, Berryman created exacting portraiture that was both flattering and true to his subjects.

Berryman is most celebrated for his November 16, 1902, Washington Post cartoon, “Drawing the Line in Mississippi,” which portrayed an image of the teddy bear for the first time. In 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt had famously refused to shoot an old bear during a hunting trip. Berryman changed the old bear into a cute, cuddly “teddy bear”––named for the President––and it became a common symbol in Berryman’s cartoons. By some estimates, Berryman drew over 15,000 cartoons in his lifetime and his work was formally recognized in 1944 with a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. In 1949, President Harry Truman honored Berryman with a well-deserved compliment: “You are a Washington Institution comparable to the Monument.”

In the early 1990’s, approximately 2,400 of Berryman’s original pen-and-ink drawings were discovered in the basement of his late daughter, Florence. Depicting over half a century of local and national political events, the cartoons spanned Berryman’s career as the preeminent Washington political cartoonist. This rare mass of cartoons constitutes the largest known collection of Clifford Berryman’s work. The Charles Engelhard Foundation, recognizing the historic significance of the collection, purchased the drawings from Florence Berryman’s estate. They then donated the collection to the U.S. Senate, which in turn transferred the cartoons to the National Archives to be housed with the official Senate records.

The Berryman cartoons are now part of the official Records of the U.S. Senate housed in the Center for Legislative Archives. Since the First Congress in 1789, the records of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have documented the history of the legislative branch. These records remain the legal property of the House and Senate, but are preserved and made available by the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC.


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