About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for American Comics: A History

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s virtual author lecture with Jeremy Dauber about his new book, American Comics: A History.

Before we begin, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs on our YouTube channel.

And on Wednesday, December 15, at 1 p.m., we will present a program called “Anti-Federalists and the Bill of Rights.” Professors Mary Sarah Bilder and Woody Holton will discuss the arguments of the Anti-Federalists and present-day controversies over how we teach the Bill of Rights.

And on Thursday, January 6, at 1 p.m., award-winning historian and biographer Kate Clifford Larson will tell us about her new book, Walk with Me, a biography of civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer.

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Cartoons and comic books might not be the first things to come to mind when thinking about what one can find in the National Archives. However, you can find records relating to 19th-century cartoonist Thomas Nast (creator of the Democrats’ donkey and the Republicans’ elephant), original drawings by 20th-century political cartoonist Clifford Berryman (creator of the Teddy Bear), and even story boards for a Superman comic to promote President Kennedy’s Council on Physical Fitness.

The largest concentration of comic books is in our Center for Legislative Archives. In the 1950s, a Senate subcommittee on juvenile delinquency collected a number of comic books as evidence, including MAD Magazine number 1.

Elsewhere in the National Archives, you can even find Batman in a copyright infringement case and Superman in special issues created for the U.S. Navy.

Today, author Jeremy Dauber will tell us about the history of American comics over the last 150 years.

In a review in the New York Times, Michael Tisserand praised Dauber’s book, American Comics, as ”an entertaining and richly detailed new history of comics. . . . a scholarly survey that is both opinionated and frequently funny.”

And Michael Saler, writing in the Wall Street Journal, says Dauber’s “perceptive, critical overview is enlivened by a jaunty style that bops from the political cartoons of Thomas Nast in the 1860s to the demise of an equally influential gadfly, Mad magazine, in 2018.”

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Jeremy Dauber teaches American Studies at Columbia University and is director of Columbia's Institute of Israel and Jewish Studies. His books include Jewish Comedy: A Serious History, which was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.

Now let’s hear from Jeremy Dauber. Thank you for joining us today.