Legislative Branch

Studying U.S. Foreign Policy through Political Cartoons, 1898 - 1940


In this lesson students will analyze political cartoons drawn by Clifford K. Berryman between 1898 and 1948 to learn about topics and major events in U.S. foreign policy. The lesson is designed to accompany America and the World: Foreign Affairs in Political Cartoons, 1898–1940, a free eBook that presents political cartoons and learning resources to engage students in a discussion of foreign policy during America’s emergence as a global power.


Students develop critical thinking skills by analyzing political cartoons about U.S. foreign policy.

Guiding Question:

What principles and events shaped the emergence of the U.S. as a global power?


America and the World eBook

Graphic Organizers

21 Primary Source Sheets

Reflection Questions Worksheet

Recommended Grade Levels:

Grades 7-12


U.S. History

Topics included in this lesson:

Political cartoons, U.S. foreign policy, Imperialism, Internationalism, World War I, neutrality, the origins of World War II

Learning Activities:      

Preparing the Materials

  1. Make for each student copies of the seven “Studying U.S. Foreign Policy through Political Cartoons” Graphic Organizer pages and the Reflection Question Worksheet.
  2. Establish seven stations, one for each page of the Graphic Organizer.
  3. Make one additional copy of the Graphic Organizer to provide one page for each station.
  4. Make one copy of the Primary Source Sheets and cut along the dotted lines of each sheet. Keep each cartoon, caption, and description together with a paper clip.
  5. Place a copy of one Graphic Organizer and the related cut-outs at each station. Mix up the cartoons, captions, and descriptions at the station so that students must match the ideas together.      

Classroom Activity

  1. Divide the students into seven groups.
  2. Carousel the groups through the seven stations.
  3. Provide each group with enough time at each station for students to:
    1. Match the political cartoon to the reading and summarize the text on their individual Graphic Organizer.
    2. Match the caption to the political cartoon (the reading will help provide scaffolded support) and write the caption on their individual Graphic Organizer.
    3. Explain how the cartoon matches the caption on their individual Graphic Organizer.      

Reflection Activity

  1. When the students have completed their work at all seven stations, instruct each student to complete the Reflection Questions Worksheet and prepare to share their responses with the full class.
  2. Have a whole group discussion of the Reflection Questions.

Additional Political Cartoons Resources:

Congress Represented in Political Cartoons

Constitution Scavenger Hunt with Political Cartoons

Reviewing Big Civics Ideas through Political Cartoons

Find more Berryman cartoons in the Center for Legislative Archives in the exhibit "Running for Office."

If you have problems viewing this page, please contact legislative.archives@nara.gov.