Visit the Old State Capitol exhibit, “Running for Election: Candidates, Campaigns, and Cartoons by Clifford Berryman,” and your eyes will automatically be drawn to the elephant on the golf course, not to mention the donkey with its own golf club. behind a bunker.
It is not only the game of kings but the favorite sport of American politicians.
And this is nothing new. Clifford Berryman’s early 20th century editorial cartoons are proof of this.
It’s all there in black and white on a printed page. This is how people got their news in the early 20th century, when smartphones, virtual reality devices, and the metaverse were non-existent.
And that is how Berryman communicated his satire depicting the absurdity of American politics, which is not much different from the politics of 2022.
Political divisions, courting taxpayers with election promises and, yes, golf, were as much a part of the political landscape as they are today. The only difference, it seems, is the lack of social media to exacerbate it.
Yet politics was a hot topic, especially around election time, which is the focus of this traveling exhibit organized by Humanities Texas.
The show runs until Monday, July 3. It was created by the National Archives with support from the National Archives Foundation, which published a book of Berryman cartoons with an introduction by American senses Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid.
The union of Republican and Democrat was surely symbolic in the writing of the piece, but the cartoons that follow — most of which are on display in the Old State Capitol show — paint a different story during election cycles.
“What I love most about this exhibit is that there is so much that we recognize in it today,” said Lauren Davis, curator of the museums division of the Secretary of State for the Louisiana. “Things haven’t necessarily changed between then and now. You look at some of these cartoons and you see the politicians who are already campaigning for the next election once they’re in power when they’re supposed to help their constituents.”
Berryman seemed to have a keen sense of the nature of politicians and government officials. He became chief cartoonist of the Washington Post in 1891, then left it in 1907 to become the front-page cartoonist of the Washington Evening Star until his death in 1949. The Star was the most read newspaper in Washington at that time.
Berryman is also credited with bringing the enduring symbol of the teddy bear into American consciousness in 1902. This happened when President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot an old bear on a hunting trip, prompting critics to portray the mighty hunter as a softy.
In his designs, Berryman transformed the old bear into a cute “teddy bear” named after the president, resulting in the popular teddy bear.
But Berryman ultimately used the bear to represent his own point of view, allowing readers to look at the situation through his eyes.
The former Louisiana State Capitol exhibit, “Running for Office: Candidates, Campaigns, and the Cartoons of Clifford Berryman,” shows us that no…
And he has seen a lot.
“What I love about Clifford Berryman is that he used all these cute little symbols to represent different things in his cartoons,” Davis said. “They were mostly animals.”
It’s true. Along with the bear, the bee also played a major role, representing political aspirations as the “buzz” in a politician’s ear.
Of course, the donkey is always the Democrat and the elephant the Republican. Berryman also used an elderly lady he called Miss Democracy to personify the voice, will, and mood of the American people, and his depiction of Uncle Sam has always represented the United States.
One of Davis’s favorite Berryman cartoons is titled “The Post-Season Parade,” highlighting the biennial departure of members of Congress’ “lame duck” leaving Capitol Hill after losing re-election.
“Ducks are marching in this parade, and they’re all beaten up and on crutches after leaving Congress,” Davis said. “It really tells a great story.”
Yet another cartoon panel shows a costumed elephant and donkey leaving Washington after the last session of Congress. This one, titled ‘They Won’t Agree on Anything’, shows how the achievements and disappointments that occur during one term impact future elections.
Then there’s Berryman’s cartoon, “Ain’t Politics Grand?” which was released on October 18, 1924, with presidential and legislative elections just two weeks away. It shows how politicians of all parties started promising tax cuts to woo voters.
In this cartoon, as in every American political cycle over the years, the main character, “Mr. Tax Payer,” revels in the attention, but he knows it’s just politics at work.
And since the exhibit focuses on campaigns and elections, the cartoons are divided into sections that focus on particular aspects of the subject such as ‘Throwing Your Hat in the Ring’, ‘Narrowing the Field’ and ‘The Campaign’. .
So, you might be wondering, what does golf have to do with a presidential or congressional campaign? Well, according to Berryman, everything.
In his cartoon, “Golfing Session,” the elephant in golf attire stands with a club in his hands on the convention green, declaring, “I never left the fairway,” while the donkey hides behind “the bitter contest bunker” with his golf club.
Here, Berryman shows how the Republicans weren’t the only party to succumb to division in a primary season — the Democrats faced the same problem in the 1924 presidential election.
And in the end, it’s just politics – and golf – as usual, proving that even after a century, Berryman’s insight continues to stand the test of time.
Running for Election: Candidates, Campaigns, and Cartoons by Clifford Berryman
WHAT: A traveling exhibit organized by Humanities Texas and created by the National Archives with support from the National Archives Foundation.
WHEN: Until Sunday July 3. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
INFORMATION: Call (225) 342-0500 or visit louisianaoldstatecapitol.org.