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April 9, 2007

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist's works to go on display

John McCutcheon cartoon
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Purdue University Libraries will display the works of Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper cartoonist John T. McCutcheon from April 13 to May 15.

The display will be in Archives and Special Collections, located in Stewart Center's Room 279.

McCutcheon, an 1889 Purdue graduate who is often called the "Dean of American Cartoonists," spent a 57-year career in newspapers, all in Chicago. In 1932, while the front-page cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his work titled "Bank Failure," or "A Wise Economist Asks a Question."

"I think that there is a broad appeal with this exhibit," said Sammie Morris, head of Archives and Special Collections and an assistant professor of library science. "There is not only local appeal in that he's one of Purdue's most famous alumni, but the broader appeal for his cartoons is on the national and international level. He's well-known for addressing the important issues of his time, and some of the things he addressed are very important to researchers today, such as war, gender, race and other political issues."

Six graduate students from a Department of English class titled "Rhetorics of the Lost Archives: Theory, Research, Practice" are preparing the display.

Shirley Rose, a professor of English who is leading the class, wants to introduce her students to archival research by exploring how archives are created, organized, described and maintained.

"A very, very big reason for what we're doing is for the students to learn about archival materials, to learn about doing archival research and scholarship, and to learn about how archival collections are made by working with these materials in some of the ways professional archivists do," Rose said.

McCutcheon's work on display will highlight Purdue, domestic and international politics, social issues of race and gender, and illustrations of fables written by fellow Purdue graduate, friend and humorist George Ade. The graduate class will create a permanent online digital exhibit about the collection that will be available from the Archives and Special Collections' Web site.

Visitors will be able to view about 20 of McCutcheon's cartoons in their original forms. The cartoonist's unedited comments are written in the margins, which will provide a glimpse into his thoughts as he drew and provide context for his works.

"These students are in a very privileged position," Rose said. "Most researchers don't get a chance to see the scope of a collection firsthand. They don't get involved in making decisions about how the materials should be described to visitors."

McCutcheon was a founding member of the university's first fraternity, Sigma Chi. He also was a creator of the Debris yearbook.

He landed his first newspaper job in 1889 at the Chicago Morning News, later called the Chicago Record and the Chicago Record-Herald. He began creating front-page cartoons in 1895 before moving on to the Chicago Tribune. He retired from there in 1946.

McCutcheon traveled the world extensively. He caravanned through Persia and Chinese Turkestan, flew over the Andes in Peru and sailed the Amazon by riverboat. He was in Paris for the Peace Conference in 1918-19 and hunted big game in Africa with President Theodore Roosevelt.

McCutcheon illustrated stories by George Ade for his book "Fables in Slang." McCutcheon wrote an autobiography, "Drawn from Memory," published a year after his 1949 death by Bobbs-Merrill. A collection of his work is in "John McCutcheon's Book," privately printed by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1948.

McCutcheon's son and granddaughter will attend the 5-7 p.m. Friday (April 13) opening night when the collection goes on display.

Writer: Jim Bush, (765) 494-2077,

Sources: Sammie Morris, (765) 494-2905,

Shirley Rose, (765) 494-3756,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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