"Summer Schedule" and "The Fishin' Season": Cartoons by Clifford Berryman Christine

By Blackerby, Christine | Social Education, January-February 2008 | Go to article overview

"Summer Schedule" and "The Fishin' Season": Cartoons by Clifford Berryman Christine


Blackerby, Christine, Social Education


For 53 years, Clifford K. Berryman was a political cartoonist for The Washington Post and The Washington Evening Star. He drew thousands of cartoons commenting on the congressional and presidential candidates, campaigns, issues, and elections of the first half of the twentieth century. Berryman was a Washington institution, and his decades of daily front-page drawings were internationally renowned. Throughout his extraordinary career, he drew hundreds of members of Congress and every presidential administration from Grover Cleveland to Harry Truman.

Unlike many political cartoonists, Berryman aimed his satire and criticism at policies and processes rather than at individuals. He never exaggerated the physical features of his subjects; instead, he created drawings of individuals that were faithful likenesses. The resulting goodwill from his subjects earned him friendships and influence. One of his favorite subjects, President Theodore Roosevelt, once wrote, "My dear Mr. Berryman, you have the real artist's ability to combine great cleverness and keen truthfulness with entire freedom from malice." Berryman's exceptional work earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1944.

Many of Berryman's cartoons reflected his view of the repeating cycle of campaigns and elections that he witnessed as a Washingtonian and keen observer of the national political scene. His work captured the seemingly timeless features of the election and cam paign process in national politics.

Because members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years, and presidents every four years, Berryman regularly observed and illustrated candidates and campaigns at every point in the election cycle. Some of the details of campaigning have changed since Berryman's political cartoons were published in the daily newspaper, but the process of campaigns and elections has remained remarkably the same. Two Berryman cartoons, featured in this article, illustrate facets of this process--how a candidate gauges and gathers support and the selection of campaign issues.

"Summer Schedule"

On July 23, 1947, The New York Times published a short article stating that "Senator Robert A. Taft [son of former President William Howard Taft], an undeclared candidate for the 1948 Republican presidential nomination, will make what a spokesman described today as a 'non-political' speaking tour of the West." Taft's western tour would allow him to meet voters and determine if he had enough support for a serious run for the White House.

The following day, The Washington Evening Star published a political cartoon drawn by Clifford Berryman depicting Taft with his suitcase, creating his summer schedule, while studying a map of the Western states marked with the electoral college vote count for each state. Berryman clearly believed that Taft would use his tour of the West to accomplish strategic political objectives--not just to deliver speeches.

Berryman's cartoon on potential candidate Robert Taft reflected his understanding of the process of how individuals test the political waters. His cartoon is a graphic interpretation of, and direct response to, the story published the previous day in The New York Times. Berryman took issue with the Taft spokesman's characterization of the western tour as "non-political." As a probable candidate for president, Taft's speaking tour was undoubtedly driven by calculations of political advantage--despite his spokesman's attempt to render it more benignly. Berryman's cartoon shows what he believed was truly at stake in Taft's decision to tour the West--the Electoral College vote count of the Western states.

Electoral College calculus is a part of every successful presidential candidate's campaign. A candidate aiming for victory has to consider how to deploy his limited resources to the greatest advantage. One way to maximize time and money spent traveling to meet voters is to focus on those states that are most likely to deliver electoral votes to that candidate. …

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