In the late 1890s and early 1900s, cartoons in American newspapers were an evolving art form. Highly talented artists were given generous page space on which to work their experiments in composition and dialogue. Many of these cartoonists were also painters, sculptors, and illustrators. They inherited from traditions of caricature, fable, and satire, and they reflected contemporary arts such as printing, book illustration, billboard painting, vaudeville, and kinetoscope. Their work contains innumerable references to politics, entertainment, and fashion, as well as social and technological change. They reflect the conditions of society at the time, particularly urban society.
The artists represented here are a diverse group, and their work represents only a fraction of the art created during this period. Financed by ambitious publishers and kept to a production schedule with daily deadlines, newspaper artists produced a staggering volume of material, many of them creating--in addition to comic strips--editorial cartoons, spot illustrations, story illustrations, and other artwork to supplement and augment the written content of the newspapers. In the era before television, newspaper art was a cousin to the theater as a source of visual entertainment. The technologies of printing and mass distribution allowed it to be produced at a rapid rate, enjoyed for a brief span of time, and replaced by the next day's output.
Over two million examples of newspaper cartoon art are preserved in the collections of the Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library. The images by the artists listed below are a sample from the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art collection.
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DeVoss Woodward Driscoll
Norman E. Jennett
Joseph Jacinto Mora
Frederick Burr Opper
Chicago Tribune German artists: