Light: A Forgotten 19th Century Humor Magazine | Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and MuseumBilly Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum

Ohio State nav bar

Skip to main content

Light: A Forgotten 19th Century Humor Magazine

An Exhibition at the Cartoon Library & Museum’s Reading Room Gallery
April 9, 2009 – May 31, 2009

Light was by far the most important of lithographic comic weekly to be published outside of New York or San Francisco during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.  It provided the first or early employment to a host of talented cartoonists, illustrators, and at least one writer who would later go on to successful careers.  Those who contributed to Light included Will H. Bradley, W. W. Denslow, Frank Ladendorf, Ferand Lungren, Hy Mayer, Peter Newell, T. E. Powers, C. S. Rigby, and Horace Taylor.  It also published the works of prominent New York cartoonists, such as Eugene Zimmerman and F. M. Howarth.

During its bumpy two-and-a-half year existence, the magazine’s one constant was change: it changed its name, its place of publication, its size and appearance, and its owners, editors, and chief cartoonists.  It began in Columbus in March 1889 as The Owl.  It changed its name to Light in June and suspended publication in September.  It was revived in Chicago in February of 1890, went full-color in May, increased its page size in September, and published its final issue in June 1891.

Why Light is unknown today is due to its rarity.  Until recently, the Library of Congress held the only set and it is incomplete. For more than a century, the objects in this exhibition languished in the basement of the Chicago-area home owned by Philo C. Darrow, the magazine’s art director and editor.  The current owners of the home decided to sell the archive in early 2008 and the library acquired it shortly thereafter.  While some of the objects may be a bit worse for wear, the quality of both the original cartoons and the magazine itself is without question.

On April 9, the Cartoon Library & Museum will partner with the Aldus Society, a Central Ohio group devoted to books and the printed arts, to sponsor a lecture about Light by Richard Samuel West, an independent scholar and historian who is an expert in the history of nineteenth century American editorial cartoons.  The program will be Thursday, April 9, 2009, at 7:30 p.m. at The Thurber Center, 91 Jefferson Avenue, Columbus, OH.  The event is free and open to the public.  Socializing begins at 7:00 p.m. and allows members and guests the opportunity to discuss among themselves their book interests and latest finds.

The exhibition Light:  A Forgotten 19th Century Humor Magazine is co-curated by Richard West and Lucy Shelton Caswell, Professor and Curator of the Cartoon Library & Museum. 


About the Cartoon Library & Museum: The Cartoon Library and Museum’s primary mission is to develop a comprehensive research collection of materials documenting American printed cartoon art (editorial cartoons, comic strips, comic books, graphic novels, sports cartoons, and magazine cartoons) and to provide access to these collections.  The library is open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  See for further information.

On this Page