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Alan Dunn and Mary Petty Papers

An inventory of their papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Dunn, Alan, 1900-
Title: Alan Dunn and Mary Petty Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1907-1972
Quantity: 21 linear ft.
Abstract: The papers of the American cartoonists for The New Yorker (1926-1974) include correspondence (letters from John Taylor Arms, Peggy Bacon, Isabel Bishop, Warren Chappell, Eric Hodgins, and Alan Watts); cartoons and drawings; exhibition catalogs; notebooks; business files and financial records; and memorabilia, including clippings, photographs, and scrapbooks. .
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Alan Dunn (1900-1974) and his wife Mary Petty (1899-1976) were American cartoonists. They married in 1927, and for more than thirty years lived in a modest, three-bedroom apartment in Manhattan that also served as their studio. They rarely left the city and, although they were members of several professional organizations and clubs and attended social events, Mary Petty and Alan Dunn spent a great deal of time developing their art and a unique view of life.

Alan Dunn studied at Columbia University, the National Academy of Design and the American Academy in Rome, an experience which provided him with a particular insight about both European cultures and American tourists. When he returned to the United States, his mild satire was well-received by magazines such as the newly established New Yorker, who began publishing his cartoons in 1926. Thanks to Dunn’s expertise at drawing architecture (beginning in 1936 he contributed regularly to "Architectural Record") viewers can easily identify European settings in his cartoons such as the Roman Forum and the Basilica of Maxentius, and his social satires often illustrate American tourists’ provincial nature and myopic sense of superiority. He defined himself as a "social cartoonist, whose pen is no sword but a titillating feather that reminds us that we do not act as we speak or think."

Dunn eventually became the New Yorker's most prolific illustrator, creating 9 covers and nearly 2000 cartoons over 47 years. Several collections of his cartoons were published including Who's Paying for this Cab? (Simon & Schuster, 1945), A Portfolio of Social Cartoons (Simon & Schuster, 1968) and Architecture Observed (New York, 1970). His work has been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Academy of Design, and Salons of America, and he was a member of the American Watercolor Society, the New York Watercolor Society, and Salons of America. According to a paper by Eric M. Jones of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, it was a 1950 cartoon of Dunn's featuring flying saucers stealing trash bins in Manhattan that led noted physicist Enrico Fermi to pose the question "Where is everybody?" This question later became known as the Fermi Paradox and, in conjunction with Drake's Equation, provides the mathematical starting point for much current debate on the possibility of extraterrestrials visiting earth.

Mary Petty graduated from the Horace Mann School in New York City in 1922, and five years later she and Dunn were married. Although Petty underwent no formal art training, she had the firm support of her husband who encouraged her originality and natural talent for drawing and provided artistic guidance. Soon she too was being published in The New Yorker, and over the next four decades created a singular style of illustration characterized by a gentle satirization of New York City's Victorian era society. In a series of 35 covers produced over 26 years, Mary Petty created and chronicled the lives of the Peabody family, including Mrs. Peabody, dowager of the family, and Fay, the whimsical, fragile maid who cared for the aging mistress and her family. These cover illustrations so successfully portrayed the personality quirks of New York's upper class that people would write to remark that they knew a family that must have been the model for these paintings.

Petty published over 200 cartoons in The New Yorker and painted more than 30 watercolors for the front cover of the magazine. Her work was exhibited nationally and internationally during her lifetime. Examples of her art are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of the City of New York and the Wichita Art Museum in Wichita, Kansas. The largest single collection of her work is owned by the Syracuse University Art Collections, a gift from the artist.

Mary Petty and Alan Dunn believed that gentle, pictorial satire could be as effective as political or editorial comment. Between them they created thousands of drawings that commented upon issues that are still important to us today, reminding us that a genteel manner of examining our culture can still be effective.

[Portions of this biographical sketch adapted from text for "Mary Petty Exhibit" at Syracuse University's Lubin House and from "American Satire: Humor in The New Yorker" at Syracuse University in Florence]

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

This collection is partially processed only and remains in original order. Biographical material contains miscellaneous biographical material including a family history. Correspondence, most of which is incoming, includes letters from artists (Peggy Bacon, John Taylor Arms, Isabel Bishop, Felicia Marsh), museums (Cincinnati Art Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, New York Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art), publications (Architural Record, Living Screen, Saturday Evening Post), publishers (Alfred Knopf, Bobbs Merrill, Doubleday, Simon & Schuster), and writers (Warren Chappell, Eric Hodgins, Alan Watts). Miscellaneous notes contains poems, cartoons, captions, exhibit catalogs, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, notebooks of ideas. Subject files comprise material on a variety of topics including alcoholism, architecture, human body, investing, New Yorker covers, war, and others.

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Arrangement of the Collection

This collection is partially processed only and remains in its original order as received.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Related Material

Special Collections Research Center has collections of more than eighty cartoonists. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

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Subject Headings


Arms, John Taylor, 1887-1953.
Bacon, Peggy, 1895-1987.
Bishop, Isabel, 1902-1988.
Chappell, Warren, 1904-
Dunn, Alan, 1900- Archives.
Hodgins, Eric, 1899-1971.
Petty, Mary Archives.
Watts, Alan, 1915-1973.

Associated Titles

New Yorker (New York, N.Y.: 1925)


American wit and humor, Pictorial.
Caricatures and cartoons, United States.
Cartoonists, United States.
Women cartoonists.

Genres and Forms

Cartoons (humorous images)
Clippings (information artifacts)
Drawings (visual works)
Exhibition catalogs.



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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Alan Dunn and Mary Petty Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Finding Aid Information

Created by: -
Date: unknown
Revision history: 7 Mar 2007 - converted to EAD (AMCon); 23 Jun 2008 - corrected date format (MRC); 9 Jan 2012 - revised box numbers (MBD)

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Biographical material
Box 1 Biographical material
Box 1 Family history
Box 1 Dunn to Petty 1926-1927
Box 1 Petty to Dunn 1922-48, 1950, 1953-1971, undated (7 folders)
Box 1 Dunn, Sarah Benton
Box 2 Dunn, Alan 1915-1916, 1918-1920 (9 folders)
Box 3 Dunn, Alan 1921-1932 (9 folders)
Box 4 1933-1944 (12 folders)
Box 5 1945-1950, 1954-1961 (12 folders)
Box 6 1962-1971 (10 folders)
Box 7 1972-1974 (3 folders)
Box 7 undated
Box 7 New Yorker 1920's - 1970's (3 folders)
Box 7 Bishop, Isabel
Box 7 Bacon, Peggy & Petty 1950-1972
Box 7 Arms, John Taylor
Box 7 Hodgins, Eric
Box 7 Chappell, Warren 1957, 1968, 1970-1971
Box 7 Cincinnati Art Museum
Box 7 Cleveland Museum of Art
Box 7 Darrow, W.
Box 7 Day, Bob
Box 7 Dai News 1945-1961
Box 7 deYoung Memorial Museum, San Francisco
Box 7 Dunn, William 1907
Box 7 Fortune 1951-1958
Box 7 Galleries, general
Box 7 Harper, B. 1941-1963
Box 7 Harvard University, Fogg. Museum
Box 8 A. Knopf 11/27/31, 12/17/31
Box 8 Lathrop, Stanley (Tiffany Foundation)
Box 8 Architural Record 1930-1950
Box 8 Mumford, Lewis
Box 8 Living Screen
Box 8 Marsh, Felicia 1954
Box 8 New York Metropolitan Museum
Box 8 New York Museum of Modern Art
Box 8 Munson Williams Proctor, Utica
Box 8 Museum of the City of New York
Box 8 Pierson, Hunter 1952-1971 (4 folders)
Box 8 Price, Gerret
Box 9 Misc. (A-B)
Box 9 Better Homes & Gardens, Book Digest, Bantam
Box 9 Bobbs Merrill, Brandt
Box 9 C-D
Box 9 Doubleday, Dodge
Box 9 E-W
Box 9 Robsjohn-Gibbings
Box 9 Ramsey Advertising Agency 1961-1972
Box 9 Rhode Island Museum of Art
Box 9 Saturday Evening Post 1932-1945
Box 9 Simon & Schuster 1934-1960's (4 folders)
Box 9 Slater Memorial Museum, Norwich, Conn,
Box 9 Toledo Museum of Art
Box 9 Walton, Bill and Emily Ann Cramer
Box 9 Watts, Alan 1957-58, 1962-1963, 1965-1967, 72
Box 9 Watts, Alan, Printed material
Box 10 White, Nelson 1920-24, 1928-1931, 1933-1936, 1938, 1941-1959 (4 folders)
Box 10 Wortman
Box 10 Petty, Mary 1909-1952 (5 folders)
Box 10 Outgoing drafts ca. 1950-1964 (3 folders)
Petty, Mary
Box 11 Son and mother cartoon (public responses) 1952
Box 11 General 1953-1970 (8 folders)
Box 12 General undated
Box 12 Knopf
Box 12 Maynard Walker Gallery
Box 12 Unidentified
Box 12 Greeting cards
Box 12, 13 Christmas cards (7 folders)
Box 13 Postcards (2 folders)
Box 13 Empty envelopes
Box 13 Apartment leases
Box 13 Bank books
Box 13 Bank statements, bills, receipts, etc. (2 folders)
Box 14 Income tax information
Box 14 Insurance policies, cancelled checks/stubs
Box 14 Misc. bills & receipts
Box 14 Report cards, membership cards, passport
Box 14 Stocks & transaction information
Box 14 Works, lists of works
Box 14 New Yorker contracts
Box 14 Business records - contracts - Simon & Schuster
Box 14 Simon & Schuster - business records - "East of Fifth"
Box 14 Simon & Schuster - business records - royalty statements - "Is there intelligent life on earth?"
Box 14 Simon & Schuster - business records - "Portfolio of Social Cartoons"
Box 14 Simon & Schuster - business records - "Should it Gurgle?"
Box 14 Simon & Schuster - business records - "Who's paying for this cab?"
Box 14 Business records - vouchers - Arch. R., New York, Simon & Schuster, misc.
Box 14 U. S. Government
Box 15 Fraternity & Cosmopolitan Club
Box 15 Edmund Jacobson relaxation cards
Box 15 Alan Dunn & Mary Petty photographs
Box 15 Stationary samples & misc. memorabilia
Box 15 War Ration book pages
Box 15 Alan Dunn - misc. - printed material
Box 15 Alan Dunn - clippings, notices, articles
Box 15 Alan Dunn - assorted leaflets, brochures
Box 16 WW II military inventions
Notes (index cards)
Box 16 Science
Box 16 Edmund Jacobson
Box 16 Otto Rank
Box 16 Science of Life
Box 16 Wine
Box 16 Krishnamurti
Box 16 Alan Watts, Zen, etc.
Box 16 H.C. Wolff
Box 16 Expressions
Box 16 Misc.
Box 17 Notes (22 folders)
Box 18 Mary Petty - poems (by year & month) - price list
Box 18 Alan Dunn - cartoon & caption ideas/Arc. Rec. ideas - notebook pp.
Box 18 Alan Dunn - cartoon reprod's - discards from Rec. - Brussels Exibit
Box 18 Alan Dunn - exhibition catalogs
Box 18 Alan Dunn - gallery invitations
Box 18 Miscellaneous catalogs
Box 18 Christmas cards w/Alan Dunn cartoons
Box 18 Alan Dunn - editorial notes - New York 1943-1960, 1964, 1967, undated (4 folders)
Box 19 New York cartoons 1927-1931, 1944, 1946, 1951-1952, 1955-1956 (5 folders)
Box 19 Architectural record
Box 19 Book ads
Box 19 Private purkey
Box 19 "Is there intelligent life on earth?"
Box 19 Rackety rac
Box 19 Exhibitions
Box 19 Newspaper & periodical clippings - Alan Dunn cartoons (3 folders)
Box 19 Cartoons by other artists
Box 19 Newsclips
Box 19 Printed Dunn cartoons
Box 19 Poster on cartooning
Box 20 Hizzonor the Mayor
Box 20 Alan Dunn newspaper clippings, miscellaneous
Box 20 Punch In Suzie
Box 20 6th New York album
Box 20 Dunn Family
Box 20 Rejections
Box 20 Alan Dunn newspaper clippings - "Architecture Observed"
Box 20 Alan Dunn newspaper clippings - "Should It Gurgle"
Box 20 Alan Dunn newspaper clippings - "Who's Paying for this Cab?"
Box 20 Alan Dunn newspaper clippings - "The Last Lath"
Box 20 Alan Dunn newspaper clippings - "East of Fifth"
Box 20 Petty clippings
Box 20 Alan Dunn early sketchbook (original at SUAC)
Box 20 Miscellaneous printed material
Box 20 Memorabilia related to scouting
Box 20 Scrapbook 1931
Box 20 Scrapbook , mixed subjects 1935
Box 20 Scrapbook, faces men/women/children
Box 20 Loose Dunn clips
Box 21 Notebooks - mixed study, list of words (2 items)
Box 21 Scrapbook of book reviews - Dunn
Box 21 Captions (used?) Jan 1938 - Sept. 1959 (7 volumes)
Box 22 Notebook of subjects & dates
Box 22 Topics (or Topix)
Box 22 [untitled] 1938-1956 (9 volumes)
Box 22 Architectural Record captions (2 volumes)
Box 22 Names
Box 22 Captions - drugstores 1948
Box 22 "Spots" - captions undated
Notebooks & loose notes
Box 23 "Stage War" undated
Box 23 "The War Situational" 1951
Box 23 "First 3 War Bonds" 1942
Box 23 Cliches - collected expressions from cliche book (4 volumes)
Box 23 "Nibbles" undated
Box 23 Resubmissions/resubmissables (2 volumes)
Box 23 Gag larder"
Box 23 "Brownstone Book"
Box 23 "Bons du passe"
Box 23 "This Island" - book notes undated
Box 23 "Sociological Submissions"
Box 23 SRL Possibilities" 1959
Box 23 "World City - New York"
Box 24 Ideas - World & U.S. Politics early 1960's
Box 24 Captions 1962-1967, undated (2 folders)
Box 24 Captions - Contemp May 42
Box 24 Captions - Ideas & Expressions (not used)
Box 24 Captions - "Firsts" (5 notebooks)
Box 24 Captions - From Roughs (3 notebooks)
Box 24 Originalia
Box 24 Caption phraseology
Box 24 Caption reworks
Box 25 Captions - story (4 notebooks)
Box 25 Captions - expression (5 notebooks)
Box 25 Captions - current book Jan 1, 1947
Box 25 Captions April 1951 - June 1953 (2 notebooks)
Box 25 Captions 1953?
Box 25 Ideas (5 notebooks)
Box 26 Ideas - captions undated (9 folders)
Box 27 Ideas - captions undated (4 folders)
Box 27 Miscellaneous
Box 27 Miscellaneous - pictorial classification
Box 27 Essay drafts
Box 27 Miscellaneous captions/titles/ideas
Box 27 "Collegiatism - A Disease"
Box 27 "The Daily Event" v.1 Nov. 28, 1912
Box 27 "Disillusionment of a young painter"
Box 27 "Don't Tell Everything"
Box 27 "Ek and Ulg: The Real Adam & Eve"
Box 27 "Enough Time, The Pattern of the Executive Life" by Eric Hodgins
See also Package 1
Box 27 "Environment" - poem fragment
Box 27 "An Essay on Civility"
Box 27 "Eternal City"
Box 27 "Every Moment..." - untitled quote
Box 27 "The Finest Man in the World" - by D. C. Allen
See also "Don't tell everything".
Box 27 "Focus of Attention - a Study"
Box 27 "Gilding the Dandelion"
Box 27 "Goodbye Manhattan" first draft
Box 27 "Goodbye Manhattan" last draft -
Box 27 "Graphic Comment Art"
Box 27 "I Became a Stray Cat"
Box 27 "I Remember, a Pictorial Autobiography of an artist's childhood - an adventure in beauty"
Box 27 "Individuality"
Box 27 "Ingio Schulane" movie scenario
Box 27 "Ingio Schulane" story
Box 28 "Is there Intelligent Life On Earth?" working draft
Box 28 "Is there Intelligent Life On Earth?" - A Report to the Congress of Mars - incoplete draft
Box 28 "Is there Intelligent Life On Earth?" - A Report to the Congress of Mars - typescript carbon
Box 28 "Is there Intelligent Life On Earth?" - miscellaneous
Box 28 "Is there Intelligent Life On Earth?" screenplay
Box 28 "Just As The Little Fishes"
Box 28 "Lapis Blue" - first draft; final drafts (3 folders)
Box 28 "Lapis Blue" - manuscript pages, drawing
Box 28 "Lapis Blue" - copy manuscripts
Box 29 "Lapis Blue" - original drawings and manuscript
Box 29 Poem, "Long gloomy..."
Box 29 "The Man is insane"
Box 29 Metabolism, resume on
Box 29 "Museum bars"
Box 29 Nazi guide to America
Box 29 "New Theory of Temperament"
Box 29 "Pulsar One - A Fantasy for the Knowledgeable Child"
Box 29 "Rabbit"
Box 29 "Rabbit" by Alan North
Box 29 "Recent Rejection Slips" revised by Alan Dunn
Box 29 "Rum Runner's Romance"
Box 29 "S P Therapy"
Box 29 "Sensation of Beauty"
Box 29 "Should it Gurgle"
Box 29 "Should it Gurgle" - working title: If it weren't for Russia
Box 30 "Six Billion People" - illustrations
Box 30 "Six Billion People" - incomplete drafts (6 folders)
Box 30 "Six Billion People" - manuscript
Box 30 "The Somers Portrait of Helen" by George Gaignes
See also "They're brothers under the skin".
Box 30 "Taste" - 3d draft
Box 30 "They're Brothers Under the Skin" - by George Gaignes
See also "The Somers portrait...".
Box 30 "You Can't Go Home Again"
Box 30 "Your Day of Rest"
Box 31 Writings for - "Talk of the Town"
Box 31 School notes?
Box 31 Book notes (4 folders)
Box 31 Petty, Mary, "House of the Seven Gables"
Box 31 Writings & captions, Architectural Record (3 folders)
Box 32 Reproductions from The New Yorker 1926-1965, undated (8 folders)
Box 32 Reproductions 1956-1964
Box 32 Reproductions - newspages and magazine work 1926-1927
Subject files
Box 33 Alcohol , New Yorker 23 Jan 1960
Box 33 Architecture (7 folders)
Box 33 Architecture - water
Box 33 Art pages
Box 34 Cartoonists
Box 34 Colour
Box 34 Hardwoods
Box 34 Human body
Box 34 Investing
Box 34 New Yorker cartoons, mixed artists and years (7 folders)
Box 35 New Yorker cartoons (4 folders)
New Yorker covers
Box 35 Addams, Charles
Box 35 Allen, Laura J.
Box 35 Anno, Peter
Box 35 Barlow, P.
Box 35 Birnbaum, A.
Box 35 François, Andre
Box 35 Getz
Box 35 Hubbell, Albert
Box 35 Karasz
Box 35 Kovarsky
Box 35 Kraus
Box 35 C.E.M.
Box 35 Mahood
Box 35 Modell, F.B.
Box 35 Price, Garrett
Box 35 Saxon
Box 35 Steig
Box 35 Steinberg
Box 35 [Physics]
Box 35 Punch cartoons
Box 35 Saturday Review cartoons
Box 35 Thelwell (cartoonist)
Box 35 War
Box 35, 36 Miscellaneous printed material (2 folders)
Box 36 Small oils and watercolors - field sketches?
Box 37, 38 Card files of cartoons used
Oversize 1 Maps, Coldstream and the Bedford plan - 2 untitled cartoon publications
Oversize 2 Enough time, the pattern of the executive life - book dummy
Oversize 3 New Yorker Dunn cartoons 1930-1940, 1926-1955 (2 volumes)

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