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Wood Cowan Papers

An inventory of his Papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: --
Date: 1977

Biographical History

Woodson Messick Cowan (1889-1977), commonly known as Wood Cowan, was an American cartoonist, illustrator and painter.

Originally from Algona, Iowa, Cowan attended the University of Iowa before pursuing art studies at the Art Institute of Chicago. Cowan started in the newspaper business as a sports writer and cartoonist for the George Matthew Adams Syndicate in New York City (1920-1927). During this period he produced sports cartoons and worked on a number of various comic strip titles including Vivian the Vamp, Them Were the Days and Mom 'n' Pop. In 1946, Cowan briefly worked on George Ahern's comic strip Our Boarding House, featuring the popular Major Hoople character. Beginning in 1949, Cowan served as editorial cartoonist for the Bridgeport (Conn.) Evening Post (1949-1959), and then for the New Haven Register (1960-1969).

Wood Cowan was also a prolific illustrator and painter throughout his career. He contributed work to a wide variety of popular magazines including the New Yorker and Argosy, and illustrated numerous book publications. In addition, his paintings were featured in gallery exhibitions in Westport, Conn. (1964), Darien, Conn. (1968), Norwalk, Conn. (1970) and Jekyll Island, Ga. (1972).

A long time resident of Connecticut, Cowan served two terms in the state legislature there (1953-1957) and did a single term as First Selectman for the town of Weston (1957-1959).

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Wood Cowan Papers consists primarily of original cartoons and cartoon proofs. The entire range of Cowan's cartoon work is represented including approximately 50 original sports cartoons, 300 original editorial cartoons and hundreds of original cartoons from many of the comic strip titles that Cowan worked on—Vivian the Vamp, Carrie and Her Car, Them Were the Days, Mom 'n' Pop, Sissy, and others. The collection also contains a broad sampling of Cowan's magazine and book illustration work (original sketches, drawings, proofs and clippings). This work includes his Teen Tips series, Flying (A) Andy panels, Western Greats panels and sketches for Iowa Cracker Barrel, his tribute to his Iowa prairie roots. In addition, the collection includes some pieces of correspondence, two typed scripts related to Keen Trailer stories, and many other miscellaneous sketches, drawings and cartoons.

Arrangement of the Collection

Comic strips and titled illustration work are grouped together by title and arranged in chronological order. Sports and editorial cartoons are grouped separately and arranged in alphabetical order by title. There are multiple packages that contain loose groupings of miscellaneous materials. Please note that a complete inventory and reprocessing of the collection is pending. Contact the Repository for more information.


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.

Related Material

Special Collections Research Center has collections of over one hundred cartoonists. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Cowan, Wood.


American wit and humor, Pictorial.
Caricatures and cartoons -- United States.
Cartoonists -- United States.
Comic books, strips, etc. -- United States.
Editorial cartoons -- United States.
Illustration of books -- 20th century.
Illustrators -- United States.
Sports -- Caricatures and cartoons.
World politics -- Caricatures and cartoons.

Genres and Forms

Cartoons (humorous images)
Editorial cartoons.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Wood Cowan Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Wood Cowan, 1966 and Thaddeus Cowan, 1977.

Table of Contents

Package 1

Package 2

Package 3

Package 4

Package 5

Package 6

Package 7

Package 8

Package 9

Package 10

Package 11

Package 13

Package 13

Package 14

Package 15

Package 16

Package 17

Package 18

Package 19

Package 20

Package 21

Package 22

Package 23

Package 24

Package 25