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Karl K. Knecht Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: GBS
Date: Mar 1969

Biographical History

Karl K. Knecht (1883-1972) was an American cartoonist.

Karl Kae Knecht was born in Iroquois, Dakota Territory on December 4, 1883 and grew up in Illinois. Knecht’s mother was an Irish immigrant and Knecht’s father owned a clothing store and drew cartoons to use in store advertisements. Knecht attended the Chicago Art Institute for three years and after publishing his first cartoon in 1905 in the Freeport (Illinois) Standard, Knecht went to work as the cartoonist at the Evansville Courier where his first cartoon appeared in September 1906.

In addition to drawing cartoons for the paper, Knecht became staff photographer in 1917 when the newspaper bought its first camera and also wrote columns and reviews. His "Say, Kay! What of Folks, Shows, Animals N' Such" column appeared weekly from 1919 until 1954. Knecht was named director of the paper and served as vice president from 1952 to 1960. For most of Knecht’s career, his cartoons appeared seven days a week on the front page until 1954 when they were moved to the editorial page. Knecht worked for the Courier for so long that he came to be known as the “dean of editorial cartoonists”.

Knecht was also involved with the circus. He helped organize the Circus Fans Association in 1925 and was both secretary-treasurer and president of that organization and produced its magazine, White Tops. He also helped found the Mesker Zoo in Evansville after he was given a pair of lions in the late 1920s.

Knecht was a member of Sigma Delta Chi and also a founding member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. In 1953, Knecht received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Evansville College and July 22, 1954 was proclaimed Karl Kae Knecht Day in Evansville, Indiana. He was also a supporter of numerous charitable causes and would at times use his cartoons to bring attention to these causes.

Karl Kae Knecht retired from the Courier in May 1960 and died in Evansville, Indiana on July 28, 1972.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Karl K. Knecht Papers consists of two series: Cartoons and Correspondence and Photographs.

Cartoons contains 88 original editorial cartoons dating from 1906 to 1960 with several undated cartoons at the end of the series. Generally, Knecht's cartoons were drawn on chalk plate from 1906 to 1912 and then with pen and ink. Dmensions vary. Knecht often included an elephant with his signature. Some sources have noted that this was due to Knecht's allegiance to the Republican Party while other sources have said the elephant was included as an homage to Knecht's interest in the circus and possible a reference to the elephants that were given to him. The circus was a motif Knecht frequently used to portray politics and a recurring character in Knecht's cartoons was Mr. Public who represented the way political decisions affected the common person.

Correspondence and Photographs is comprised of incoming letters arranged chronologically and two photographs. Notable correspondents include fellow cartoonists: Milton Caniff, Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling (1961) and John T. McCutcheon. Also included are letters from Clyde Beatty (1965), Eddie Cantor, Senator Albert B. Chandler, Joe Cook (vaudeville actor), Katherine Cornell, Representative Winfield K. Denton (1964), John Nance Garner (1940), J. Edgar Hoover, Representative Charles M. LaFollette, Representative Maury Maverick, John Ringling North, Henry Ringling North, and Tiffany Thayer. Knecht's work with circuses is a frequent topic and several letters were written on colored circus themed stationary.

Arrangement of the Collection

Both series are arranged chronologically with undated material appearing at the end.


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.

Subject Headings


Einstein, Albert -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969 -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Knecht, Karl K.

Corporate Bodies

Democratic National Committee (U.S.) -- Caricatures and cartoons.
United States. Congress -- Caricatures and cartoons.

Associated Titles

Evansville Courier (Evansville, Ind.)


Holidays -- Caricatures and cartoons.
American wit and humor, Pictorial.
Caricatures and cartoons -- Indiana.
Caricatures and cartoons -- United States.
Cartoonists -- Indiana.
Cartoonists -- United States.
Editorial cartoons -- Indiana -- Evansville.
Editorial cartoons -- United States.
Political cartoons.
World politics -- Caricatures and cartoons.


Russia -- Caricatures and cartoons.

Genres and Forms

Cartoons (humorous images)
Editorial cartoons.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Karl K. Knecht Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mr. Karl K. Knecht, 1966.

Table of Contents


Correspondence and photographs

Index to cartoons


Index to cartoons

The following is a list of predominant people, places and subjects appearing in the editorial cartoons in this collection. The list is not exhaustive. Some subjects may require you to browse with alternative terms.

B= Box, F= Folder. For example: B1F1= Box 1 Folder 1.