Collection inventory

Special Collections home page

John T. McCutcheon Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: CMV
Date: Nov 1978

Biographical History

John T. McCutcheon (1870-1949) was an American cartoonist and war correspondent who worked for the Chicago Tribune for over 40 years.

John Tinney McCutcheon was born on a small farm several miles south of Lafayette in Tippecanoe County, Indiana on May 6, 1870. He spent his early childhood on the farm and his youth in neighboring communities. After receiving a B.S. degree from Purdue University in 1889, he joined the staff of the Chicago Morning News as an artist.

During 1892 and 1893, McCutcheon covered the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and in 1895 he first traveled to Europe. The presidential election of 1896 between Republican William McKinley and Democrat William Jennings Bryan provided McCutcheon with the material to open his career as a political cartoonist. While traveling abroad, the Spanish-American War got underway and McCutcheon served as a war correspondent in the Philippines returning home several year later after the Boer War.

After returning to the United States, McCutcheon started working on his first serial cartoons including Bird Center and in 1903 he joined the Chicago Tribune for whom he contributed editorial cartoons, illustrations and feature stories. During the first years of World War I, McCutcheon reported from Europe.

McCutcheon continued to travel extensively. He purchased his own island, Salt Cay in 1916 and went on hunting trips with several U.S. generals. He made several trips around the world and in 1909-1910 he spent over four months in Africa on a big game hunt, all the while contributing articles to the Chicago Tribune.

McCutcheon's cartoons ran the gamut from presidential races and national politics to societal changes and economic hardships. He published illustrations in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and illustrated several books by George Ade, a fellow Indianan and Purdue graduate whose humorous "fables" were popular from the late nineteenth century through the 1930s. His illustrations were also used by several railroads. McCutcheon's autobiography, Drawn from Memory, was published posthumously in 1950.

Purdue University and Notre Dame awarded him honorary doctoral degrees in 1926 and 1931 respectively and McCutcheon also lectured throughout the United States. His cartoons earned him an international reputation and he received a Pulitzer Prize for his 1931 cartoon, "A Wise Economist Asks a Question." He was a member of the Royal Geographical Society of London, the Chicago Zoological Society (of which he served as president for over twenty years), the University Players and Coffee House of New York, the Military Order of Carabao and the Society of Manila Bay of Washington.

Following serious illness, McCutcheon retired from the Chicago Tribune in 1946. John T. McCutcheon died June 10, 1949 in Lake Forest, Illinois. His son, Shaw McCutcheon is an editorial cartoonist.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The John T. McCutcheon Papers are divided into five series containing both visual and textual works by McCutcheon as well as biographical information.

Cartoons contains a total of approximately 663 original editorial cartoons (circa 1904-1945) drawn by McCutcheon for the Chicago Tribune as well as two copies. There are 254 dated cartoons. Within the 409 undated cartoons there are approximately 155 items with captions and approximately 254 items without captions.

Of particular interest are two copies of McCutcheon's 1931 cartoon, "A Wise Economist Asks the Question" which won the Pulitzer Prize. Topical subject matter receiving frequent attention by McCutcheon includes World War I and its aftermath (particularly Europe’s war debt), the implementation of the income tax in 1913, the increasing pervasiveness of Henry Ford’s automobile, the decision to join the League of Nations and the Mexican Revolution. While focusing primarily on national and world politics, McCutcheon also documented changes to Chicago’s political and physical landscape in terms of building projects and transportation. Recurring themes include “The Changing World” which compared the past to the present and “Cartoons of the Day” in which McCutcheon divided the image into three separate cartoons.

McCutcheon worked primarily with pen and ink on illustration board and paper but crayon was also used. Captions and pre-production notes with special instructions appear in pen and pencil. McCutcheon frequently wrote extensive text and subtitles on the back of the cartoons. Dimensions vary, although most are at least 14 ½" x 18 ½".

Illustrations and Drawings (1895-1947) includes original artwork and reproductions of McCutcheon's work. Many of these original pieces appeared in Cosmopolitan and others were drawn to accompany serialized stories. Some are pencil drawings. The reproductions include a color railroad dinner menu, work for the Illinois Children's Home and Aid Society and a rough composite of sketches and text reporting on events in the U.S. Senate. Also of interest is a copy of a map McCutcheon drew of the island he purchased.

Biographical material contains three photographs of McCutcheon, his autograph, typed biographies and programs from events he attended.

Writings consists of a diary from 1898 and undated class notes.

Published material (1902-1944) includes copies of articles written by McCutcheon; newspaper clippings of his articles, illustrated features and color artwork that appeared in the Chicago Tribune; as well as a scrapbook with McCutcheon's World War I reporting and drawings.

Arrangement of the Collection

Dated cartoons are arranged chronologically. Undated cartoons are arranged in alphabetical order by caption where one is present.


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

A number of published items have been removed from the collection, cataloged and sent to Rare Books. Please see the inventory for more information.

See the Shaw McCutcheon Cartoons for material related to John T. McCutcheon's son.

Special Collections Research Center has collections of more than 150 cartoonists. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Bryan, William Jennings, 1860-1925 -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Coolidge, Calvin, 1872-1933 -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Harding, Warren G. (Warren Gamaliel), 1865-1923 -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964 -- Caricatures and cartoons.
McCutcheon, John T. (John Tinney), 1870-1949.
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945 -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919 -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Taft, William H. (William Howard), 1857-1930 -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924 -- Caricatures and cartoons.

Corporate Bodies

Democratic Party (U.S.) -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Indiana Society of Chicago.
League of Nations -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- ) -- Caricatures and cartoons.
United States. Congress -- Caricatures and cartoons.

Associated Titles

A Boy in Fall-Time.
A Boy in Spring-Time.
A Boy in Summer-Time.
A Boy in Winter-Time.
Chicago tribune.
Cosmopolitan (London, England)


Agriculture -- Caricatures and cartoons.
American wit and humor, Pictorial.
Boxing -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Caricatures and cartoons -- United States.
Cartoonists -- Illinois -- Chicago.
Cartoonists -- United States.
Editorial cartoons -- Illinois -- Chicago.
Editorial cartoons -- United States.
Elections -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Great Depression -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Industries -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Journalists -- United States.
Political corruption -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Prohibition -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Strikes and lockouts -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Taxation -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Treaty of Versailles (1919) -- Caricatures and cartoons.
War correspondents -- United States.
World War, 1914-1918 -- Caricatures and cartoons.
World politics -- 1900-1945 -- Caricatures and cartoons.


Chicago (Ill.) -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Europe -- History -- 1918-1945 -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Europe -- History--1871-1918 -- Caricatures and cartoons.
Mexico -- History -- Revolution, 1910-1920 -- Caricatures and cartoons.
United States -- Politics and government -- 1901-1953 -- Caricatures and cartoons.

Genres and Forms

Cartoons (humorous images)
Clippings (information artifacts)
Drawings (visual works)
Editorial cartoons.
Printed materials (object genre)


War correspondents.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

John T. McCutcheon Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mrs. John T. McCutcheon , 1964.

Table of Contents


Illustrations and drawings

Biographical material


Published material

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.