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Alumna Puts Political Cartoons in the Running

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You might not know who Clifford Berryman is, but you’ve probably cuddled with his most famous creation. Berryman inadvertently invented the Teddy Bear in 1902, when he penned a cartoon of President Theodore Roosevelt refusing to shoot a cornered bear during a hunting trip. Berryman captured the moment with his pen, featuring a cute bear cub that has inspired manufacturers and marketers since.

The cartoon is one of 44 featured in the current National Archives exhibit “Running for Office,” curated by Jessie Kratz ’98. A National Archives employee, Kratz helped brainstorm ideas for an upcoming exhibition that would tie in with the opening of the Newseum, the new seven-level interactive museum that debuted in the nation’s capital on April 11. Kratz suggested Berryman’s political cartoons, which had run on the front page of The Washington Post and, later, The Washington Evening Star, from 1898 to 1948.

“The head of the exhibits staff liked the idea and asked me to curate it,” says Kratz, who double-majored in history and political science at St. Ambrose and completed a student internship at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa. “I went through all 2,400 of Berryman’s
cartoons. I noticed many them related to elections, and since the exhibit was timed with the 2008 campaign season, it seemed like the theme of campaigns and elections was a natural fit.”

Indeed, “Running for Office” illustrates the campaign process from start to finish, featuring cartoons that, but for the candidates themselves, could run on today’s front page.

“Berryman’s cartoons reflect a political process that is still very much with us today,” says Kratz (pictured below). “We have hundred-year-old cartoons about ‘flip-flopping,’ inaccurate polling, divisive primaries, campaign finance, and wooing the voter. Things don’t change.”

Kratz points out that Berryman’s approach was different than some of his successors, however.

“He rarely drew mean-spirited cartoons. He was balanced in his commentary on partisan politics. He was a talented portraitist, and his cartoons are renowned for their accurate portrayal of well-known figures.”

“Running for Office” will remain on exhibit at the National Archives through Aug. 17. For more information on the live exhibit or to view the online exhibit, go to www.archives.gov/exhibits/running-for-office.

—S. Flansburg