Some of the richest content in our historic newspapers are the political cartoons and comic strips embedded within the pages of text. Newspapers digitized through the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program and made available online at Historic Oregon Newspapers (http://oregonnews.uoregon.edu) are keyword searchable, but it may be difficult to find images, cartoons, and comics.
A keyword search for “comics” yields a plethora of pages, but few of them actually contain comic strips. If we delete the “s” and search for “comic,” the results are much more applicable. Newspapers such as the Portland Sunday Oregonian, the Salem Daily Capital Journal, and the Portland Oregon Daily Journal often contain a whole section of comics, often titled “Comic Section,” which is why a search for “comic” is much more fruitful than a search for “comics.”
The Sunday Oregonian also has a Magazine Section that contains a variety of full page photographs and images. A keyword search for the words “Magazine Section” within 5 words of each other will turn up a large number of interesting results! Here is just one example from the holiday season of 1910:
The Portland West Shore and Illustrated West Shore also contain several images, especially on the front page of every issue. Here is just one of the many illustrations to be found in the West Shore:
Political cartoons are a bit harder to come by, since they are not usually labeled with the words “political cartoon.” A search for the words “political” and “cartoon” within 5 words of each other produces very little applicable content. Luckily, this one cartoon just happens to have a statement beneath it containing the words “political cartoon,” making it easily findable:
Few cartoons actually have words printed on or near them. If anything, they might contain handwritten words that are often either misinterpreted or overlooked by the optical character recognition software that makes the pages keyword searchable. If you’re looking for cartoons, the front page of the Morning Oregonian is a good place to start. Editorial cartoons began appearing on the front page of the Morning Oregonian around February of 1903. By 1907, these cartoons were appearing on the front page on a regular basis, and this trend continued up until at least 1922, when almost every issue had a political cartoon on the front page. Take for example this prohibition era cartoon:
The Morning Oregonian is likely the most common source for finding editorial and political cartoons, but that’s not to say that other historic Oregon titles aren’t holding interesting cartoon gems within their pages. That’s where the fun of searching and browsing comes in! If you come across any cartoons, comics, or images that might be of interest to others, please leave a comment below, indicating the newspaper title, date, page number, and subject matter depicted. With your help, we can make these culturally significant images more findable for all!
For a political cartoons teacher’s guide, please see Political Cartoons in U.S. History, from the Library of Congress’ Teaching with Primary Sources, Teacher’s Guide, Primary Source Set.