“Wreaking Havoc: The Art of the Political Cartoonist”

The editorial cartoon at its best can combine trenchant political insight, genial good humor, incisive satire, a certain utopian whimsy, melancholy and a Message with a Moral. 

~ Professor Robert Darden, Journalism Department, Baylor University

Latent cartoonists are not the team players or company cheerleaders destined to be rewarded by schools and corporations.  We tend to be difficult, annoying, and seditious….  Official disapproval is something you have to go through to be a cartoonist….  You have to butt heads with Authority.

~ Kate Salley Palmer, Growing Up Cartoonist


Caricature of John West, U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia (1977-1981) (Kate Salley Palmer)

Editorial cartoons have historically graced the pages of most American daily newspapers and have been widely popular.  Their subject matter ranges from local to international matters and often provides biting commentary.  We have come to realize that our collections of political cartoons are one of SCPC’s most popular and accessible assets.

Unfortunately, the numbers of artists employed as editorial cartoonists is shrinking.  According to the Herb Block Foundation, in 1900 there were approximately 2,000 editorial cartoonists employed by American newspapers.  In 2010, perhaps forty.

Derrick/Hollings campaigns

Congressman Butler Derrick and Senator Fritz Hollings (Walt Lardner)

We currently have on exhibit a selection of cartoons by SCPC donors Walt Lardner and Kate Salley Palmer, and USC alumnus Robert Ariail, perhaps South Carolina’s best known cartoonist.  The exhibit, “Wreaking Havoc: The Art of the Political Cartoonist,” also includes our favorite piece of ephemera, the hood of Jim and Kate Salley Palmer’s old Oldsmobile station wagon, the last vestige of an automobile once decorated bumper to bumper by cartoonists attending an annual meeting.

RIP Keyserling

Wildlife mourning the passing of S.C. Representative Harriet Keyserling in 2010 (Robert Ariail)

Last week, SCPC presented a wonderful program titled “The Art of Political Cartooning,” featuring presentations by Palmer and Ariail and moderated by Charles Bierbauer, the visionary dean of USC’s College of Communications and Information Studies.

Thanks to Library Media Developer Jason Steelman, the video of that panel is now available on our website and YoutubeThree particularly charming moments occurred when Kate, who enjoys creating cartoons including song parodies, sang her cartoons.  She has a lovely singing voice.  Please visit one of these pages and enjoy the program, which enthralled the audience at the Hollings Library.

Palmer car hood

Kate & Jim Palmer donating the decorated car hood to SCPC in March of 2007

~ contributed by Herb Hartsook

This entry was posted in collections, events, exhibits. Bookmark the permalink.