Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

Theodore Roosevelt, Cartoons, and Me

by Rick Marschall

Many cartoonists – and toymakers – have adopted the 
Teddy Bear through the years. It was first depicted by 
Clifford Berryman, who made it his “mascot.”
All of these “Crowded Life in Comics” memoirs are personal, by definition, and this week a little more so. The occasion – or excuse – is the 100th anniversary of the death Theodore Roosevelt, another prime interest in my life.

Roosevelt was an early hero of mine. I began collecting books by him and about him; they now number more than 350. I collected memorabilia, and now have a fair collection of autographs, buttons, posters, and ephemera. I conducted all the research I could, including eventually getting to know his daughter “Princess Alice,” born in 1884; and today I know several latter descendants.

Political cartoonist Oscar Cesare (son-in-law of O Henry) 
accompanied Roosevelt to Chicago in 1912 for the 
tumultuous Bull Moose convention. He sketched this
 on the spot when TR addressed followers from the 
Congress Hotel balcony.
I have written two books about TR. TR in ‘12 is an expanded exhibition catalog about the Bull Moose campaign for the presidency. BULLY! is a full-length, 100,000-word biography illustrated exclusively with cartoons – vintage cartoons from Roosevelt’s day.

The latter project, and several exhibitions, were at the intersections of my two early and major pursuits as a budding historian and collector. I remember, as a kid, obsessing about old comics and ol’ Roosevelt, sometimes realizing that I was alternately specializing and not multi-tasking. (Plus which, I had other hobbies too, and a predictable proclivity for penury due to these addictions.)

W A Carlson of the Utica Globe drew front-page cartoons that were routinely 
printed in color every Saturday. This is from 1910, when he smashed 
expectations of his opponents and captured the New York State GOP convention.
One nexus was the cartoons about Roosevelt and his time. Being attracted to early humor magazines with a fanaticism I employed in acquiring old Sunday funnies, comic post cards, reprint books, song sheets, and such, I was able to acquire runs of the magazines Puck, Judge, Life, and others. For week after week – year after glorious year – there were cartoons about Roosevelt in their pages. And other presidents, also-rans, and celebrities. Fads and fancies from the Civil War to the First World War and beyond. Glorious colors; stale humor; social changes; forgotten cartoonists; great ads; masterpieces lost to history. I collected other magazines and runs of newspapers, too; not only the Sunday comics.

… all of which fed the collector monster possessing my “mind” but nurturing my heart too – however the metaphor should go – and its passion for history; for popular culture, which I suppose is my specialty.

Percy Crosby drew his famous character Skippy, paying tribute to patriotism, 
the Plattsburgh soldiers’ training camp, and his friend TR Jr.
Enough. I will share here a few of the Roosevelt cartoons I collected through the years. Not clippings or reproductions, but original art I have been blessed to acquire through the years. Enjoy.

And speaking of being blessed, I hope that readers or their children might also experience what I did in this aspect of a “crowded life.” To call it turning a hobby into a profession is true, but prosaic – and most prosaic things do not reflect the passion and joy involved. Discovering the past by holding artifacts from the past, not merely reading books or articles or charts or graphs, makes them more interesting. It makes history more interesting. And I think it makes us all more interesting too.

The great Homer Davenport drew strong anti-Roosevelt cartoons 
when he worked for Hearst early in his career, but later was 
an effective ally, and close friend

Berryman constantly was asked to draw the Teddy Bear. This crayon 
sketch, possibly for a lecture appearance, is 30 inches tall.

A 1911 caricature of TR by his friend and admirer James Montgomery Flagg

Clifford Berryman of the Washington Star was present as cartoonist 
or illustrator at every phase of TR’s life, even depicting him greeting voters.

Clifford Berryman sketched the ubiquity of Roosevelt in his professional 
life… and TR’s presence on the national political scene




  1. I accidentally rejected a comment from strand – here it is!

    Enjoyed Rick Marshall's article and collection of Theodore Roosevelt cartoons this a.m. As TR would say, "Deelighted."

    1. I just saw this. Thank you for the kind words!