Claude Shafer Cartoon Collection
Posted On: 11/30/2016 - 11:21am, Posted By: Christine Engels, Archives Manager, Manuscripts Department
The Museum Center is home to a large collection of Cincinnati cartoonist Claude Shafer’s original cartoons and sixty years of his personal pocket diaries in which he daily recorded the events of his life. Shafer’s long career as a cartoonist included employment at three Cincinnati newspapers, the Times-Star, Post, and Enquirer. The collection of over 400 cartoons is a significant addition to Cincinnati Museum Center, which also holds a collection of Cincinnati cartoonist L. D. Warren. Shafer won many awards and honors for his cartoons, which included “Old Man Grump,” his syndicated series “Doodlebugs,” which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in the 1920s-1930s, and hundreds of editorial cartoons created and published during his tenure at the Times-Star and Post, often featuring his trademark cartoon dog.
On the Rampage
Shafer grew up in Cincinnati and studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy. He began working for the Times-Star in 1901 and left the same year for the Post where he worked for the next 25 years. Later he joined the Enquirer where he primarily drew sports cartoons, many of which starred “Old Man Grump” as an irascible fan and critic of the Reds. Shafer returned to the Times-Star as an editorial cartoonist and remained there until his retirement in 1956. The subjects of Shafer’s editorial cartoons ran the gamut from World War II, Hitler, Communism, and politicians, to the weather in Cincinnati.
So Near Yet So Far
Working with historical documents connects you in a very personal way with a bygone era. Most of the time these provide wonderfully intriguing insights to the time but sometimes you run across things that repulse you or make you cringe. As talented and prolific as Shafer was he was still a product of his time and experiences as we all are whether we realize it or not. Some of his cartoons contain racist images considered acceptable by many at this time. During World War II Shafer often drew Japanese people in an overly exaggerated racialized manner that was acceptable to many Americans and Europeans. The non-political cartoons, especially “Doodlebugs” use a great deal of characters, images and dialects that portray African Americans in a very simplistic and negative fashion. As these were all published in popular newspapers it must be assumed that they were deemed appropriate and even considered funny. Though any supposed humor found in these depictions passed away with that era it does provide a jarring look at popular culture of the time.
The Grind is on in Earnest
Shafer was perhaps at his best in taking the pulse of Cincinnatians with regard to local politics and events as well as on the national stage. It’s easy to forget that no one knew what the outcome of the world wars would be and Shafer masterfully captures the anxiety of the unknown and the frustrations with politicians that we can easily relate to today.
You can see an inventory of this collection on the library’s webpage under Archives & Manuscripts.