Hidden away in the basement of his old house,where Berryman's late daughter also lived,the trash bags contained the largest known collection of his work.
His name may not be familiar today,but during 50 years of drawing editorial cartoons for two Washington newspapers Berryman influenced how Americans perceived their government. For example,he was the first to portray President Theodore Roosevelt as a Teddy bear.
What emerged from his basement is an exhibit of pen-and-ink cartoons that goes on display Friday. “Running for Office: Candidates,Campaigns,and the Cartoons of Clifford Berryman,” will run through Aug. 17 at the National Archives.
“His line,his artwork,the line of his artwork,was absolutely gorgeous,” said Michael G. Rhode,an editor at the International Journal of Comic Art. “Even now,the characters he drew are clearly recognizable,even though the politicians he was drawing may have been dead for over 50 or 60 years.”
Berryman depicted world and national news in his cartoons,including both World Wars and the Great Depression. He accurately portrayed the topics of that time,most of which we are still struggling with today,said Martha Grove,an archivist at the Center for Legislative Archives. In one cartoon,a Democratic donkey and an Republican elephant sit on a log,their backs to each other,fishing for issues from the same pond.
“People may have changed,some issues may have changed,but the political process is still the same,” Grove said.
Born in 1869,Berryman began his career at the Washington Post in 1891. He moved to the then-dominant Washington Evening Star in 1907,where he drew until his death in 1949.
“He was above the fold and under the masthead,” said Jessie Kratz,co-curator of the exhibit.
Unlike some political cartoonists today,Berryman was respected and beloved by many politicians because he was not mean spirited,Grove said. He didn't distort physical appearances of the people he was mocking,and he editorialized about people and topics from an unbiased stance.
“He harpooned both sides equally,” Grove said.
Kratz said the exhibit's theme materialized after a month of poring over copies of the cartoons splayed on the floor. The collection epitomizes the political process,from a candidate's decision to run for office through the election.
After buying the cartoons in 1992,the Charles Engelhard Foundation donated them to the Senate,which gave them to the National Archives. Curators spent five years figuring out when each of the cartoons was first published.
The Library of Congress has a small collection of his original drawings,but the location of many others is unknown.
“Clifford Berryman was fond of giving them away,” Grove said.
Kratz said she thinks the public will learn about this legendary Washington figure and about the historical events occurring during his life.
“It's kind of cliché – history repeats itself,but it does,” Kratz said.
After a stroke in the 1920s,Berryman dropped to working three days a week. His son,Jim Berryman,took over the other days and went on to a long cartooning career. The elder Berryman died several months after collapsing in the Star's lobby on his way to work.
His obituary in the Evening Star “had all these quotes from all these presidents,” including one from Harry Truman calling Berryman “a Washington institution comparable to the Monument.” Many of the presidents Berryman knew also wrote to him throughout his career.
To celebrate the opening of the exhibit,the National Archives will present a discussion by a group of Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonists,chaired by Pat Oliphant. The free event is open to the public and starts at 7 p.m. on Feb. 7 in the McGowan Theater.