Author: Caitlin McGurk (page 1 of 111)

Student Profile of Cartoonist Udo J. Keppler

Found in the Collection: Udo J. Keppler

by Emily Glassmeyer, BICLM student employee

“Memories,” created by Udo J. Keppler in 1910. This piece can be found in the Draper and Sarah Hill Collection at BICLM

One of the greatest pleasures of being a historian who works at BICLM is the access to 19th and 20th century periodicals like Puck and Harper’s Weekly. These volumes give us a glimpse into the lives and perceptions of those of the past – though, their views often did not age well. These periodicals were largely run and read by a white, middle-class, male demographic. As a result, their handling of topics regarding people of color and women are often reliant on distasteful stereotypes and oversimplifications of identities prevalent during the time. However, these tropes were fortunately not ubiquitous across the board.

Joseph Keppler, Sr. founded the American iteration of Puck Magazine following his move to New York in 1872. He passed his love of cartooning and political engagement to his son, Udo J. Keppler, who worked at the magazine with him. While in New York, Udo became richly engrossed in the cultures and practices of the local Seneca tribe of Iroquois. When he took the reins of the magazine in 1894, he merged his advocacy for nationwide women’s suffrage movements with his knowledge of Iroquois culture, best exemplified in the following:

“Savagery to ‘Civilization’,” by Udo. J Keppler. Created in the early 1900s. This piece can be found in the Draper and Sarah Hill Collection at BICLM.

When I first discovered this piece, I was critical of it. Based on what I knew from previous coursework, I was displeased at the implication that these were “rights” of the Iroquois women. On the contrary, they weren’t so much “rights” but inherent facets of their matriarchal culture. To be a woman within Iroquois tribes meant that they were an important trading partner, they played a vital role in medicinal practices, they chose which men would speak in the council and depose those who did not fit their interests, and ultimately, they were the ones responsible for the future of the tribe. It is not that progressive Native American men gave up some of their patriarchal power, but instead that that power was not the focus of their systems, and that the rights of women were inherent to their cultures and traditions. Keppler knew this, and used a simplified image of Iroquois culture to showcase how radically different their treatment of women was from the rhetoric and legislation of the American government

I soon found out that Keppler was embraced by the Seneca people, that he was an honorary chief and a key Native American rights activist. I came to realize that it was not so much that he failed to acknowledge the complexities of Native culture, but instead he knew that in order to make his point digestible to the American public, he had to simplify the realities of Native life and use the prolific rhetoric of the time to push his message– to make it appealing to mainstream white America, who often conceived of Native Americans as backwards. His simplification of Iroquois gender relations was political –all in the hope of encouraging the readership to advocate for change. If these “savages” could do it, why couldn’t they?

Joseph J. Keppler Jr. (Udo J. Keppler) receiving the Seneca Silver Star on September 23, 1937 from Jesse Cornplanter. Image from Cornell University’s Library Native American Collection.

Not only was he fully aware of Iroquois culture, but he had befriended Chief Ed Cornplanter, whose ancestors had been directly involved in the American Revolution. When the Chief died, Keppler fostered an enduring friendship with his son Jesse Cornplanter, who took over his father’s place as chief after returning from WWI. Not only was Jesse the new chief, but he was also a well-regarded artist, performer, informant to scholars and anthropologists, and played a vital role in documenting the histories, mythology, religion and ceremonies of the Iroquois people. Through his advocacy and relationship with Cornplanter, Keppler was well respected within the Seneca Iroquois community. His activist work in cartoons within Puck and elsewhere were of immense importance to their community.

“The Great Spirit,” created by Udo J. Keppler in 1920. This piece can be found in the Draper and Sarah Hill Collection at BICLM.

“The Great Spirit,” created by Udo J. Keppler in 1920. This piece can be found in the Draper and Sarah Hill Collection at BICLM.

Sources & Further Research:

For more information about Udo Keppler & Puck at BICLM, see:

For more work by Udo Keppler at BICLM, see:

Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Art Database

For more information on representations of Native American women within the suffrage movement, I recommend The “Other” as Political Symbol: Images of Indians in the Woman Suffrage Movement” by Gail H. Landsman (1992).

History of American Women:

For more information on Udo Keppler and Jesse Cornplanter’s friendship, see:

Ollie Harrington Collection Acquired by Ohio State’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum




Ollie Harrington Collection Acquired by Ohio State’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum has acquired a rare collection of materials by the late Oliver “Ollie” Harrington. Arriving from Germany, Ollie Harrington’s collection includes original published cartoons, along with roughs, sketchbooks and other archival materials.

“Ollie Harrington was an incredibly talented cartoonist, and we are honored to house a collection of his artwork and archives here at The Ohio State University. I hope that by making these materials available, more people will be able to study and appreciate his impressive work,” said Jenny Robb, Curator and Associate Professor.

Harrington was born in Valhalla, NY on February 14, 1912. Channeling his experiences with racism, he began drawing in his youth as a way to vent his frustrations with a viciously racist sixth grade teacher. He went on after high school to attend Yale for a degree in Fine Arts, earning his B.F.A. in 1940. Having been inspired by – and later involved with – the Harlem Renaissance, Harrington published cartoons in a number of Black and leftist newspapers, including The Amsterdam News and The Chicago Defender. The Pittsburgh Courier sent him to Europe and North Africa as a war correspondent. He chronicled the efforts of Black military personnel, including the Tuskegee Airmen; and his biting criticism of fighting in Europe over rights that were denied Blacks back home in the U.S. attracted the attention of the NAACP’s Walter White for whom he worked in 1946. Best known for his series Bootsie (originally titled Dark Laughter), an African American male who would make pointed criticisms of the world around him, Harrington continued with his work, even after leaving the United States due to the scrutiny he was under by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the early 1950s.

Harrington was a noted scholar as well as an outspoken artist unafraid to confront racism. He expatriated to Paris in 1951 but subsequently moved to East Germany in 1961 when he suspected the sudden death of his friend Richard Wright was an assassination. Harrington was also a well-noted author who talked about his experiences in his book Why I Left America and Other Essays (1993). The materials received by the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum from his widow, Helma Harrington, illustrate Harrington’s keen eye toward criticizing the U.S. government and capitalism as well as issues of racism and Apartheid. One rough drawing in particular – a book on how to disenfranchise American minorities with a stack of books including the U.S. constitution precariously balanced on top of it – is so relevant to our current cultural climate that it could be published today.

This collection is a window into the work Harrington did after he left the United States, showcasing how his viewpoint towards the injustices of the world never wavered even after he left America’s shores. We are thrilled to have this slice of history as part of our collections, and look forward to making this material available to scholars everywhere.

–Dr. Kay Clopton, Mary P. Key Diversity Resident Librarian: Cultural Diversity Inquiry at The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Click images in gallery to enlarge:

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