In 1898, Hearst cartoonist Homer Davenport published a collection of his work. This edition looks at the people and issues behind them.
The Annotated Cartoons by Davenport
Political Cartoons from the Gilded Age
Homer Davenport (1867-1912), was a storyteller from Oregon who at various points in his career, was a circus clown, elephant oiler, locomotive engine wiper, and the world’s highest-paid political cartoonist. He was also an importer and breeder of pure-bred Arabian horses and a regular on the lecture circuit, spinning tales of far away Oregon to enthralled audiences around the globe.
In 1898, Davenport published Cartoons By Davenport, a collection of over 80 cartoons which originally appeared in William Randolph Hearst's New York Evening Journal. It was a large format work, with hardbound cover and an introduction by Senator John J. Ingalls, (R-Kansas).
In 2006, Davenport historian Gus Frederick researched, compiled and reprinted a fully annotated edition of this historic work. The faces and the issues behind Davenport's witty, satiric caricatures were teased out in a cartoon-by-cartoon commentary. However, due to the costs associated with the production, this edition was limited to just 100 strip-bound copies.
We are coming to Kickstarter to raise funds to make possible an updated, revised edition of the 2006 reprint.
Using state-of-the-art print-on-demand technology, this soft-cover perfect bound annotated edition will provide commentary which add historical context to these amazing images. Funds are needed to purchase and register our ISBN number, get it plugged into Amazon, and facilitate the printing of an initial run of 200 copies of the final book.
This revised, expanded edition of Cartoons By Davenport will number just under 200 pages, and measure slightly over 8 by 10 inches.
Why a 2012 re-issue of a 1898 book?
During the three-year sliver of time captured by Davenport's newspaper cartoons, the Republicans regained control of the White House in what many pundits have identified as the first modern political campaign. This was also a time of great economic debate, concern about special interests influencing the government, jobs, and of course the immigration issue. On the global scene, the United States was beginning to flex its military muscles, a conflict with Spain was starting to simmer, and a border dispute in Venezuela threatened war with Great Britain.
Through it all, Davenport was there, wielding his pen to spray a steady stream of caustic caricatures onto the notables and notorious of the global political scene. Davenport went on to author three more books; A second collection of cartoons in 1899 entitled The Dollar or the Man? The Question of To-Day; a travel book on his 1906 acquisition expedition to to Syria to purchase Arabian horses, My Quest of the Arabian Horse; and his autobiography, The Country Boy, written towards the end of his life in 1910.
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Obituary of Homer Davenport: With the death of Homer Calvin Davenport last month, [May 2, 1912] the work of one of America's foremost political cartoonists was brought to a sudden end. And powerful work it had been, especially in the field of politics and industrial reform. Few cartoonists had attained such great fame, or dealt stronger blows than Davenport. Although his work covered a wide range of subjects, it was his political cartoons for which he was best known. His original creations of the Trust figure -- brutal and burly -- and the dollar-marked suit of Senator Hanna, have been accepted as distinct additions to the symbolic stock-in-trade of his craft.
Davenport's "Uncle Sam" was one of the best produced by any cartoonist. He usually pictured him as a dignified and serious gentleman, shrewd of face and spare in form, clad, of course, in the traditional tricolor, but, emerging as a rule only in great crises, scenting trouble on the international horizon perhaps, and reaching out for his old flintlock, or bowed with grief over some tragic event of national interest.
While much of Davenport's work was not without humor, his strongest and most characteristic work were his serious cartoons, which partook of the nature of the stern religious reformer for whom he was named. A good deal of this quality undoubtedly came to him through being brought into early association with the work of Nast, whose powerful cartoons in Harper's Weekly penetrated the Oregon backwoods where Davenport was born. These cartoons made such an impression in the Davenport home that the mother set her heart on having her son become a great cartoonist.
Davenport began to draw very early in life, but never took any lessons in the art. In fact he got little or no schooling of any kind. This lack of technical training was at times apparent in his work, but it did not to any extent mar the satirical power of his political work. The chief qualities of his cartoons were simplicity and force. If the drawing sometimes seemed crude, the idea was always apparent and the effect strong.
Although his first efforts in newspaper work were neither brilliant nor successful, Davenport's subsequent rise to fame was rapid. Like many another American farm boy, his earliest ambitions led him in the direction of the sawdust ring; but his circus career was brief and inglorious. His first newspaper job was on the Portland Oregonian, from which he separated suddenly -- the story goes -- because his drawing of a stove for an advertisement was far from satisfactory.
After drifting about somewhat, now on the San Francisco Examiner, then on the Chronicle, and doing other miscellaneous work, he was discovered by Mr. Hearst and brought to New York in 1895 to draw for the Evening Journal as one of the highest paid men in the profession. Here his powerful work attracted wide attention and he quickly achieved national fame. Mr. Davenport remained with the Journal during the silver-and-gold campaign of 1896, the Spanish War of 1898, and the second McKinley campaign of 1900. In all of these important periods he and his pencil were in the very forefront of the molders of public opinion. In the campaigns of 1904 and 1908 he was with the New York Evening Mail. It was in the Roosevelt campaign of 1904 that Davenport drew the famous "He's good enough for me" cartoon of which millions of copies were circulated.
Davenport spent a good deal of time traveling in Europe, and on one of his trips he attended the Dreyfus trial, sketching the principal characters. He also visited England and caricatured some of the prominent statesmen there, including Gladstone, Sir William Harcourt, Balfour, and others. Recently he had gone back to the Hearst forces, and was engaged on the New York American. His last cartoon, and the one which probably cost him his life, was on the Titanic disaster. He had gone down to the dock the night the Carpathia was due and there caught a cold, which turned into pneumonia and resulted in his death.
Born in the little town of Silverton, Oregon, in 1867, Davenport was forty-five years of age at the time of his death. Besides his cartoon work, he had also written several books. He occasionally lectured on the influence and work of the cartoonist. Davenport was very fond of country life and a great lover of animals. On his stock farm in New Jersey he raised fancy poultry and bred horses and other animals. In 1906, he visited Arabia and brought over, with the Sultan's especial permission, a string of twenty-seven Arabian horses, said to be the only genuine horses of this type in America.
Had Mr. Davenport lived, he would undoubtedly have given us some brilliant work during the coming Presidential campaign. His death removed a potent force in American journalism, and a most picturesque and popular member of his craft.
From The American Review of Reviews - June, 1912
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