Homer C. Davenport drawings
Language of Materials
The collection holds about 900 original ink drawings of political cartoons by Homer C. Davenport (1867-1912). These cartoons portray political figures (such as William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt), other prominent Americans (such as John D. Rockefeller and William Randolph Hearst), and topical matters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (such as police corruption, business trusts, and the "embalmed beef scandal" of 1898).
Biographical / Historical
Homer Calvin Davenport (March 8, 1867 - May 2, 1912) was an American political cartoonist and writer. Born near Silverton, Oregon, Davenport was sent by his father, Timothy Woodbridge Davenport, to the Mark Hopkins School of Art in San Francisco in 1889. Although he was expelled from the school only a month after his arrival, Davenport offered his drawings–often free of charge–to the Portland-based newspapers Evening Telegram and Oregonian, which began publishing his work in 1890. After a short stint at the San Francisco Chronicle as a cartoonist and illustrator at the recommendation of his cousin, C.W. Smith, a manager for the Associated Press, newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst took notice of Davenport's work in the Chronicle, nabbing the cartoonist for his San Francisco Examiner and later, in 1895, the New York Morning Journal, at three times his current pay.
At the Journal, Davenport produced scathing cartoons poking fun at Republican presidential nominee William S. McKinley and most notably his campaign manager, Marcus Hanna, during the 1896 election. In many of his cartoons, Davenport depicted Hanna with moneybags, his feet on laborer's skulls, and in "plutocratic plaid," with little dollar signs inscribed in each square. Through 1904, Davenport caricatured other notable Republican politicians–such as Theodore Roosevelt, the successor to the assassinated President McKinley–while championing Democrats like William Jennings Bryan.
Despite his withering attacks on Republicans, the Journal's (by then renamed the American) rival, the Republican-aligned New York Evening Mail, courted Davenport's skills as a cartoonist. Taking the job at the Evening Mail, his cartoons shifted radically; in 1904, Davenport depicted Uncle Sam resting his hand on Theodore Roosevelt's shoulder, stating that "he was good enough for me." The Republican Party capitalized on the image, investing $200,000 to reproduce the picture for the purposes of campaigning.
Toward the end of his life, Davenport was in an exceedingly frail and nervous state. After his marriage failed, Davenport experienced a nervous breakdown. Despite this, he returned to work for Hearst's American, who assigned him to illustrate the sinking Titanic in April 1912. Interviewing survivors of the sinking, Davenport contracted pneumonia and died on May 2, 1912, in New York.
(The above note was based on an article written by Gus Frederick on the Oregon Encyclopedia website, as well as Homer Davenport's Wikipedia page)
The drawings are held in 89 folders, 75 of which include drawings that at some point were identified and sorted by subject and/or named person. These sorted folders are presented first in the finding aid in alphabetical order. Individuals represented in four or more drawings have received their own folder. Individuals with fewer than four are foldered together alphabetically.
After the folders of identified drawings are the 14 folders of unsorted/unidentified drawings. In 2022, archival intern Austin Davis surveyed all of these drawings, providing at least a literal description of the images, if not an interpretation of the actual subject.
Scope and Contents
The collection holds about 900 original ink drawings of political cartoons by Homer C. Davenport (1867-1912). These cartoons portray major political figures (such as William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt), other prominent Americans (such as John D. Rockefeller and William Randolph Hearst), less recalled political figures (such as U.S. senators Thomas Platt and Marcus Hanna), topical matters (such as police corruption, business trusts, and the "embalmed beef scandal" of 1898), and more subjects of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Most of the images in the collection have been identified and sorted by topic or individual name. The container list reflects those categories. When only a last name is used in the drawing to identify an individual, probable first names have been included in the inventory, where possible. For several folders of unsorted and/or uncertain subject matter, the drawings have been given some literal description and an indication of its intended publication date as written on the drawing.
The number next to the name of each folder indicates the number of items in that folder, as well as the number of folders when there are more than one.
The drawings are generally undated, and no attempt has been made to specifically date them, but they clearly range from the 1890s to about the end of Davenport's life in 1912.
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Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff. Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, email@example.com. Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.
Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit: https://www.nyhistory.org/about/rights-reproductions
The collection should be cited as: Homer C. Davenport drawings, PR 125, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, New-York Historical Society.
Location of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
About 561 drawings, stamped with the date December 23, 1954, were acquired by N-YHS through a purchase with the Abbott Fund. The source of the other drawings, most or all stamped with the date February 21, 1957, has not been determined.
About this Guide
The collection was originally included and cataloged as part of N-YHS's caricatures and cartoons collection (PR 10). At some point, the drawings were separated from that collection, assigned a separate collection number (PR 125), and processed with a partial hard-copy finding aid prepared. But the descriptive work was not completed then and the collection not cataloged. In 2022, during the preparation of an on-line inventory of the caricature and cartoons collection, the unresolved status of the Davenport drawings was realized. In July 2022, Austin Davis, of the Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) program, transcribed the legacy partial inventory into the collection management system, added additional details, and produced this on-line finding aid.