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Editorial Cartoons and Visual Literacy

The origins of editorial cartoons date back to the eighteenth century. By the mid-nineteenth century, several magazines such as Punch and Harper’s Weekly were publishing editorial and political cartoons. It was during this time that Thomas Nast,  known as the “Father of the American Cartoon,” popularized editorial cartoons with his take-down of corrupt politicians–particularly “Boss” Tweed. Nast is also known for his his creation of the Republican Elephant and Democratic Donkey.

"Boss" Tweed as illustrated by Thomas Nast.

“Boss” Tweed as illustrated by Thomas Nast
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Visual Literacy and Common Core Standards

Several forms of literary and visual devices such as exaggeration, personification, symbolism, irony, satire and caricature are often used in editorial cartoons. Because of this, editorial cartoons support dynamic classroom lessons in Visual Literacy. Cartoons invite students to think critically and analyze what they see in the images. Such cartoons also provided an excellent opportunity to evaluate bias and point of view as most cartoonists illustrate their beliefs towards their subjects.

Find Editorial Cartoons on SIRS Discoverer

Editorial and political cartoons are featured throughout SIRS Discoverer on a wide variety of topics. Cartoons are editorially selected from prize-winning and reliable sources. These cartoons can be located though a Subject Heading search and a Subject Tree search. In addition to these searches, a cartoon can be found within the In the News feature where at the beginning of each month, SIRS editors hand-select an editorial cartoon that focuses on a news event. Students are then invited to answer a question based on the featured text and cartoon.

ProQuest SIRS Discoverer: In the News

ProQuest SIRS Discoverer: In the News

Want to know even more about the editorial cartoons? Patrick Chappatte is cartoonist who is often featured within SIRS Discoverer. Take a look at his TED Talk where he discusses the power of cartoons.

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