Sources For Railroad Cartoons

I make no claim that the cartoons on this site are the result of a comprehensive search.  However, the appearance of the worldwide web along with the propensity of many publications to reprint cartoons from other sources makes a fairly extensive search manageable.  In addition, a few journals and newspapers carried enough material to make their search fruitful, at least for certain periods.

Before the 1890s, newspaper political cartoons were not common.  An exception is the New York Daily Graphic, which dates from 1873 and contains large numbers of cartoons.  However, for the early years I have relied mostly on cartoons appearing in magazines, many of which are reprinted and available through the American Periodical Series (APS).  Beginning in the 1850s, Harper's Weekly contains many cartoons while Frank Leslie’s Weekly also has some material. Puck, The Wasp and Judge date from the 1870s and 1880s and are gold mines of wonderful color drawings.  The humor magazines Punchinello, Tid-Bits and Wild Oats contained little. The Freeman, an early Black newspaper, contains few images that relate of railroads.

From the late 1890s, The Arena, Cosmopolitan, Current Literature (later Current Opinion), The Independent and Outlook regularly reprinted newspaper cartoons from across the country, all of which can be searched through APS.  Literary Digest and Review of Reviews also reprinted materials but are not in APS.  The historical Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal are important sources available on line at many libraries from Proquest.  The Chicago Defender from the same vender is an important resource on Blacks and railroads.  The Boston Globe, New York Times and Washington Post, also from Proquest contain fewer images.
Railroad labor cartoons during the nineteenth century appeared in the popular press but Railway Times and other labor journals carried few of them. Later The Masses, New Masses, Solidarity and Industrial Worker contain a small number of images. Beginning in the 1920s the journals of the railroad brotherhoods are a rich source and I have searched them all.  Similarly, about 1910 company advertisements and magazines begin to include images.  Of the latter I have searched most carefully publications of the Baltimore & Ohio, the Erie, the New York Central, the Rock Island and the St. Louis & San Francisco (which is on line; see below).

I have not searched the agricultural or populist press for populist cartoons very thoroughly.   Topeka Farmer, Dakota farmer, Southern Mercury and the journals available on APS have little. After 1900, Country Gentleman has some cartoons depicting farmers’ views on railroad issues.
Other magazines and newspapers must be searched by hand in print or on microfilm.  I have searched the following in highly selective fashion: the Baltimore Sun; Chicago Herald; Chicago Daily News; Philadelphia North American, and San Francisco Examiner.

Good general sources for railroads on the web include Railserv Railroad History and Northeast Rails. Cartoons are also available from a number of web sites.  I found the following useful for cartoons and commentary
Almanac of Theodore Roosevelt.  Many Roosevelt cartoons; some of them dealing with railroads.

Cartoons and Comment on the Election of 1896  More populist cartoons; but the text discusses railroads there are few cartoons on them.

Dime Novels and Penny Dreadfuls at Stanford.  A large collection with much railroad-related material along with discussion and text.
Editorial Cartoons of Ding Darling.  A mine of wonderful work that included many cartoons on railroads.

The Frisco.   Large number of issues of The Frisco which was the company magazine of the St. Louis & San Francisco railroad.  Contains many cartoons but they are hard to find.

The Library of Congress.  The library’s Prints and Photographs catalog ( contains hundreds of railroad related-images, many of which may be downloaded from your home computer and others downloaded from a visit,. The library’s web site “Chronicling America” includes an increasing number of newspapers from about 1900-1910.  Those with cartoons include the New York Evening World, the San Francisco Call, the Salt Lake Herald, and Washington Herald.

The National Humanities Center, which is the source of the opening cartoon of the octopus along with its annotation, contains a range of similar material from the Progressive era along with valuable educational materials.

The North Carolina Election of 1898.  Contains lots of racist cartoons but little on railroads.

Populist cartoons. About 40 hard to find cartoons on the Populists’ critique of America but has little on railroads.

Post Civil War Caricature and Woman Suffrage.  Lots of cartoons on women but little on railroads.

Railroad Advertisements.  Old railroad-related ads.  Most of these are not very cartoon-like.

Puck’s Homepage.  Has a good discussion of political cartoons along with the importance of Puck and a good bibliography.

Railroad Extra.  A gold mine of primary sources on railroads.  Contains a good deal of advertising and art as well as books and articles.

Railroad Stories. Contains mostly prose but has a small collection of art and advertising.

Street and Smith Dime Novels at Syracuse.  Lots of cover art and a discussion of the genre but not too much on railroads.

How to Get Copies of These Cartoons     

I acquired these images by downloading them from digital photographs and web sites or by scanning them in from photocopies or microfilm. As far as I know, with the exceptions noted, none of them is protected by copyright.  If that is incorrect please let me know and I will take down the offending image. Although I have tried to use the best source available, they are of varying quality.  I have partially cleaned them up; some can be improved on if you are able and some are inherently not very good.  The cartoons on this site are scanned in at 72 dpi in order to save space.  You can get high resolution digital copies of them by going to the source listed on the cartoon and making your own.  Alternatively if you email me I may be able to send you a higher resolution file.  I also have many hundreds of images that are not on this site; if you are looking for a particular cartoon, let me know and I may be able to find it for you.  If you have a cartoon you think belongs on the site send it to me; I will post it if I agree with you.


Contact me