Teaching the Constitution with Political Cartoons
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Teaching the Constitution with Political Cartoons

October 9, 2019


okay, again, Greetings from the Center
for Legislative Archives in Washington DC. During today’s webinar, Teaching the
Constitution with Political Cartoons, I’ll be sharing records from the Center
for Legislative Archives. The Center is a part of the National Archives and it
preserves and makes available the historical records of the United States
House of Representatives and the United States Senate. Through its public
outreach programs the center uses these historical records to promote a better
understanding of Congress and the history of American representative
government. I’m excited to share cartoons from the Clifford K Berryman collection
with you today. Berryman was a cartoonist in Washington
DC for over five decades from about 1891 to 1949 he worked first for the
Washington Post and then later the Washington Evening Star. He is credited
with inspiring the creation of the teddy bear toy. In 1902 President Theodore
Roosevelt was on a hunting trip in Mississippi and he refused to chain an
old bear, or he refused to shoot an old bear that had been chained up for
him. When Clifford recreated this moment he drew the bear as a young cute cuddly
teddy bear, well it became known as the teddy bear after the President and
inspired the creation of the popular children’s toy. This teddy bear became a
common symbol for Theodore Roosevelt in Berryman’s cartoons and after Roosevelt
left office Berryman continued to use the teddy bear to represent his own
personal point of view so people look out for the teddy bear in the Berryman
cartoons that we look at today. Now you may be wondering if the National
Archives preserves the records of the federal government how did these
cartoons these works of art end up in our holdings? Well in the 1990s a
collection of over 2000 Clifford Berryman originals was purchased and
donated to the Senate collection. They are housed with the historical records
of Congress in the Center for Legislative Archives here in DC. The
Center also has over 200 cartoons by Jim Berryman,
Clifford’s son who also worked as a political cartoonist in DC. Within the
Berryman cartoon collection you can explore many stories and I encourage you
to explore the collection online later but today our focus is the Constitution.
My goal for today’s webinar is to provide you for tools for integrating
visual information in lessons about the Constitution. Today we’re going to
explore how we can use these political cartoons to help students both analyze
the big ideas of the Constitution like separation of powers and representative
democracy as well as use them to illustrate the roles and
responsibilities granted by this document to the three branches of
government. The historical context of these cartoons might not be familiar to
students but Berryman’s depictions of our government in action have a timeless
quality to them. Another goal for this session is to connect you with resources
for using political cartoons not just in teaching the Constitution but also in
teaching other topics in American history. Without further ado let’s get to
our first cartoon. I’m going to start by introducing you to the National Archives’
cartoon analysis worksheets. We’ve developed document analysis worksheets, two different versions a set for novice and younger students as well as a
set for intermediate and secondary students. Each worksheet goes through
four steps of questions, meet the document, observe its parts, try to make
sense of it, and use it as historical evidence. We’re going to use these sets
of questions to take a look at our first cartoon and again I encourage you to
share your thoughts in the chat box on the sidebar. So let’s start by meeting
the cartoon. Looking at the cartoon on the screen, just give it a quick scan,
what do you notice first? What stands out to you? Okay I see, we see Uncle Sam, the
flag, Uncle Sam has a big smile, we have three horses pulling Uncle Sam, Uncle Sam
has a whip in his hand, we also see the legislative and executive, excellent. Yeah
we can note the title of this cartoon, “This is the team that will win every
time.” Then we get into our next set of our questions, which you’ve started to
get into with your responses, observing the parts. Are there any labels,
descriptions, thoughts or dialogue? Well as you’ve identified in the chat box we see
the Senate, executive, and House are the labels on the three horses. As we see
uncle… and then we want to look at the visuals, we want to list the people the
objects and places in the cartoon and list any actions or activities that we
see. So we’ve mentioned the three horses, we’ve mentioned Uncle Sam, Uncle Sam’s
holding a whip, as one participant noted the whip has a bow on it, we’ve got the
American flag in the background, there are a lot of pieces to this cartoon that
you’ve identified. A great observation from our participants, the horses seem to
be going very fast or forging ahead, there’s a lot of dust being kicked up
and one participant has suggested that they are only going forward if they work
together, so starting to get at what the message is of this cartoon which is of
course the next step, trying to make sense of what all of these pieces that
we’ve identified in this cartoon. One question we asked students to consider
is which of the visuals are symbols in this cartoon? Excellent, and then the follow-up
question to that one is of course what do they stand for? So we have Uncle Sam, a
familiar symbol for the United States, we see the flag another symbol for the
United States, the horse and chariot could be another symbol sometimes used
to represent war or perhaps or some sort of race, an allusion to Roman chariots
perhaps, symbols of patriotism, absolutely. And
then the next step is what is the cartoonist message and I think we’ve
started to get at this, that this is a team that’s going to go forward if
they work together. Oh another great observation from one of our participants,
that the dust clouds haven’t settled yet in this cartoon, there’s a lot of dust. some excellent
ideas of that this is representing a team, the horses in this case are equal,
there’s no leader, that the branches have to work together, one participant notices
that the judicial branch isn’t represented which is an important
representation and we’ll get at that a little bit when we learn about the
background information for this cartoon. But just off the, based on our
observations I’m gonna bring a poll onto the screen, which big idea of the
Constitution is being represented in this cartoon? What would you make the
case for based on what you’ve observed so far? Okay I see our votes coming in
now truly you could probably make the case for any of these big ideas, but it
looks like separation of powers is in the lead, followed by checks and
balances, perhaps a representative government, enumerated powers or
federalism. Excellent, well let’s learn a little bit more about the background
information to see if it can add to our understanding of what is happening here.
So this cartoon was published on March 27th 1898. This was a little over a month
after the USS Maine had exploded and two months before President McKinley asked
Congress to send troops to Cuba, so we are seeing Berryman’s perspective on the
balance of the War Powers, which is perhaps why we don’t see the judicial
branch represented in this particular depiction of the different branches of
government. Now after analyzing this cartoon, and we
can get at that idea that war is being alluded to you through the chariot and
the race, but after you ask students to analyze this cartoon you could ask them
to find evidence of how the War Powers are separated and shared between the
legislative and executive branches in the Constitution. So if we go to the
Constitution we can pull out that Congress shall have the power to declare
war, to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy. The article
2 section 2 tells us that the President shall be commander in chief of Army and
Navy, so we’re seeing that split of the War Powers in the Constitution. If we go
back to this cartoon, how would you describe the depiction of the
relationship between the legislative and executive branches in this cartoon?
Choose a couple of adjectives. Some of the words that jump out are equal, fair,
cooperative, amiable, teamwork is involved, its friendly, its harmonious, they’re
looking to each other for pacing, we’ve got the the Senate and the House on
either side of the executive branch. Great observations, Some of, these are
some of the words we could use to describe this particular relationship.
Well let’s take a look at another Berryman cartoon that features a similar
topic. So again, in this case our title is, “Hope this won’t develop into a
neighborhood feud.” We can go through those same steps of identifying what
stands out to us, what visuals do we see, what actions or activities do we see in
this cartoon. In this case we see quite a few words, we have a fence going down the
center of the cartoon labeled separation of powers with executive on one side and
legislative on the other, we can see two figures on the executive side of the
fence one is labeled Congress the other is labeled Truman, Congress in a word
bubble is saying “Lend me your FBI” and President Truman is responding “No! And
stay on your side of the fence.” So thinking about this cartoon and what
we see here, what is the cartoonist’s message in this particular cartoon? What
symbols are we seeing in this new illustration of this relationship? Definitely, the fence is a very clear
symbol of separation of powers, there’s a there’s a property line as one
participant has noted with a clear division of powers, we’ve got the pillars in
the background, another potential symbol for the White
House or executive power ,we’ve got a message here that no one wants to give
up any power, a president is showing perhaps power over Congress, the fence
divides both branches, no one wants to give up any power, Congress has come into
the executive space, another observation from one of our participants. Excellent observation, some of the word
choices, Congress is saying “lend me your FBI,” perhaps this is a depiction of an
overreach, these are great observations. And what if we were to take again a look
at this cartoon and choose three adjectives without knowing the
historical context of this cartoon but just based on what we’re seeing here, how
would we describe the depiction of the relationship between the legislative and
executive branches in this cartoon? Tense, argumentative, somewhat
contentious, uneasy, there’s this disinclination to work together, there’s
adversity, there’s rivalry, it’s unharmonious, excellent observations. Just
by sharing these two cartoons with your students you can get at this idea, what this big idea of checks and balances really looks like in real life,
that sometimes it can be a harmonious relationship among the branches but
other times it can be a more contentious relationship and students can develop a
better understanding of how these big ideas play out in real life. Now to make
the constitutional connection for this particular cartoon we do need a little
more background information. This cartoon illustrates a struggle between the
Senate and President Truman in 1948 in May of 1948 Truman had nominated five
incumbent members of the Atomic Energy Commission to remain at their posts
within the organization, these individuals required congressional
confirmation and the Senate refused to give such confirmation until they were,
until they could see the FBI reports on each of these individuals, however Truman
refused to such investigations as an encroachment by the legislative branch
on the executive, so we’re seeing Berryman illustrate the sense from Truman
that the executive powers are being encroached upon by Congress. And then
using that background information then we could go back to the Constitution and
make that connection to article 2 section 2 the process by which the
president will nominate some appointments but needs
the confirmation from the Senate. Bringing in political cartoons like these
can be a great way to introduce a topic. Facilitating cartoon analysis using the
worksheet we’ve provided or another visual analysis strategy of your
choosing is a great way to get everyone involved in the conversation
because it starts with students sharing their basic observations. The two
cartoons we’ve looked at just now are just one example of a pairing you could
use to get out this idea of separation of powers or checks and balances. Another
example features two cartoons from 1917, again getting at this
idea of war powers but in a, using specific historical example. In the first
cartoon on the left President Wilson holds a bulletin with
the news that American ships sunk without warning and American lives lost
and he is calling Congress the war declaring body to convene on April 2nd
and it looks like he’s crossed out another date and written 2nd, bold. The
next cartoon, “Reporting for Duty,” from a few weeks later, we see the Senate, two
gentlemen labeled the Senate and the House reporting for duty, but in this
case they are reporting to that symbol of Uncle Sam again, for the
American people, a reminder that the Senate and House answer to the American
people as the representative body. So again you could use these two cartoons
to talk about War Powers, which branch declares war, why are the powers
separated and balanced in that way. Another example of a pairing to look at
the shared powers or checks and balances between the executive and legislative
branch features Harry Truman again. These are cartoons from two different years
but can anyone make the constitutional cartoons, or the constitutional
connections for either of these cartoons on the screen? Great, so we’re getting at this idea of
federal spending power looking at, yes the president can propose a budget and
the president certainly has a responsibility from Article two Section
three to give Congress information of the State of the Union, so we can make
that Constitution based on what we see, Harry Truman holding the State of the
Union and state of the budget passing it off to a nervous-looking Congress, but
then in another cartoon, a different budget in this case, Truman says “I’ll
never recognize that baby when he gets through with it” and we see a figure
representing Congress holding an axe reminding us, again connecting it back to
the Constitution Article 1 Section 9, “no money shall be drawn from the
Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law” and so we’re
seeing again Congress is the budget making branch, has the constitutional
power to actually appropriate funding and we’re seeing this struggle play out
again in these two cartoons between the legislative branch and the executive
branch. Next I want to share some additional resources from the Center for
Legislative Archives for teaching the Constitution with political cartoons. The
Center, which houses the Berryman cartoon collection, has developed a variety of
resources for the classroom including ebooks, exhibits, and lesson plans. On the
website you can find two ebooks that have been put together as PDFs and they
include a great collection of different cartoons on two different topics
as well as analysis and discussion questions to share with your students.
One volume looks at representing Congress in Clifford Berryman cartoons
and the second volume, America and the World, America and the World looks at
Foreign Affairs and political cartoons featuring Berryman’s drawings. The Center
also has a lesson plan called the Constitutional Scavenger Hunt with
Political Cartoons. In this lesson students will match sixteen different
cartoons to the article, section, and clause of the Constitution that they
represent as well as a constitutional principle embodied in the cartoon.
They’ll track their findings on a graphic organizer and keep track of how
their analysis changes during their discussion. This activity can serve as a
review of the different articles as well as a review the roles and
responsibilities of the different branches of government. For example, we
can review the process by which a bill becomes a law, or doesn’t, by using
Berryman cartoons. Great question this activity can take, I believe this one is about 45 to 60 minutes but again there
are certainly modifications you can make and I’ll show you some resources for
some other shorter activities as well as we progress through tonight’s webinar,
great question. Let’s take a look at this process by which a bill becomes a law. So
we start with our with Congress and our bills. So we have two different
depictions, contrasting depictions of what this process can look like
according to Clifford Berryman. In this case we see a cartoon by Jim
Berryman, Clifford’s son, looking at the Congressional weather forecast: long hot
summer. In this first example on the left Congress looks a little bit overwhelmed
by all the bills that are lining up to be passed by Congress, but in “Steaming Up,”
a cartoon from 1916 by Clifford Berryman we see Berryman equate Congress to a
machine, we’ve got smokestacks in the background and the sign says “on account
of the rush of business the usual holidays may be omitted.” Then we can
follow the process by which a bill becomes a law outlined in Article 1
Section 7. Two different examples here again, “for every bill which shall have
passed the House of Representatives and the Senate,” in these two cartoons we are
reminded that the cartoonist has a point of view on these issues. In the first
one Berryman is doing a little lobbying for the DC police we see a policeman
talking to the Senate which is holding a bill that says “police increase salary
bill,” it’s been okayed by the House but we’re just waiting on the Senate, so
Berryman’s doing a little gentle nudging with this cartoon. In the next cartoon
the “Hepburn Rate Bill” we get a look at the sometimes messy process by which
legislation is passed. I’m going to show a larger version of this cartoon to see
the detail Berryman has included, so in this case a bill has started in the
Senate and been okayed but it’s been through a bit
of a process there are lots of amendments tacked on to it, the bill
seems to have had a rough time of just getting through the Senate.
This one can be used to share with students when you’re talking about the
process by which a bill becomes a law, it’s not always smooth sailing, there’s a
lot of work that goes into making sure each, both the House in the Senate pass
the same version of the bill. Yes and I see one of our participants has spotted
the teddy bear and in this case he’s saying you know looks good to me.
This cartoon, these two cartoons are also a good reminder that the process of a
bill becoming a law can start in the House or the Senate.
But of course after it is passed or okayed by both the House and the Senate “it
shall before it become a law be presented to the President of the United
States,” so in this cartoon, “Anyone Home,” we see a bill that has been okayed by the
House in the Senate and while we might not know the particulars of the railroad
bill from 1920 we can still have a discussion about what this process is
showing us and how we can connect it back to the Constitution. One question I
always like to ask students with this cartoon is how would you describe the
emotions in this cartoon, what would you say that look is on the
bill’s face? Some of our responses include it
looks annoyed there’s impatience there, perhaps some arrogance, perhaps worry or
concern, it’s an intense expression, are there any other details that stand out
to you in this particular cartoon? Other adjectives include consternation or in
intrepid. Great observations, we can see the Capitol in the background where the
bill has come from, and the top hat is a great detail, this is perhaps a formal
occasion not only does the bill have a top hat he has removed it, perhaps out of
a sign of respect. Great observation from another participant, the
bill’s ringing the doorbell so he needs permission to enter, this is a
formal visit certainly. And so follow-up question to this for students could be
ok, why does the bill look worried? What are the two options for this bill upon
entering the White House? What are the potential outcomes here? Which would
get us to this idea that if the president approves the bill he should
sign it, but if not, exactly, he can veto the bill and in this case the bill might
be looking worried because the bill is not sure what the president’s reaction
is going to be. Now if the president decides not to sign it according to the
Constitution, “he shall return it with his objections to that House in which it
shall have originated who shall enter the objections at large in their journal and
proceed to reconsider it.” So in this next cartoon, a different bill in this case
but also from 1920, we see a bill thrown out of the White House back at
Congress and a sign on the yard, “keep off the grass”
and again, that relationship between Congress and the president can sometimes
be a little tense. These are just a few examples of how
Berryman’s cartoons can illustrate Article 1 Section 7. Within the
Constitution Scavenger Hunt Lesson you’ll find cartoons that relate to each
of the five articles of the Constitution. The last resource I’d like to share with
you today is DocsTeach.org, the online tool for teaching with documents from
the National Archives. On Docsteach you can explore primary sources, discover
activities you can teach with, and create fun and engaging activities. There is a
great selection of Berryman cartoons available on DocsTeach and some of my
favorite tools for using with political cartoons are listed on the screen. We’ve
taken those same document analysis worksheets the questions we were
answering earlier and turn them into an analyzing documents activity so if you
wanted your students to complete those questions in an online activity they’re
available. We also have several tools that help students focus on details
including a spotlighting, comparing and contrasting, you can zoom and crop, white
out or black out, I’ve used the black out tool or white out tool before to take
out the captions of a cartoon to get students to just focus on what they’re
seeing, the objects first, before they look at the text. We’re going to take a
look at one example of a tool and another way you can use these Berryman
cartoons together to make these Constitution connections. So I’m going to
switch over here to share my screen So here we are on DocsTeach.org. Now
anyone can browse activities created by the National Archives and search for
primary sources on DocsTeach but if you’re an educator and you create a free
account you can also save any primary sources that you find into folders and
share those folders with your students, you can have your students complete the
online activities and review their responses in DocsTeach, and you can
create and share your own activities so definitely a resource to check out later.
I’m going to go ahead and click on menu, popular topics, and click on Congress
this is the popular topics page for the records of Congress. On here you’ll find
curated collections to help you explore the records of Congress on a variety of
topics, this link down here to political cartoons will take you to all of the
Berryman cartoons that are available in DocsTeach, but what I want to focus on
first is this activity, Comparing the Constitutional Process of Taking Office
in Political Cartoons. So this is a focusing on details compare and contrast
activity. Each DocsTeach activity has a teacher page that gives you an overview
of the activity and then the student page, this is the link that you want to
share with your students for them to actually complete the activity. The
teacher page will also include suggested teaching instructions. For this activity
we’ve included potential student answers additional resources that might be
helpful for facilitating this activity you can find it there. But the purpose of
this activity is for students to analyze and compare three political cartoons by
Clifford Berryman to distinguish who puts the members of Congress, the
President, and Supreme Court Justices in office and then to connect each
political cartoon to the process of taking office as outlined in the
Constitution. So we’ll click on start activity and let me just make sure we
can share the student page on the screen here. Okay here we go so here we have the
student page for this activity for “Who Put You in Charge?” The activity begins by
having students analyze each cartoon carefully identifying the people, objects,
and places and then the students are instructed to answer the discussion
questions and then complete the activity by answering the questions in the “When
You’re Done section.” So ideally this could be done together as a class or you
could have students tackle it in groups. So we have three different cartoons here
and in each cartoon again we might not necessarily recognize the some of these
historical figures, students might not know who Barkley or Rayburn is in this
case, but we can tell that this first cartoon is about Congress and we see
John Q Public, which is a symbol Berryman often used to represent the American
people, telling Congress that “you ought to see the reorganization plan we’re
working on for next November,” hinting at the fact that when it comes to shaping
Congress the public has the final say, trhough elections. In our next cartoon we
see two presidential candidates, Truman and Dewey, and their focus is not on the
total number of votes, as they’re looking at these bulletins but they’re focusing
on winning States as presidential candidates and they’re focusing on the
calculation of electoral votes for each candidate, so getting at this idea of the
electoral college in this one cartoon from Clifford Berryman. The final cartoon
shows us a suit of armor and a sign says “latest spring style to be worn by
gentlemen nominated to be members of the US Supreme Court” and then we see a
observer say “not a bad idea” so when we connect this last cartoon to the
Constitution and students are given excerpts links to different excerpts of
the Constitution to find the language that corresponds to each process by
which branches of government take office we know article 2 section 2 again tells
us that the president will nominate and the Senate will approve Supreme Court
nominations. And so students are encouraged to consider how Clifford
Berryman represents this process and think about who decides who gets to be a
member of Congress, the President, and a Supreme Court Justice. When students are
done they are asked to contrast and compare the differences between how
members of Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court Justices take office,
to think about which branch of government is the only branch that is
directly elected by the people, but at the same time consider how citizens’
voices are reflected in presidential elections and the appointment of Supreme
Court Justices and those would be the responses they would submit to you to
review. So that is just one example of many for how you can connect cartoons
together in a DocsTeach activity and share them with your students And while
we are sharing the screen I’ll also go ahead and show you the Center for
Legislative Archives’ main page for educators. On this page you can find lesson plans,
this would include the link to the Berryman lesson plan we looked at
earlier, as well as links to the ebooks featuring Berryman cartoons. This link to
warm-up activities will teach you, take you to a collaboration between the
Florida Joint Center for Citizenship and the Center for Legislative Archives, that
features several 15-minute activities, some feature some of the cartoons we’ve
looked at today, and then of course the political
cartoons page will take you to the main page for all the different Berryman
political cartoon resources. I have one last cartoon that I’d like to share with
you today especially as we get closer to another census year, but in this
cartoon we can get a look at again this big idea of representative democracy and
this can lead to some great discussions with students about why is it the House
only the Gouse that’s getting measured in this cartoon, why is Uncle Sam doing
the measuring, you can have a discussion about what the census does and then of
course connect it back to Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution. And so as
we wrap up today political cartoons can be a great resource as you tackle
different topics in the classroom it’s an opportunity for students to engage
with visual media and visual information. These Berryman cartoons can also help
bring the Constitution to life, show what it really looks like when it’s in action
and Berryman tackles his topics with a sense of humor his take on events is
comical so can add some entertainment to tackling and discussing some of these
big ideas. And these cartoons give us a safe historical space to look at the
relationship between the different branches of government, to look at how
these different political parties work and interact with each other and after
you analyze these cartoons from this historical time period you can
ask students to make connections to the present, how does this compare to what
they see in their own lives? How might they update this political cartoon to
reflect a current issue? How does Berryman’s cartoon, how do
Berryman’s cartoons or Berryman’s Congress, how is it different or how is
the same to the Congress that we see today? Even though he worked in
Washington over 70 years ago Clifford Berryman and Jim Berryman created some
truly iconic representations of representative democracy I hope you
leave the session with new ideas for how to incorporate political cartoons when
teaching about the Constitution especially as we get closer to
Constitution Day and how to bring images into lessons to give students an
opportunity to engage with and evaluate the big ideas from this document.

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