Lines with Power and Purpose: Editorial Cartoons

On a daily basis, editorial cartoonists deliver biting social commentary made palatable through amusing and well-crafted illustration. Lines with Power and Purpose: Editorial Cartoons features fifty-one original editorial cartoons from the nation’s great metropolitan newspapers during the Golden Age of print journalism. Included in the mix are six Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonists, each demonstrating the theme of political commentary through editorial illustrations and addressing issues from the first half of the twentieth century.

These deceptively simple drawings frame the publics’ understanding of early-to-mid twentieth-century world events and trends ranging from the two world wars, the great depression, public discontent with the US government, presidential elections, daily battles regarding work-related rejection, nostalgia for homespun neighborhood charm in the Midwest, and more. Along the way, these cartoons served a dualistic intention: to provide welcomed comic relief as well as shape opinion.

The cartoonist draws strength from the limited conventions of the newspaper context. Just as the strict rules of a haiku challenge the poet to create exactly the right mood within the tight construction of very few words, the editorial cartoonist presents a powerful distillation of political argument through a single image and maybe a few well-placed labels or a short caption.

To accomplish this underappreciated feat, cartoonists develop their own language—a language taught to and subsequently shared with their readers. Standard symbols such as the oft-used Uncle Sam or Statue of Liberty evoke abstract concepts such as nation, patriotism, and public interest. On a darker side, cartoons reveal the inherent cruelty of prejudice, xenophobia, and ignorance.

Political humor relies on an informed and receptive audience. Headline stories prime newspaper readers to more quickly grasp the cartoonist’s unique take on the news of the day. A talented cartoonist makes even complex political arguments accessible to ordinary citizens. The friendly strokes of the cartoonist’s pen often belie the rawness and reality of the issues at hand. This exhibition of editorial cartoons convey how cartoons effectively expose hypocrisy, reveal contradictions, introduce news ideas, and promote fresh perspectives as news events unfold.

Included in this exhibition are Pulitzer Prize winners for Editorial Cartooning: Bruce Alexander Russell, Herbert Lawrence Block (Herblock), Charles G. Werner, C.D Batchelor, Charles R. Macauley, and Vaughn Shoemaker.

The Melton Gallery at the University of Central Oklahoma has housed this set of political cartoons for more than three decades.

From an evaluation from The Museum Broken Arrow (Broken Arrow, OK) about Lines with Power and Purpose: Editorial Cartoons:
“The Mid-America Arts Alliance allows smaller museums to bring in exhibitions that they would never be able to curate or arrange themselves. We were able to bring a new and different audience in to our museum. While our museum focuses on mostly local history, this exhibit allowed a more regional audience to enjoy the exhibition.”

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Tour Schedule

Lines with power and Purpose: Editorial Cartoons is touring March 2018–January 2023. The dates below reflect five-week exhibition periods. Dates are subject to change; please contact or (800) 473-3872 x208/209 for current availability.

  • March 25–April 30, 2018 The Museum Broken Arrow
    Broken Arrow, OK
  • May 15–June 20, 2018 Temecula Valley Museum
    Temecula, CA
  • July 5–October 5, 2018 Louisiana's Old State Capitol
    Baton Rouge, LA
  • October 21, 2018 - January 19, 2019 University of Tennessee at Martin, Paul Meek Library
    Martin, TN
  • February 3–March 10, 2019 Park City Museum
    Park City, UT
  • March 25–June 20, 2019 Historical & Cultural Society of Clay County
    Moorhead, MN
  • July 5–August 16, 2019 Refurbishment
    Kansas City, MO
  • October 7, 2019–January 5, 2020 George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
    College Station, TX
  • January 31–March 8, 2020 Krasl Art Center
    St. Joseph, MI
  • May 15–June 20, 2020 Pottawattamie Arts, Culture & Entertainment
    Council Bluffs, IA
  • July 5–October 5, 2020 General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum
    Hobart, OK
  • October 21–November 30, 2020 Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum
    Temple, TX
  • December 15, 2020–March 16, 2021 Sioux City Public Museum
    Sioux City, IA
  • March 25–April 30, 2021 Refurbishment
    Kansas City, MO
  • September 1–October 5, 2021 Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
    Athens, GA
  • October 21, 2021–January 19, 2022 Field House Museum
    St. Louis, MO
  • March 25–April 30, 2022 Kansas Oil Museum
    El Dorado, KS
  • May 15–June 20, 2022 Sand Springs Cultural & Historical Museum
    Sand Springs, OK
  • July 5–August 16, 2022 Save 25% on rental fees
  • September 1–October 5, 2022 Save 25% on rental fees
  • October 21–January 19, 2023 The War Memorial
    Grosse Pointe Farms, MI

Exhibition Details

fifty-one framed cartoons

  • Content

    Fee Includes
    Press Kit
    Registrar’s Packet
    Programming Guide
    Gallery Guide
    Text Panels
    Narrative Labels
    Full Insurance
    Installation Instructions
    Custom-Designed and Built Crates

  • Curated By

    The Melton Gallery at the University of Central Oklahoma

  • Organized By


  • Out-of-Region Rental Fee


  • In-Region Rental Fee


  • Duration

    5-week display

  • Shipping

    Van Line

  • Running Feet


  • Square Feet


  • Security

    Moderate B

  • Number of Crates/Total Weight

    estimated four crates/TBD

  • Insurance

    The exhibition is fully insured by ExhibitsUSA at no additional expense to you, both while installed and during transit.