USF Libraries | Special & Digital Collections | Exhibits

Art of the Poison Pens: A Century of American Political Cartoons is a testament to the long-standing and vital role that the visual arts have played in the construction of an American political identity. Sometimes cartoons mock, cajole, poke, prod, offend and embarrass their subjects, while at other times they are lamentations during times of challenge and distress.

With examples ranging in date from 1871 to the present, Art of the Poison Pens explores more than a century of American political history through the lens of humor. Here we feature the work of Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartoons winners placed alongside several relatively unknown cartoonists who plied their trade in local newspapers.

This exhibition was drawn from The Mahan Collection of American Humor and Cartoon Art in the Special & Digital Collections Department at the University of South Florida Tampa Library. Dr. Charles Mahan, Dean and Professor Emeritus in the USF College of Public Health, donated the materials in 2006. Dr. Mahan began collecting political cartoons, animation art, and comic strips from auctions and antique stores in 1950, and the collection grew in depth and breadth to include letters from cartoonists and notes from many personal meetings between the collector and the artists.

A version of this exhibit first appeared at the Tampa Museum of Art from August 4 – September 16, 2012, in conjunction with the City of Tampa’s role as host of the 2012 Republican National Convention.