Using The Editorial Cartoons Of The New Deal Era

Local Portfolio Requirement
This project uses the editorial cartoons of the New Deal Era to satisfy one of the seven parts of the eleventh grade AP United States History portfolio requirements. The portfolio is a local requirement, not a College Board requirement. The work is challenging but can be adapted to fit many purposes.

What was the focus of this assignment?
Students were required to use newspapers, magazines and editorial cartoons of the New Deal Era. The project discourages copy and paste CD-ROM activity. It is impossible to prevent CD-ROM use and Internet surfing. The challenge was to create an assignment that required the use of contemporary New Deal materials while still allowing for 1990's methods of information gathering.

How would teachers get microfilm to complete this project?
Unless you have an exceptional school library it will be necessary to work with local libraries. For the completion of this project the Schenectady County Public Library allowed the Niskayuna school library to borrow a year's editions of The New York Times microfilm. Each week a different year was on loan. The assignment encouraged students to work in 1932 and 1937. The Schenectady High School shared their microfilm resources of Time and Newsweek magazines for that time period.

How long did it take to complete this project?
Six weeks. The directions are detailed. In 1997 the assignment took closer to ten weeks since students were distracted by the AP exam and other end of the year activities.

Can the assignment be simpler?
Using editorial cartoons is very flexible. A much simpler assignment is possible using just one or two cartoons. For example the cartoon used as the "headline" cartoon for this project has sufficient detail to be a simpler assignment.

Using The Utopian Fireside ( by S.J. Ray [Kansas City Star (MO), March 11, 1937] students might be challenged to find answers for the following:

1.Identify: Ickes, Hopkins, Lewis, Farley and Wallace. What was their role in the New Deal?

2.Why is Wallace holding a corn plant and a baby pig? Why is a baby pig particularly significant?

3.The outline map of the United States has two black states. What were the states? What is implied by the title of the map, 1940 plans?

4.One of the men on FDR's knee also ran for President but not against FDR. Who is the man? What special part did he play in 1937? Given the subsequent flow of events following this cartoon is the placement of the two men on FDR's knee a good prediction?

5.Why is the child crying?

6.What is the significance of the blocks in front of Lewis?

7.Why does Ray use the term chat instead of talk in the speech balloon?

How do I use today's cartoons?
The assignment can be easily modified to study modern topics for which political cartoons are available. Encourage students to collect cartoons from newspapers and magazines during the year. Newsweek has had a collection of cartoons that review the events of the year in early January. Students and teachers will find that issue particularly useful. Modify the deadlines to fit your time needs. Be sure to require proper bibliographic entries.

How do I download the cartoons?
To download this file or any of the cartoons on the FDR Editorial cartoon site please refer to downloading instructions. Download only the detailed view.

Am I free to copy this assignment?
You are free to copy and use any part of the assignment. Since all the cartoons are intended for classroom use be sure to limit their use to student projects. Always encourage students to properly cite their sources. Several examples are given below. If you make improvements or have suggestions please sent them to

Is a rubric written?
A rubric, written by Eitan Shapario (Class of 1998), like the rest of the project can be modified to suit your classroom needs. Using the rubric in conjunction with the student checklist at the end should help the teacher and the student.

Are there any examples of projects completed?
All students who wished to have their work posted will soon be part of this site.

Student Checklist

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Send mail to Paul Bachorz at

Copyright © 1997 Niskayuna High School