Drawing Comics for Uncle Sam

Classic government propaganda drawn by cartoon greats, from Dr. Seuss to Walt Kelly.
Drawing Comics for Uncle Sam

In 1917, in the midst of World War I, the Woodrow Wilson administration had the colorful idea to establish a Bureau of Cartoons (yes, for real). The bureau was charged with enlisting the nation's finest cartoonists to create pamphlets, comic strips, and books to promote messages from Uncle Sam to the home front and our boys overseas. Among the first artists enlisted was legendary illustrator and contraption designer Rube Goldberg, who drew a series pushing Liberty Bonds.

The bureau was disbanded in 1919, but since then the government has employed the cartooning talents of luminaries such as as Will Eisner, Milton Caniff, Walt Kelly, Morrie Turner, and even Dr. Seuss, and the scope of subject matter has grown to include health care, gays in the military, drug addiction, and basically every other social issue you can imagine.

Their work, as well as the work of many long-forgotten artists, is collected in Government Issue: Comics for the People, 1940s-2000s, a new book curated by University of Nebraska art history professor Richard Graham. Here's a slideshow of some of those cartoons.

All images courtesy Abrams.