Visit the Old State Capitol's exhibit, "Running for Office: Candidates, Campaigns, and the Cartoons of Clifford Berryman," and your eyes automatically will be drawn to the elephant on the golf course, not to mention the donkey with his own golf club hunkering down behind a bunker.
It's not just the game of kings but the preferred sport among American politicians.
And it isn't anything new. Clifford Berryman's early 20th-century editorial cartoons are proof of that.
It's all there in black and white on a printed page. That's how people received their news in the early 20th century, when smartphones, virtual reality devices and the Metaverse were nonexistent.
And it's how Berryman communicated his satire depicting the absurdity of American politics, which isn't much different from the politics of 2022.
Political divisions, wooing taxpayers with promises at election time and, yes, golf, were as much a part of the political landscape as they are now. The only difference, it seems, is the lack of social media to exacerbate it.
Still, politics was a hot topic, especially at election time, which is the focus of this traveling exhibit organized by Humanities Texas.
The show runs through Monday, July 3. It was created by the National Archives with the support of the Foundation for the National Archives, which published a book of Berryman's cartoons with an introduction by U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid.
The union of Republican and Democrat surely was symbolic in writing the piece, but the cartoons that follow — most on display in the Old State Capitol's show — depict a different story during election cycles.
"What I love most about this exhibit is that there is so much that we recognize in it today," said Lauren Davis, curator for the Louisiana Secretary of State Museum Division. "Things haven't necessarily changed between then and now. You look at some of these cartoons, and you see the politicians already campaigning for the next election once they're in office when they're supposed to be helping their constituents."
Berryman seemed to have a keen sense of the nature of politicians and government officials. He became chief cartoonist for The Washington Post in 1891, then left in 1907 to become front page cartoonist for the Washington Evening Star until his death in 1949. The Star was the most widely read newspaper in Washington at that time.
Berryman also is credited with introducing the lasting symbol of the teddy bear into the American conscious in 1902. This came about when President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot an old bear during a hunting trip, prompting critics to depict the mighty hunter as a softy.
In his drawings, Berryman transformed the old bear into a cute, cuddly "teddy bear" named for the president, which gave rise to the popular stuffed teddy bear.
But Berryman eventually used the bear to represent his own point of view, thereby allowing readers to look at the situation through his eyes.
Louisiana's Old State Capitol's exhibit, "Running for Office: Candidates, Campaigns, and the Cartoons of Clifford Berryman," shows us that not…
And he saw a lot.
"What I love about Clifford Berryman is that he used all of these neat little symbols to represent different things in his cartoons," Davis said. "They were mostly animals."
It's true. Along with the bear, the bee also played a major role, representing political aspirations as the "buzz" in a politician's ear.
Of course, the donkey is always the Democrat, and the elephant the Republican. Berryman also used an elderly lady he called Miss Democracy to personify the voice, will and mood of the American people, and his depiction of Uncle Sam always represented the United States.
One of Davis' favorite Berryman cartoons is titled, "The Post-Season Parade," highlighting the biennial departure of "lame duck" members of Congress departing Capitol Hill after losing reelection.
"Ducks are marching in this parade, and they're all beaten up and on crutches after leaving Congress," Davis said. "It really tells a great story."
Yet another cartoon panel shows an elephant and donkey in suits leaving Washington after the latest congressional session. This one, titled "They Won't Agree on Anything," shows how the accomplishments and disappointments that occur during a term in office have an impact on future elections.
Then there's Berryman's drawing, "Ain't Politics Grand?" which was published on Oct. 18, 1924, with the presidential and congressional elections only two weeks away. It shows how politicians of all parties began to promise lower taxes to woo voters.
In this cartoon, as in all American political cycles through the years, main character, "Mr. Tax Payer," revels in the attention, yet he knows it's just politics at work.
And since the exhibit focuses on campaigns and elections, the cartoons are divided into sections that focus on such particular aspects of the subject as "Throwing Your Hat into the Ring," "Narrowing the Field" and "The Campaign."
So, you may ask, what does golf have to do with a presidential or congressional campaign? Well, according to Berryman, everything.
In his cartoon, "Golfing Session," the elephant in full golfing regalia stands with club in hands on the convention putting green declaring, "I was never once off the fairway," while the donkey hides behind "the bitter contest bunker" with his golf club.
Here, Berryman shows how the Republicans were not the only party to succumb to divisiveness in a primary season — the Democrats faced the same problem during the 1924 presidential election.
And in the end, it's just politics — and golf — as usual, proving that even after a century, Berryman's insight continues to stand the test of time.
Running for Office: Candidates, Campaigns, and the Cartoons of Clifford Berryman
WHAT: A traveling exhibit organized by Humanities Texas and created by the National Archives with the support of the Foundation for the National Archives.
WHEN: Through Sunday, July 3. Hours are 10 a.m.m to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
INFO: Call (225) 342-0500 or visit louisianaoldstatecapitol.org.