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The Dean of American Cartoonists

Purdue alumnus John McCutcheon produced political satire and social commentary for the Chicago Tribune--and filed stories from abroad--from 1903 until 1946.

Purdue graduate John Tinney McCutcheon has been called “The Dean of American Cartoonists”.

Known for his liberal politics and his vehement opposition to the United States’ entry into World War 2, McCutcheon won the Pulitzer Prize for a commentary on the situation back home. In the winning cartoon (“A Wise Economist Asks a Question”), published in The Chicago Tribune in 1932, a squirrel asks a man smoking on a park bench why he didn’t save for the future. The man, who is labeled “victim of bank failure”, replies, “I did.”

Born in the Tippecanoe County town of South Raub in 1870, McCutcheon went to nearby Purdue, where he edited the school newspaper and yearbook and was active in his fraternity. Celebrated humorist and fellow Hoosier George Ade was also a Sigma Chi brother, and the two began a creative collaboration that endured throughout their respective careers.

One example remains from the October 1917 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine: a set of seven New Fables in Slang, subtitled “A Mosquito Fleet of Undersized Chasers and Destroyers”.

Graduating from Purdue in 1889, McCutcheon landed an illustrator’s job with The Chicago Morning News [later The Chicago Record]. He transferred to The Chicago Tribune in 1903, producing political satire and social commentary for the editorial page—and filing stories as a foreign correspondent—until his death in 1946.

A profile about McCutcheon that appeared in Hearst’s International magazine referenced the charming bachelor’s extensive travels. After his grand tour of Europe with Ade in 1895, McCutcheon caught the travel bug, covering war zones from Cuba to the Transvaal to the Philippines. For his roadworthiness, McCutcheon was elected a member of the Explorers’ Club of New York and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London.

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