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Dave Breger Papers

An inventory of his Papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Breger, David, 1908-
Title: Dave Breger Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1942-1969.
Quantity: 10.6 linear ft.
Abstract: Original cartoons (1942-1969) and correspondence from readers (1942-1944).
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

David Breger (1908-1970) was an American cartoonist who coined the phrase G.I. Joe and is most famous for his World War II comic strips.

Breger was born April 15, 1908 in Chicago and began drawing cartoons in high school. Breger briefly studied architectural engineering at the University of Illinois, but graduated from Northwestern with a degree in Psychology in 1931. Breger had trouble finding employment during the Great Depression and worked in his father's sausage factory before relocating to New York City in 1937 to pursue freelance work although he had no formal art training.

Breger was drafted into the Army and created the panel cartoon Private Breger which originally started in the Saturday Evening Post in 1941. When Yank also decided to publish this comic strip, Breger chose a new title, G.I. Joeand the strips began appearing under that name in June 1942. Meanwhile King Features took over syndication of the comic strip to readers in the United States in October 1942. After Breger reached the rank of lieutenant and was discharged following the war, Private Breger became Mister Breger and a Sunday strip was added. Mister Breger ran through the end of the 1960s.

Breger was one of the earliest members of the National Cartoonists Society and wrote several books including his influential reference work How to Draw and Sell Cartoons (1966) and But That's Unprintable! (1955), a book about taboos in magazine cartoons and newspaper comics. The E.S. Bird Library at Syracuse University sponsored an exhibition of Breger's cartoons in 1979, WWII and Private Breger (Feb. 28 - April 6, 1979).

Dave Breger died January 16, 1970.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Dave Breger Papers contain approximately 2,414 original cartoons (1942-1969) and approximately 90 pieces of correspondence from readers seeking autographs and pen pal relationships; and offering their own ideas and drawings as well as from fellow soldiers and soldiers' relatives sending good wishes. The bulk of the correspondence is from 1942. Most of the original cartoons are from the syndicated comic strip, Mister Breger (1946-1969), but there are also approximately 377 original cartoons representing Breger's World War II cartoon Private Breger(1942-1945).

While Private Breger features a solider dealing with his experience during wartime, Mister Breger draws on the broader human experience for its humor. Some recurring themes in the panels are weddings, jail, and Breger working as a bank teller.

The WWII era cartoons have U.S. Army press censor stamps on the back indicating the date the cartoon was reviewed and passed inspection. Also of note is the August 25, 1945 cartoon which was signed "Lt. Dave Breger" reflecting Breger's final military rank. Materials used include pen, blue pencil, watercolor, zipatone screening, bristol board and traces of pencil.

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Arrangement of the Collection

The Dave Breger Papers consist of three series: Private Breger, Mister Breger and Correspondence. The daily cartoons are foldered by month. The correspondence is filed alphabetically by the last name of the sender.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Related Material

See Private Breger in Britain : with an introductory discussion on Anglo-American humour between Dave Breger and Michael Barsley (Pilot Press: 1944).

Special Collections Research Center has collections of over one hundred cartoonists. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

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Subject Headings


Breger, David, 1908-

Corporate Bodies

King Features Syndicate.

Associated Titles

Mister Breger (comic strip)
Private Breger (comic strip)


American wit and humor, Pictorial.
Caricatures and cartoons -- United States.
Cartoonists -- United States.
Comic books, strips, etc. -- United States.
Military -- Caricatures and cartoons.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Caricatures and cartoons.

Genres and Forms

Cartoons (humorous images)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Dave Breger Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Dave Breger, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1970.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MM
Date: 27 March 1968
Revision history: 5 Dec 2008 - converted to EAD (MD); 13 Aug 2009 - detailed inventory added (SK)

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Private Breger (377 items) 6 /18" x 8"
Click here for a detailed inventory.
Box 1 Jan 1942, Nov 1942 - Dec 1942, Jan 1943 - Mar 1943
Box 2 Apr 1943 - Jul 1943
Box 3 Aug 1943 - Dec 1943
Box 4 Jan 1944 - Dec 1944
Box 5 1945
Mister Breger
Click here for a detailed inventory.
Daily cartoons (1775 items) 8 3/4" x 10"
Box 5 1946, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1958, Jan 1959 - Jun 1959
Box 6 Jul 1959 - Apr 1960
Box 7 May 1960 - Dec 1960
Box 8 Jan 1961 - Dec 1961
Box 9 Jan 1962 - Dec 1962
Box 10 Jan 1963 - Dec 1963
Box 11 Jan 1964 - Dec 1964
Box 12 1965
Box 13 1966, 1967, 1969
Sunday cartoons (262 items) 15 3/4" x 22 1/2"
Oversize 1 1959 - 1962
Oversize 2 1963 - 1964
Oversize 3 1965 - 1966
Box 14 1942-1944

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