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William Gropper Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: DO
Date: Jul 2004

Biographical History

William Gropper (1897-1977) was an American born Jewish cartoonist, painter, lithographer, and muralist. Born in New York City on the lower East side where his parents worked in the garment industry, he attended the Ferrer School and the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts and began exhibiting his paintings in the 1930's. As a cartoonist he worked for the Daily Worker, Morning Freiheit, New Masses, New York Tribune, and several other mainstream and leftist publications. Gropper was known not only for his depiction of social injustice as it played out in the day-to-day life of the common laborer, but also through his satirical portrayal of the elite and powerful and the effects of capitalism and war on American life.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The William Gropper Papers, spanning 1918-1970 (bulk 1942-1944), comprises correspondence, artwork, writings, and memorabilia of the artist.

The mostly incoming Correspondence consists primarily of notes and letters presented to Gropper at the 1944 birthday celebration given in his honor. The Birthday Scrapbook was compiled by Gropper's friends and fellow artists, and Edward K. Barsky, M.D., Chairman of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, in honor of Gropper's 47th birthday. The dinner celebration was hosted by screenwriter and producer Edward Chodorov (opening remarks are included). Speakers included Carl Sandburg, Frederick Myers, and Norman Corwin with tributes by Dean Dixon, Dorothy Parker, Henry Varnum Poor, Captain Orest Shevsov, and Margaret Lombardo Toledano. Sponsors included Leonard Bernstein, Van Wyck Brooks, Marc Chagall, Aaron Copland, Louis Lozowick, W. Somerset Maugham, Anton Refregier, Louis Slobodkin, Moses Soyer, and Margaret Webster, among others. Cards, letters, telegrams, signatures, and artwork from Ella Reeve "Mother" Bloor, Earl Browder, Carreño, Theodore Dreiser, Howard Fast, Joseph Hirsch, Langston Hughes, Harold Ickes, Rockwell Kent, the Kukryniksy artists, Luis Quintanilla, Paul Robeson, Bodo Uhse, and Max Yergan are included. Labor unions, artist and political associations, and newspapers are also represented.

Correspondence from various U.S. government departments and offices include: the U.S. Coordinator of Information, inviting Gropper to contribute cartoons that will be sent abroad for propaganda purposes; the U.S. Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs regarding a pamphlet on Lidice, Czechoslovakia; the U.S. Federal Works Agency in connection with Gropper's Lidice drawings and exhibitions of Gropper's artwork; the U.S. Office of War Information regarding government war posters, the Lidice book(let), and a memo to Archibald MacLeish, Director of the Office's Office of Facts and Figures, about a meeting of artists MacLeish called to discuss how they might contribute to the war effort; and the U.S. Treasury Department concerning war bond posters, an exhibition on war cartoons, the Lidice drawings, and a trip to visit the Parker and Grand Coulee dams in preparation for his mural in the U.S. Department of Interior building.

Note: Some of the items have been removed from the scrapbook for conservation purposes and placed in the correspondence file folders. The details and an index to all correspondence are given at the end of this finding aid.

Artwork includes original and reproductions of cartoons, drawings, etchings, and sketches for publications such as Freiheit and the New Masses. Mediums include charcoal, pastel, pen and ink, and pencil. Printed materials, such as a calendar and other publications Gropper illustrated, are also included, along with clippings of published artwork appearing in journals and newspapers.

Writings include an outline of Gropper's life and handwritten statements and comments regarding his testimony before Senator Joseph McCarthy's House Un-American Committee in 1953.

Memorabilia comprises an award from the U.S. Treasury Department for services rendered on behalf of the National War Savings program; book reviews and publicity for Gropper's book, Alay-Oop; cartoons by J. Sennep (Jean Pennes); exhibition materials such as announcements and invitations, catalogs, and publicity and reviews; financial and legal material encompassing a voucher from the U.S. Treasury Department for the materials, painting, and installation of the mural in the Department of Interior building; from the U.S. Office of Emergency Management for illustrations included in a booklet on the Lidice (Czechoslovakia) massacre, sketches for war-themed posters depicting Hitler and Mussolini; a contract with the Philosophical Library to provide illustrations and a jacket drawing for Shaw's Crime of Punishment (Crime of Imprisonment); publicity (general) including New Masses and Art Editions ads for Gropper's lithographs and a New Currents ad for a reproduction; sketches of Gropper drawn by others; theater programs (in Russian); and writings by others (two poems by Gladys Oaks). Miscellaneous items include football and concert programs (in Russian), the constitution and by-laws of the American Artists' Congress, invitations, award committee lists, the 1944 birthday program, stationery, lists, handwritten notes, and newspaper clippings.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. Refer to the index to correspondence at the end of this inventory for a detailed list. Artworks is subdivided into originals and reproductions, and within that arranged alphabetically by media. Printed material is arranged alphabetically by type of materialand within that alphabetically by title of the publication. Writings are also arranged alphabetically by title, while Memorabilia is arranged alphabetically by form of material (e.g., exhibit catalogs).


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.

Related Material

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

Subject Headings


Gropper, William, 1897-1977.

Associated Titles

New masses.


Art -- Political aspects.
Art, American -- 20th century.
Art, American.
Caricatures and cartoons -- United States.
Cartoonists -- United States.
Heroes -- Folklore -- Pictorial works.
Illustrators -- United States.
Lithographers -- United States.
Painters, United States.
Painting, American -- 20th century.


United States -- Politics and government -- 20th century -- Caricatures and cartoons.

Genres and Forms

Cartoons (humorous images)
Clippings (information artifacts)
Exhibition catalogs.
Paintings (visual works)
Programs (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

William Gropper Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of William Gropper, 1964, 1969.

Framed item, gift of Bert Boyson, 2010.

Original pen and ink sketch, purchased 2013.

Lithographs of American folk heroes and personal photographs, gift of Dawna (Gropper) Snyder, 2014.

Headless horseman lithograph, purchased 2005.

Table of Contents

Biographical material

Correspondence files


Artwork - printed material



Index to correspondence


Index to correspondence

All correspondence contained in the Gropper Papers is filed alphabetically under Correspondence or contained in the birthday scrapbook. Loose correspondence from the scrapbook was removed and filed alphabetically under Correspondence. These items are so noted in the index and the scrapbook, and on the back of the correspondence item. Some signatures were difficult to read. Partially readable names are indexed and include a "?" while unreadable names are indexed under the heading "unidentified correspondence/signatures."

Page numbers are designated "B1" for correspondence filed in Box 1 or "S" followed by the page number for correspondence found in the scrapbook (page numbers have been assigned and are not original). Bold "S" numbers indicate a drawing is included while italicized numbers indicate signatures only. For loose correspondence removed from the scrapbook and added to Box 1, the designation "B1" appears first, followed by the "S" number in parentheses, to indicate original placement.