Charles H. Sykes papers

Collection 3656

( Bulk, 1909-1942 ) 1836-1942
(1.5 Linear feet ; 5 boxes, 1 flat file)

Summary Information

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Sykes, Charles Henry, 1882-1942
Charles H. Sykes papers
Date [bulk]
Bulk, 1909-1942
Date [inclusive]
1.5 Linear feet ; 5 boxes, 1 flat file
Finding aid prepared by Cary Hutto
Processing made possible by a generous donation from Carol Ingald.
Graphic materials [Oversize]
Mixed materials [Box]
Charles H. "Bill" Sykes was a political cartoonist for Philadelphia's Evening Public Ledger newspaper from the 1910s to 1942. Born in Alabama in 1882, he received a degree from the Drexel Institute and worked for many prominent publications, including  Life magazine. This collection features a group of original political cartoons for the  Evening Public Ledger drawn in crayon, pencil, and india ink. Most of the original artwork depicts the build-up to World War II and the early months of U.S. involvement in the war. The collection also includes numerous newspaper clippings of his political cartoons, some personal correspondence, ephemera, and miscellaneous drawings (including several patriotic drawings for Philco).

Preferred citation

Cite as: [Indicate cited item or series here], Charles H. Sykes papers (Collection 3656), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Background note

Charles Henry "Bill" Sykes was born in Athens, Alabama on November 12, 1882. He attended the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry (now Drexel University) and graduated in 1904. Early in his career as an artist and political cartoonist, he worked for the North American (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) the  Williamsport News (Williamsport, Pennsylvania) and the  Nashville Banner (Nashville, Tennessee). In 1911, he returned to Philadelphia and began an extensive career with the  Public Ledger (later the  Evening Public Ledger). Throughout the 1920s, Sykes also provided illustrations for  Life at editor Charles Dana Gibson's behest. Additionally, he provided cartoons for  Collier's, and some of his work was picked up by the  New York Evening Post.

Sykes worked for the Public Ledger and other outlets until his death on December 19, 1942. During that time he illustrated everything from local governmental and societal issues to two world wars. Charles Sykes married Charlotte Hannum of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, and together they had three sons: John, Charles II, and William.

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Scope and content note

The Charles H. Sykes papers is housed in five boxes and one flat file, and it primarily spans from the early to mid twentieth century. A few document fall outside this range, such as a copy of the first page of the first edition of the Public Ledger published March 25, 1836. The collection documents, mostly through images, Sykes's career with the  Public Ledger/  Evening Public Ledger. His work with the  Nashville Banner and  Life are also represented, but to a much lesser extent.

Prior to its arrival at HSP, the collection had been inventoried and letter or number designations were assigned to different groups of manuscripts. The overall order of the collection has been maintained and paper inventories can be found in some of the boxes and folders.

Housed in Box 1 are assorted manuscripts with "M" numbers. Among these papers are articles, original drawings, incoming correspondence, programs, clippings, and other ephemera that cover the bulk of Sykes's career generally. Sykes's correspondence, consisting mostly of letters of appreciation, includes letters from several notable figures, such as F. B. I. head J. Edgar Hoover, artist Charles Dana Gibson, Pennsylvania governor Gifford Pinchot, politician and explorer Hiram Bingham, and Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, among others. Taking up the rest of Box 1 and most of Box 2 are several folders of chronologically arranged cartoons that were clipped from the Evening Public Ledger. (Based on the existing inventories, it is believed that these cartoons fell under the "M10" designation.) The cartoons date from 1908 to 1922 and they cover national issues, such as World War I, as well as events local to Philadelphia, such as the election of Republican reform Mayor Rudolph Blankenberg in 1912.

In Boxes 3 to 5 are sixty-eight original political cartoons (drawn in crayon, pencil, and india ink on board) that Sykes created for the Evening Public Ledger. Most of the cartoons depict the build-up to World War II and the early months of American involvement in the war. Each cartoon had been numbered (without letter designations), and that order has been maintained. Five original works, however, fall outside this numbered schema and have been designated D1 to D5. The "D" works are those Sykes created for Philco, a company that was involved in war production. All except D4 can be found in Box 5. D4, a drawing titled "Burglars at Bay," is the largest of the drawings and can be found in Flat File 1.

Box 5 also contains several folders of unnumbered, non-inventoried artworks (drawings and paintings) by Sykes. They include miscellaneous images, as well as a couple of cartoons.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 The Historical Society of Pennsylvania ; 2014

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107

Access restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use restrictions

Items in this collection may be subject to current copyright laws. Please contact our Rights & Reproduction department concerning permissions to publish.


Gift of John M. Sykes, 1985.

Accession number 1985.075

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Related Materials

Related materials

At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania:

Alexander, Doyle, and Hutton scrapbook of editorial cartoons (Collection 3435)

Chicagoans as we see'em (cartoons) by F. F. Porter (Bd 612 C432)

HSP cartoons and caricatures collection (Collection 3133)

Herbert Johnson cartoons (Bd 612 J63)

Pennsylvania cartoons, 1902-1915 (Vb* .9199F)

Scrapbook of Jerry Doyle political cartoons and other clippings (Collection 3586)

Abian A. Wallgren collection of cartoons scrapbooks (Collection 1782)

At other institutions:

Charles Henry Sykes Cartoon Collection (Collection M 169), Virginia Commonwealth University, James Branch Cabell Library, Richmond, Virginia

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Controlled Access Headings


  • Art and artists--20th century.
  • Art and artists--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.
  • Artists--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.
  • Political cartoons--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--20th century.
  • Popular Culture--Cartoons--20th century.
  • World politics--Caricatures and cartoons.
  • World War, 1914-1918--Caricatures and cartoons.
  • World War, 1939-1945--Caricatures and cartoons.

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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Inventoried manuscripts (M1-M9, M11-M23) 1914-1941 

1 1

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Inventoried manuscripts (M24-M39) 1919-1942 

1 2

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Inventoried manuscripts (M40-M46) 1836, 1921-1924 

1 3

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Small drawings undated 

1 4

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Assorted cartoons 1908-1914 

1 5-7

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Assorted cartoons 1915-1922, undated 

2 1-3

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Miscellaneous 1912-1918, undated 

2 4

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Original drawings for Evening Public Ledger (1-40) circa 1941 


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Original drawings for Evening Public Ledger (41-67) circa 1941 


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Original drawings for Philco (D1-D3, D5) and miscellaneous original drawings 1941-1942, undated 


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Original drawing for Philco (D4) - Burglars at Bay circa 1941 


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