Biography and History

William H. Walker was born on February 13, 1871 in Pittston, Pennsylvania to Reverend Ira T. Walker and Orcelia A.Barnes. Walker entered Kentucky University in the Fall of 1888, but after a year transferred to the University of Rochester where he received a Bachelor of Science in 1891. On June 25, 1900 he married Adelaide Miller.

After the turn of the century, the volume of Walker's cartoons increased. One style Walker frequently used to drive home a particular viewpoint was to play upon the stereotypical analogies between good and evil. For example, he used such stories as the hare/tortoise, farmer/snake and little red riding hood to portray the destructive and rippling effects of war. A considerable number of cartoons concentrated on the increasing diversity of the American population. While immigration was on the rise, the melting pot theory became a great area of Walker's exploration. Finally, the largest topic of satire revolved around domestic political policy. The struggle for power between Republicans (elephant) and Democrats (donkey) often involved such prominent figures as Uncle Sam, Hughes, President Wilson, and Taft.

Walker started drawing cartoons for Life in 1894, but it was not until 1898 that he joined the staff. Life had only been in existence since 1883 when it was founded by a Harvard graduate -- John Ames Mitchell. Mitchell targeted a higher class of people than the already popular humor magazines which included Puck and The Judge. The ultimate success of Life partially revolved around Walker's combination of serious politics and humor. However, Life's following waned and in 1936, Time Inc. took over. While ultimately the popularity of Life dissipated, Walker set a precedent for future satirists. On January 18, 1938, at the age of 67, Walker died.

Source: From the finding aid for MC068

  • William H. Walker Cartoon Collection. 1894/1922 (inclusive).

    Call Number: MC068

    The William H. Walker Cartoon Collection reflects the political climate of America during the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. Specifically, the cartoons were drawn between 1894 and 1922 for Life Magazine. While the earlier years did not encompass the quantity of cartoons of the latter years, Walker's satirical style is ever poignant. Through the use of humor, Walker directs attention towards such topics as war, immigration and domestic politics. These themes are related to the reader through the synergistic relationship of ink on paper and intellectual wit. In turn, this relationship generated a light, but serious message for all to appreciate.