Ellis, Fred, 1885-1965

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Cartoonist; New York, N.Y.

From the description of Fred Ellis papers, [ca. 1920-1970]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82918344

Fred Ellis (1885-1965) was an American political/editorial cartoonist. Born in Chicago, he attended Chicago Normal School and Colonel Francis Parker's Progressive School. In his teens he worked in Frank Lloyd Wright's office and later in an engraving shop. His only formal art training was one three-month course in 1905 and a correspondence course in cartooning, but by 1919 his art had appeared in numerous publications.

Ellis was part of the American radical movement of the 1930s-1950s; he trained with Robert Minor and shared Minor's interest in the plight of the working man. In 1922 Ellis joined the Communist Party and a referral from Minor got him a job as cartoonist for the Daily Worker in New York. He left in 1930 to work in Berlin and Moscow, drawing cartoons for Pravda, Izvestia, the Moscow Daily News, and other newspapers, and illustrating books for Soviet publishing houses. He returned to New York in 1936 and again became a regular contributor the Daily Worker as well as appearing in magazines such as Ken, Fortune, New Masses, and various trade union periodicals. He taught for several years at the American Artists School, a progressive independent art school directed by Harry Gottlieb. His associates there included prominent American radical artists such as William Gropper, Art Young, John Groth, Margaret Bourke-White, Rockwell Kent, Carl Zigrosser, and Louis Slobodkin

Ellis' cartoons spoke to many important issues of the day, both international (World War II, appeasement, the atomic bomb, the Korean War, Nazi war crimes, Communism) and those close to the heart of the American working-class family (unions, low wages, worker safety, Social Security, political corruption, racism). His work has been exhibited in museums and art galleries in America and Russia, and in 1953 he was represented in the great exhibition in Copenhagen of "Artists of the World in the Service of Progress."

Ellis retired in 1955. When he died in 1965, long-time friend Harry Freeman wrote: "Ellis was as American as the sprawling city of Chicago in which he was born. But his powerful drawings touched the hearts of peoples in all continents. In them there is a deep understanding of the human condition, compassion for the sufferings of man, hatred for cruelty and injustice, and abiding faith that a better world can be made."

From the guide to the Fred Ellis Papers, 1923-1968, 1941-1955, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

The Daily Worker, the official organ of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA), traces its origins back to the Communist Labor Party, founded in Chicago in 1919. The Communist Labor Party’s paper was known as the Toiler . When the Communist Labor Party and the Workers Party merged in 1921, the Toiler became the weekly paper The Worker . Two years later, the paper changed its name to the Daily Worker . As a daily newspaper, the Daily Worker covered the major stories of the 20th century, while at the same time speaking to the left-wing sector of the American population, which included labor, civil rights, and peace activists. The newspaper emphasized radical social movements, labor struggles, racial discrimination, right wing extremism, the Soviet Union, and the world-wide Communist movement.

The CPUSA grew under increasing attack following WWII. The rise of McCarthyism and the Red Scare eventually forced the Party to go underground, and in 1958, the Daily Worker shut down operation. In 1960, it resumed bi-weekly publication as The Worker, but never achieved the level of popularity it had in the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1967, the paper now known as the Daily World, again became a daily. It reported on the civil rights movement, including sit-ins, voter registration campaigns and the Freedom Rides. In the late 1960s and into the early 1970s, the Daily World aligned itself with the anti-Vietnam War and black nationalist movements.

In 1986 the paper merged with the CPUSA's West Coast weekly, the People's World . The newly formed People's Daily World was published from 1987 until 1991, when daily publication was abandoned in favor of a weekly edition, renamed the People's Weekly World . During this period the paper focused heavily on labor union activity, particularly in cities like Detroit and Chicago, as well as the growing anti-globalization movement.

Shifting its operations back to Chicago between 2001 and 2002, the paper changed its name to the People's World in 2009. In 2010, the paper ceased print publication and became an electronic, online-only, publication.

Specific artists represented in the Daily Worker/ Daily World Cartoon Collection include: Fred Ellis, Ollie Harrington, Hugo Gellert, Norman Goldberg, Kinkaid, and James Erickson (Eric), among numerous others.

From the guide to the The, Daily Worker, and, Daily World, Cartoon Collection, Bulk, 1940-1980, 1928-2002, (Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Ellis, Fred, 1885-1965. Fred Ellis papers, [ca. 1920-1970]. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Fred Ellis Papers, 1923-1968, 1941-1955 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
creatorOf The, Daily Worker, and, Daily World, Cartoon Collection, Bulk, 1940-1980, 1928-2002 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
referencedIn American Radicalism Ephemera Collection, 1929-1968 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Communist Party of the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Daily Worker corporateBody
associatedWith Daily Worker (New York). corporateBody
associatedWith Daily World (New York, N.Y.). corporateBody
associatedWith Erickson, James person
associatedWith Gellert, Hugo, 1892-1985 person
associatedWith Harrington, Oliver W., (Oliver Wendell), 1912-1995 person
associatedWith Kent, Rockwell, 1882-1971 person
associatedWith McGee, Willie person
associatedWith Minor, Robert, 1884-1952 person
associatedWith New Masses corporateBody
associatedWith Syracuse University Special Collections Research Center corporateBody
associatedWith Young, Art, 1866-1943 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States, History, 20th century, Caricatures and cartoons
United States, Politics and government, 1901-1953, Caricatures and cartoons
United States, Economic policy, 20th century, Caricatures and cartoons
New York (State)--New York
United States, Race relations, Caricatures and cartoons
Caricatures and cartoons--United States
Caricatures and cartoons
Pacifism, Caricatures and cartoons
Political cartoons
Civil rights--United States
Political cartoons--United States
Civil rights movements--United States
Labor laws and legislation, United States, Caricatures and cartoons
Communism--United States
Cartoonists--United States
Labor unions and communism--United States
Labor movement--United States--Pictorial works
Elections--United States--History--20th century
Civil rights, Caricatures and cartoons
Labor movement--United States
American wit and humor, Pictorial
Communism and art--United States
Labor unions--Caricatures and cartoons
Anti-war demonstrations--United States--Pictorial works
Radicalism in art
Labor leaders--United States
Profiteering, Caricatures and cartoons
World War, 1939-1945--Caricatures and cartoons
Art--Political aspects
Working class--Caricatures and cartoons
Capitalists and financiers--Caricatures and cartoons
Peace movements--United States
African Americans--Civil rights
Editorial cartoons
Business and politics
Labor unions--United States--Pictorial works
Communism--United States--20th century
Editorial cartoonists


Birth 1885

Death 1965


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