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Charles H. Sykes papers


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

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.

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.

Gift of John M. Sykes, 1985.

Accession number 1985.075

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Cary Hutto
Finding Aid Date
; 2014
Processing made possible by a generous donation from Carol Ingald.
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.

Collection Inventory

Inventoried manuscripts (M1-M9, M11-M23), 1914-1941.
Box 1 Folder 1
Inventoried manuscripts (M24-M39), 1919-1942.
Box 1 Folder 2
Inventoried manuscripts (M40-M46), 1836, 1921-1924.
Box 1 Folder 3
Small drawings, undated.
Box 1 Folder 4
Assorted cartoons, 1908-1914.
Box 1 Folder 5-7
Assorted cartoons, 1915-1922, undated.
Box 2 Folder 1-3
Miscellaneous, 1912-1918, undated.
Box 2 Folder 4
Original drawings for Evening Public Ledger (1-40), circa 1941.
Box 3
Original drawings for Evening Public Ledger (41-67), circa 1941.
Box 4
Original drawings for Philco (D1-D3, D5) and miscellaneous original drawings, 1941-1942, undated.
Box 5
Original drawing for Philco (D4) - Burglars at Bay, circa 1941.
Oversize 1

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