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University of Iowa News Release


Dec. 7, 2007

UI Libraries launches digital collection of work by 'Ding' Darling

On the 101st anniversary of the publication of Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling's first cartoon for the Des Moines Register (Dec. 9, 1906), the University of Iowa Libraries announces the release of a digital collection highlighting his work.

More than 10,000 cartoons and a handful of audio recordings from journalist and environmental advocate Darling (1876-1962) are on now available online at The collection, based largely on Darling's gift of some 6,000 original drawings to the UI Libraries in 1949, is the most complete representation of his cartoons ever assembled. The selected audio recordings of Darling's dictation at document his voice, vigor and attitudes about issues ranging from politics to the environment.

"This collection gives scholars today insight into half a century of American politics, the Depression and two world wars, plus the persistent foibles of human nature," said Sid Huttner, head of Special Collections and University Archives at the UI Libraries. "Darling was one of the very first cartoonists to be syndicated. His political cartoons ran in over 150 newspapers every day for decades. Darling said many times he had drawn about 15,000 cartoons in his lifetime. This collection represents about 70 percent of his work and a unique perspective on the first half of the 20th century."

"The moment personal computers and image scanners came on line back in the 1980s, I envisioned a digital edition of my grandfather's cartoons," said Christopher "Kip" Koss, president of the J.N. "Ding" Darling Foundation. "Dream is one thing, technology another, and accomplishment still something else. But  by 1999 we had a CD version of 6,800 cartoons. I find the fact that 10,000 cartoons can now be brought together in one place, and placed before everyone from school kids to scholars on the Web, just marvelous. This collection reveals the depth and breadth of Darling's work. He would have greeted the recovered dictation with genuine modesty, but he would have been pleased."

A two-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for syndicated editorial cartoons, Darling drew almost daily between 1900 and 1949. In 1934 he became head of what is now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Darling is also credited with the creation of the Federal Duck Stamp Program, which has since restored thousands of acres of wetlands, and in 1936 founding the National Wildlife Federation. The Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Fla., is named in his honor.

Douglas Baynton, an associate professor of history in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, conducts a class project that requires undergraduate students to handle historic manuscripts or artifacts. He said students benefit by working with this collection.

"Many haven't had an opportunity to find mystery in an artifact, and Darling's cartoons are modern enough to look familiar but old enough that you have think hard and do some careful sleuthing to understand what they meant to the folks who saw them on the front page of their newspaper in 1906 or 1929 or 1945," Baynton said. "That sleuthing, and constructing a story from it, gets at the real guts of doing history, and it is exciting."

"This digital collection allows us to virtually organize Darling's cartoons from a variety of sources into one location," said Nicole Saylor, head of the Digital Library Services. "You can easily browse by topics, such as presidential politics, immigration, and conservation. We've enhanced access to these cartoons by providing helpful descriptions that lead to the discovery of like cartoons and reveal relationships among them."

The Iowa Digital Library -- -- contains nearly 90,000 digital objects (photographs, maps, sound recordings and documents) from libraries and archives at UI and their partnering institutions. The Iowa Digital Library also includes faculty research collections and bibliographic tools.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Kristi Bontrager, University of Iowa Libraries, 319-335-5960; George McCrory, University News Services, 319-384-0012,

PHOTOS/GRAPHICS: For a selection of cartoons leading up to Darling's Dec. 9, 1906 start at the Des Moines Register, see:,8671,8672,8673 (three images on Nov. 29, 1906),8674 (Dec. 1, 1906),9850 (Dec. 7, 1906),8675 (Dec. 8, 1906),8676 (Dec. 9, 1906)