Click the Image to Enlarge

McCutcheon, John T. Injun Summer, 1907


John T. McCutcheon was born in Lafayette, in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, and attended Chauncey School in West Lafayette, Red Eye School in Elston, and Ford School in Lafayette. He had a Sunday paper route, swam in the Wea Creek, and while still a youth, formed a firm called McCutcheon and Vellinger Painters of Signs, Houses, and Carriages. His partner Vellinger became the foremost sign painter in Lafayette. McCutcheon entered Purdue University in September 1884, at age 14. McCutcheon’s father had come to Indiana in 1833; he was a Civil War veteran who became sheriff of Tippecanoe County.

As a child John McCutcheon dreamed of pirates and gold and dug for treasures near the Red Eye School in Lafayette. He bought his own private island in the Bahamas in 1916, and he and his wife honeymooned there. McCutcheon began working on the Chicago Morning, or Daily News, in 1889. He joined the Chicago Tribune in 1903. He drew front-page cartoons seven days a week for 40 years. He also handled some foreign correspondence, and in 1898 he wrote the first complete account of the Battle of Manila that was published in U.S. newspapers. In 1932 he won a Pulitzer Prize. He retired in 1946 from the Tribune. As a cartoonist, McCutcheon focused on matters of human interest, children, and weather, in addition to political issues. He also illustrated the stories of his college friend George Ade, the popular Indiana humorist who also worked in Chicago.

  • Injun Summer, 1907
  • 11 1/2″ x 12″
  • Chicago History Museum
  • Keywords: drawings, cartoons, pen, ink, and crayon on paper
  • Subjects: outdoors, autumn, people, men, children, boys, trees, hats

Reportedly on September 29, 1907, McCutcheon was sitting in his studio on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, trying to find an idea. According to the Tippecanoe County Historical Association, as he peered out a window, “he detected an autumn haze in the air and his mind wandered back to his dream of Indians.” He didn’t feel the cartoon he created was very important, but readers who saw it in the Chicago Tribune loved it and it is still popular. According to Mirages of Memory, a publication of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, “Born out of McCutcheon’s impressions of the ‘Indian peril’ far west of his Indiana home, Injun Summer combines the sheer fantasy of a child’s (or a creative cartoonist’s) imagination with the believably sympathetic images of the old man, the boy, and the friendly landscape. Seeking to depict the boy he believed ‘every man in the Midwest must have been,’ McCutcheon evokes in all of us the desire to escape to this secure place and to return to our own childhood.”

Some Points To Consider

  • Describe to students some of the many opportunities available in art-related careers. Ask them what training they think would be necessary to become a cartoonist. Ask if they think McCutcheon had other skills that helped him in his career choice. (Art 4.11.2)
  • Ask students: What is the purpose of a political cartoon? What might a political cartoon cause people to do? (Art 4.1.2)
  • Ask students to speculate about where imagination comes from. Why do they think people still like this cartoon? (Art 4.5.1)