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William Gropper papers, 1916-1983, bulk 1926-1977

William Gropper papers, 1916-1983, bulk 1926-1977

Gropper, William, 1897-1977

Cartoonist, Caricaturist, Painter

Representative image for William Gropper papers, 1916-1983, bulk 1926-1977

The papers of William Gropper in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2007. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, and total 4,578 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 3.3 linear ft.

Summary: The papers of painter, illustrator, muralist, and political activist William Gropper measure 3.3 linear feet and date from 1916-1983.

Three folders of scattered Biographical Information are found for William Gropper, his wife Sophie and their children. Business Records consist of lists of artwork, price lists, contracts, receipts, and other financial records. Scattered Writings and Notes include mostly writings about Gropper by others, lists of works of art, and miscellaneous writings. Works of Art include three original drawings by Gropper and a sample of fabric designed by Gropper. Circa 600 letters within the papers were written to William Gropper between 1916 and 1977 (bulk, 1970s), although Sophie Gropper's correspondence is also included. Found here are letters from Frank Crowninshield, Robert Henri, Louis Lozowick, Frank Alva Parsons, Raphael Soyer, and others. There are also letters concerning Gropper's participation in the Federal Art Project and from Ben Horowitz of the Heritage Gallery who represented Gropper's artwork.

Almost one-half of the collection consists of printed materials, including full issues of New Masses, Liberator, and Der Hammer, all featuring illustrations by Gropper. Circa 600 letters include those written to Gropper by Frank Crowninshield, Robert Henri, Louis Lozowick, Raphael Soyer, and others. Also found are photographs of Gropper, his family, colleagues, and friends, as well as scattered writings and notes, business records, biographical information, three drawings, and a fabric sample designed by Gropper.

Photographs are of Gropper, his family, colleagues, friends, family vacations, and works of art.

Biographical/Historical Note

William Gropper (1897-1977) was a painter, cartoonist, and lithographer from Croton-on-Hudson, New York. WPA muralist and painter of social comment.


Donated 1984 by Sophie Gropper (Mrs. William).

Related Materials

The Special Collections Research Center at the Syracuse University Library also holds a collection of William Gropper's papers.


Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

A Finding Aid to the William Gropper Papers,
(bulk 1926-1977)
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
William Gropper was born on December 3rd, 1897 in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His family was impoverished and his parents worked in the New York garment factories. To help his family, Gropper took odd jobs throughout New York City. When he was not busy working, Gropper nurtured his artistic talents by drawing cartoons on sidewalks and the sides of buildings.
In 1912, Gropper began formal art education at the Ferrer School in Greenwich Village where he was influenced by the Ashcan School of social realists, particularly artists Robert Henri and George Bellows. After the Ferrer School, Gropper studied at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts on a scholarship granted by Frank Alvah Parsons. Following his education, Gropper worked simultaneously at the
New York Tribune
Rebel Worker
as a draftsman and cartoonist respectively. He continued a career as a cartoonist and illustrator for publications such as
Vanity Fair
New Masses
The Nation, Freiheit,
and various Jewish and Hebrew publications for more than thirty years. Gropper's cartoons typically portrayed the everyday worker and the injustices he suffered.
Gropper, who was also a painter, produced powerful imagery of social protest. His subjects included industrial strikes and the labor wars of the coal mining and steel industries. Additionally, William Gropper received several commissions from the Federal Arts Project, Works Progress Administration to create murals for various public buildings around the country, including one for the United States Department of the Interior building in Washington, D.C. Here, he created
Construction of the Dam
to represent the combination of labor and technology to construct various dams on the Colorado River. The Guggenheim Foundation awarded a fellowship to Gropper to travel to the impoverished Dust Bowl region. This trip inspired a series of illustrations that appeared in
The Nation
. Gropper's trips to Russia and Poland also served to inspire his art.
Later in his career, William Gropper exhibited his artwork throughout the United States and the world. Gropper was also one of the originial members of the Artists Equity Association founded in 1947. Gropper's artwork can be found in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution, The National Gallery of Art, The Butler Institute of American Art, Princeton University, The Phillips Collection, The William J. Clinton Presidential Library as well as many other museums and universities. William Gropper remained in New York City and the surrounding area with his wife, Sophie until his death in 1977.
The collection is arranged into seven series:
Series 1: Biographical Information, circa 1942-1982 (Box 1; 3 Folders)
Series 2: Business Records, circa 1936-1983 (Box 1; 8 Folders)
Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1947-1978 (Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 4: Works of Art, circa 1940s, 1952, after 1958 (Box 1, OV 4; 2 Folders)
Series 5: Correspondence, circa 1916-1983 (Box 1; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 6: Printed Material, circa 1919-1983 (Box 1-3, OV 4; 1.4 linear feet)
Series 7: Photographs, after 1937-circa 1980s (Box 3; 0.8 linear feet)
Donated 1984 by Sophie Gropper (Mrs. William).
Processing Information
The collection was processed by Jayna M. Hanson in 2007. The collection was microfilmed on reels 3501-3504 shortly after receipt, and was digitized in 2007 with funding from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional Forms Available

The collection was digitized in 2007 and is available via the Archives of American Art's website.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

William Gropper papers, 1916-1983, bulk 1926-1977. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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