Scope and Contents
- 1929 - 1994
- Majority of material found within 1949 - 1994
Conditions Governing Access
Broadsides 3-37, 44-60 and 220-259 (artwork): Restricted fragile material. Unavailable until further processing is completed. Consult Access Services for further information.
Rolls 38-43 (artwork): Restricted fragile material. Unavailable until further processing is completed. Consult Access Services for further information.
Boxes 62-64, 200 and 219 (artwork): Restricted fragile material. Unavailable until further processing is completed. Consult Access Services for further information.
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Material within this collection has been organized by acquisition reflecting the fact that the collection has been acquired in increments over time. Researchers should note that material within each acquisition overlaps with/or relates to material found in other acquisitions. For instance, correspondence and writings can be found in all twenty groupings. In order to locate all relevant material within this collection, researchers will need to consult each acquisition described in the Collection Contents section.
41.8 Linear Feet (165 (boxes) + 94 broadsides, 13 rolls, 1 oversize portfolio, 1 super broadside, 1 art object)
Language of Materials
Robert Chesley Osborn (1904-1994)
Osborn was born on October 26, 1904, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He entered the University of Wisconsin in 1923, then transferred to Yale University later the same year. At Yale, Osborn was the art editor of the campus humor magazine The Yale Record. After graduating from Yale in 1928, he studied painting in Rome and Paris, then returned to the United States and taught art and philosophy at the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT. During this time he made the move from painting to caricature.
Osborn enlisted in the Navy when World War II began, hoping to become a pilot. Instead, he was assigned to a special information unit that produced pilot training manuals. He learned the art of speed drawing and began drawing cartoons of an ignorant pilot, “Dilbert the Pilot,” who perpetually violated rules of military safety and put himself and his crew at risk. “Dilbert” caught on as a slang term for a sailor who repeatedly made mistakes and later developed into the term of a mistake made by a Navy pilot. Osborn was prolific, creating over 40,000 drawings for training manuals. The character Dilbert was used in educational posters for Navy pilots, appeared in New York Times and LIFE magazine.
In 1946, he left the Navy and a wrote the book, War is No Damn Good!. The book’s skull-like depiction of an atomic bomb's mushroom cloud gained Osborn national attention. Following its release, he started to draw political cartoons for Harper’s, Fortune, LIFE, House & Garden, and Look, and became a regular contributor to The New Republic. His cartoons frequently depicted politicians such as Senator Joseph McCarthy and several presidents, from Lyndon Baines Johnson through Ronald Reagan. During his lifetime, Osborn wrote and illustrated several of his own books and books by others. He was politically active, most notably in the nuclear disarmament movement.
Osborn continued to draw for the Navy until the late 1980s and his cartoons were published in Naval Aviation News. The character of Dilbert was replaced by a Navy pilot named “Grampaw Pettibone.” His drawings of Charles Chaplin were the basis of an art exhibition in 1987 and his work appeared in various exhibitions throughout the country.
Osborn lived in Salisbury, CT with his wife, Elodie, from 1947 until his death on December 20, 1994.
This collection received a basic level of processing, including rehousing and minimal organization. Descriptive information is drawn in large part from information supplied with the collection and from an initial survey of the contents. Folder titles appearing in the contents list below are often based on those provided by the creator. Titles have not been verified against the contents of the folders in all cases. Otherwise, folder titles are supplied by staff during initial processing.
This collection includes materials previously identified by multiple call numbers: Uncat Za File 32, Uncat ZA MS 215, Uncat ZA MS 298, Uncat ZA MS 301, Uncat ZA MS 412, Uncat ZA MS 475, and Uncat ZA MS 610.
- Artists -- United States -- 20th Century
- Artists, American -- 20th Century
- Authors -- United States -- 20th Century
- Authors, American -- 20th Century
- Cartoonists -- United States -- 20th Century
- Cartoonists -- United States -- Archives
- Charcoal drawings
- Drawings (visual works)
- Illustrations (layout features)
- Illustrators -- 20th Century
- Illustrators -- United States -- 20th Century
- Mixed media
- Oil paintings (visual works)
- Osborn, Robert Chesley, 1904-1994
- Paintings (visual works)
- Watercolors (paintings)
- Guide to the Robert Osborn Papers
- by Beinecke Staff
- March 2015
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.