Political cartoons are valuable sources that can distill the social and cultural norms of an age. This distillation occurs because political cartoons portray common issues and events in terms that are meant to be easily understood by the general readership of a given publication (or publications). Their use as primary sources requires the understanding of several concepts including symbolism, metaphor, irony, and caricature.
Merle Howard Cunnington made his living as a middle school teacher in the San Fernando Valley. He taught at Pacoima Junior High School for 3 years and then at Columbus Junior High School until his retirement in 1990. He also taught cartooning for children at Pierce College, and an Experimental Cartooning class at CSUN in 1977. In 1975 he illustrated a History of The San Fernando Valley by Dr. Jackson Mayers . He was also an editorial cartoonist with the Valley News & Green Sheet from 1964-1978.
The Merle H. Cunnington Collection of nearly 1700 editorial cartoons covering a wide array of topics. It includes a short handwritten autobiography, beginning with remembrances of Cunnington’s mother, and ending at the approximate time he stopped drawing for the Valley News.
Examples of Cunnington’s work reminds one of the saying "the more things change the more they stay the same." Recurring themes include the legalization of marijuana, rapid transit in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, the environment, the state and national budget crises, education funding, and the fiscal infeasibility of Social Security.