University of Minnesota

Edmund Valtman Papers at the Immigration History Research Center

In 2003-2006, the Immigration History Research Center acquired the major portion of the archival collections of the Estonian Archives in the U.S.A. based in Lakewood, New Jersey. The relatively small (if measured by budget and staff resources) Center at the University of Minnesota thus became a repository with arguably the largest holdings of documentation on the post-WWII Estonian exile accumulated in one location.

As part of the shipment from Lakewood, the Center received 4 linear feet of the Papers of Edmund Valtman (1914-2005), a renowned artist who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1962 for his editorial cartoons. Following Edmund Valtman's death in 2005, his remaining papers (7 linear feet) were donated to the IHRC by the Edmund Valtman Estate, Connecticut. (See full collection record here.)

Edmund Valtman was born on May 31, 1914 in Tallinn, Estonia. He attended the gymnasium in Tallinn, later he studied at the Tallinn Art School. His first published cartoon appeared in a children's magazine when he was 15. (Read more about the beginnings of his desire to become a cartoonist in his own words.) During his last year in the gymnasium, his cartoons began to appear regularly in the newspapers and magazines to which he submitted his works. Shortly before the start of World War II and the first Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940, Valtman accepted a job as a draftsman in Viljandi, southern Estonia, while continuing to have his cartoons printed in Estonian newspapers and magazines. It was in Viljandi where he experienced the arrival of the German army pushing the Soviets out of Estonia in 1941. This is what Valtman says about the following years: "The German occupation lasted for three years. It was bad as all occupations are, but never as devastating as the Soviet occupation with the communist regime." ( Edmund Valtman Papers, IHRC3763, Box 1, Folder 1 )

Valtman now worked as a cartoonist for the newspaper "Eesti Sona" until September 21, 1944, when he left Tallinn by ship on the morning of the day when Soviet tanks returned to Tallinn. During the following 5 years in displaced persons camps in Germany, he contributed to various Estonian publications produced in the camps. In 1949, he immigrated to the United States, an event recalled in these words:

Approaching New York, the sight of the Statue of Liberty aroused in me emotions of lost freedom of our country and found here again. The sight of New York skyscrapers symbolized the New World while the long line of uninterrupted cars on the Long Island highway seemed like an endless train in perpetual movement. ( Edmund Valtman Papers, IHRC3763, Box 1, Folder 1 )

For two years, the Valtmans worked for their sponsor family in Little Silver, New Jersey, as a gardener and housemaid. In 1951, they relocated to Hartford, Connecticut, where Edmund Valtman would later find a cartoonist job with the Hartford Times. He remained with the newspaper until his retirement in 1975. In 1962, he received a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. (please click on thumbnails to see larger images)

Edmund Valtman , 1940s
Edmund and Helmi Valtman , 1962
Edmund Valtman , 1972
Valtman Family, 1997

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