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329 West 18th Street Suite #610
Chicago, Illinois 60616
(312) 243-1808

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Franklin McMahon Collection

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Collection Identifier: C.2006-08
Extent of collection
592 Audiocassettes; 650 reels of 16mm film materials; 1 reel of 8mm film; 3 reels of 16mm magnetic track; 109 microcassettes; 228 reels of 1/4" audio; 2 LP Records
Inclusive Dates
1965 - 1998
Bulk Dates
1965 - 1984
The Franklin McMahon collection consists primarily of audio recordings of significant political and social events from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. These recordings include interviews, political speeches, and environmental audio captured on location at Democratic and Republican National Conventions in the 1960s and 70s. McMahon’s subjects include Richard and Pat Nixon, Walter Cronkite, Jane Fonda, Abby Hoffman, Studs Terkel, Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader, Hubert Humphrey, Ted Kennedy and Edmund Muskie. Capturing reflections on the major political events and socio-cultural issues of the time, including the Vietnam War and Women’s Liberation Movement, McMahon’s audio recordings provide a rich, acoustic record of a tumultuous period in American history. The collection also contains a few films, including one on the “Chicago Seven” conspiracy trial.
McMahon, Franklin (was created by)

(William) Franklin McMahon was an artist and reporter who was dedicated to chronicling the important social, political and cultural events of his time. He worked in Chicago as a courtroom sketch artist, and drew the “Chicago Seven” conspiracy trial, the events surrounding the murder of Emmett Till, the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965, the Watergate hearings and Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the moon. McMahon made all of his drawings on site because he believed that the artist-reporter could “see around the corners” to capture the emotional essence of his subjects. He worked as an artist on assignment for the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Daily News, the Chicago Sun Times, the New York Times, and Life, Look and Sports Illustrated magazines.

McMahon was born in 1921 in Chicago. He grew up in the city’s west side, and lived in Oak Park and Los Angeles before finishing high school in Chicago in 1939. His professional artistic career began while he was a student at Fenwick High School and one of his drawings was published in Collier’s magazine. Upon graduation, McMahon enlisted in the United States Air Force and served as a B-17 navigator in missions over Germany. While on one of these missions, McMahon’s plane was shot down and he spent several months as a prisoner of war in Germany. He made drawings (in secret) of his German captors which were later published.

After WWII, McMahon returned to Chicago and married his high school sweetheart, Irene Leahy McMahon. The couple were married for fifty-one years and had nine children. They lived in Lake Forest, Illinois. Irene McMahon was a travel reporter for the Pioneer Press and various other local and national publications. Franklin McMahon traveled with his wife and made drawings of the international locations they visited.

McMahon’s work has been collected by the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institute and the Chicago History Museum, among other institutions. His drawings of the “Chicago Seven” conspiracy trial and the trial following the murder of Emmett Till are in the Chicago History Museum’s permanent collection.

McMahon received numerous prizes for his artwork, including the Art Institute of Chicago’s “Renaissance Prize,” and three Emmys and a Peabody award for films that included his illustrations. He was the recipient of honorary degrees from Loyola University and Lake Forest College, and was a “guiding faculty” member of the Famous Artists School in Wilton, Connecticut.

Irene McMahon passed away in 1997. Franklin McMahon passed away in 2012. They are survived by their nine children: William Franklin McMahon, Mark McMahon, Mary McMahon Taplin, Deborah McMahon Osterholtz, Patrick McMahon, Hugh McMahon, Margot McMahon, Michelle McMahon-Kubota, and Michael McMahon.
Custodial History
These materials had been with McMahon at his home in Lake Forest until he donated them to CFA. CFA picked up these materials at his home before he moved.
Language of Materials
Access Restrictions
This collection is open to on-site access. Appointments must be made with Chicago Film Archives. Due to the fragile nature of the films, only video copies will be provided for on-site viewing.
Use Restrictions
Chicago Film Archives holds the copyright for the films in this collection. CFA must notify family of any public exhibition of the materials and share (50%) any revenues the material brings in. Also, CFA must attribute the materials to Mr. McMahon.
Related Materials
Some of McMahon's drawings and paintings are at the Chicago History Museum.