Franklin McMahon self portrait

The Man Who Drew History: Franklin McMahon

My Father’s Stories
by Margot McMahon

With humor, graceful lyrical graphite lines and colorful interpretations of one historical moment after another, my father Franklin McMahon captured his time to tell all of us. In his drawing of the congenial days when Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton debated in the presidential primaries, Dad said, “It looks like a possibility that Obama would become a vice-presidential candidate. Hillary Clinton’s already had that job.” These insightful stories he brought to our dining room table and then to the world by his drawings reproduced in print, film and digital media. My story about him is in three sections:

Margot at the Mayflower

The Eternal Optimist, 1921–1938 is Dad’s childhood with his greatest fan, my elusive, elegant, independent and charming grandmother, Bess Franklin McMahon O’Connor. My family stories are outlined by our family history that my sister Michelle and I published in 2011 in the Illinois Genealogical Society Newsletter.


Parachuting Artist,1938–1959: One afternoon my son, Brendan, and his friend Ian, a WWII buff, listened while I videotaped Dad telling his WWII experience.  This conversation outlined stories expanded with details from books he handed me like The Great Escape, Wooden Horse and Monuments Men, and other readings of WWII. Creating art was his certain purpose to overcome his experiences in the living hell of our industrial war.


“Cut the Flak,” 1960–2012, is his aviation term heard throughout our lively childhood. We tell of his years with our family, while he and Mom traversed the world to paint historic moments. Telling Dad’s stories led to me, the narrator. As the seventh child of nine, I was becoming an environmentalist and an artist in the post-industrial-war Midwest. While I strove to capture in words why he chose his subjects, I was uncovering a collective memory of what had informed his content and artistic decisions.

Go to The Eternal Optimist

  Go to Parachuting Artist   Go to Cut the Flak, 1960 to 2012

Court sketch

RESIST! A Visual History of Protest by Franklin McMahon, Artist Reporter was presented by
the Oak Park Art League, Oak Park, Illinois, May 2018.

See for an exploration of Franklin's influence on Margot's art.

Go to Margot's Blog

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