Growing up in poverty on the Lower East Side, Gropper learned early about social injustice. He dropped out of school to work in the sweatshops but found respite in drawing and studied with Robert Henri and George Bellows. Gropper’s aunt was a victim of 1911’s Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which further radicalized his thinking. Along with his study of artists who came before him, it was the graphic works of Goya and Daumier that helped solidify his direction as an artist.
From 1915-1935, Gropper held staff positions on various publications, fromVanity Fair, The New Yorker, the New York Tribune and Smart Set, to leftist papers such as the New Masses, The Nation and the Sunday Worker. Incredibly prolific, for the Yiddish Freiheit alone, over an eleven year period Gropper created thousands of political cartoons.