Art Wood, an award-winning political cartoonist himself, collected more than 16,000 political cartoons by hundreds of the leading creators of the 'ungentlemanly art,' a phrase that is commonly used to describe this type of graphic satire. He used the word “illustration” to describe the enormous talent and craft that went into a work of art produced to capture a moment in time. From the nineteenth century's Gilded Age to recent times, political illustrations have appeared in magazines, editorial pages, opinion pages, and even on the front pages of American newspapers. These visual editorials reflect multiple viewpoints conveyed by a wide variety of artistic approaches, including the classic cross hatching techniques of Harper's Weekly cartoonist Thomas Nast, the sweeping brush work of Ding Darling, the rich crayon line work of Rube Goldberg and Bill Mauldin, and the painterly styles of contemporary cartoonists Paul Conrad and Patrick Oliphant. The broad spectrum of political perspectives informs our understanding not only of the past but also of the present.
The Crown Covers a Multitude of Shortcomings
Senator James G. Blaine was an extremely popular Republican politician in the nineteenth century. He might have been elected president if he had not been continually dogged by charges of corruption. In 1888, when Blaine returned from a lengthy European trip, he refused to run for president, and instead supported Benjamin Harrison's campaign. However, Blaine's enormous popularity caused cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) to characterize him as the “uncrowned king” of the Republican Party. Nast defined American political cartooning in the nineteenth century. Through his work for Harper's Weekly, he popularized such American political symbols as the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey.
Thomas Nast. The Crown Covers a Multitude of Shortcomings. Sir James (G.B.) “No one will miss it now, you know,” 1888. Published in The Daily Graphic, September 27, 1888. Ink with scraping out over graphite underdrawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (1)
“Is this what you mean?”
Herb Block created this anti-isolationist cartoon just before the United States entered World War II. Through this image, Block argued that Americans, by turning their backs on the world, permitted global occupation by forces from both the political left and right. This cartoon was most likely produced in 1939, when the Soviet Union, briefly allied with the Axis powers joined Germany in attacking and conquering Poland. Block (1909-2001) had a cartooning career that spanned seven decades. For more information about his career, see Enduring Outrage: Editorial Cartoons by Herblock, Herblock's Gift, and Herblock's History.
Herb Block. “Is this what you mean?” ca. 1939. Published by the Newspaper Enterprise Association. Ink, crayon, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing with overlay. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-07910 © Herb Block Foundation (2)
To Avoid Hitting the Brick in the Road
Jay N. “Ding” Darling (1876-1962) uses the metaphor of a careening taxi in this cartoon to critique delayed legislative controls on inflation of farm prices and wages during World War II. A cab, with passengers labeled “Farm Prices” and “Wages” being driven by a man labeled “Congress,” avoids a brick in the road by swerving into a crowd, hitting men, women and children on “Cost of Living Ave.,” and inflicting “Everybody's Injury.” Darling's sweeping brushwork and expansive, dynamic composition suits this scene of collision. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, he worked many years for the Des Moines Register and the New York Herald-Tribune.
Jay N. "Ding" Darling. . To Avoid Hitting the Brick in the Road, 1942. Published in the Des Moines Register, September 29, 1942. Ink brush over graphite underdrawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-09121 (3). Courtesy of J.N. “Ding” Darling Foundation. © J. N. “Ding” Darling Foundation
From Ever Darkening Clouds
A giant skeletal arm reaches down from dark clouds labeled “Air War” to clutch the prone form of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in this World War II cartoon by Edmund Duffy (1899-1962). Not showing Hitler as brutally invincible, Duffy depicts the stricken tyrant peering upward, fearful of deadly air attacks. In the background, bombs fall from the turbulent sky and a building flying the swastika lies in ruins. Duffy employs his signature style of heavily outlined forms as a means of boldly and graphically sounding the death knell for Hitler.
“It's from the I.R.S.”
Etta Hulme, one of the few female practitioners of the craft of editorial cartooning, twists the well known plot of men stranded on a desert island unearthing buried treasure, into an ironic reminder that income taxes are due. Etta Hulme earned her fine arts degree at the University of Texas at Austin and immediately headed for Disney Studios in California, where she worked in the animation division for two years before returning to Texas. She began her cartooning career in 1954 at Austin's Texas Observer and has been with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1972.
Etta Hulme. “It's from the I.R.S.—it says, 'all income, from whatever source derived . . . ,” 1975. Published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 10, 1975. Crayon, ink, and opaque white over blue pencil and graphite underdrawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-04613 (5). ©Etta Hulme, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 1975
World of Creepers
Art Young (1866-1943) published this drawing in Life magazine with the title “This World of Creepers; Afraid of Themselves and of Others, Afraid of the Almighty, of Life and of Death.” He later identified it as one of his best, describing the image as, “the crawling, cringing horde of human beings afraid to stand up and call their souls their own.” Young drew for a wide variety of publications that included the Saturday Evening Post as well as the socialist periodical The Masses. His left wing views were featured in the humor magazine Life, which, for a time, embraced support for socialism.
Turkey Hunting in the Old Dominion
Clifford K. Berryman
In this cartoon, Teddy Roosevelt caresses rather than shoots these domesticated turkeys at his hunting lodge, Pine Knot, near Charlottesville, Virginia, while the Clifford Berryman's (1869-1949) trademark “teddy bear” presses his paw against the flap of his game bag. On November 1, 1906, Roosevelt's neighbors played a joke on him, turning a flock of domestic turkeys loose into the area, but the president discovered the trick. Although Roosevelt may not have killed domesticated turkeys, he did shoot a wild turkey that week at Pine Knot. Berryman was renowned for his lighthearted likenesses of politicians and for popularizing the teddy bear, which became an iconic toy for American children.
C.K. Berryman. Turkey Hunting in the Old Dominion, November 3, 1906. Published in the Washington Post, Saturday, November 3, 1906. Pen and ink over graphite underdrawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-07883 (7)
The Mysterious Stranger
John T. McCutcheon
This best known cartoon by John T. McCutcheon (1870-1949), graced the front page of the Chicago Tribune on November 10, 1904, and gave a humorous, visual explanation of the presidential election results. Depicting telltale footprints leading from the Democratic to the Republican column of delegates, McCutcheon pictures Missouri's historic act of breaking ranks with the southern states for the first time since Reconstruction, voting Republican, and thus carrying the state for Theodore Roosevelt. A world famous traveler, war correspondent, and Pulitzer prize-winning editorial cartoonist, McCutcheon drew for the Chicago Tribune from 1903 to 1946.
“Ah'm makin' way fer Bobby K”
British cartoonist John Jensen (b. 1930) portrays a somber President Lyndon Johnson sitting in an undersized rocking chair. The artist vividly caricatures Johnson as a morose, demoralized leader, with a sunken mouth, deeply wrinkled face, and a tangle of elongated, misshapen arms and legs. The president's lapel button reads “Ah'm Makin' Way Fer Bobby K,” a reminder that his main rival, Robert Kennedy, brother of President John F. Kennedy, announced his candidacy for the presidency on March 16, 1968. Faced with this challenge and worsening news on the Vietnam War, Johnson informed the country on March 31, 1968, that he would not run for re-election.
“Barry's the Captain …”
Cheerful members of the Republican Party look overboard as Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater mans the rudder of a boat in a shallow stream. Despite Goldwater's victory in the California primary, cartoonist John Fischetti (1916-1980) satirized the campaign as going nowhere. Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican moderate, issued a parting shot that if Goldwater were in the mainstream, “we've got a meandering stream.” Goldwater carried only six states in his race against President Lyndon Johnson. Fischetti's mature artistic style showed his roots in animation. His use of horizontal space and spare pen and ink style influenced a generation of cartoonists.
John Fischetti. “Barry's the captain and if he says this is mainstream, that's good enough for me,” 1964. Published in the New York Herald Tribune, 1964. India ink, tonal film overlay, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing with paste-ons. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-04607 (10). © Publishers Newspaper Syndicate, 1964
Rubbing It In
Rube Goldberg (1883-1970), best known for his crazy inventions, created forceful editorial cartoons while working at the New York Sun. This anti-Japanese World War II cartoon shows General Jonathan Wainwright slamming the face of a Japanese soldier into the Filipino province of Bataan. While Wainwright did not participate in the recapture of Bataan due to his incarceration in a labor camp in Formosa, Goldberg suggests that the moral victory over the Japanese would be his. Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Reuben Lucius “Rube” Goldberg used his intelligence, humor and gift as an artist in creating serious editorial cartoons.
Fat Man with Telescope Standing on a Mound of Skulls
An overfed man wearing a formal black jacket and black silk hat stands atop a mound of human skulls pierced by protruding guns and bayonets in this editorial cartoon by William Gropper (1897-1977). With chilling disregard for the human remains beneath him, the man peers into the distance through a telescope. The ample figure with a grotesque profile represents a type of capitalist/politician. Like much of Gropper's work, this drawing underscores the horrifying human costs of war during World War I.
William Gropper. Fat man with telescope standing on a mound of skulls, between 1914 and 1918. Ink, crayon, and opaque white with spatter over blue pencil. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-03602 (12). © The Gropper Estate
But How to Let Go—Gracefully
President Lyndon Johnson clings grimly to the tail of a giant tiger (labeled “Vietnam”), that lunges wildly through a nocturnal universe in this cartoon by Vaughn Shoemaker (1902-1991). This drawing of 1965 addresses how America would extricate itself from the war in Vietnam. U.S. troops did pull out in 1973. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Shoemaker studied at the Chicago Academy for Fine Arts, drew editorial cartoons at the Chicago Daily News for nearly thirty years, and taught at his alma mater. His artful, gestural style became looser and more painterly in the 1960s.
Vaughn Shoemaker. But How to Let Go—Gracefully, 1965. Published in the Chicago American, 1965. Ink brush, crayon, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing with overlays and paste-ons. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-09125 (13)
“You've been acting like civilians!”
With easy crayon and ink brush strokes, Bill Mauldin (1921-2003) portrays an angry Nikita Khruschchev berating writers, artists and musicians, who stand at attention as if they were soldiers for the Communist Party propaganda machine. Khrushchev compelled creators to use Social Realism, a style that the Party argued was most accessible to the masses. Mauldin portrayed the hardline approach as militaristic and portrays himself as the artist with the pen, second from the right. The Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist began his career in the army and had a long career with the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch and the Chicago Sun-Times. For more information about his career and work, see Bill Mauldin: Beyond Willie and Joe.
Bill Mauldin. “You've been acting like civilians!” 1963. Published in the Chicago Sun-Times, April 17, 1963. Crayon, ink and opaque white with scratching out and paste-on over graphite underdrawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-07893 (14). © 1963 by Bill Mauldin. Courtesy of the Mauldin Estate
“My disarmament plan is better than your disarmament plan!”
Paul Conrad (b. 1924) with his even crayon strokes and exceptional attention to detail, captures the anger and posturing as Cold War tensions mounted over the fate of East and West Germany and nuclear disarmament. On September 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy in his speech to the United Nations Assembly stood up to the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and demanded that he join a “peace race.” Meanwhile, both nations had resumed nuclear testing, as Conrad points out, belying their advocacy for disarmament. The three-time Pulitzer Prize winner spent fourteen years at the Denver Post before becoming chief cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times in 1964. Today, he continues to draw cartoons and makes sculptures.
Paul Conrad. “My disarmament plan is better than your disarmament plan!” 1961. Published in the Denver Post, Sept. 27, 1961. Crayon and ink brush over graphite underdrawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-09425 (15). © used with permission, Paul Conrad, The Denver Post, 1961
“I want to make it perfectly clear that national defense requires 18-cent oil”
President Richard M. Nixon gives a speech against a backdrop of oil derricks, pipes, and two smiling figures who are probably oil executives. Edmund Valtman (1914-2005) questioned Nixon's motives for rejecting oil import quotas under the guise of ensuring sufficient oil for defense. By depicting drops of liquid as oil money, dripping into a storage tank labeled “Political Contributions,” he strongly signaled the president's interest in bolstering financial support for Republicans in the upcoming Congressional elections. Conservative in outlook, Pulitzer prize winner Valtman proved that he spared no U.S. president, including Nixon, hard scrutiny in his work. For more information about his career and work, please see Edmund Valtman: The Cartoonist Who Came in from the Cold.
Ed Valtman. “I want to make it perfectly clear that national defense requires 18-cent oil,” 1970. Published in the Hartford Times, March 1, 1970. Ink and tonal film overlay over graphite underdrawing with paste-on. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-09112 (16). © Estate of Edmund S. Valtman, used with permission
First Woman Astronaut
Food prices skyrocketed in the mid-1970s as presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford dealt with inflation. In 1974 alone food prices rose by almost 15 percent. Women, who did the most of the grocery shopping, boycotted such staples as meat and grains in protest. In this cartoon produced for television, Art Wood depicts an American housewife shot into outer space, by the shock over food costs. Wood labels her the “First Woman Astronaut,” (although the first American woman went into space in 1983). Wood served as president and spokesman of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists in 1974.
“Where do we go from here?”
In this Art Wood cartoon, the blazing sun beats down on a ramshackle farmhouse, tilting silo, and dying crops in a field of cracked, scorched earth. A sign on the buildings reads “Fifty Years of Federal Farm Programs.” This image strongly suggests that federal farm programs enacted since the beginning of the New Deal in the 1930s have failed, making the time honored institution of the American farm a major casualty. In the late 1980s, American farmers faced extremely harsh drought conditions, which precipitated unusually urgent appeals for federal aid.
Art Wood. “Where do we go from here?” 1983. Published in the Farm Bureau News, August 29, 1983. Porous point pen and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-09113 (18). © Art Wood
Washington Money Machine
In this cartoon Art Wood captures the sentiments felt by many taxpayers. By the late 1950s, increases in local, state and federal taxes as well as social security meant that the average family spent more on those than they did on food. Paying for national defense during the Cold War accounted for much of the increase. A prize-winning political cartoonist, Wood worked at the Richmond News Leader before moving to Pittsburgh, where he was the chief editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Press from 1956 to 1965.
Art Wood. Washington Money Machine, between 1956 and 1965. Published in the Pittsburgh Press. Crayon, ink brush and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-09426 (19). © Art Wood
In February 1963, four Soviet-built MiG fighter planes based in Cuba, fired on an American shrimp boat in international waters. Though the boat was not hit, the incident heightened tensions between the U.S., Cuba, and the Soviet Union. President John F. Kennedy ordered retaliation in case of recurrence. Art Wood's depiction of Uncle Sam with painful injuries captured the nation's dismay. Wood drew this cartoon while chief editorial cartoonist at the Pittsburgh Press from 1956-1965.
In 1955 both Democrats and Republicans in Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of a $10,000 pay raise—from $15,000 to $25,000—at a time when most Americans earned less than $3,900 a year. Art Wood implies that the dramatic pay raise not only contributed to the federal debt, but also brought Congressional leadership into question.
Von der Goltz Pacha et le bec-de-gaz d'Erzeroem
During World War I, Freiherr Colmar Von de Goltz, known in Turkey as “Goltz Pasha,” ruthlessly pursued German aims against the British. However he and his Ottoman allies could not resist advancing Russian forces. Dutch cartoonist Louis Raemaekers (1869-1956) portrays the battle of Erzurum as a literal confrontation between Goltz and the Russian army. Raemaekers produced fiercely anti-German cartoons during World War I for De Talegraaf and faced trial for compromising Dutch neutrality. Although acquitted, the Germans put a bounty on his head, and he had to flee to England.
Louis Raemaekers. Von der Goltz Pacha et le bec-de-gaz d'Erzeroem, 1916. Translated as The Orient Express, and reprinted in Kultur in Cartoons. Charcoal, watercolor, and graphite. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-09428 (22)
Waiting for Reagan
Pat Oliphant (b. 1935) captures President Ronald Reagan's political plight in the summer of 1982 in this dramatic cartoon. The Moral Majority and other rightist groups publicly criticized Reagan for what they perceived as his neglect of social issues important to conservatives. Inspired by Thomas Nast's depiction of the infamous Boss Tweed and his Tammany Hall cronies as vultures, Oliphant pictures Reagan's critics, “The New Right,” as five menacing, vulture-like creatures, out on a limb. One of the great draftsmen in the field, Oliphant combines boldly rendered forms and dramatic perspective in this witty allusion to his artistic predecessor. For more information about his career and work, see Oliphant's Anthem.
Pat Oliphant. Waiting for Reagan, 1982. Published by Universal Press Syndicate August 11, 1982. Ink with opaque white out graphite underdrawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-10609 (23). Image reproduced courtesy of Patrick Oliphant and Susan Conway
Vandal in Victory, Vandal in Defeat
Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Rollin Kirby (1875-1952) drew a World War I German soldier looting and pillaging a European village. The war left communities such as Amiens, Verdun, and Lille devastated by occupation, the relative stagnation of trench warfare along the front, and powerful weapons on both sides. Kirby wrote, “what art there is in cartooning is the art of driving the message home,” a skill at which he excelled. Kirby, one of the top editorial cartoonists after World War I, worked for both the New York World and the New York Post. His strong use of crayon influenced a generation of cartoonists.
“I can't stand any more of this, I think I'll go out and face the unions”
Raymond Allen Jackson
British cartoonist JAK (Raymond Allen Jackson, 1927-1997) shows Roy Jenkins, Chancellor of the Exchequer, making a speech to the House of Commons in 1969. Members of the House respond grimly to disclosure of tough budgetary measures including higher taxes and governmental measures to curb unions' wildcat strikes. On the ministers' bench, Labour Party Prime Minister Harold Wilson tells Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart he cannot stand any more and may leave to face the unions. Among England's leading political cartoonists, JAK reportedly became the most highly paid while under contract with the London Evening Standard.
Raymond Allen Jackson. “I can't stand any more of this, I think I'll go out and face the unions,” 1969. Published in the London Evening Standard, April 15, 1969. Ink brush, crayon, opaque white, and watercolor wash over graphite underdrawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-03297 (101)