The Library of Congress > Wise Guide > November 2009 > Drawing the Line
Drawing the Line

He was a fearless crusader who condemned corruption and exposed injustice, inequality and immorality. Artfully and effectively wielding his pen, he influenced public opinion and jarred the lives of many elected officials. He was Herblock, the master of editorial cartooning.

'What's This About Your Letting the Common People Come in Here and Read Books?' 1954. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Not available for reproduction.Herblock smiling at viewer, hands on drawing board in his studio. 1980. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-DIG-ppmsca-22217 (digital file from original photograph); Call No.: Unprocessed in PR 13 CN 2006:075 [item] [P&P]

The Library celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Herbert L. Block, widely known as Herblock, with an exhibition that looks at his entire 72-year career, which began in 1929 under President Herbert Hoover and concluded in 2001 during the presidency of George W. Bush.

A companion book, "HERBLOCK: The Life and Works of the Great Political Cartoonist" has been published by the Library of Congress and the Herb Block Foundation, in association with W.W. Norton & Co. Written by Haynes Johnson and Harry L. Katz, the 304-page hardcover book features a DVD that contains more than 18,000 cartoons. Arranged chronologically, the book illustrates the influence of history on Block’s work as well as his influence on historical events as they unfolded.

The exhibition is organized similarly, with a chronological layout. The sections include: Herblock’s early years, under the title "The Approaching Perils"; the rise of fascism and World War II, "Psychopathic Ward"; the Cold War, "White is Black, Black is White, Night is Day—"; McCarthyism, "Naughty, Naughty"; the 1960s, "Everything’s [Not] Okay"; Richard Nixon, "Here He Comes Now"; the 70s and terrorism, "It Gets Into Everything"; Ronald Reagan, "Joy to the World"; Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, "Closing Years, Contrasting Styles of Leadership"; and some special pieces, "Classic Cartoons by a Master."

The 82 original drawings in this exhibition are new to the walls of the Library—they have never been previously displayed. The cartoons have been selected from the Library’s Herb Block Collection, with a few iconic drawings loaned from the Washington Post collection. In 2002, the foundation donated Block’s archive to the Library, and the collection includes more than 14,000 finished cartoons, in addition to preliminary sketches, files and manuscripts. The Library mounted displays of Herblock’s work in 2000, 2003 and 2006.

Born in Chicago on Oct. 13, 1909, Block began his career as a professional cartoonist in 1929, working for the Chicago Daily News and the Newspaper Enterprise Association Service. In 1946, he joined the Washington Post, where he remained for 55 years until his death in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 7, 2001. Block won Pulitzer Prizes in 1942, 1954 and 1979. He shared a fourth Pulitzer with Washington Post colleagues for coverage of the Watergate scandal in 1973.

The Herblock collection is also available on the Library’s Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.