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Collection Cartoon Drawings: Herblock Collection

Biographical Information

Herbert Lawrence Block, known to the world as "Herblock" from his famous cartoon signature, was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 13, 1909. He began his remarkable seventy-two year career as a professional cartoonist in 1929, working for the Chicago Daily News and the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA). In 1946, he joined the Washington Post, where he remained for fifty-five years, until he died in Washington, D.C. on October 7, 2001.

"Strange - they all seem to have some connection with this place." Drawing, 1972 June 23.

A master of editorial cartooning, Block wielded his pen effectively and artfully, using it to condemn corruption and expose injustice, inequality, and immorality. Through his compelling cartoons he influenced public opinion and affected prominent elected officials. Block aggravated politicians, including Senator Joseph McCarthy, who publicly denounced him, and Spiro Agnew, President Richard Nixon's first vice president, who disparaged him as a "master of sick invective." An independent spirit, Block broke ranks with his publishers on specific issues and voiced his own opinion in every cartoon he drew. He received prestigious awards and critical acclaim from his peers, winning three Pulitzer Prizes (in 1942, 1954, and 1979) and sharing a fourth with Washington Post colleagues for coverage of the Watergate scandal in 1973.

As a cartoon chronicler of the twentieth century, Herb Block has few peers in terms of longevity, productivity, and critical acclaim. Over his seven-decade career, he practiced the art with fearless independence, creating visual metaphors that embodied his strong, well-informed opinions on the critical issues and public figures of his day and yielded keen insight into world leaders' motives and actions. A number of examples were remarkably prescient, as seen in his cartoon of footprints leading to the White House during the Watergate scandal.

He was a tireless advocate for civil and human rights for all people; equality of opportunity for all, including immigrants; and strong limitations on arms, particularly guns and nuclear weapons. Block will also be remembered for his bold stances against injustice, abuse of power, betrayal of the public trust, terrorist acts perpetrated by religious and political extremists, and mindless violence.

Compiled by Sara Duke and Martha Kennedy, 2009.