August 23, 2000 Herblock Exhibition Opens October 17

Press Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189
Public Contact: (202) 707-8000

In this election year, as the spotlight falls on the Republican and Democratic party candidates for president, the Library of Congress is honoring renowned editorial cartoonist Herb Block ("Herblock") with a major exhibition of his original drawings. The subjects include all 12 presidents from Herbert Hoover to Bill Clinton and the presidential candidates in the 2000 election. The exhibition celebrates Herblock's gift to the Library of Congress of more than 100 original works, spanning 70 years of world history and his distinguished career.

"Herblock's History: Political Cartoons from the Crash to the Millennium," runs from October 17, 2000, through February 17, 2001, and will occupy two gallery spaces, the North and South Galleries, located on either side of the Great Hall on the first floor of the Jefferson Building. The exhibition will be open to the public free of charge from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Herbert Block, born and raised in Chicago, began his career working for the Chicago Daily News in 1929, just six months before the crash that led to the Great Depression. In 1932, he moved to Cleveland, becoming the featured editorial cartoonist of the Scripps-Howard newspaper syndicate, NEA, and winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1942 for his work supporting American involvement in World War II. He then joined the Army, producing cartoons and graphic materials for GI journals until he mustered out in 1945. In 1946, The Washington Post brought him to the nation's capital to replace a departing editorial cartoonist. More than 50 years later, he is still going strong, the dean of American political cartoonists, and one of the most perceptive and popular political commentators this country has ever known.

He is the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes for editorial cartooning (1942, 1954, and 1979) and a fourth with Washington Post colleagues for public service during the Watergate investigation (1973). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 1994 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Honorary degrees from numerous academic institutions nationwide include most recently a 1999 Doctor of Arts from Harvard University.

"Herblock's History" features approximately 120 original drawings by Block, the first major exhibition of his art in 50 years. Visitors to the Library of Congress will have the opportunity to see the evolution of his cartooning style, from the pen-and-ink drawings that typified the art form in the late 1920s and 1930s, to the rich graphite and crayon-shaded drawings that have become his signature style. In addition to cartoons about the presidents, the Library will feature some of the issues that made Herblock famous: his campaign against Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, when he coined the word "McCarthyism," his 40-year cartoon crusade opposing Richard Nixon, rallying for gun control, exposing the interference of big businesses in legislation as early as 1950, supporting civil liberties for all Americans and, in particular, civil rights for African Americans. After more than 70 years and eight decades of offering potent graphic commentary, Herblock remains active, publishing four cartoons each week. Herblock's History: From the Crash to the Millennium includes a selection of his current work as well.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a handsomely illustrated catalog including a preface by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, an essay by Harry Katz, Curator of Popular and Applied Graphic Art at the Library of Congress, an essay by Herbert Block on the cartoon, as well as a complete checklist of the exhibition. It will be available for sale in the Library's gift shop. A smaller illustrated checklist will be available free of charge to visitors.

The exhibition and accompanying brochure are funded by the generous support of the Caroline and Erwin Swann Memorial Fund for Caricature and Cartoon. The Swann Gallery showcases the collections of the Library of Congress in rotating exhibitions and promotes the ongoing Swann Foundation program in the study of cartoon, caricature and illustration, while also offering a provocative and informative selection of works by past masters. New York advertising executive Erwin Swann (1906-1973) assembled an extraordinarily diverse collection of nearly 2,000 works of cartoon art representing 400 artists and spanning two centuries. He developed the collection specifically to promote the preservation and connoisseurship of original cartoon and illustration drawings. Among the collection's highlights are sketches by such European masters as Guillaume Chevalier Gavarni and Richard Doyle; works by celebrated American illustrators including John Held Jr. and Ralph Barton; American newspaper comic strip drawings by such pioneering cartoonists as Richard F. Outcault and Winsor McCay; and contemporary cartoons and illustrations by renowned artists, including Edward Sorel, Anita Siegel, Jean-Claude Suarez, Andre Francois, and Eugene Mihaesco.

More information on this exhibition as well as on the Library of Congress's cartoon and caricature collections is available through the Swann Foundation's Web site:, by e-mailing: [email protected], or by calling Sara Duke, Assistant Curator, at (202) 707-9115 or Harry Katz at (202) 707-8696.

The Library of Congress, founded April 24, 1800, is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution. It preserves a collection of 119 million items -- more than two-thirds of which are in media other than books. These include the largest map and film and television collections in the world. In addition to its primary mission of serving the research needs of the U.S. Congress, the Library serves all Americans through its popular Web site ( and in its 21 reading rooms on Capitol Hill.


PR 00-119
ISSN 0731-3527