And now that I’ve time traveled to this odd new future world, it is somewhat comforting to observe that political cartoons are still with us – even though their form and vehicle may be evolving, thanks to the digital age.
In the heyday of the newspapers, political cartoons (and even comics pages) could be found in nearly every publication across this land. About the only exception, I understand, was a paper called The Wall Street Journal, whose focus was business (presumably, business people do not find political cartoons helpful, valuable, or amusing).
Now, however, with the number of newspapers dwindling, as advertisers turn to other media to carry their messages, and modern readers turn to web-based electronic news providers in place of print outlets, political cartoons have started appearing in special internet sites, separate from their traditional print “landlords.”
I must tell you, however, that it was utterly fascinating for me to dive into a short history of political cartoons that have been created since my own original drawing back in the 1700s.
There are some very notable cartoonists that deserve special mention, because of the big role they played in influencing the life of this nation. They may not have singlehandedly brought down any major office holders all by themselves, but they certainly were significant enough to focus attention on occurrences of injustice, corruption, and foolishness in the public realm.
- Thomas Nast, whose work appeared in the 19th century, and was instrumental in fighting the corruption of an individual named “Boss Tweed” and his cronies of Tammany Hall in New York.
- Norman Rockwell – though not a conventional political cartoonist (and certainly not one who employed barbed, satirical put-downs of political leaders), he nevertheless managed to gently and humorously capture the essence of the American spirit through his regular illustrations on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post (which, in all modesty, yours truly helped to establish, back in my printing days).
- Herbert Lawrence Block, better known by his pseudonym Herblock, who cartooned during the period from the Great Depression through the late 20th century; he was famous for his commentary on World War II, the anti-communist McCarthy era, former President Nixon and the Watergate Scandal, and even George W. Bush.
- Gary Trudeau, whose work was different from the usual single-panel cartoons of other editorial cartoonists in that it often contained three or four panels, and featured a continuing cast of characters. His “Doonesbury” strip lampoons not only political leaders, but also the social, cultural, and moral values of the country at a time when most of us take things so seriously.
And the other is a personal favorite, again, from my own Saturday Evening Post – a picture of yours truly commenting on my invention of bifocals, and the fact that it solved only one of my problems. The other one, finding where I’ve misplaced the glasses, still remained.
So, as I hinted at earlier, it is very good to see that the spirit of “Join or Die” is still very much alive in the journalism (print or digital) of this new 21st century. I hope it will continue for many years to come.
Your humble servant,