Introduction

Israeli cartoonist Ranan Lurie once called the editorial cartoon “the most extreme form of expression that a society will accept or tolerate.”1Chris Lamb, Drawn to Extremes: The Use and Abuse of Editorial Cartoons (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 22. The mythic power of cartoons has continued to grow since Thomas Nast took on William Tweed, placing the cartoonists’ role in an exalted position as a standard-bearer for integrity and truth in journalism, as the voice of common sense.2Stephen Hess, Drawn & Quartered: The History of American Political Cartoons (Montgomery: Elliott & Clark Pub., 1996), 10.

Image Courtesy of The Herblock Foundation

In the forward of the recently published collection of Herbert Block’s work, Jean Rickard, the Executive Director of the Herblock Foundation wrote that, “for nearly a third of the nation's history since declaring its independence, Herbert Lawrence Block served as a conscience for America.”3Hayes Johnson and Harry L. Katz, Herblock: The Life and Work of the Great Political Cartoonist (Washington D.C.: W. W. Norton & Co., 2009), 277. His cartoons became a lasting record of the political, social and cultural events that shaped this nation's history.4Johnson and Katz, Herblock, 15.

Herblock’s achievements cannot be denied. He was the recipient of countless awards and honors. He was commissioned by the US Postal Service to design the commemorative stamp for the 175th Anniversary of the US Bill of Rights. He was the only cartoonist to have his work displayed in the National Gallery of Art while still alive.5Johnson and Katz, Herblock, 17. He received five prizes for cartooning from the professional journalism society, Sigma Delta Chi, and was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award, by President Clinton in 1994.6J. Y. Smith, “Herblock, Longtime Post Cartoonist, Dies,” Washington Post, October 8, 2001, F edition, sec. B.

Most importantly, Herblock won three Pulitzer Prizes in is own right. He received the first in 1942 for his body of work that year and the second in 1954 for his cartoon drawn on the occasion of Stalin’s death in March 1953. He won his third in 1979 for his life’s work even though he would still draw for the next twenty years. He also won a fourth Pulitzer as a staff member of The Washington Post for their collective work on Watergate.7Smith, “Herblock, Longtime Post Cartoonist, Dies.”

Organization

The Biography section is fairly self-explanatory. The Style section examines Herblock’s artistic approach to cartooning. While inteded as a broad examination, my examples are drawn from the narrow time period of 1950-1953. The section on Herblock’s Politics details not only his broad concerns but also narrows the political focus further to discuss Herblock’s reaction to two major issues in early 1950s America: McCarthyism and the Red Scare. These issues are chosen as this decade is arguably Herblock’s most influential and his reactions to these crises can be applied to other issues in later decades.

Purpose

Cartoon hisorians consider Herblock one of the most influential political cartoonists of the century. Yet, there has never been a published biography on him. It is also extremely difficult to find any analysis of his cartoons or his politics. It is this lack that led me to create this website as an introduction to Herblock, his life, his work and his politics.

In the end it is the cartoonist who serves as the dictator of whether a cartoon is good, and why it is such a valuable resource, because he is the author of the message. The cartoonist is a vital part of the linking process that connects the general public to its political leaders, producing public opinion.8Charles Press, The Political Cartoon (London: Associated University Press, Inc., 1981), 29-30. Cartoon historian Stephen Hess states it best when he wrote:

For better of for worse, cartoonists capture the popular sentiment and culture of their times often more truthfully—certainly more colorfully—than a scholar's textbook…Cartoons vibrantly reflect their moment in time: the costumes and conversation, the prejudices and fears. While a cartoon’s popularity may prove ephemeral, cartoons will survive as clues to our society’s interest, beliefs, and values—both positive and negative…Whatever their political ideology, these satirists all have a point of view, and they are bound together by a driving need to put their own spin on the world around them. And that is what makes a good cartoon.9Hess, Drawn & Quartered, 11, 18-20.

I hope that this site proves to be useful to scholars interested in studying political cartoonists in general or Herblock specifically. I also hope that it will be informative and entertaining to anyone who has a passing interest in Herblock, his is a genius that comes rarely and should not be ignored.

1Chris Lamb, Drawn to Extremes: The Use and Abuse of Editorial Cartoons (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 22.

2Stephen Hess, Drawn & Quartered: The History of American Political Cartoons (Montgomery: Elliott & Clark Pub., 1996), 10.

3Hayes Johnson and Harry L. Katz, Herblock: The Life and Work of the Great Political Cartoonist (Washington D.C.: W. W. Norton & Co., 2009), 277.

4Ibid., 15.

5Ibid., 17.

6J. Y. Smith, “Herblock, Longtime Post Cartoonist, Dies,” Washington Post, October 8, 2001, F edition, sec. B.

7Ibid.

8Charles Press, The Political Cartoon (London: Associated University Press, Inc., 1981), 29-30.

9Hess, Drawn & Quartered, 11, 18-20.