Monday, September 08, 2008
News of Yore 1926: Berryman Says Cartoons Here to Stay
Cartoons Growing In Popularity Berryman Says
Washington Star Veteran Cites Government Officials and Congressmen Who Declare Powerful Cartoons Influence Political Contests-Backs Them Against Humorous Writing
By Mary M. Crenshaw (E&P 5/29/26)
Is the cartoon losing its popularity? With his long experience as cartoonist on the Washington Evening Star, Clifford K. Berryman ought to know if anybody does, and he says emphatically no.
"If it is passing I am in the wrong pew to know about it, for .hardly a day dawns that I am not importuned to make cartoons for various causes," he declares.
Warming to his subject he continued, "Waning cartoons, eh? Why, even the few practically pictureless papers that refuse to indulge on week-days always have a generous supply on Sunday and they are good ones, too. If Leon Trotsky lives long enough to do what Bill Hohenzollern failed to do a few years ago, we may see the cartoon's career curtailed and crippled; or if Mussolini, in the coming years, should rule the world from Rome, that might indeed put the cartoonist on bread and water; but those contingencies are not immediately threatening.
"No! While Uncle Sam and John Bull sit at the Civilization Conference Table, the cartoonists can eat three square meals a day and enjoy a mild beverage for a nightcap. Some of them may even continue to indulge in an eiderdown quilt occasionally. Struggle to get a strangle hold on any street car strap - glance around and see if your fellow passengers are reading the cold type stories. They are not. It's the comics and the cartoons that their noses are rubbing."
Mr. Berryman's blue eyes twinkled. As he sat defending his chosen form of expression, he himself made a striking picture. Thick, wavy white hair over dark brows, periwinkle blue eyes, broad shoulders, a hearty laugh - that's Berryman. A vivid personality. Small wonder that many of the most distinguished men in Washington journey up to his little office on the seventh floor of the Star building to talk to him or lure him out for a game of golf. It is characteristic of the man that he never caricatures a face, confining his ironic treatment to the bodies of his subjects. This is in sharp contrast to some of his colleagues who distort the features to the point of grotesqueness. Not yet have we forgotten Harding's jungle eye-brows as portrayed by Herbert Johnson.
As a cartoonist at the National Capital for some 35 years Mr. Berryman is in a position to feel the pulse of the people and to know whether their interest in pen-pictures is abating.
"If it is," he says, "the men and women I have been meeting for a third of a century are all eligible to T. R.'s famous old Ananias Club. Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Speakers of the House, members of the Cabinet and of both houses of Congress have been, straight through, puffing me up with the importance of the cartoon in moulding public opinion and in pointing out facts and fallacies.
"Right now, assuming that Washington may not be the first place to realize the decline of the dear old cartoon, remember that representatives of every constituency of Uncle Sam are here and evidently they feel no weakening of this medium 'back home' for they still claim that a good picture is a supreme asset in any strenuous campaign.
"What can a cartoonist tell the public that a writer or photographer cannot tell? Let us take the lazy man-and there are such!-or the weary business man after a hectic day. His eye travels first to the cartoon, for it is the striking current event, the outstanding feature of the news, served up to him in a condensed and arresting form. His interest is aroused by it, then he reads.
"I remember," laughed Mr. Berryman, "that as a youth down on the banks of the Kentucky River, my native heath, the only picture that ever appeared in our weekly paper, was a Syrup of Figs ad. I used to try not to look at it, but it stood out like the Washington monument on the 15 or 20 pages of cold, monotonous type.
"Just print the best stuff produced by Will Rogers, Irvin Cobb, Ring Lardner and the score of other clever paragraphers alongside a cartoon by Darling or Sykes or Johnson, and see which will get the first attention. I am putting my filthy lucre on my pictorial colleagues. I have often studied and greatly enjoyed news photographs, but none of them have ever been as full of thought, and as comprehensive, as the productions of the cartoonists. Nay, nay. We may revert to the hoop skirt, to the long street cleaning costume feminine, we may even go back to the one-horse shay-aye, we may return to the dog sled for polar pleasure trips; but we won't retrograde to the pre-cartoonist era."
Mr. Berryman then referred to the fact that 35 years ago Punch, which has been one of the great influences in developing this form of art, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Fifty years of pictorial progress! And today, as that great English comic nears its centennial, it is stronger and better than ever. Thomas Nast, who was the pioneer cartoonist in America, conducted a terrific tirade against the Tweed thievery which is still vividly remembered. Nast has passed on, but where he practically stood alone, an army of artists now carries on his fight for pitiless publicity.
Mr. Berryman thinks that the syndicates have helped the cartoon in giving the general public a chance to become familiar with the work of the great masters of the cult. Small towns, where circulation does not warrant the services of a special artist can now obtain the work of well-known men. Through the syndicates cartoons can be produced at approximately $2.50 a day where they would cost from $25 to $50 if drawn for the paper alone, Berryman said.
"No," repeated the cartoonist, shaking his impressive head, "the cartoon is not dying as long as the work of such men as Herbert Johnson, who reaches 2,000,000 through the Saturday Evening Post each week; as John T. McCutcheon, known by everybody in the mid-west who can read; as Jay N. Darling, one of the greatest cartoonists that ever lived; as C. K. Sykes, of the Philadelphia Public Ledger and Life; Billy Ireland, Columbus Dispatch, veteran at the game; Rollin Kirby, of the New York World, up-to-the-minute cartoonist; B. R. Fitzpatrick, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; ]. H. Dohaney, Cleveland Plain Dealer, clean, good, snappy; Edwin Marcus, of the New York Times; W. A. Rogers of the Washington Post, for years on Harper's Weekly, dean of American cartoonists, who has been doing this thing for 40 years, continue to retain popularity."
The speaker modestly refrained from including his own name though his life is an outstanding example of achievement along this line. He was born April 2, 1869, in Woodford County, Kentucky, one of 11 children. He lost his father at the age of ten. His advantages were few but his talent, and doubtless his personality, too, caught the attention of Senator Blackburn of that state, who brought him to Washington and placed him in the drafting division of the Patent Office, where he was thoroughly trained in mechanical drawing. His life ambition, however, was to become a cartoonist. In realizing this ambition success has come to him. In 1921 George Washington University gave him the honorary degree of Master of Arts. He is now president of the Gridiron Club, limited to 50 newspaper men, with membership for life. Mr. Berryman is the first cartoonist who has been president. To many he is best known as the originator of the "Teddy Bear."
Labels: News of Yore