Thursday, December 06, 2018


News of Yore 1961: Editorial Cartoonist Carey Orr Profiled


50 Years at Drawing Board -- Orr Says Cartoons Use 2 Basic Arts

by George A. Brandenburg (Editor & Publisher, 7/29/1961)

A newspaper cartoon is a combination of two basic arts­ -- the art of writing and the art of drawing -- and the best car­toon is one with the best idea expressed by a snappy caption and good craftsmanship, says Carey Cassius Orr, recent Pul­itzer Prize winner, who has been drawing daily editorial cartoons for nearly 50 years.

Mr. Orr, 71, is in his 45th year of cartooning for the Chi­cago Tribune. Prior to that he was an editorial cartoonist for the Nashville (Tenn.) Tennes­sean, starting in 1912 as a young artist of 24. He had pre­viously graduated from the Chi­cago Academy of Fine Arts and had done some cartooning for the old Chicago Examiner.

91-Day Campaign

When he went to Nashville he set some sort of a record by drawing a daily cartoon involv­ing the gubernatorial race, fea­turing the leading contenders each day for 91 days in suc­cession. The rival candidates were backed respectively by the two rival newspaper publishers, Col. Luke Lee of the Tennes­sean and Major Stahlman of the Nashville Banner. Orr's man, Tom Rye, won.

Over the years, Carey Orr has been in the midst of many a political battle, editorially, drawing hard-hitting cartoons in support of Chicago Tribune policies, including such bitter fights as attacking the late Wil­liam Hale Thompson, then mayor of Chicago, prohibition, and later FDR and the New Deal, prior to World War II. His 1960 Pulitzer Prize win­ning cartoon dealt with the spread of communism to the Af­rican Congo.

Back in the 1920's and early '30's, one of his best known edi­torial cartoon characters was the long-nosed, lean-visaged in­dividual representing "Prohibi­tion." This dry law enforcement character as conceived by Mr. Orr was a combination of Tor­quemada, head of the Spanish Inquisition, and Cotton Mather, Massachusetts blue law en­forcer in the early days of the Puritans. His clothing was mix­ture of those worn by a ham actor and our Puritan forefathers. He was a most unpopular character of that period as far as "drys" and many good-in­tentioned church people were concerned.

Gets TV Surprise 

Upon his return recently from the convention of the As­sociation of American Editorial Cartoonists in Los Angeles, where Carey was the honored guest on Ralph Edwards' NBC "This Is Your Life" television program, Mr. Orr took time to tell E&P about his working philosophy as practitioner and teacher of editorial cartooning.

He has had a part in helping to train some of the younger cartoonists of today, including Vaughn Shoemaker, Herblock and Shaw McCutcheon, son of the late John T. McCutcheon, who encouraged Col. Robert R. McCormick to offer Carey Orr a spot as "number two" man on the Tribune's editorial car­tooning staff. He was a young artist when he joined the Trib­une in 1917. He drew an eight­-column strip, called "Tiny Trib­une," for several years before "graduating" to the daily edi­torial page cartoon.
"Formerly cartoonists just 'happened,' " he recalled, "but now my profession is past the 'barber-doctor' stage and has become a language in itself."

Pioneered Color Cartoons 

After years of meeting a daily deadline and pioneering with ROP color cartoons, which have become a hallmark of the Tribune's front page, Mr. Orr still thinks a "snappy caption" is equally as important as the vehicle drawn to express the idea.

"A cartoonist is often a cru­sader but he must believe in what he's crusading for to be effective," said Mr. Orr. "Un­like a specialized newspaper writer, he must have a cath­olicity of interests. He must know the basic ideas, at least, behind political, social and eco­nomic problems."

But reportorial and writing experience are not necessary be­yond the ability to come up with a good caption. Sketches are the 'words' with which a cartoon­ist works. The idea that a man is born an artist is a fallacy.

Anyone who really cares to can learn to draw. Among begin­ners, the cartoonists who even­tually succeed are the ones who sketch a lot and are not afraid to work."

Pictures Vs. Words 

Mr. Orr does not necessarily subscribe to the old Chinese proverb that one picture is worth a thousand words.

He said, for instance, no pic­ture is as forceful as Lincoln's Gettysburg address. "Yet when people read that speech they 'see' the battlefield before them," he added.

Carey Orr front page color cartoon, 1945
"Nor is there a writer who has been as graphic as when Leonardo da Vinci portrayed Jesus Christ and his Disciples in a manner that was an in­spiration to those who saw the painting, 'The Last Supper,' lifting the Christian religion out of the Dark Ages."

"It is fortunate," he said, "that cartooning represents a combination of the two arts of writing and drawing, just as the movies improved when talkies were added and just as television is superior to radio today, because two arts are em­ployed. The combining of two arts, to a great extent, is a modern invention."

Wrote One Serial 

Carey Orr, incidentally, had one brief venture into litera­ture after World War I when Col. McCormick suggested he do a "story" about a young West Pointer who goes to war. Carey struggled with his manuscript for two months and had pro­duced only the first two chap­ters, when the Colonel asked how the story was progressing.

Carey showed him his copy and Colonel McCormick laughed and said he had meant for Carey to draw a "story" in a series of pictures. However, the Colonel liked what Carey had written and the manuscript continued, winding up as "Borrowed Glory," running in installments in the Chicago Tribune.

"Leon Stolz (now chief editorial writer at the Tribume) was kind enough to say that it was a good story," Mr. Orr remembered with a chuckle, but he recalled that when the Colonel asked for a second serial, Carey told him he preferred being a cartoonist.

Credits Colonel For Color

Mr. Orr credits Colonel McCormick with the idea of introducing ROP color into the front-page cartoon. The effectiveness of color cartoons first strikingly illustrated the Tribune on May 5, 1932, when the paper printed one of Orr's drawings in two colors on page one.

The color work was done on a black background with red and white stripes of an American flag in the upper left hand corner and the red flag of communism being held in the hand of the late U.S. Senator Huey Long of Louisiana.

The cartoon attracted national attention. Even Senator Long was impressed and insisted the cartoon be entered in the Congressional Record without benefit of color, however. Since World War II, front-page color cartoons have become a daily feature in the Tribune. These cartoons are prepared and submitted two days in advance of publication normally, although on occasion the Tribune has turned out a four-color cartoon for the next day's issue.

In the early 40's, when the Tribune was experimenting with color vs. black-and-white cartoons, readership studies showed that when color was used, 85% of the men readers noted the cartoon and 82% of the women saw the color drawing, Mr. Orr recalled.

Get Rid of Tags

Mr. Orr told E&P he was impressed with the serious attitude and professional journalistic approach to their daily work as evidenced by the editorial cartoonists' discussion at the recent Los Angeles convention.

"Cartoonists today are seeking to get rid of tags, such as the GOP elephant, Democratic donkey and Uncle Sam," he observed. "These tags have been over used and, in most cases have outlived their usefulness or have become somewhat corny."

He is hopeful that more newspapers will employ staffs of cartoonists in the future, rather than relying on one or two cartoonists to turn out the work. The exactions of the profession, he says, together with the complexities of the times, are such that it is nearly impossible for one artist to "ring the bell" with a cartoon seven days a week.

Carey Orr front page color editorial cartoon, 1960
Three cartoons a week that are really good should be the goal of each cartoonist, he said, noting there should be more balance between the serious cartooning subjects, dealing with world problems, and human interest ideas which will give the reader some "relief" from the worrisome problems found daily on the front page.

Inspired by Tramp Artist

Carey Orr's interest in drawing dates back to his boyhood days on his grandfather's farm in Ohio when a tramp artist came to the house and begged for an evening meal. "My grandfather was opposed to feeding tramps because if you fed one there was the grapevine that led others to our door," said Carey. "However this particular tramp sat on the porch and drew for me a fine likeness of Jesus Christ. I begged my grandfather to feed him and he did. For the rest of the summer I tried drawing pictures, too."

Later young Orr went to live with his father in Spokane, where the elder Orr ran a saw mill and had married again following the death of Carey's mother. Carey would copy the cartoons drawn by Morris for the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review and when Carey was 17 he took the W.L. Evans cartooning course by correspondence. As a result, he would occasionally sell a cartoon to the old Life magazine, but received more rejections than acceptance checks.

After graduating from high school and taking special college tutoring in mathematics and engineering, Orr became a semi-pro baseball pitcher, earning $15 per game, and acquiring quite a local following as a possible big leaguer.

Saves Baseball Money

His father wasn't too impressed, however, with Carey becoming a professional ball player. He wanted him to study to be a mechanical engineer at the University of Washington. Carey wanted to be a cartoonist and had been saving his pitcher's salary for tuition to attend the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.

"My father's impression of an artist was of a man living in a cold garret, starving to death, or coming home with tuberculosis," Carey recalls. ''But he didn't want me to be a ball player, either. So· I won out and came to Chicago to study art."

His first newspaper job was with the Examiner, where he and three other art students were given $15-a-week jobs for six months, when the best of the four would then be hired for $60. Carey made the grade, but the art editor lost his job, so young Orr was still getting only $15 a week.

At the age of 24, he joined the Nashville Tennessean as fulltime editorial cartoonist. In those days, the old Literary Digest was a cartoonist's best friend. 'To have your cartoons reprinted in the Digest was a mark of distinction. Orr sent his cartoons to the Digest every week and more and more of them were used.

Missed His Second Honeymoon

Carey Orr was married in 1912, but the Orrs didn't go on a honeymoon trip because funds were scarce. Two years later -- August, 1914 -- Carey had a two-week vacation coming and the Orrs were planning to make it their second "honeymoon." But war was beginning to erupt in Europe.

"I told my wife," said Mr. Orr, "Honey, this war scare won't last too long, but I want to be here to draw some cartoons about it, so we'll take our vacation later. So you can see how smart I was. As the war progressed up to 1917, my cartoons continued to appear in the Digest and, subsequently, I had offers from Pulitzer, Hearst and Col. McCormick. I joined the Tribune in the Fall of 1917."

Mr. Orr was awarded the U.S. government gold medal for his prize-winning cartoon of the Fourth Liberty Loan drive. On the recent TV "This Is Your Life" program, Ralph Edwards told Orr:

"Through your pen and wit, you fight against the things you hate and for the things you love. You attack gangsterism, and the causes of evil, waste in government and corruption in high places. You crusade for public safety. You are one of the first to call wide attention to the dangers of communism."


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