Saturday, August 10, 2019


What The Cartoonists Are Doing : November 1913

[Cartoons Magazine, debuting in 1912, was a monthly magazine devoted primarily to reprinting editorial cartoons from U.S. and foreign newspapers. Articles about cartooning and cartoonists often supplemented the discussion of current events.

In November 1913 the magazine began to offer a monthly round-up of news about cartoonists and cartooning, eventually titled "What The Cartoonist Are Doing." There are lots of interesting historical nuggets in these sections, and this Stripper's Guide feature will  reprint one issue's worth each week.

Illustrations used here did not necessarily appear with the original articles.]

European artists have reproached American illustrators with inane prettiness and there has been some grounds for criticism. But we are sure that prettiness is better than the American imitation of the prevalent French and German cult of the ugly. Following one of the monthlies, one of the weeklies, which has changed hands without abandoning its claim to be a journal of civilization, has become so repulsive in the sheer brutality of its illustrations that families which have a care for the artistic taste of their members will probably dispense with it altogether.

Prize fights, which used to be relegated to pink weeklies of the levee bar room and barber shop, tough cabarets and other scenes offensive to taste, if not to morals, seem to be establishing themselves as regular features. A new cartoon style seems also to be impending. Instead of the kindliness which has been the prevailing trait of American satire, excepting the political work of a certain string of journals, hideous caricatures, not merely of individuals, but of humanity, have found their way into print here and there, as examples of the European manner. We shall be fortunate if we escape imitations of the madhouse productions of futurist pen and brush.

George McManus, 1908
First we are asked to satisfy curiosity by viewing reproductions of European fashions; then American artists here and there are tempted to try their hands in the same genre; and at last satire loses dignity, and force in abandoning measured restraint. It will not have to come to this, but it may come, unless readers revolt in the beginning.—Knoxville (Tenn.) Sentinel.

George McManus, cartoon author of “The Newlyweds,” returned from a motoring vacation in the back woods, with the following story which he tells in the Buffalo Enquirer:

“We were driving near the Berkshire Hills, and stopped off to fix a tire on one of the roads. While the chauffeur was busy at his work, and Sheehan was admiring the blue sky, I took a stroll. I came across four chaps that were as amusing as they were pathetic. They were four consumptives, in the hills for their health. Each one had a fierce cough, but each one was trying to look at the bright side of life, even if it had a gloomy outlook for him. Each believed he was a good singer, so when they told me they had a quartette I asked them to sing. Well, I hate to admit that I laughed, but one couldn't keep his sides from aching as they ripped off a few bars of their vocal music. They even had to laugh themselves.

“You see they were all coughing at some time or other. So one would sing a line of the song and then cough. The other fellow would sing the second line and cough, and so on, till the four had sung the song, and with a good breath and an extra effort they would wind up in a barber-shop 'cough'. I never saw fellows as good-natured and as happy as they were under such circumstances. Why, one of them was a tombstone carver, and the others were afraid he would cash in before he finished the design for their tombstones.”

Dr. F. M. Wood, in the Chicago Daily News, protests against cartoons of a low order and writes:

“Many of the trashy cartoons are of the character which teach disrespect to those who are older. Some even teach disrespect to parents. This is the surest way to breed lawlessness in the young, and lies as one of the most potent causes of juvenile delinquency and crime. Here is surely one of the causes of the “fresh” young fellow of the rising generation who takes no advice from any one.

"Many cartoons are of a very fine humor and distinctly educational in character. Such cartoons we praise and advocate. But there is great room for improvement, and we therefore need a crusade to wipe out these wicked cartoons.

“Cartoons which lampoon a great man of high character, showing him to be what he is not, will be suppressed by editors who discriminate. Cartoons which teach unnatural life will die. Cartoons which teach truth, and righteousness are alone fit for the eyes of a virtuous nation.”

* Clare Briggs has issued a volume of humorous cartoons including the popular “Skin-nay” series. Wilbur D. Nesbit supplied appropriate verse to accompany each picture.

* Dennis McCarthy and Harold E. Smith, two Denver, cartoonists, were held up by a gun man and robbed. A policeman had his thumb shot off in a furious struggle with the thug, who was finally landed in jail.

* Sir John Tenniel, the greatest of English cartoonists, is now in his 94th year, and despite his great age is in good health. He joined the staff of Punch in 1851, retiring in 1901. Though probably most widely known for his political cartoons, he won undying fame by illustrating the “Alice” books and “Lalla Rookh.”

* The summer colony at Twin Lakes, Wash., gave a fleet parade in honor of cartoonist W. C. Morris.

* Harold. Heaton, cartoonist on the Inter Ocean, Chicago, has written a vaudeville sketch, which will be produced this winter. It is entitled “Dressing for Dinner.”

* Mrs. Battling Nelson (Fay King), recently cartoonist on the Denver Post, has been drawing and giving monologue at Pacific Coast vaudeville houses.

* Ross Cane is doing cartooning and clay modeling for a lyceum bureau.

* D. R. Fitzpatrick has left the Chicago News and gone to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he succeeds Minor, who goes to the New York World.

* K. K. Knecht, the cartoonist for the Evansville, Ind., Courier, took a ride in the air with aviator Roy N. Francis. The trip was made at Evansville, on the Ohio River. The flying boat used by Francis is the one he used in the Great Lakes cruise a month or so ago. A height of 1,200 feet was reached during the trip and it gave Knecht plenty of good material for a bunch of cartoon sketches and a chance to write a yarn of how it feels and how Evansville looked from the clouds.

* Tom Thurlby, who for the past two years has been secretary to Mayor Hartley, Everett, Wash., has returned to the fold and joined the Post-Intelligencer staff. Previously he was on the St. Paul Globe and Everett Tribune for several years.

* Don Marquis, in the New York Sun, takes a fling at various writers and asks cartoonists “why not occasionally, after a disaster, do something original, like a death's head?” What would he suggest as more appropriate, a jack-o'-lantern?

* Princess Patricia, daughter of the Duke of Connaught, is a very clever cartoonist. She delights to cartoon the nobility. “Pat” cartoons are all the rage.

Howard Macon, of Denver, connected with the daily papers there, died recently. He had been in poor health for some time.

Miss Maria Stockton Bullit, a popular member of the younger set in New York society, was one of the victims of the recent New Haven road wreck. Not content to be a mere social butterfly, she was rapidly gaining attention for her clever cartoons of society folk which were published in the New York Evening Times.

Roscoe Semmel, cartoonist on the staff of the Rochester, N. Y., Herald, died at Tucson, Ariz., where he had gone in the hope of prolonging his life.

Compiled by the gentleman who borrowed our shears and forgot to return them:

"What sort of a pen do you use?”

“Say, you ought to know a friend of mine. He can’t draw, but he's just full of ideas.”

“Gee, you’ve got an awful cinch. Getting a day's pay for doing one or two little pictures. Why I bet I could do that in an hour.”

“I used to could draw pretty good myself, but I sorter got out of the way of it after I quit school."

“Say'll you draw me a little picture to send to a friend of mine? Make a man, going across the street leading a dog and an automobile coming around the corner and hitting him, and a brass band going by on the other side and a crowd looking on. It'll only take you about 10 minutes and my friend is just crazy about your pictures.”

“I've got a little nephew and he's some, punkins on drawing. Why he's got Gibson and Flagg and the rest of them big guns lashed to the mast.”— Milwaukee Journal.

Do you remember the days in school when you showed your contempt for Bill Simpson by “making pictures” of him on your slate, holding the slate so that he and a few choice cronies of your own could see? It didn’t matter whether you could draw or not. You could make something that looked like Bill by drawing a particularly big mouth that turned down at the corners, seven hairs that stood up straight on his head, freckles that looked like polka dots, teeth like tombstones, no body and two sticks for legs. That was when the cartoon was born.

Some of those that are being used today by grown-ups who want to “make faces” at one another have about as much raison d'etre, as little art and humor as the pictures that were drawn on slates in the little red schoolhouse. A good cartoon is a delight as well as an effective weapon. Some of the strong ones do as much damage as cannon balls. The more clever ones linger in the memory like the rapier thrusts of a keen satirist.—Stockton (Cal.) Record.

“Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school.”

One sentence of Shakespeare has made all cartoonists akin. We have come upon in our exchanges, it seems, some hundreds of cartoons, all of which show the schoolboy going to school with the heaviness with which a man goes to the county treasurer's to pay up delinquent taxes. They show him taking a last regretful look at the old swimmin' hole, pleading a sudden illness, expressing a hope that the schoolhouse will be struck by lightning, rebelling against soap that blinds and tastes like sin, making a face over an irksome collar and putting on the air of the chief mourner at the funeral when the teacher remarks that she is glad to see so many bright and shining faces, eager for the year's studies.

Cartoonists are like poets in that they are constitutionally timid about beating down new paths. What one does they all do; what one did a half century ago, so will the pack of them be found doing today. Yet there will be a break some day when one of them, instead of leaning on Shakespeare and the rubber-stamp of the craft, goes forth and watches the children the first morning of school.-Toledo (O.) Blade.


I'm taken aback by the level of negativity in these excerpts, especially since they appeared in a magazine about cartooning. Are they typical of the entire issue? I hope someone out there can identify the monthly and the weekly "journal of civilization" the author reviles. I don't know the period well enough.

The only circa-1913 cartoons I have in any quantity come from Judge via the "Caricature" collections. Most of those cartoonists are firmly in the classic American penanink camp, showing heaps of Gibson and Flagg influence. The only cartoons I can think of that might be considered "brutish" are the faux woodcuts by "Johann Hult" (John Held) and a couple by Robert Minor, whose crayon style sticks out among all the steel nibs.
Hi Smurfswacker --
The "Journal of Civilization", as proudly stated on their mastheads, was Harper's Weekly. It was indeed a shadow of its former self by the 1910s. The issues of 1913 are all digitized, so you can decide for yourself:

Most of the highly negative (and often badly written) pieces for What The Cartoonists Are Doing are reprinted from newspapers (as credited at the end of each article), so presumably Cartoons threw them in more to take up space than as a seriously considered editorial decision. The magazine always suffered, IMHO, from a very weak editorial hand. I think job one with Cartoons was to fill that enormous page count of theirs every month, and editorial direction was a secondary consideration.

There was some in-house negativity in addition to those reprinted articles, as you will see next week. A bizarre piece about the French caricaturist Forain had me goggle-eyed as I typed it into the post. Absolute venom, and almost completely unintelligible to boot. Be sure to check it out.

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